Sanwo-Olu’s New Plan for Lagos

Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has laid out a new plan aimed at evenly decentralising development to other parts of the state at a recent session with the Organised Private Sector. Gboyega Akinsanmi reports.

Does Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, really deserve a second term of four years? Has he lived up to the expectation of Lagos residents irrespective of where they come from or which party they belong to? Can he garner simple majority votes in the next governorship election considering the outcome of the last presidential poll in the Centre of Excellence?

These questions obviously form the crux of political debate that most registered voters have been dissecting in Lagos since electioneering campaign began in October, 2022.

Besides, stakeholders have largely been assessing Sanwo-Olu, using different yardsticks to measure his administration.

But the debate became more intense only last week after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) formally declared the flagbearer of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president-elect in the just concluded presidential contest.

Even though they are at each other’s throat, the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Olajide Adediran and his counterpart in the Labour Party, Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, have given diverse reasons why Sanwo-Olu should not be re-elected as the governor of Nigeria’s most populous state.

While Adediran premised his campaign on the need to end the reign of political godfatherism in Lagos State, Rhodes-Vivour claimed at different fora that Sanwo-Olu had not lived up to the expectation of Lagos residents, hence the need for the voters to reject him at the state’s  governorship poll on Saturday.

The campaign messages have obviously divided the residents of the state more sharply. On the one hand, the progressives are standing with Sanwo-Olu, citing his records of performance.

On the other hand, young elements, especially early-career and mid-career professionals, either pitched their tents with the PDP candidate or the Labour Party candidate, campaigning against the ruling party.

In reality, does the message of the young elements really suggest that Sanwo-Olu has not fulfilled campaign promises to Lagos residents? Or does it also suggest that he has deceived the people of Lagos as some opposition parties have claimed severally? Are their claims sufficient to stop Sanwo-Olu’s re-election on March 11?

At a meeting with business leaders on February 13, Sanwo-Olu defended his administration with facts and figures, which neither LP nor PDP has disputed. Sanwo-Olu was not alone at this session held at Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lekki.

Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze and Senior Special Assistant on SDGs, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, among others, shared the session to give their participants’ accounts of progressive governance in Lagos.

At the session, some stakeholders from diverse sectors used the forum to seek clarification about what the governor had done differently in the last four years. Others also sought to know about Sanwo-Olu’s re-election plan, which obviously turned the focus of discourse at the session.

Even though it is a work in progress, the Commissioner of Housing, Hon. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai observed that Lagos “is dotted with diverse completed and ongoing projects that distinguish among other states.”

These projects, according to Akinderu-Fatai, are evidence of Sanwo-Olu’s sterling performance. Apparently, it is a fact that no Lagos resident can deny.

At the session, diverse presentations empirically reinforced Sanwo-Olu’s approval rating.

First, the presentations revealed how the governor focussed on completing all the unfinished projects that his administration inherited from his predecessors, especially Fashola and Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Such projects, as shown in some presentations, comprise Pen Cinema Bridge in Agege, Oshodi-Abule-Egba BRT Lane, Imota Rice Mill, John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, Light Rail (Blue Line) and over 16 housing estates across the state, among others.

Also strategic among such projects is the completion of Lekki Deep Sea Port, which according to the governor, the Lagos State Government jointly executed with the federal government and private sector.

Focusing on unfinished projects alone, as Akinderu-Fatai observed, Sanwo-Olu has excelled where some state governors have failed.

Beyond completing unfinished projects  inherited from the previous administrations, other presentations showed diverse new projects, which the Sanwo-Olu administration newly started executing. In this category are the Light Rail (Red Line), six-lane Eleko-Epe rigid pavement expressway, Fourth Mainland Bridge and several others.

But Sanwo-Olu’s new plan for Lagos State elicited more interest among the stakeholders than the projects his administration has completed.

The new plan, he said, was designed to decentralise infrastructure development from Lagos Central to Lagos East and West. He linked the new plan to his engagement with the private sector actors, who he believed, had key roles to play in its effective execution.

The new plan, according to Sanwo-Olu, formed one of the reasons the state government conveyed the session with the OPS. And the session was principally designed to engage the private sector and perhaps mobilise private capital for the effective execution of the state’s new development plan.

Sanwo-Olu first admitted that the demographics of Lagos “is choked in the middle and requires the state government to decentralise development in the interest of all its residents.”

