By Gbenga Omotoso
We all saw it as a simple exercise to shake off that lethargic feeling that often visits after a heavy lunch or a short night rest. Or a physical exercise to keep us awake. It all turned out to be that and more – the power of dreams, sheer imagination, some deep thinking and a test of the fecundity of the human mind.
“Just close your eyes and imagine the Lagos of your dream, the Lagos you would like to see.” That was the directive from the instructor at one of the sessions during the three-day retreat for members of the Lagos State Executive Council and Permanent Secretaries. The results were as exciting as they were imaginary. Some dreamt of a Lagos at peace with nature – beautiful parks and gardens, with exotic flowers and lush green grass, clean air and seductive beaches on which coconut trees sprout freely.
Others saw a Lagos with smooth and wide roads, free of pestering street hawkers and traffic robbers. A Lagos where nobody goes to bed without food, where no kid misses the education train for lack of money, where the old are catered for, where all have access to good healthcare, and where religious harmony thrives. A Lagos driven by technology, where investors will be willing to stake their cash and jobs will be more available.
Again, the power of dreams. “Are these possible?” “Can we do it?” “Yes; we can!” we all screamed. That has been the team spirit propelling the administration of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat, which is 100 days old today, having been inaugurated on May 29 to lead the journey to that “Greater Lagos” we all dreamt of. Driving the vision are the Six Pillars of Development, with the lyrical acronym, T.H.E.M.E.S, which stands for Traffic Management & Transportation, Health & Environment, Education & Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment & Tourism as well as Security & Governance. At the centre of it all are the people. That is the song that Mr. Sanwo-Olu sings, believing that a policy is most meaningful when it is immensely beneficial to the people. Has the administration kept to this line of thought, considering its actions? Discerning members of the public, among whom the good people of Lagos number will surely testify to this. An 110-bed Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC), a four-storey edifice that is a piece of architectural delight, was opened on Tuesday at Eti Osa Local Government to boost the battle against infant and maternal mortality, with plans to upgrade the facility to a general hospital. A beautiful school, 12 blocks of classrooms, built in partnership with the state government and the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Tabernacle of David Parish in Alaguntan village, also in Eti Osa, was opened. For one month – from August 1 to 31 – there was a festival of surgeries. A team of volunteer doctors, who are specialists in various areas of medical practice, performed thousands of surgeries, especially on children with deformed limbs. Free.
There were many moving spectacles – of fathers shedding tears of joy after seeing that their crippled children could walk again, of many having their sights saved from glaucoma and others having their troubled health restored – courtesy of BOSKOH Lagos Health Mission International (HMI), a Non-Governmental Organisation. More than 25,000 Lagosians were treated and 1,417 surgeries were carried out. It was delightful to find our senior citizens singing and dancing last Friday after being handed their pensions and gratuities – about N5 billion. Some shed tears. Others were speechless, just staring. Many were just praying for Sanwo-Olu. The Alhaji Jakande Gardens Estate – 492 homes with sporting facilities, good roads, car parks, a sewage treatment plant and a mini-water works – was commissioned on Wednesday in Igando, in a daring bid to reawaken the housing sector. So symbolic was the ceremony that Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, 90, the state’s first civilian governor, after whom it was named, and his wife attended. So was Chief Tajudeen Olusi, member of the respected Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) and many members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), also on Wednesday, gave out N4 billion cheques to women entrepreneurs. So glad was Access Bank Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe, that he announced that the facility would be increased to N10 billion to get more Lagosians employed.
There is also the World Bank agriculture loan scheme; 1,700 people will benefit. Each will get N2 million. An integrated rice mill is being built in Imota – a 22-hectare facility, which has the capacity to cater for 25% of our national rice needs. Some 120 patrol vehicles and 35 motorbikes have been given to security agents to enhance their operations, aiding their patrol system and boosting their response time in case of an emergency. The battle for a cleaner and healthier environment is on. The heaps of refuse that turned the highways into a vast eyesore have largely disappeared. Millions of bags that will help residents in sorting their wastes have been distributed, even as there are plans to expand the Olusosun dumpsite to 42 acres for more waste and a faster trucks turnaround time. Many roads have been rehabilitated. Workers are back on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the Pen Cinema Bridge and Isawo Road in Ikorodu. What lies ahead of the Sanwo-Olu administration? Exciting times are on the way.
There are efforts to improve transportation by harmonising all the areas of the sector for better performance. Water transportation will be enhanced with ferry services getting a facelift. The rail lines under construction are, once again, receiving attention. More teachers are to be recruited to boost primary and secondary education, even as technical education will be strengthened to equip our youths for the fast-evolving technological age that has caught up with us all. Tourism, with its huge potentialities, will come alive to boost internal revenue and showcase our essence to the world.
Security will go beyond the routine as technology will be deployed in the fight against crime. Laws will be enforced for a total reorientation of the people. How will the Greater Lagos dream be achieved? Leadership, in Sanwo-Olu’s view, remains a key factor. Besides, teamwork is also important. To drive home his point, the governor at the retreat aforementioned, used a sports imagery. He is reputed to be a soccer enthusiast; an Arsenal fan.
Sanwo-Olu spoke of being relevant, drawing his example from Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey, who remains so relevant even at 59. There must also be resilience, an attribute that has seen tennis star Djokovis staying on top for so long. For appropriate resourcing, the governor chose Man City, the Premier League team, which would not take on a player unless there is need for him. Besides, the team enjoys good funding and would not tolerate a bad manager. Many were fired until the team stabilized. Barca, the Spanish League frontliners, Sanwo-Olu believes, symbolises value for money, with good returns for investors.
A team living in the past? That is Arsenal – in the governor’s view. Its fans see Arsenal as prudent; it would not shell out cash on new players like the others and it is a good example of how to be solvent. Trophies, it seems, are not the team’s priority but stability. Today’s achievement is good, but not enough to make room for complacency as there are always more hurdles to scale. ‘Many have spoken about Team Sanwo-Olu – a mixture of professionals and politicians, including women who are knowledgeable about their areas. For the governor, the 100 days ceremonies are no mere revelries on what has been done. No. They are like a springboard to propel the administration into the future – a future in which the Greater Lagos dream will become a reality. The challenges are huge, no doubt, but Sanwo-Olu sees it all as a marathon and not a 100 metres dash for which he and his Deputy Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat are prepared.
•Omotoso is Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State