By Moses Ayobami
Of course, I got the job. It was not just me alone, my friends and their friends too. At the end of the process, about 5,000 residents of Lagos got the job just from an idea you thought about probably in your car or in the office amid your very busy schedule as the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly or even while driving home and seeing the faces mapped with hunger, desolation and fear.
When I say fear, there was real fear. Residents moved about their activities suspecting every moves by the next person. Trust was often lost. A thief could just emerge from nowhere and hit his target and disappear without a trace. The police was doing its best. The Rapid Response Squad (RRS) heavily sponsored with state funds were doing extremely well, but with fewer personnel for a populated Lagos, a lot more was sure needed to protect the security of lives and properties.
For those who might want to read this ‘thank you note’ with some bias, I want to confess that I have only met Rt. Hon Mudashiru Obasa once and this was at the recently held town hall meeting in his Agege State Constituency 1. I could not get close to him because of his security aides. I know he is the third citizen of Lagos state and would have loved to hear my testimony. But I also know that he would, by chance, see it and then try to picture how many more Lagosians are silently remembering him daily.
I came to Lagos in 2007 and God had been kind to me since then. I got my first job three months after my arrival and living with an uncle. My second job came months after. Then I got an apartment at the Omole area of Ojodu in the state. However, for two of my friends, the situation was not like mine. The two of them graduated two years after me. After their mandatory one year national service, they decided to come to Lagos for the supposed greener pastures.
For four years since 2010, I was saddled with the burden of taking care of my friends. They got menial jobs with wages that could hardly meet their needs let alone having any left for those who think they should get returns for investing in their education.
The case of one of them was very pathetic. With no father, he was left with a mother who struggled so hard to ensure he survived the hardship that the Nigerian educational system has become. The poor woman, a farmer back in a sleepy community in Osun State, has five children and my friend is the first. So one can only imagine the level of anticipated returns his family members must have prepared for but which was denied them because of the growing rate of unemployment across the country.
When it was time for me to get married, I moved away from the apartment, pleaded with the landlord that my ‘my two brothers’ would remain there. Since then, I had augmented whatever deficit they had and it had been choking.
Then, suddenly one day, I heard that there was this Neighbourhood Watch Bill that was being proposed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. I became interested in the Bill and was one of those who eagerly waited for its passage, simply because I have often advocated for the creation of state police especially in a state like Lagos with such soaring population against a few number of policemen. I knew and remained optimistic that if it was passed, the Bill would provide for an alternative security outfit to the police which many had grown sceptical about.
My investigation revealed that the Bill was a private member initiative sponsored by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa himself. I was not surprised. Before he became the Speaker, he, like many of his colleagues at the House of Assembly had often agitated for the creation of state police. Their advocacy had remained strong over the years. They spoke each time they had any opportunity. But their cries had often been taken with a refusal for action by those supposed to consider the implementation.
I believe Obasa saw the need to ensure that the protection of every life and property in Lagos remained sacrosanct. He wanted every Lagosian to sleep with his/her two eyes closed. He wanted a rewind of the era where people could leave their properties and wares at particular spots and still return to find them. He wanted a sane society in Lagos. I am not in his mind, but that is what I think and subsequent events on eventual passage and implementation of the Bill proved me right.
Mr Speaker, I do not know if you will come across this note, but I cannot stop thanking you for this concept. For me, it is even beyond the security of lives and properties; it is about job creation. I want to testify to you that I have been relieved of the two burdens I had. They are now part of the about 5,000 personnel that make up the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC). Mr Speaker! They fortunately made it.
Since learning of the intendment of the Bill, I followed its development and implementation to the letter. I was one of those who attended the Public Hearing on the Bill at the Lateef Jakande Hall in the Assembly premises. While listening to the speech of Speaker Obasa, I pick interest in the job-creating section of the Bill. I got home and related my experience to my friends.
When the Bill was eventually passed by the House, I monitored it to its final ascent by the State Government, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.
I must also thank the Governor for the alacrity with which the Bill was not only ascented to but also the swift implementation of the new Law.
When the state government declared employment into the security outfit open, I quickly contacted my friends. The two of them did not hesitate. They were part of the first set to apply. Then prayers followed. Who do we know in power to help push? There was none. They simply followed all the processes. They were called. They completed the training. As I write this, I remember how one of them shed tears as he called me on phone to thank me for being more than a brother to them. With that emotion-ladden voice, he told me that he got his training kits and participated fully in the training. Days later, he got his uniform.
Today, he smiles each time we are together and discussing the past. He has never stopped thinking me. But I cannot keep all the thanks. I must give some of them to the man that initiated the Bill.
Speaker Obasa, just like my friends thank me today for the relief, I am also thanking you for helping to lift the burden off me. You were elected to serve Agege Constituency 1, but you found yourself serving the entire Lagos State. Thank you on behalf of the about 5000 personnel of the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps. Each time I receive two ‘thank you’ from the two of my friends, I will send one and half of them to you while I keep the remaining half sir. Thank you again and again. Thank you, Mr Speaker!
Moses Ayobami, a digital analyst, writes from Ikeja, Lagos.