Consequently, he explained, the state’s demographics shaped our resolve to “consciously and deliberately change our development plan towards Lagos East and West. This reflects in our recent project undertakings.”

He thus cited diverse examples of what his administration had executed and had been executing to decentralise the state’s development plan. Under his leadership, he noted, the state just completed the first phase of the light rail (blue line), which President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated on January 24.

In its design, Sanwo-Olu explained that the state’s original plan “is to take the blue line to Badagry in Lagos West from Marina in Lagos Central.” Already, he further revealed that the state government had awarded the contract for the second phase, which attests to his progressive drive to open up Lagos West for development.

He, equally, cited the case of Lagos East, which hosted Dangote Refinery and other mega projects located on the Lekki Free Trade Zone.

On this axis, he revealed, the state government is constructing the Lekki-Epe expressway, which will directly connect Lagos East to Benin-Sagamu expressway.

As designed, the governor told the business leaders that the first phase of the Lekki-Epe expressway “has been completed and inaugurated.” Just after the inauguration of the first phase, Sanwo-Olu said the state government had approved the contract for the second phase.

Apart from the progressive execution of the Lekki-Epe expressway, Sanwo-Olu accentuated the resolve of the state government to deliver the Fourth Mainland Bridge as part of the state’s development decentralisation plans.

In essence, he said, the bridge was designed to link Ikorodu in Lagos East to Ajah in Eti-Osa Local Government Area, which according to him, further reinforced the state’s new plan “to decentralise infrastructure development.”

From what the administration has done in the last four years, Sanwo-Olu observed that there “is a plan already towards decentralising development from Lagos Central to Lagos East and Lagos West. But we cannot do it alone. We need the private sector actors and other strategic interests to look at our plans and see where they can invest.”

He also explained the strategic significance of the Lagos Ogun Joint Border Commission to the state’s development decentralisation plan.

In specific terms, he explained how the joint commission was structured to resolve border issues, security challenges, traffic gridlocks and fiscal policies that involve the two states.

Sanwo-Olu, however, clarified that the joint border agreement “does not include building bridge and road infrastructure projects in Ogun State,” though central to managing “development issues that affect the two states negatively if we fail to adopt collaborative approach.”

But the new plan is not alone anchored to infrastructure development, which the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello observed, is often used in this part of the world as a yardstick for measuring the performance of the government.

However, according to Bello, the plan equally emphasised education, environment, social investment and human capital development as well.

Under education, Sanwo-Olu acknowledged that his administration “has done a lot of work ranging from building more classes and providing basic facilities that the public schools required to function efficiently and effectively.”

Under four years, Sanwo-Olu claimed that the state government “has built over 1,000 additional classes. Consequently, we have witnessed significant growth in school enrolment.”

Besides building new classes, he revealed how his administration strengthened the state’s student-teacher ratio saying over 8,000 teachers have been recruited since 2019.

According to him: “Lagos is perhaps the only state in the federation that annually celebrates Teachers’ Appreciation Day. In 2022 alone, we rewarded 14 outstanding teachers with brand new cars. In WAEC, we recorded 80 percent pass in five subjects including English and Mathematics.”

For Fashola, Sanwo-Olu could have achieved much more if not for the outbreak of COVID-19 that rattled the global economy between 2020 and 2021. All over the world, Fashola observed that COVID-19 was a monumental challenge for leaders and governments given its implications for domestic and global economies.

For responding decisively and incisively to the first incident recorded in the country alone, Fashola observed that Nigerians “should ever be grateful to Sanwo-Olu. If not for his prompt response, the situation would have been different today. On this account alone, Sanwo-Olu deserves another term to complete what he has started.”

Also speaking, Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru allied with Fashola in his assessment of Sanwo-Olu.

He, specifically, observed that Lagos “has been able to sustain its development drive in the last two decades.”

But the state, as Ashiru argued, faces a bleak future if the federal government is not stepping up its development drive. By implication, he argued that the federal government “too must aggressively drive development if the sub-national governments must always get it right.

“This is important to avoid bandwagon effects. If the federal government is not performing, it will definitely affect the sub-national governments. Both levels must commit to sustained project execution”, Ashiru observed.

But with Tinubu’s election, obviously, a great future awaits not just Lagos, but also other states of the federation considering the records he set during his tenure (1999 to 2007) as governor of Nigeria’s most populous state.

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