Every Nigerian citizen deserves access to basic amenities that make life worth living and the good people of Lagos are no exception. Successive administrations in the state since 1999 have keyed into this vision, but recognise that it is still very much a work in progress.
Ours is a bustling metropolis ideally meant for a little over 10 million people which currently accommodates an estimated 17.5 million residents. The influx of visitors and dwellers is understandable given that Lagos is the fifth largest economy in Africa, a land of opportunities which continues to churn out success stories whose dreams find expression in the City of Excellence. Lagos is home to successful politicians, business moguls, entertainers and sportsters and will continue to be in the months and years to come.
That said, Lagos has its fair share of challenges like just about every mega city across the world. In its 2017 analysis, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard rated New York as the third most traffic congested city after Moscow and Los Angeles. So the Lagos case with congestion is not peculiar. Optimal waste management, ease of doing business, access to affordable healthcare and education are ideals that visionary administrations in big cities across the world continually evolve innovative strategies to achieve. As such, Lagos deserves technocrats motivated by selflessness who are willing to hit the ground running because residents are out of patience with mere words. Lagos needs APC Governorship aspirant Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, a banker and technocrat who holds a platinum award from the Lagos State Public Service Club and emerged the ‘Best in Human Capital Development’ awardee of the Industrial Training Fund as far back as 2009. But he is not asking for accolades. He only requests that we align with his vision and believe in his five-point THEME (Traffic, Health, Education, Making Lagos 21st Century Compliant and Entertainment) for the radical transformation of Lagos State while we are still alive to witness it.
Traffic Management & Transportation
A survey conducted by Planet Projects in 2016 showed that Lagosians lose at least three of every 10 years spent in Lagos to traffic. Obviously, this challenge needs to be tackled head-on to keep residents productive and scale up the state’s economic fortunes. Sanwo-Olu has rolled up his sleeves to not only identify but roundly address this if he gets our mandate. On the campaign trail, he has discovered from on-the-spot assessments that traffic congestion in Lagos is mostly caused by oversized roundabouts, closed laybys, inadequate traffic lights and the population explosion which statistics on vehicular renewals show.
He has identified over 60 gridlock points across the state, including the Lagos-Apapa Road. The spill-over from this stretch runs from Apapa to the toll gate on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. As of August last year, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N72.9 billion for the road project. Sanwo-Olu has pledged to work with the Federal Government to complete the venture, even as he envisions a 5000-capacity trailer park to tackle the hazard of long-haul vehicles clogging up the road network. He is looking at a partnership with the Nigerian Port Authority for a strict on-call system that notifies trailers when to pick-up containers. This will eliminate the long wait that keeps them on the road even if they have no reason to be.
But road traffic congestion is just one part of the challenge. Lagosians have long advocated for diversification that will eliminate the seeming overdependence on land for transportation. Sanwo-Olu is aligned with this yearning. His vision is to integrate road, rail and water transportation so Lagosians have the freedom to choose. At the helm, he will ensure the completion of the on-going Blue Line rail project from Okokomaiko to Marina and the Red Line from Agbado to Marina. Upon its completion, residents of those areas will heave a sigh of relief from the hours of dust and fumes that they put up with in their daily commute.
We need a governor whose visionary leadership guarantees there are no potholes on our major roads or inner cities that make commuting a hassle. Sanwo-Olu’s pledge is to pick up from where the current administration has left off by fixing these roads and expanding the existing infrastructure. The least he deserves is a chance to prove his mettle.
Health & Environment
Every administration looking to make a difference cannot overlook the vulnerable and less privileged in society, especially those without access to affordable healthcare. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was established by the Federal Government under Act 35 of the 1999 Constitution to achieve this feat. But at the last count, less than seven million out of the 180 million people in Nigeria are covered by the scheme.
