By Eddy Odivwri
I looked carefully at his head, as we sat close to each other, to see if, like his last but one predecessor, the army of grey hair, has invaded his head. The grey hairs were not there. Perhaps not yet. But his head seems to be filled with ideas on how to grow Lagos, how to make Lagos an enchanting commercial hub of the country.
He spoke with so much confidence on his plans, illustrating it with occasional graphic diagrams on the diary he had on him.
In few minutes, he had rolled out a long chain of projects he planned to execute. And you will think he has a 15-year tenure. But he sounds both serious and almost convincing that he’d deliver on the projects before the pack-your-bag bell rings.
It was my first close encounter with Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu(BOS), since he became the executive governor of Lagos State, ten months ago. He looked simple and business-minded. He had no airs.
He explained his commitment to completing the first phase of the complex ten-lane Orile-Okoko expressway which was started by former Governor Babatunde Fashola. The immediate past governor of the state, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode neglected the project, thus causing the many people living on that axis huge and crushing pain, all the years he was in office.
Apart from explaining that the project is solely a Lagos State government project contrary to the belief that it is World-Bank assisted, Governor Sanwo-Olu said he has already committed some billions of Naira to the furtherance of the work and is committed to completing it very soon.
“Apart from the rail tracks which we have laid up till Mile 2, what is left of the road up to Okoko is not so much”, the governor explained, noting that his administration is determined to ensure that the first phase of the project (ending in Okoko) is done with as soon as possible.
He however added that what will cause a little delay will be the building of the terminal buildings between Mile 2 and Okoko.
Indeed, to have a first-hand understanding of the level of work done and left undone, the governor, few months ago, undertook an extensive tour and inspection of the highway stretch, assessing the present state of work.
Work has since resumed on the project and as the governor assured, “soon”, Lagosians in that part of town, will heave a deep sigh of relief.
But more than the Orile-Okoko road project, it appears like the entire Lagos state is a huge construction site; what with lots of work and construction going on in several places. Last Tuesday, I drove through many places in Lagos. The traffic snarl was punitive. But perhaps for good reason. Many roads were blocked because one form of construction, expansion or repair is taking place. I was shocked to notice that the Allen Round about by Awolowo Way in Ikeja has been knocked down. I noticed that the Oregun road connecting Ojota bus stop has been blocked off because of some road construction works. Even the Ojota bus stop is not spared, So much reconstruction work is going on there. The lanes have been narrowed down.
If the scope of on-going works amaze you, you will be further pricked by the standing ambition of Gov Sanwo-Olu to construct the 4th Mainland bridge. Yes, another one like the third Mainland bridge, to connect Ikorodu (through Isawo road) and Epe . Did he say 39 kilometers? I can’t remember. The groundworks have been completed, he said. The bid for the work had long been opened. Over thirty companies, some of them foreign, have sent in their bid for the job. And soon, the job will be flagged off.
How does he intend to fund this and many other ambitious projects like the Blue, Yellow, Purple and Green rail Lines, which he is sure would be built soon? “We are using PPP (Public Private Partnership)”, he pointed out, adding “don’t forget I am an Investment banker”.
In return, such roads and bridges will be tolled, so the investors can recoup their money within a reasonable time frame
He explained that the private operators are eager to partner with the state government on the projects. That all the foundational, clerical works for the take-off, are being concluded and that before he clocks one year in office, many of the projects would have crystalised for commencement. He sounded upbeat about the projects as if he’s about replicating the Chinese feat of multiple-floor hospital building in ten days.
By the multiple projects running simultaneously in the state; patch up of many bad portions of the roads (many are yet untouched though); the banning of motor cycles and tricycles in parts of the state (even though enforcement is still a challenge); plus the responsive handling of the coronavirus index case in Lagos, the Lagos State governor is fast changing the narrative around him few months ago: that he came atop government with no plan of what to do. If you are in doubt, listen to the growling noise of the many bulldozers and graders reworking the tapestry of the metro roads.