By Gboyega Akosile
It is common in our clime for praise singers and vuvuzela blowers to be at their best performances, increasing the tempo of their art to crescendo on a day like this for Governors, Presidents and people of high political positions. One can’t blame them. It is their way of validation. The dramatis personae often times are not confused even though the situation may present a blurry image.
I have listened to and read various things said and written about Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State. Most of them have dwelled on how well he has performed as governor in two years under very harsh economic challenges. Most of the accolades have come from the successful management of the Covid-19 pandemic by Governor Sanwo-Olu, who saved Nigeria from what could have resulted in monumental catastrophe. Like a gallant soldier, Sanwo-Olu rose up to the occasion and gave Covid-19 a good fight. This feat ultimately left no one in doubt as to Governor Sanwo-Olu’s managerial and administrative skills.
No one ever prepares enough for disasters. The nation woke up in September 2020 to the legitimate agitation against police brutality by the Nigerian youth, tagged EndSARS protest. The protest, aimed at drawing attention to human rights abuses being perpetrated by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), was later hijacked by hoodlums and criminal elements. Lagos State was the epicentre of the demonstration. The unfortunate incidents of October 20, 2020 led to a coordinated destruction of public and private assets in Lagos. Again, Governor Sanwo-Olu rose up to the challenge, worked with the citizens and stakeholders to bring about peaceful resolution. Today, Lagos is the only State in the federation that has fulfilled the demands brought forth by the EndSARS protesters.
Taking over the affairs of Lagos at a time when the State was challenged, Sanwo-Olu has proved to the world that governance is not rocket science. His persuasive management approach has helped stabilise the State, taking it out of the near dilapidation back onto her progressive trajectory without hurting citizens -young, old, rich or poor.
Kindness comes naturally for this Governor. The first touchpoint for me was during the electioneering. On a particular day, we had worked till late in the evening and it was time for everyone to retire to bed. I was bent on going home but the then aspirant, Babajide Sanwo-Olu insisted that I stayed over at a nearby hotel. I, nevertheless, went home that night but not without thinking of his caring gesture that bought me over completely.
Another very remarkable scenario played out in October 2019. This time, Mr. Sanwo-Olu had already secured the governorship ticket of the APC. He asked me to ride with him in his vehicle for a certain review. Just as we were making a turn from Mobolaji Bank-Anthony road into GRA, our pilot/security vehicle became a bit reckless, Mr. Sanwo-Olu was quick to call them to order. He complained bitterly about such behaviour saying everyone deserved some respect. He has entrenched the same tradition in his convoy even as Governor.
With the two incidents, I saw in him a man who genuinely cared about the welfare of the people around him. In fact, three years after, Governor Sanwo-Olu is a better version of the person I saw in him at that time. He cares completely about the welfare of the residents and this is why the Sanwo-Olu touch is felt in every facet of Lagos life -Transportation and Traffic management, Health and Environment, Education and Technology and Making Lagos a 21st-century economy as well as in Security and Governance.
Without any iota of doubt, the 56th birthday of Governor Sanwo-Olu is worth celebrating considering his personal achievements as well as meaningful impacts in private and public sectors.
Born on June 25, 1965, Governor Sanwo-Olu has been part of Lagos State’s progressive trajectory in the past 18 years, serving in the Executive cabinet of the three previous governors. Perhaps this accounts for the reason he takes governance so simple as he does. Governor Sanwo-Olu ranks top among the rest in many areas of human endeavours.
Characteristic of great leaders whose sole interest is the welfare of their people, Governor Sanwo-Olu keeps vigil almost every day for Lagosians to have a sound sleep. He’s perhaps unaware that sometimes some of us around him don’t look forward to the weekly Governor’s itinerary. The sight of the itinerary can raise one’s blood pressure but it is a regular routine for Governor Sanwo-Olu; you signed up for the job and you must do it!
Mr. Governor would call you in the middle of the night and ask whether you are sleeping. I once answered him: “sir, it’s 3 am in the morning” and he simply laughed!
Governor Sanwo-Olu doesn’t ever delay anything-never! He treats every matter-personal or State with a dispatch except those that require further consultations or deliberations. Even those ones he handles immediately either by setting meetings or committees. He recognises government bureaucracies and red tapes but has a way of cleverly ensuring that those factors do not slow down the pace of work or intended deliverables. I have seen this at very close range in the last three years of working with him. Sanwo-Olu’s management skills and administrative acumen coupled with his personal attributes of humility and humanity have worked for him. This is why in just 757 days in office, under very difficult conditions occasioned by covid-19 pandemic and the unfortunate EndSARS protest, Governor Sanwo-Olu recorded numerous achievements across the THEMES agenda.
A tested and trusted professional, management expert and consummate administrator, Sanwo-Olu has made life more in abundance for Lagosians through the delivery of his campaign promises. During the electioneering, I remember him saying two things, which almost became a cliché: “let’s under promise and over deliver”, “Governance is a marathon and not a sprint”. These sayings are just making sense to me, and they make me to wonder where he gets his wisdom from. Most critics have forgotten that one major election promise of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is continuity. He told Lagos electorate during the electioneering that his administration would govern from where his predecessors had stopped. This is exactly what he has done.