Last month, Lagos launched the state health insurance scheme (LSHS) to ensure that residents are able to access fit-for-purpose and affordable healthcare. The scheme, which will be jointly managed by the Ministry of Health and the Lagos State Management Agency (LSHMA), aims to reduce mortality rates fuelled by out-of-pocket payment for healthcare by the indigent. Sanwo-Olu is aligned with the sustainability of this laudable project. In fact, he is taking it a notch higher by ensuring that not just some, but all residents, have access to the scheme – especially the less privileged for whom the LSHS will be heavily subsidized. Even better, he is looking at creating an environment conducive to the health of residents that will eliminate their susceptibility to preventable illnesses. He aims to rejig the existing waste management system by getting the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to deliver better on its mandate as the regulator of waste collection. He is a firm believer in the waste-to-wealth scheme and his strategy is to incentivize waste sorting by interested individuals who will ensure the separation of organic from household waste for processing by recycling companies.
Education & Technology
Education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) for good reason. It unlocks lifelong opportunities for individuals, communities and entire nations. In fact, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) pegs the benchmark for the funding of the sector at 26 percent of the national budget and 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to reinforce its importance. Lagos has always prioritized qualitative educational programmes for this reason, with a vision to ensure there is meaningful progress that keeps youths off the streets and gives every family equal access to opportunities available.
Sanwo-Olu is particularly irked by the plight of the less privileged who cannot afford the skyrocketing costs of private education. As such, he is on a mission to subsidize costs and increase budget allocation in line with the specified benchmark. He aims to renovate existing public schools and enhance the capacity of teachers so they can embrace teaching as a lucrative field rather than just a pastime which often constrains them to churn out half-baked students. In the short run, he wants to work with educational institutions to improve curriculums and includes entrepreneurial studies in educational programmes. Like the best of us, Sanwo-Olu understands the transformative power of technology and its wide-ranging impact on the rule of law, ease of doing business and government processes.
His vision is to create a smart economy for Lagos which will include incubation hubs for technology start-ups and coding education in the public school curriculum. He foresees that if technology is included in the public system, it will help entrepreneurs and SMEs thrive, generating more jobs and public-private sector partnerships.
Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy
Governments across the world do not directly create jobs. Rather, they create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive – with employment as a by-product. Sanwo-Olu is a 30-year veteran of the public and private sectors. He recognises that a synergy between both arms generates funds for laudable projects and fast tracks growth. He is looking at a collaborative system where government and the private sector work hand-in-hand to provide the basics that will make residents proud to call Lagos State their home.
Sanwo-Olu has identified stable power supply and security as two major enablers for the growth of any 21st century-compliant economy. His strategy is to simplify access to government services to make the private sector thrive. Most importantly, he will work with the power distribution and power generating companies to tackle the power supply challenge such that the state will generate enough power to drive its economy and improve the lives of residents. He envisions Lagos as a 24-hour economy with security agencies equipped with high-tech equipment that will make residents sleep with two eyes closed at night.
Entertainment & Tourism
Lagos is celebrated as the hub of culture and entertainment in Africa. The task before any forward-looking administration is to translate these tourist opportunities into money-generating and employment opportunities for the teeming number of the state’s population. Lagos boasts renowned tourist spots such as the Afrikan Shrine, Tarkwa Bay, Lekki Leisure Lake, Kalakuta Museum and the National Museum, to mention a few. These sites should not exist in isolation for local fun-seekers on weekends.
Sanwo-Olu plans to create a calendar around these priceless assets. He has pledged to work with the music, film and fashion industries to make Lagos an international tourist destination. The reason is not far-fetched. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has declared that Nollywood is the second largest employer of labour in Nigeria which at the last count, generates 1.42 percent of the country’s GDP. Sawo-Olu is not out to overlook this. He feels the industry requires professional representation at the higher levels of government so it can voice its needs where it matters. He has pledged to address this at the state level if given the nod by the Lagos electorate in due time.
After all is said and done, some Lagosians might claim they have heard similar assertions from gubernatorial aspirants that never saw the light of day. But the truth is, Sanwo-Olu’s illustrious track record inspires trust and deserves our confidence.
As a dyed-in-the-wool technocrat with a 30-year track record of integrity cutting across the public and private sectors, he is on a game-changing mission. He cut his teeth in the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the London Business School and the Lagos Business School. Lest we forget, each of those institutions is built on visionary leadership, ethics and financial propriety. Even if we displace his experience as a banker and politician, we must recall that Sanwo-Olu virtually made a career of public service light years before he even thought about dabbling into politics. How much more now that the collective aspirations of the City of Excellence look set to rest on his shoulders?