SAM Omatseye, The Nation Editorial Board chair and columnist, promptly christened him “BOS of Lagos”, as “Alpha Governor” (Akinwunmi Ambode) and “Governor of Example” (Babatunde Raji Fashola), before him.
But after 500 days, which incidentally culminates today, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu (BOS), governor of Lagos, is essentially no boss, but a driven leader funnelling help — quiet, dutiful and focused — to the pressing and endless needs of Lagosians.
It’s the making of the Citizen Governor.
After 500 days (an unusual landmark, unlike the conventional 100 days), the Sanwo-Olu governorship has rolled out an impressive armada of achievements in brick-and-mortar: fixed roads (357 in all, state-wide) and completed bridges: aside from definite completion date for the Pen Cinema flyover in Agege (an Ambode governorship legacy, as the commissioned Oshodi-Abule Egba BRT track, and the Oshodi transport hub).
Others are multi-modal transport and traffic solutions (including progressing work on the Mile2-Orile-CMS rail corridor, revamped ferry services and definite arrangements to kick off the construction of the 4th Mainland Bridge); and housing deliveries, under the rent-to-own scheme.
Also included are social infrastructure upgrades: maternity and other hospital deliveries; Eko-Excel technology-driven teacher re-training in public primary schools (the bastion of the poorest of the poor), following on the heels of the Fashola-era Eko (Yoruba for Learning) Project, for public secondary school teachers; not to mention environmental boosts, gradually delivering a much cleaner Lagos, up from the refuse and sanitation collapse of the Akinwunmi Ambode era.
Deserving of special mention is the Lagos implementation of the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, pioneered by Osun under the Rauf Aregbesola governorship but mainstreamed, nation-wide, by the Buhari Presidency, after dawning in 2015. In Lagos, the programme fed 135, 445 pupils daily, in the 976 public primary schools, state-wide, before the COVID-19 lockdown disrupted the calendar.
Lagos, with its financial standing, had no business not implementing this programme much earlier. But it is to the credit of BOS that the schools feeding programme is here. With Eko-Excel, it’s a major policy pact, by the Lagos government, with the poor and vulnerable — the bulk of the teeming state population.
Such pro-poor policies also underscore the government’s progressive ideology, the dominant stream in Lagos since independence, which has only continued from 1999.
To be sure, BOS’s brick-and-mortar achievements are impressive. But such are the massive Lagos needs that they might not be obvious to everyone.
For one, the city centre never sleeps. For another, its boisterous, rampaging folks rush and crush everywhere, not unlike a wild herd of elephants, leaving ruins in their trail.
Still, you literarily flew past on the Itire-Lawanson road, and found — with shock — the age-old craters, that swallowed vehicle tyres, gone — replaced with neat inter-locked stones! That wasn’t the case 400 days ago, when BOS marked his first 100 days!
Yet, the acidic waters that chewed up the tar, and created the craters, which birthed the traffic snarl, were a function of the locals’ reckless clogging of the drains, thus forcing dirty water to spill to the road, and eat it up, with acrid gutter stench to boot!
It’s good the government has fixed that road. For it to last though, Lagos must devise ways to drive radical behavioural change, to checkmate Lagosians’ environmental outlawry, that shortens the lifespan of critical road infrastructure. Otherwise, the government might be glued to same old repairs, instead of moving to new areas.
You drive on the long Okota Palace Way, up to Apple Junction at Amuwo-Odofin, and you marvel at how clean that stretch is becoming. Still, evidence abounds, of piled refuse, on the high median.
As LAWMA and co get more efficient in refuse management, folks too must imbibe rational and responsible refuse disposal behaviours — even if KIA must come up with stiff and stern penalties, to force better environmental conduct.
But just as well one of the roads, under major rehabilitation state-wide, is Ilara road, Ibonwon, in Epe’s Eredo LCDA. That is cheery.
Still, BOS should double up to complete the pan-Epe urban upgrade, the policy flower of the Ambode era. Therefore, the government should waste little time in completing the project’s tail-end, at the Odomola-to-Odo Ajogun axis.
A gleaming artery that suddenly becomes an eyesore, at Mojoda and Odo Ajogun, the last two communities at its Ogun border completion point, can only outrage the locals.
Besides, the Itoikin-Epe wing of the project also seeks urgent attention, just as the Eleko junction, Eleran-Igbe bus stop area, of the Lekki-Epe expressway.
As BOS continues to make steady strides, therefore, he must pay attention to these Epe axis challenges. They could be putative embarrassment to “home boy” Deputy Governor; and avoidable headaches to the ruling party, at future polls.
Still, as vital as physical achievements are excellent for optics, the BOS era might be defined by traits much deeper.
First, he is emerging as a quiet and effective leader, among a well-oiled and effective team. This is welcome, particularly viewed from the tragic hubris that, at noon, cut short the Ambode era. That the governor has opted for dutiful project continuation, instead of opening fresh flanks, powered by nothing but ego, is refreshingly welcome.
Yes, his excellent handling of COVID-19 was the insult-turned-glory juncture for BOS. He, that was the virtual butt of jokes, by an ever cynical Lagos electorate, suddenly became an adored citizen governor. Awo, the avatar, would have dubbed it eebu dola — ridicule turned praise!
But on the policy front, the COVID-19 triumph was much more: after Ebola under Fashola, the BOS COVID-19 success portrays a deepened Lagos expertise in critical public health emergencies, particularly epidemics and pandemics. It shows how well Lagos has developed since 1999 — and BOS did it, not as a superman-governor but as a level-headed leader, of a well-oiled team.
After 500 days, BOS has done well — but so had Ambode. The former governor had overcome his initial glitches and was cruising, just as BOS is now.
Still, BOS must avoid the Ambode stumble. If the governor continues to focus, dutifully lead his team, and doesn’t succumb to any latter-day executive arrogance, conceit or hubris, these beginnings might just be the strong fundament of a well and truly glorious governorship.
RIPPLES goofed, big time, last week (“Time to call ASUU’s bluff”, October 13), mixing up ASUU Presi-dent, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi’s base — fulsome apologies! He is of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, not the University of Ibadan, as the column claimed. Again, sincere apologies to the two university communities.
But some irate ASUU members/sympathizers seized that goof, to lob Molotov cocktails at the column — no sweat, for fair is foul and foul is fair, in war!
Still, chill gentlemen! That was no war — only a frank column hard tackle to force a more responsible ASUU behaviour, for the common good.