BY SEGUN AYOBOLU
In his address at this year’s annual thanksgiving service of the Lagos State government, which held at the Lagos State House, Ikeja, Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu indicated that Y2022 would be a critical one both in the trajectory of his administration and that of Lagos State. Noting that this will be the last full year of his first term in office, the governor said among others that “By the special grace of God, the vision of having the largest Rice Mill in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the largest in the world will become a reality this year. Also, this year, 2022, will witness a milestone achievement in the rail transportation system in our state as we expect the 37km Red and 27.5km Blue Line Rail projects to commence commercial operations between the last quarter of this year and first quarter of 2023. Equally, construction work on the 38km Fourth Mainland Bridge – which will be the longest in Africa – and the Opeibi-Mende Link Bridge will commence this year. 2022 will also witness by the special grace of God, the completion of the ongoing reconstruction work on the 18.75km Eleko to T-Junction in Epe, the 10km Lekki Regional Road and the section of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway that the Lagos State Government is constructing with the permission of the Federal Government”.
The governor has since demonstrated that these were no idle words only meant to stir up illusory and unrealistic expectations. Last month, BOS inaugurated the construction of the Ojota-Opeibi link bridges and approach roads to ease congestion in Ikeja and its environs. Designed as an innovative solution to the perennial gridlock around Opeibi/Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way/Ojota/Mende corridor, the project is planned to reduce travel time for Lagos and Ikorodu bound traffic from Opebi and ease gridlock at the Opebi-Sheraton Link Road and Mobilaji Bank Anthony Way. The 3.89km Ojota-Opebi Link Bridge and approach roads consisting of 2,829 meters road length will connect Opebi Road from its tail end with Lagos-Ikorodu Road by Odo Iya-Alaro.
Speaking on a recent Channels television interview programme, BOS disclosed that actual construction work on the Fourth Mainland Bridge will commence in the second quarter of this year. According to him, “From about 30 companies that expressed interest we are now at the final stage with three shortlisted companies and I am optimistic that by March we should have completed the process”. The government he said is now at the stage of selecting one of the three shortlisted concessionaires that are interested in building the bridge so that its concrete actualization can commence by the middle of the year. This iconic project is a 37.4km freeway subdivided into three sections namely Island Section, Lagoon Section and Mainland Section. It will commence from Abraham Adesanya Roundabout in Lekki and pass through Ajah and Langbasa areas, traversing the Ajah-Badore road to the Lagoon shoreline.
Back in April 2021, BOS had conducted the ground breaking ceremony of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Red Line Project, an event at which he handed over compensation cheques to property owners whose structures would be affected by the construction. The Red Line Light Rail will convey at least 500,000 passengers daily between the Agbado and Marina axis. It will have eight train stations from Agbado to Oyingbo. In the 2022 budget, the sum of N153 billion has been allocated to the Light Rail Project thus ensuring, according to the governor, that work will proceed simultaneously on both the Red and Blue Line components of the project. The Blue Line takes off from Okokomaiko in Lagos-Badagry Expressway axis to Mile 2 and then Marina on the Island. The Blue Line is planned to be serviced by six rail lines, 14 BRT lanes, three cable car projects, 20 waterway routes and one mono rail.
The BOS administration has taken a major step towards the actualization of this landmark project, which has been in the gestation, nurturing and gradual implementation process over the last two decades, when it acquired two new 330kmph intra-city metropolitan trains with a total of 10 cars for use on the Red Line Light Rail route from Patentes Talgo, a Spanish manufacturer of intercity, standard and high speed passenger trains. On January 26, the governor announced that the state had acquired three additional trains for the Blue Line Route. It will be recalled that on assumption of office, BOS accorded priority to completing infrastructure projects initiated by his predecessor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode, as well as housing and health projects started by the Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola administration, which had remained uncompleted. This has not impeded his administration from vigorously implementing his six-point THEMES agenda with scores of projects either completed or ongoing across the state in this regard.
It is surprising that as BOS continues to pilot the affairs of the state with a practiced and steady hand with the support of his level headed Deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, and other members of his team, a news item went viral on social media this week to the effect that members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), APC party leaders and other stakeholders had decided that BOS would not serve a second term. Rather, the report said, it had been decided that the Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri Okunola, would fly the party’s ticket in 2023. The puerile and even idiotic reason given for this purported decision was that it is the turn of Muslims to govern the state since there have been two Christian governors after Fashola. Of course, religion has never been a factor with the discerning and sophisticated electorate of Lagos state. In the Second Republic, both the governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and his Deputy, Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo, were Muslims and the electorate voted overwhelmingly for them. In this dispensation, both Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Fashola who were in office between 1999 and 2015 were Muslims and this was not an issue with Lagosians.
Expectedly, the GAC moved swiftly to debunk this report when the body’s secretary issued a statement stressing that “The process of picking a Governor is clearly stated in the constitution. And contrary to the false impression the merchant of hate, confusion, discord and disharmony wanted to create with the post, there is no discussion of second term ticket by the GAC. It should also be pointed out that it is not within the realm of GAC to engage in picking replacements for a governor. Governor Sanwo-Olu was elected for a 4-year term which is still ongoing. The matter of replacement of the governor does not arise and is subjudice. Governor Sanwo-Olu is doing a wonderful job delivering infrastructure projects for Lagos and working daily on making the state better for all residents”.
Beyond his delivery of infrastructure projects, what is perhaps most remarkable about Sanwo-Olu’s leadership is the emotional intelligence, maturity and level headedness which he has brought to bear on the governance of the state. The unanticipated Coronavirus pandemic, which derailed the plans and projections of rich and poor countries alike across the world, would have been a perfect excuse for non-fulfillment of his campaign promises and leadership obligations by the governor especially with Lagos as the epicenter of the disease in the country. He rose admirably to the occasion responding to the crisis with an alertness, vigour and assurance that has been responsible for some of the awards he has won from credible organizations.
The #EndSars protests of October 2020 again with Lagos as the epicenter tested the governor’s leadership acumen to the core. Quite apart from the contentious incident at the Lekki Toll Gate dubbed in some quarters as the ‘Lekki massacre’, the large scale destruction of public and private property by hoodlums who hijacked the protests leading to losses worth trillions of Naira in the state was another major crisis BOS had to contend with. Again, under his resilient leadership, the state has rebounded with verve and resumed its rapid developmental course. Not only did he set up an independent panel to investigate the purported ‘Lekki massacre’, his government gave the panel a free hand and the requisite resources to carry out its assignment. Rather than seek to capitalize on the obvious discrepancies and inaccuracies in the panel’s report to discredit the entire exercise as most people in his shoes would have been tempted to do, Sanwo-Olu focused on the positives and accepted most of the panel’s recommendations within the jurisdiction of the state to act on. This is dignified and elevated statesmanship at its best.
The baseless post on his being purportedly denied the opportunity of a second term is no doubt an attempt to distract BOS and his administration. If it emanated from the opposition, it is a brilliant and legitimate tactical stroke designed to destabilize the party in power. If it was the handiwork of over bloated egos with unbridled ambitions within his administration, the governor has a responsibility to identify and weed them out. Effective leadership is not just about compassion and empathy, it also entails appropriate sanction and ruthless action if the need arises.
(Published in The Nation newspaper of Saturday, February 5th, 2022)