By Chris Adetayo
When he came into office, he was tentative. Maybe even diffident. His first few months trended towards the poor end of the spectrum. Pot-holes littered the city and one of his aides announced to the world that “water and tar do not mix”. This was in reference to the rains that had opened craters on the roads and the absence of any concerted efforts at repairs.
Security also became a problem, as incidents of traffic robbery shot up in a city notorious for traffic jams. All these in addition to the daily hassles of living in a city besieged by internal refugees running away from the security problems of the North and East. In 2019, Lagos was in bad shape and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu seemed clueless on what to do.
Then COVID came. It was like, “cometh the hour, cometh the man”. While the Federal Government fidgeted, Lagos State took charge. Isolation facilities were quickly set up; medical personnel were primed;distribution of face masks and sanitizers were revved up; and guidelines on interactions to limit exposure were quickly and efficiently disseminated to the people. To cap it all, copious briefings by the Governor and his aides became a daily affair.
In speaking with so much assurance and confidence about what was happening and what efforts were being made to keep the people safe, at a time when precious little was known of the virus that had scared the world into a hole, panic and fear was largely avoided in Lagos. From him, the Federal Government took a cue, replicating pretty much everything that Lagos had put in place. All these enabled Nigeria to come out of the pandemic with a success story that has been duly recognised across the world. The leadership of Governor Sanwo–Olu during those scary months is one that should be templated by all who have any interest in public service. It was a tour de force in public health emergency management.
From COVID, Governor Sanwo-Olu has moved on in leaps and bounds. Like the heads of very large cities and conurbations, the Governor of Lagos State has to deal with 3 major issues – transportation, security, and housing. If he can keep a lid on these 3, the vibrancy of the residents of a city like Lagos will largely take care of other sectors.
Despite his slow start, Governor Sanwo-Olu has quickly caught up with the challenges of transportation in Lagos. Massive road repair works have been undertaken and today, in several parts of the city, it is possible to drive around without fearing for the shock absorbers of one’s car. Several major road projects, on the Island and Mainland of the city, are on-going and, in many cases, near completion. The reconfiguration of round-abouts in several parts of the city, with the deployment of traffic lights to ease the flow of vehicles, has also gone a long way in reducing the notorious traffic jams in key spots.
Still on transportation, it is in the completion of the first part of the Lagos Blue Line Rail Service that Governor Sanwo-Olu earns his spurs. For so long, Lagos has cried out for a rail-based mass transit system. For 40 years, hopes have been raised and dashed, with many starts and stops along the way. Not anymore. Even more important, the Lagos Red Line Rail Service is also nearing completion, thus easing intra-city movement for residents of the city in 2 important corridors (Lagos Island to Mile 2, and Lagos Island to Sango-Otta).
On security, after a shaky start, Governor Sanwo-Olu has stepped up to the security challenges of Lagos. More investments have been made to the existing security architecture of the State, including provision of over 400 security vehicles, motor-cycles, and armoured carriers. In addition, over 1,000 electronic gadgets have been supplied to security agencies. A significant addition to the security architecture is the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) through which the State operationalises the South West Regional Security Network (otherwise known as Amotekun). Through this, the State maintains a firm security handshake with the rest of the South West States of the country. All these are further accentuated by the commission of the Emergency Security Regional Centre in Epe.
How do we measure success of all these efforts? The formerly rampant traffic robbery incidents are now a thing of the past. Indeed, Lagos is largely robbery free. Even more important, Lagos has seen the steady inorganic growth of its population, as many citizens displaced by the insecurities in the North and East of the country have found refuge in the safety and security that the Centre of Excellence offers.
On housing, Governor Sanwo-Olu has also been busy with multiple housing projects in different parts of the State. So far, over 4,000 housing units of different shapes and sizes have been started and completed by the Government. More importantly, these have been spread across the State, from Ikorodu to Epe to Badagry to Surulere. Are these enough to plug the housing deficits in the State? Not by any means. But they represent a start in the long and steady journey to bring affordable housing to the teaming populace.
Have things gone very well since 2020? No. The #EndSARS protests and its aftermath still leaves a sad taste in the mouth. Lagos, as is often the case in Nigeria, became the focal point of a national struggle by the youths against a repressive police force in dire need of reform. Once again, Governor Sanwo-Olu found himself at the front of a national crisis. While Federal Government officials cowered away, he stepped up to meet youth leaders on the burning issue. He sought to play the peace-maker all through. Sadly, when the Federal Government finally used the military to end the stand–off, all the blame ended up, rather unfairly, on the desk of the Governor. He continues to carry and bear the vicarious liability for the show of force by Federal agencies that, constitutionally, are beyond his powers to control or order.
Lagos State has witnessed an interesting, tumultuous and progressive 4 years (less a few months) under the leadership of Sanwo-Olu. He has not been perfect. But when viewed dispassionately, few could have successfully weathered the storms that he has had to contend with. An even fewer number could have made a success of his tenure, and end up producing lemonade out of the many lemons thrown at them. It is for these, and many more reasons, that Lagosians should go out and re-elect Babajide Sanwo-Olu come the 11th of March. He deserves it, and Lagos deserves his even–keel, forward-looking leadership.