Challenging Opportunities for Babajide Sanwoolu

Babajide Sanwoolu

By Anthony A. Kila

Barring any extraordinary circumstances, Babjide Sanwoolu will in about sixty days from today be sworn and become the Governor of Lagos State. He will thus become the CEO of the commercial capital of Nigeria and one of the most vibrant cities in the world. As I have had chance to point out during the campaign, primaries included, only a distracted citizen and an incompetent analyst of Lagos politics will doubt the Sanwolo’s capacity or question his background: The man is a pure product of this system and the team that brought him into power is the only forest in which a tree can be grown to become governor in Lagos of today.

In a country wherein very many, too many, people are inclined to giving solidarity and relief to victors, I am willing to bet that by now Sawoolu’s inbox will be full of congratulatory messages so I am sure he will not miss mine if I don’t include one today.

Rather let us point out that if Mr Governor-elect can govern half the way he campaigned, then he will certainly be an achieving governor. Why? Well, during his campaign, the candidate Sawoolu, through his team, reached every part of Lagos: Every geographical part and socio-economic sector knew Babajide Sanwolu was keen on and planning to be governor of Lagos state.

The efficiency of BOSCO, the Babajide Olusola Sanwoolu Campaign Organisation, can easily be summed up in this amusing event: Sometime in January, I tweeted that I saw a Jimi Agbaje poster on my way to our country home in Lagasa and another Lagosian on twitter replied asking me if the poster was found under Sanwoolu’s poster?

For someone who whilst trying to reach office can show such knowledge of Lagos, its people and the challenges they face during elections, it will be more than disappointing if he does not perform well as a governor. He can even take some tips from his minor opponents, who though lacked the ability to popularise their ambitions and plans, all had good ideas.

As I have said in the past, my Lagos is a lucky place compared to other parts of Nigeria: Save for some very rare exceptions, in Lagos we don’t have lunatics and outrightly daft people trying to be governor, the system is solid and standards have been raised to a level where many will not even dare to contest.

As governor therefore, one of the major challenges and perhaps the most important test Sanoowolu will have to face is his ability to match up: He will be compared to past governors and his deeds in office will be compared to his promises during the campaign. He has here a challenging opportunity to shine if he does the right things. Strictly speaking however, all these are his own problem.

Another major challenge, the new governor will have to face lies in his ability to deal with stakeholders on whose shoulders and with whose help he got into office. Many are chieftains of his party the APC, others are people with personal ties to the man about to become governor, most are men and women that represent very solid power blocks, many of them are influential leaders in their own rights and they represent clear interests and sensibilities that will be difficult or even silly to ignore. These challenges are tough ones but they also give Sanoowolu the opportunity of becoming a great leader of his party and his people. Again, strictly speaking, all these are their own problem.

A wider challenging opportunity for the man, politician and administrator Babjide Sanwoolu is ability to deal with Lagos as a place for all. Now this is a problem for all us.

Fixing of bad roads, dealing with the issues of traffic jams, an understaffed, badly managed, overworked network of hospitals, school and other public services including security and processes that impede the creation of jobs and wealth are common problems with all Nigerian states. The peculiarity of Lagos lies in its density and diversity of population, it lies in its level of potential and opportunities.

Sanwoolu has a chance to face these challenges in a totally new and more vigorous way.

I am of the persuasion that Lagos should be accorded special status because of the burden it carries for the rest of Nigeria, its contribution in terms of revenue and because it plays host to every part of Nigeria. He has the possibility of championing the cause of a Lagos with special status: He can work with and coordinate Lagos state legislators both in state and national chambers, he can work with and influence ministers from Lagos state. I am not sure of the vision of President Buhari for Lagos but I can bet that the Vice President is not new to the demand for a Lagos of special status.

As Governor of this clearly cosmopolitan space, Sawnoolu has the possibility of making Lagos a truly metropolitan city state. To do this he has to deliberately decide which model he wants to adopt and bearing in minding the full significance and consequence of his choices. He can choose to build and lead via accommodation, assimilation, integration or create a blend. In a country with a history of governors of other states coming to Lagos to visit, represent and act on behalf of indigenes of their states, the new governor of Lagos state can do what his predecessors have never done before: conceptualise and implement a plan that caters for the interests of Lagosians outside Lagos State.

Thus far, it has been subtle and fragmented but the new governor can actually put forward a defined and coherent Lagos model of governance to be proposed as best practice for sharing in other states in Nigeria and beyond.

It will certainly not be an easy task, but to find an African solution for a State with a large presence of thriving non-indigenes and an equally large existence of restless indigenes that grumble of marginalisation and the feeling of alienation in the land of their ancestors is a delicious challenging opportunity for the new Governor Elect.

*Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.