The near abandoned LagosHoms in Igando was completed and commissioned, the Agege Pen Cinema bridge, which was roughly at 19 to 20% foundation level when he assumed office in May 2019 had been completed, with additional roads network, the Igbogbo Ikorodu housing project, the BRF Housing Estate, Iponrin, Lagos Homs in Lekki, several roads across the metropolis started by the immediate past administration have all been completed and commissioned.
For Governor Sanwo-Olu, it does not matter who started what project. What’s important is the completion of those projects for the greatest good of the people. It is all about the people of Lagos State.
In Sanwo-Olu, I see a man who is not satisfied with his level of yesterday and wants to do more today. He always desires to do more. And these burning desires drive him to deliver more for the people. He often says to us that “you must look good today, tomorrow and always”. He dislikes you giving excuses for failures even though he agrees that honest errors could be made sometimes.
Governor Sanwo-Olu’s leadership skill was tested by COVID-19. Expectedly, Lagos was the epicenter of the pandemic in Nigeria in February 2020. Tackling the health disaster head-on, the Governor saved Lagos and by extension the entire country from a major calamity.
Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, Lagos was hit by massive destruction of properties worth billions of naira in the aftermath of EndSARS protests hijacked by hoodlums. Despite the challenges, Governor Sanwo-Olu took the bull by the horns to put Lagos on the path of progress through the Lagos Rebuild initiative.
Looking at the efforts devoted to achieving the first pillar of the THEMES agenda, which is Traffic management and transportation, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration is closer than ever in giving Lagos a reliable intermodal system of transportation with heavy investment in waterways, aggressive pursuit of the light rail projects as well as road transportation to make life easy for Lagosians. The State Government has also reduced traffic congestion in some critical parts of Lagos with continuous road infrastructure, junction improvements and opening up more communities with new link roads and bridges.
More than 51 major infrastructure projects such as the Pen-Cinema fly over, ramp and road networks, Lagos-Ogun Boundary roads Phase II, Lekki Oniru Traffic Circulation Projects, a network of roads in Ojokoro, Somolu and Ikoyi, among others. The administration also constructed and rehabilitated 301 inner roads in the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). It also commissioned the Oshodi-Abule Egba BRT lane. The Eleko junction to Epe concrete pavement road construction is ongoing. These road projects are executed to bring succour to the people of Lagos.
Governor Sanwo-Olu has also made a significant impact in the lives of millions of Lagosians in the areas of Health and Environment. He believes that nothing should be spared to give Lagosians quality health care and that’s why he has made a lot of intervention in the health sector.
Apart from the comprehensive renovation of medical facilities at various Health Centres and General Hospitals in the State, the State is also developing new facilities, such as the New Massey Children Hospital, New General Hospital, Ojo and a Rehabilitation and Mental Health facility in Ketu Ejinrin. The State Government is also building a 300-bed Isolation Centre and a Research Institute at IDH, Yaba. It has also improved maternal and child health with the provision of the Mother and Child Centres (MCCs) in Eti-Osa, Igando, Badagry and Epe. In the area of Environment, Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration within two years in office has invested significantly in the waste collection capacity of LAWMA as well as significant improvement in drainage management and maintenance.
Sanwo-Olu’s passion for quality education is a driving force behind his numerous interventions in that sector. His administration has completed more than 1,097 school projects in just two years, built six secondary schools, provided over 100,000 tables and chairs, provided 2,000 hostel beds in model schools and recruited over 2,000 teachers for public schools. It also introduced EKO EXCEL – an education reform programme targeted at developing highly skilled teachers through training, support and motivation, which has reached about 1,009 schools, 13,000 teachers and 450,000 pupils.
Governor Sanwo-Olu is not paying lip service to security and governance in the State as his administration has worked tirelessly to ensure that Lagos is safe and secure for residents. Today, security agencies in Lagos State can boast of modern crime fighting equipment. On Thursday, June 10, President Muhammadu Buhari joined Governor Sanwo-Olu to officially handover patrol vehicles and security equipment to security agencies in Lagos State. The equipment were; 150 Double Cabin Vehicles, 30 Saloon Patrol Vehicles, 1,000 Ballistic Vests, 1,000 Ballistic Helmets, 1,000 Handheld Police Radios/Walkie Talkies, 100 Security Patrol Bikes, two Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), four High Capacity Troop Carriers, two Anti-Riot Water Cannon Vehicles and Office/Command Furniture and other Ancillary Support Resources.
Despite delivering on his campaign promises, Governor Sanwo-Olu is not looking back as he is marching on toward “Greater Lagos.” During his State broadcast on May 27, he said his administration is working tirelessly to deliver the Fourth Mainland Bridge, Imota Rice mill, Integrated Mass Transit System and other infrastructure to Lagosians within the next two years.
He said completing the projects within the next 24 months will bring absolute transformation to the livelihood and the economy of Lagos State.
Going by his track records and achievements in office, Babajide Sanwo-Olu at 56 stands tall among contemporary African leaders. He also remains a model to his generation.
Happy 56th Birthday to an achiever!
Akosile is the Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu