THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma
Here is a testimony that speaks to the changing perceptions of Lagos State. “I have been working with a team of reformers (including the HC) on LASG Education strategy for over 18 months, but her acceleration in this Covid-19 crisis has been nothing but exceptional, with the full backing of the governor. Lagos will leave the rest of Nigeria behind within a decade. During the Sanwolu Strategy Retreat, I made a presentation on the Digital Economy and Human Capital, introducing the concept of a ‘Smart’ Megacity, the thrust being that Lagos State was not producing the human capital required to power its tumultuous growth. They have gone all out to realise this.”
Word of mouth in today’s People’s Parliament, the various social media platforms, is positive about Lagos State. It is significant that the endorsement comes from professionals on multiple platforms and goes beyond the Nigerian proclivity to focus only on the head man. It is a more nuanced assessment of the cabinet.
Folashade Adebayo, the education commissioner, gets plaudits in circles knowledgeable about issues in education. Experts describe her as “a passionate reformer and professional.” Other descriptors of her say she is “an aggressive goal-getter, focused and result-oriented.” The professional educator has traversed the field from the best private schools and is now driving and executing policy from a deep well of knowledge and insights.
A signature project is the Education for Child Excellence and Learning, aka EKO EXCEL that seeks to prioritise digital in the delivery of education in Lagos State. It is instructive that EKO EXCEL commenced in December 2019 way ahead of the coronavirus pandemic. It has helped Lagos pivot faster to the demands of the new era.
As a report noted, “Lagos State has fully embraced digital or online education. Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, submits that online learning is the future and most effective method of learning. “Even after the pandemic, we encourage schools to continue with the online classroom because it encourages a lot of skills”, Adefisayo stated.
Lagos is looking additionally at curriculum review, integration of learning methodology “so that our teachers have an understanding of how to integrate technology into their teaching and learning”.
The other is a better assessment approach. “Assessment will not only be a summative test at the end of the period but will also be formative. Again, it is a culture change, a way of the shifting paradigm. It is a way of making our teachers think differently. A summative test cannot tell you everything about a child’s learning. And that you should be willing to use multiple choice of learning tools.”
Then there is Mr Mature, the health commissioner. Prof Akin Abayomi brings the gravitas of his many qualifications, exposure, and experience to bear on his role. It showed in the brilliant handling of Covid19 with Lagos as the epicentre. He was a reassuring presence beside Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the chief executive briefed citizens regularly during the crisis.
The evidence is that Babajide Sanwo-Olu is driving his THEMES with an excellent team. THEMES is the thematic thrust of the governor’s four-year effort to leave legacies in Lagos State. THEMES stands for Traffic management and transportation; Health and environment; Education and technology; Making Lagos a 21st-century economy; Entertainment and tourism; as well as Security and governance.
THEMES represent the six pillars of governance for the envisaged “Greater Lagos” that Sanwo-Olu espouses. There are signs of progress in several areas. And a disturbing lack of action in some others. Transport Management is one of the most essential. Lagos is a city groaning under gridlock in several parts. The traffic congestion is not only from the excess of vehicles on the roads but the poor condition of those roads and bad driving habits of city dwellers.
The city-state is a hard nut. Yet, there are examples of excellent performance from the past. The most notable is the four-year tenure of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande that delivered landmark projects across sectors. One of those is the Lekki-Epe Road that has over-delivered on its promise.
The Lekki-Epe Road houses 85 estates and counting. Vehicles from those many estates flow into that single expressway. Unfortunately, from Abraham Adesanya junction, the road needs to benefit from the expansion that graced the other side. It will also be up to Sanwo-Olu to deliver the coastal highway the governments of Lagos State have promised for going on three decades.
There is the threat that the good fortune of the Lekki Free Trade Zone poses to movement on that axis. Long-haul vehicles have become central to traffic in the area. Nothing is happening to widen the road from either Abraham Adesanya or from Eleko Junction to the Free Trade Zone featuring the gigantic Dangote Refinery. Dread.
Lagosians caught in the traffic hell of the city on the mainland will snigger at any credit to the government. Perception matters and Sanwo-Olu and his team would have to work harder to change perceptions about their handling of Traffic Management as one significant pillar of his THEMES.
Lagos is work in progress. Most significantly, Sanwo-Olu, through his performance and public appearances in the last four months, has re-positioned Lagos. It is no longer Eko for Show but now Eko for Work.
There is so much more waiting for the governor to do under his chosen THEMES framework. I urge him to get on with the work at an even faster pace.