Subnational governance and socio-economic development in a federal political system: a case study of Lagos State, Nigeria

22 May 2017

The main objective of any responsible government is the provision of the good life to citizens. In a bid to achieve this important objective, political elites or external powers (as the case may be) have adopted various political arrangements which suit the structural, historical cultural and functional circumstances of the countries conerned. One of such political arrangements is federalism. Whereas explanatory framework connotes a political arrangement where each of the subordinate units has autonomy over their sphere of influence. Nigeria is one of three countries in Africa, whose federal arrangement has subsisted since it was first structured as such by the Littleton Constitution of 1954. Although the many years of military rule has done incalculable damage to the practice of federalism in the country, Nigeria remains a federal state till today. However, there are concerns over the ability of the state as presently constituted to deliver the common good to the people. Such concerns are connected to the persistent high rate of poverty, unemployment and insecurity. Previous and current scholarly works on socio-economic performance of the country have been focused on the national government. This approach overlooks the possibilities that sub-national governments, especially at the state level holds for socio-economic development in the country. The point of departure of this article is to fill this lacuna by examining the socio-economic development of Lagos state, especially since 1999. The choice of Lagos state as the unit of analysis is informed by its central position as the economic nerve centre of Nigeria, the strides that have been recorded in socio-economic development over the past seventeen years and the nature of politics in the state versus the national government, at least up till 2015. A focus on sub-national unit of the Nigerian federation is particularly critical at this period in the life of the nation when divergences in centripetal and centrifugal forces continue to threaten the corporate existence of the country. The geographical differences in terms of poverty and inequality level between the North and the South also lend credence to a study of this nature, with the hope that lessons on leadership style (exemplified by modes of succession and quality of leadership), civic duty of citizens and resource mobilisation can be learnt by other sub-national units of the federation.