A little over a month back, I was engrafted into a private sector-driven entourage billed to pay the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a courtesy visit. It was an opportunity to meet him for the first time and subject his grips and grits to intense mental interrogation. For the about 45 minutes the visit lasted, I held a sieve to the tall, slim, dark man. As the leader of our entourage made his presentation, Sanwo-Olu fluidly made notes as if he was in a classroom.
At the time to respond, he took me by storm. Critical, informed and potentially dissembling questions shot out of him. He asked his orderly to fetch a map which he instructed be laid beside his office table. Like a scientist studying a fallen object from Mars, his pen dimensioned the map and his audience’s area of operation.
Sporadically, he asked what Lagos State stood to benefit from the endeavour of his guests. I emerged from that chanced meeting believing that Lagos had a cerebral, perceptive and up-to-the-task governor. I had believed the contrary hitherto.
As a caveat, I was one of those who believed that Sanwo-Olu’s wonky process of emergence would hamper good governance. Thank God he didn’t ask for name introduction of his guests, he probably would have tossed me out of his Marina home. Holding strongly to the belief that intangible aspects of governance are more substantive and superior to building infrastructure, and confronted with Lagos’ leadership model under Sanwo-Olu, which solidly tethers to those elements that may look inconsequential, but which shape the total architecture of governance, I stood at a crossroads, lost.
Sanwo-Olu has defrosted the Emperor-like ice which encrusts the office of governor of a Nigerian state. He was the first governor to walk into the midst of the #EndSARS protesters, not minding the jibes and harangues that usually follow such actions. Still dwelling on the superficial, he most times does not mirror that sartorial typecast of the Nigerian occupier of office – flowing agbada and all that. Getting addicted to Twitter where I gauge the feel of youngsters, I see his seamless communication of Lagos’ challenges and triumphs as key element of governance.
As he celebrates 500 days in office, though not a Lagosian, I have gone in search of his fare and I must say, they project a developmental strategy that could bail Lagos out of its challenges, if properly harnessed. Lagos ostensibly still has rough roads on which its people travel, literally and metaphorically, but Sanwo-Olu’s fare in road construction in 500 days is said to be ennobling. His office flaunts a record of 357 completed roads from May 2020 to date, tabulated with description and venue for the citizenry to interrogate and disclaim if unreal.
His record-breaking interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the four new Isolation Centers for the disease treatment constructed during the period and other health/environment interventions give hope that with him in the saddle, Lagos may still be the projected oasis in Nigeria’s governmental desert. The governor’s vow to “place special emphasis on maternal healthcare, malaria and water borne diseases,” while “focus(ing) on sanitation and waste management, by ensuring that our drainage systems are functional and kept clean,” seem to be receiving a push, as well as some other sectors of the Lagos economy.
As said earlier, Lagos still has a long way to travel under Sanwo-Olu. The gigantic filth pyramid of Lagos, its bothersome and notorious traffic snarl, though didn’t come in a day, urgently require a push to ensure that Lagos is indeed the desirable 21st Century economic hub that it should be.