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Sanwo-Olu: Drop excellency, embrace excellence

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[FILES] Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State the other day issued a statement of his personal rejection of being addressed as “His Excellency.” While this is a welcome departure from a culture sustaining the penchant for titles and accolades, making much noise about his personal preference in this regard has generated mixed reactions. Many have applauded the powerful messages in the declaration. There are others who have asked justifiably if this is what the people urgently need from government at this time and always. The latter would rather have the governor silently continue the meticulous planning that would result in visible improvement of their present deplorable living conditions in the economic capital of West Africa.

In this country, there is an insatiable desire for titles. In all our ethnic nationalities, there is the due recognition given to worthy sons and daughters who have contributed positively to their communities. However, beyond the laudable foundation for that tradition, we have witnessed its sad debasing through purchase of titles and conferment of recognition on persons of shady pedigree.

Our nascent democratic experience parades persons without any resume of substance but who have been elected as ward councillors or legislators in state or national assemblies. During their tenures, they spare no effort in demanding to be called “Honourable” even for the rest of their lives. So deep has this malaise eaten into the psyche that often a senator who becomes a governor would still insist on retaining the tag of a senator. On a scale of the ridiculous, the list could include other appellations. The use of “His Excellency” for governors and their spouses has contributed to the intoxicating opium for bloated egos and exaggerated sense of self-importance. Some former governors have been known to print letterheads including “His Excellency.” As empty barrels make the most noise, are such individuals oblivious of the fact that this craving for prefixes could be perceived as a veneer for personal insecurity?

Supporters and critics of this Sanwo-Olu policy would do well to read the contents of the announcement, as they contain noble clauses for those who truly wish to serve the people through elective office. Aspects of the statement could be made into a poster for elected officials to place in their private rooms, as a daily reminder of their duties to the people and the transience of earthly power. The essence of the statement could well serve to protect a leader from sycophantic praise-singers who have always pushed many to the abyss.

Sanwo-Olu’s first executive order focused on traffic problems, as he reeled out prohibitive fines for various offences. Traffic problems, like accidents, are caused by the condition of the road, the state of a vehicle and the human operator. At the time he issued that executive order, questions were raised about the governor’s focus on traffic whose major causative factor is the road condition as this newspaper has noted. Thereafter, when the governor announced plans for rehabilitating 116 “inner roads” and paraded the major contractors to handle the works, it engendered hope in the residents. The professed zero tolerance for potholes was also heart-warming given the fatal crashes that occur regularly because of delay in patching orange-size fissures that become craters. The public needs to see subsequent visible improvement. The public parade of contractors must have been preceded by days and weeks of arduous meetings and planning.

That is the way to work, such that what is done behind closed doors would be recognised publicly. In the area of roads, the governor has a deputy with vast knowledge as a former commissioner in that portfolio. So, public expectation has been quite high. We need excellence in road construction this time as we have also noted. It requires some discipline of execution, not meretricious dropping of ‘‘His Excellency’’ as a title. The tiger, as it has been written, here several times, does not need to proclaim its ‘‘tigritude.’’

Therefore, Mr. Governor, we commend your decision to drop “Your Excellency” in preference for simply “Mister Governor.” Your personal statement is sufficient and does not require an executive order. It will be obeyed by your coterie of appointees and the public and civil servants in your state. However, be prepared for the fact that those who receive you in other states will still address you as “Your Excellency,” in observance of protocol.

Above all, what residents, citizens and indeed tax payers in Lagos State would like to hear without fanfare is that inner-city roads and even decrepit federal roads are being rehabilitated with good construction companies whose work will not be washed away before the next rainy season. Residents would like to hear about presence of great schools and hospitals that our citizens and even West Coast neighbours can bring their wards to.  After all, leaders of the G-7 and G-20 nations in the world didn’t owe their membership to the prominent title ‘‘His Excellency,’’ yet they are more significant than their peers who answer such vainglorious titles without any visible achievements, after all. In the main, it is in the interest of all our title-crazy political leaders to note an ancient saying that, after all, the hood doesn’t make the monk! It is only excellence, yes excellence, that will make a way for you, not ‘‘Your Excellency.’’


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