It is easy to underestimate the challenges of leading a state like Lagos. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode took office in May, 2015 on an promise of â€˜continuityâ€™ â€“ an apt message considering that his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been the ruling party in Lagos since 1999.
But it was not just â€˜continuityâ€™ for its own sake, instead, â€˜continuity with improvementâ€™. Taking what he inherited and making it progressively better for the good of all. In the governorâ€™s words, â€œWe want to run a government of continuity, but continuity with improvement, to make life easier for the people. In a nutshell, that is what our goal in the next four years will be.â€
This is a governor that is determined to consolidate on the achievements of his predecessors, while also making his own unique mark on the city â€“ leaving it better than what he met. And that has guided every vision, action and innovation of his, since 2015.
There has been the occasional baseless accusation that Ambode has been dismantling the legacies he inherited. Wrong. In fact, what he has been doing is acknowledging those legacies, building on them, taking into account the fact that changing times require new and better approaches.
Ambodeâ€™s goal has been to bring fresh thinking and innovative technology to bear on the solid legacies he inherited, to reposition them to meet the evolving needs and demands of Lagos and Lagosians at large.
Letâ€™s start with security. The Rapid Response Squad (RRS) has seen significant investments, to upgrade and rebrand it, and provide more equipment: power bikes, patrol vans, communication systems and helicopters.
Connected to security are the emergency services. A state-of-the-art LASEMA Response Unit (LRU) has been launched to deliver speedy response to emergencies and situations requiring evacuation and safety, and there are a growing number of testimonials to the speed and efficiency of this service.
In transportation, the introduction of lay-bys â€“ the best known being the one at Oworonshoki end of the Third Mainland Bridge â€“ has eased traffic gridlocks, and resulted in increased productivity for those who work in the city. In the Lekki area, the removal of roundabouts from the Lekki-Epe Expressway has proved to be an inspired decision, smoothening the flow of traffic and making commuting times more predicable for residents and visitors.
Lagos is showing Nigeria and the world that, sometimes, the seemingly minor decisions â€“ a lay-by here and a traffic light in place of a roundabout there are as important as bigger stuffs. Little tweaks like these are helping to maximise the potential of the legacies Ambode inherited, and Lagosians are benefiting.
And in the â€˜biggerâ€™, grander stuff as well, the government has been just as prolific. New flyovers in the Abule Egba and Ajah have transformed the cityscape and its traffic situation. Pen Cinema, Agege, will same time this year be the latest beneficiary of an overhead bridge.
One of the most pressing problems that Lagos has had to deal with, on account of its population, is waste management. On the surface, it has felt like the existing system had been working. But in reality, it was grossly inadequate; a system that had never quite found answers to the question: what happens to the mountains of waste after they are collected from homes, offices and industries?
Until recently, much of Lagosâ€™ waste ended up in unregulated dumpsites like Olusosun, posing a health and environmental hazards to the cityâ€™s dwellers. Today, we can see the results of that approach: the raging fire that has in recent weeks poisoned the city.
Ambode has been very clear about what needs to be done. Olusosun will be decommissioned and redeveloped into parks and gardens for the benefit of the people of Lagos, while the designated landfill sites at Owu Elepe in Ikorodu and in Epe will be fully operationalised.
Landfill sites can be seen as the wholesale end of the waste value chain. The retail aspect, the collection from homes and offices, is also undergoing reforms for improvement, bringing in new partners, modern technology and updated processes, under the Cleaner Lagos Initiative.
Reform is never easy, never without challenges. But the new system being introduced will, building on the reforms made by previous administrations, result in a solution far more robust and sustainable than anything the city has ever witnessed.
What else does the future hold for Lagos, under Ambode? More off-grid power, to make the state self-sufficient in electricity and land reform that will include the creation of an electronic Geographical Information System (e-GIS) that will make it impossible for land-grabbers and fraudsters to operate. It will soon be possible to take advantage of all services rendered by the Lands Bureau online, without the need to visit any offices anywhere.
There is also a complete reform of the bus transportation system to replace the existing rickety ‘danfos’ with modern, comfortable and efficient buses befitting of a 21st century metropolis, in a manner similar to what previous administrations did via the bus rapid transport.
In 2016, Lagos was selected to join the Rockefeller Foundationâ€™s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) Network. At that time, the governor said, “As a new member of 100 Resilient Cities, we can work with the best in the private, government and non-profit sectors in developing and sharing tools to plan for and respond to the challenges ahead.â€
In a nutshell, that is the Ambode vision for Lagos: working with partners within and outside Nigeria for the good of Lagos.
That collaborative vision has already produced LAKE Rice from a partnership with Kebbi State, and the inaugural Lagos Kano Economic Summit, between two of Nigeriaâ€™s leading state economies and commercial nerve-centres. It has also earned votes of confidence from business leaders in Nigeria.
Just recently, a number of business moguls announced fresh contributions to the Lagos Security Trust Fund. Many other partnerships are taking shape.
The future of Lagos is bright. There will be challenging times, and reforms will, sometimes, mean that things look harder before they become easier. But ultimately, it is important to realise that Lagos is on the path of progress, and Lagosians will be the better for it.
.Ojewande writes from Lagos