I am one of those who had thought Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State was merely corralled into governance seat without having a blue print of what he wants to do for Lagosians. That belief was not for nothing. His first four or so months in office was a near disaster: the state was not just on a standstill, it was indeed receding fast. The gains and notches of previous governments were being wiped away effortlessly. The roads were in a deep mess. Pot holes were becoming craters and craters gullies. The rains only helped to make matters worse. And Lagosians were groaning.
But at the dawn of the dry season, the governor seemed to have woken up and activated his governance skills. Already, many bad spots of the city’s road network are being fixed. Even not-so-bad areas (like the stretch between CMS bus stop and Army Officers’ Mess) have been smoothly over-layed with asphalt. Many are such spots around town, and driving round the city is becoming a far more pleasant experience.
However, as with every government, there are challenging areas which Governor Sanwo-Olu must pay attention to, if he wants his name and image on the right pages of history records.
First thing is to ensure a sustenance of the road maintenance policy. That is about the first thing that hits Lagosians. Nobody enjoys driving on bad, rough and gully-ridden roads. Like Lateef Jakande did, Gov Sanwo-Olu should adopt zero-pothole policy. The engineers in the Ministry of Works must be seen to be earning their pay. They should hit the streets patching up broken spots. Too often, Lagosians groan and curse endlessly as they struggle through bad roads and bad spots.
I do not think it is too much asking for street lights in Lagos. If Lagos is described as the Centre of Excellence, for Christ’s sake, let it be so presented. Too often, the city is dark at night. Incidentally, all the difficult parts (street poles, lights, connection) of lighting up the city are in place. Sometimes, it is just the bulbs that need to be changed and the streets will be aglow again. I am not certain it is the responsibility of Federal Government to light up federal roads within the city. Needless to say that with lit-up streets, crime is discouraged and checked.
It is in realisation of this that former governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan had to mount up dozens of diesel-powered generators to light up te street/highway lights on many kilometers of the Benin-Onitsha highway at night, all through his administration. I don’t know where those generators are now.
Another area that cries for attention is the state of cleanliness of Lagos. No doubt, with the ever burgeoning population, maintaining a standard sanitary state will be a running challenge. It is worse with the mass of homeless people milling around Lagos. For such people, every dark corner is a prospective toilet. And a huge toilet they have made of Lagos. So, cleaning up Lagos, I think should start with the provision of public toilets around town, just as the refuse collection system must keep being improved upon. With the tag of filth and oozing miasma, Lagos can be anything but excellent.
Perhaps, one crucial issue that remains a big headache to Lagosians irrespective of location and status is the menace of traffic snarl. Gosh, Lagos traffic is almost enigmatic. It kills slowly. The torture and waste it generates is beyond description. Not even the introduction of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) or the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, by the Tinubu administration nor the Traffic Radio (96.1FM) (introduced) by the Fashola administration, has been able to save Lagosians from the affliction. Matters are now even made worse by the millions of motor-cyclists (called Okada) that now cockroach the entire city, causing greater congestion on the highways. The admittance of O’Pay and Go Kada cyclists with over half a million bikes has further complicated a bad case Without any official pronouncement, the huge legislative effort put into the Traffic Control laws that banned Okada riders and tricycle operators from some 520 roads in the state has been killed. Today, no where is sacrosanct. I do not understand the kind of Excellent centre that condones such degree of lawlessness. And that does not include the deadly act of driving on one-way by commercial bus drivers across the length and breath of the city. On typical days, driving round Lagos is akin to bedlam. And nobody is saying anything, not even the police. Are you in doubt? Check out what happens between Oshodi and Mile 2 . Implementation of traffic rules and measures is so weak and even ineffectual in the state. During Fashola’s tenure (2007-2015), those caught driving one-way are made to undergo psychiatric test and pay some huge fine before their vehicles are released to them. But now, it appears like a Lagos of anything goes. Not even with the brag of a so-called “New sheriff in town”, has been able to tame the traffic madness. Needless to say all these help to worsen the traffic template in Lagos.
Government is a continuum. No one government is able to solve all the problems perfectly. However, Gov Sanwo-olu should raise the bar of effort by the last administration of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode , to rein-in the land-grabbers (popularly called Omoniles) that harass Lagosians to no end. Too many cases are in court on such counts. Too many people have been killed or maimed on such counts. The government can do something. It should further the action plan and strategy of the Ambode administration to bring some sanity into land ownership system in the state. This will further encourage investment and industrialization.
Given the millions of jobless youths roaming the streets, it goes without saying that crime will be a natural corollary. Controlling the latter will thus require conscious efforts at providing conducive and enabling environment for the SMEs to grow and provide job plugs for the unemployed.
I have deliberately stayed away from the staple concerns of government: education, health, water and security.
While I strongly agree they are crucial canons of governance, I dare say more impact and lasting impression will be made on the areas I have pointed at.
Luckily, Gov Sanwo-Olu has more than three years ahead to prove his mettle.