Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has earned the confidence of his party, writes Kemi Akinleye

Lagos has a way of preparing her leaders for greater exploits. About two years ago, the name Babajide Sanwo-Olu wouldn’t have rang a bell in Lagos. Well, in the Lagos State Civil Service, some staff would have known him then. But since he declared interest in becoming and eventually emerged as the 15th governor of Lagos State, Sanwo-Olu’s profile has been on the rise. Recently, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), appointed Sanwo-Olu as the chairman of the 104-member National Campaign Council for the Ondo Governorship Election.

The campaign council was inaugurated on Saturday, August 15, 2020 at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja. And Sanwo-Olu expressed confidence in delivering his mandate.

“They (PDP) really should not waste their time, but election is something that is not over until it is all over,” he said, directing his comment to the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party.

“So, we are not going to take anybody for granted. We are going for an election and it is going to be issues-based. We will ensure that we campaign for the people of Ondo State to see the need to continue with the progressive government that they have. He (Rotimi Akeredolu) is doing very well, we have seen it, he still has the capacity, he has the energy to further advance what he is currently doing. So that is why we are with him and we know he will do that.”

Joining Sanwo-Olu as deputy chairman is governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong and Comrade Mustapha Salihu as Secretary. Others on the campaign train include Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; APC governors and some members of the National Assembly.

I am not surprised Sanwo-Olu has gained attention from the party this early in his political journey. Upon assumption of office as governor in May 2019, Sanwo-Olu began to face the grind and rigour of governing Nigeria’s most bustling state. The challenges came in many forms – bad roads, high taxes, health, education, myriads of infrastructural demands and the usual distractions. However, armed with his campaign tagged THEMES (Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security), Sanwo-Olu focused on attacking Lagos’ challenges and delivering his promises.

VisionScape, the fragile waste company contracted to clean Lagos by the previous Akinwumi Ambode-led administration, was given the boots. The work to rid Lagos of the filth the state had been plunged into began. And gradually, the streets became cleaner. The rains which fell in the months after Sanwo-Olu became governor prevented massive road repairs but palliative measures were put in place on crucial roads. Abandoned projects were continued. And as more Nigerians thronged Lagos, all the other business of running the state continued. Then by March, Coronavirus came to town.

With the index case appearing in Lagos, the state was put in the spotlight. Now, the spotlight can do two things – it can present an opportunity to shine or it can expose inherent flaws. For Sanwo-Olu, the Covid-19 spotlight became a stage he used to prove his mettle as a leader. When some other leaders around the world floundered and brought ridicule to their office, Sanwo-Olu spoke and acted intelligently. His decisions were fact-based and geared towards pragmatism. The Lagos State government was the first state to be serious about building isolation centres. They provided beds and treatment for Covid-19 patients – free of charge. And while the patients were treated and the state was on lockdown, the government sought to ameliorate the conditions of others in the state.

During the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, Lagos and its leadership demonstrated a hands-on approach to finding solutions. The state showed examples which even the federal government would follow.

Lagos came up with the idea of granting food sellers, medicine sellers and essential workers a grace to operate. It recognised that life was already hard for its residents and every move to ease things was needed. When some miscreants sabotaged its first intervention at giving food to indigent residents, the state government went back to its drawing board. This time around, while packaged foodstuffs were given to the elderly, the government, through all the local government councils, served 100, 000 youths a meal daily. The government’s actions must have been stirring. And support in cash and kind from the corporate sector, social organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations as well as other individuals and groups came in for the state and her people.

During the lockdown period, Sanwo-Olu announced free treatment at all its primary and secondary health facilities. And by April 14, it was reported that over 18,000 people benefitted from free medical services at all 67 Grade A primary and secondary healthcare centres and over 600 childbirths were recorded. Also, the Lagos State government authorised unconditional cash transfer to 250,000 economically challenged persons registered with the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA). Sanwo-Olu also announced that small businesses that took loans from the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) will enjoy three months moratorium.

Aside from the success which Lagos continues to record in the fight against Covid-19, the state has not relented in ensuring other aspects of life are catered for. Recently, BRT buses were commissioned to run to and fro Abule Egba and Oshodi. The journey which could take two hours to complete during peak period will now be shortened to about 30 minutes. Commuters on this route would surely thank Sanwo-Olu. Also, the state started a pilot in 11 local government and local council development areas whereby indigent pregnant women would get weekly food rations to encourage prenatal visits to the government hospitals. And his administration is set to build a massive seafood market in Epe, the largest of its kind in Nigeria. In other areas, the state has continued to progress.

Though he is just settling into his second year as governor, Sanwo-Olu has proved he is capable of leading Lagos effectively. It is no mean feat. Hence, it was not too surprising that APC nominated him for the onerous task of leading the Ondo gubernatorial campaign. The Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is the APC’s standard-bearer, is seeking re-election. He will be contesting against the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who is running under the platform of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP and other contenders in the October 10 election. Certainly, the stakes in Ondo are high. And the choice of a Sanwo-Olu to lead the campaign would have been properly thought-out by the APC.

While Covid-19 is still raging, Lagos has enforced Covid-19 protocols which have ensured that life is returning to the state without compromising the health of residents. Those who say that the reward for good work is more work may be right because the way Governor Sanwo-Olu has managed and is managing the Covid-19 threat in Lagos has endeared him to many. Now, the APC hierarchy wants him to go and quell the threat in Ondo. They must have a lot of faith in Sanwo-Olu.