No, it is not just a bus stop!
This is no ordinary Bus Stop. It is an iconic development which marks another milestone in the development of Lagos and another evidence of the visionary leadership that is so sorely missing in the rest of the country. Instead of asking other governors to take a cue from Lagos and launch their states into an era of 21st century development, Nigerians were broadcasting silly messages on Whatsapp, berating President Buhari for coming to Lagos ‘to commission a bus stop’. Meanwhile, there is no such standard in other parts of the country. This is not just a bus stop, but an important milestone in the State Bus Reform Project.
According to Governor Ambode, the first phase of the program will see the unveiling of 13 new terminals including major terminals at several strategic locations across the state. 5,000 new buses will be introduced over the next three years including 820 eco-friendly high capacity buses by September 2018. There will be 300 new bus stops, bus depots and Intelligent Transport System which will help commuters plan their journeys on the public transport system. It’s a transformational vision. I wish Mr President had brought the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello with him. Under Bello’s watch, our Federal Capital City has continued a progressive decay and rapidly becoming an embarrassment to the nation. I do not think Bello understands he is presiding over the capital city of the world’s largest black nation and Africa’s most populous country. It is indeed Abuja that should be leading the way in terms of iconic projects. Our FCT should be setting the pace. But sadly, this is not the case. No, it is not just a bus stop.
Our people are suffering from chronic scepticism and incurable pessimism. If they see this same kind of bus terminal in Dubai, they will say ‘go to Dubai and see what the bus stops look like’. But do something similar in Lagos and it is ‘just a bus stop’. What is wrong with us? Success is not a destination but a journey. It has no end but only new beginnings. We must therefore learn to celebrate every step we take in this success journey. We must accentuate those things that tell us there is hope for our country to attain the heights we dream of. No, it is not just a bus stop.
This bus terminal looks far more beautiful than some airport terminals in this country. They are neither iconic nor do they justify the humongous amounts of money spent to build them. I have seen multi billion naira airports in this country whose terminal buildings look like community town halls in the village square. We need more developments like the Ikeja Bus Terminal, to give us the belief that it is possible to build our nation into something we can all be proud of. I understand that many decades of failed promises and false dawns have created a pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness and despair. But that should not kill our hopes altogether. No, it is not just a bus stop.
It is a sign of greater things to come. It is also a call to the other governors in this country to wake up and give their people something to be proud of. Every governor should do at least one or two things that had never been done in their states before. If we had our governors thinking this way, I believe our country will develop more rapidly than what we are witnessing today. We should look beyond putting functional projects in place and actually make those projects and structures iconic. They should be landmarks. This is what makes great cities. If you go to Dubai and see their air conditioned bus stops, it will certainly make a positive impression on you and add to the unique status of that city. The city of London derives some of its beauty and uniqueness from its double decker buses. Our leaders are some of the most widely travelled people on this planet. They know and see these things. Why is it impossible for them to use that knowledge and exposure for the improvement of our nation and our people? You don’t have to copy what you see abroad but seeing it should tell you there is so much you can do to give your cities their own unique identities. No, it is not just a bus stop.
It is destination branding. We must put structures in place to build our cities into tourist destinations. This means upgrading and elevating our facilities to the standards international travellers are familiar with. Many of our people travel frequently and are well aware of the standards available at major cities in other parts of the world. Why must we continue to be different? If at any time we see any of our leaders doing something that points in the right direction, we should acknowledge and celebrate it. We may not be making the rapid progress we all desire for our country but we must encourage those trying to move us forward. The drive to diversify our economy must give priority to tourism in those cities where the viability for tourism development is high. Lagos is top of that list. With tens of kilometres of beaches, islands and world class hotels, the state offers a great variety of entertainment for tourists within a safe and very vibrant and energetic environment. No, it is not just a bus stop.
It is an indication that other state governors need to step up their game. In each state, the leadership must take a strategic look at developing competitive advantage. While some have such advantage in agriculture, for others, it lies in tourism. Some may build theirs on industrialisation based on the abundance of raw materials for certain industries, while others may consider solid minerals. One thing however has become absolutely necessary. States must begin to develop their respective economic advantages, based on their unique resources. This will gradually stimulate the economy and create wealth. It will reduce our currently suffocating poverty levels as well as urban migration. It is not just a bus stop.
It is for me a beacon of hope. A bright ray, just as the bright colours of the terminal indicate, that the days of people oriented development initiatives are here. It is a sign that we must no longer treat our people with disdain and disrespect, but must elevate and empower them. Because you can only judge the progress of a nation by the quality of life of the poor. And if a state is providing such facilities for regular commuters, I am happy that the days of making okada and keke (motorcycles and tricycles) our major means of mass transit, are numbered. Let other states take a cue. Every man on the street deserves to ride in safe, comfortable air conditioned buses. It is not a privilege. Good leadership is about elevating the status of your people because their well-being is the measure of your success or failure. Of course, it is not just a bus stop.
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.