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Governor Sanwo-Olu at 56: A model for excellence in leadership

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Sanwo-Olu


Come June 25, 2021, the Lagos “Point-Man” as fondly called by his youthful followers and admirers, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu would have spent fifty-six years out of his sojourn here on earth. He would also have spent seven hundred and fifty eight days in office as the Governor of Lagos State. Such a date is noteworthy for many reasons.

The man, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is a man of many parts. To me, his foremost attribute is his piety (a God-fearing Christian). I guess this is the foundation of most of his other personal traits. He respects individuals in their own capacity, places great value on relationships, allows access to even the distant associate. He values goodwill and loyalty in his relationships.

Mr Sanwo-Olu is meticulous, intelligent and a passionate workaholic, a man of balanced cognate experience in both the private and public sectors and a thoroughbred technocrat. He is so consistent in his drive, yet you will find him as humble as they come.

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To the uninitiated, these personal portraitures of Sanwo-Olu may seem too good to be true. Many may even pass them off simply as sycophancy. But I am confident in the true nature of truths – they can only be covered for a while before they emerge as the stubborn mustard seed. I also pen these testimonies to the credit of the stakeholders and the Lagos political class that successfully unearthed this shining diamond from among the array of stars available in the Ehingbeti polity.

An alumnus of the John F. Kennedy School of Leadership, the London Business School, the Lagos Business School and the University of Lagos, Governor Sanwo Olu has brought a new leadership model that has delivered qualitative direction, exhibiting and practicing transparency and accountability as deliberate policies.

A veteran of the system with veritable track records, the Lagos State helmsman who prefers to be addressed simply as Mr Governor rather than the traditional and abused title of “Your Excellency”, has continued to advance the frontiers and promotion of the common good, the uplift of Lagosians and the construction of enduring bridges and platforms of peace and security.

Many citizens are unaware of so many details about the man at the saddle of affairs of such a unique geographic, social-economic and political construct, which is a significant representation of Nigeria at large.

In a very short time, Governor Sanwo-Olu has proven to be a great asset to Lagos and Lagosians from all walks of life. Born on June 25, 1965, Sanwo-Olu holds a B.Sc in Surveying & Geo-Informatics and an MBA from the University of Lagos. He had his early education at Government Demonstration School, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos and Ijebu-Ife Grammar School, Ogun State.

He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM), Nigerian Institute of Directors (IOD) and a Fellow of Nigeria Institute of Training and Development (NITAD).

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His tracks in the private sector are marked as a Treasurer at former Lead Merchant Bank from 1994 to 1997 before joining United Bank for Africa (UBA), as the Head of Foreign Money Market. He subsequently moved to First Inland Bank Plc (now First City Monument Bank), from where he retired as a Deputy General Manager and Divisional Head.  

In the public space, his career began in 2003, when he was appointed Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to the then Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Femi Pedro, and later in the same capacity to the Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.  He made further progress to be appointed acting Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget. In 2007, he became the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry under Tinubu. After the general elections in 2007, Mr. Sanwo-Olu was appointed Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions by Governor Babatunde Fashola, his meritorious service to Lagos State continued when Governor Akinwumi Ambode appointed him in 2016 as the Managing Director/CEO of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC).

The model of excellent leadership
A renowned author, business and leadership coach, John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. ßDespite the political furor that threw up the selection, election and ‘coronation’ of the new king in town, Sanwo-Olu’s administration held a great promise for many reasons. He has the pedigree; the state has a strong support system and the party has the experience required to perform. Despite all of this, we all know that the devil is often found in the details and the execution is a different ballgame from the plan. The best-laid plans can often turn awry! Herein lies the premium often placed on the Project Manager!

The Sanwo-Olu/APC campaign manifesto had enough content and promise, no doubt. The five-Pillared THEME covering Transportation/Traffic Enhancement; Health & Environment Improvement; Education & Technology Upgrade; Making Lagos a true 21st Century Hyper-City; and Elevation of the Entertainment & Tourism Experience is quite a handful.  In the Nigerian political landscape, this garden of roses guarantees nothing, except the thorns! But surprisingly, the Sanwo-Olu administration in earnest commenced a daily check-off against each and every deliverable! What looked on paper to be a lifetime plan for Lagos has begun to materialize with rapid alacrity and precision.

In my opinion, the trick to the successes so far recorded can be found embedded in the Vision, Teams, Partnerships, Innovativeness, Economy and the Potentials encapsulated in the polity called Lagos. From the beginning, it was clear that the seemingly obscure man, Sanwo-Olu is a ready-made product for governorship of Lagos. His pedigree is unquestionable! His slim-fit physical fitness is a testimony to the detailed care of his amiable wife, who herself is a veteran of the medical profession.

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Based on the visuals that litter the media space capturing Governor Sanwo-Olu’s involvement in projects initiation and commissioning, the youths have fondly nicknamed him ‘the point-man’ or the pointing Governor. You will always find Mr Sanwo-Olu pointing to or at something that needs to be done or has been done! His physical fit and trim posture align with the proverbial ant that does not sleep or fold its hands! But I do hope he manages to find time to rest and refresh, so he can outlast a second tenure in office.

This occasion of his birthday should be an opportune one for him to take full advantage of the fifth pillar of development, Entertainment!

The tireless man had serious issues to contend with at the onset of his administration. Rather than being deterred, he rose to the occasion of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide exemplary leadership, not only to his Lagos constituency, but also to the nation at large. He was the first governor to come up with a response plan, which was sold to the presidency and formed key input into the national response plan.

Another test case was the #EndSARS campaign, which transmuted from a popular civil action into an inglorious orgy of violence and destruction overnight. You found Sanwo-Olu among the first responders and his government was the first to package the palliative measure of judicial enquiry and compensation for victims. This was also sold to the presidency and successfully adopted as a model for response across the states of the federation. Initially, many legal gurus and civil society activists questioned its legality, but the pragmatism of the template overrode all initial reservations.

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s leadership capacity for team dynamics is demonstrated through the harmonious performance of his team members such as the Deputy Governor, the highly renowned Health Commissioner as well as Industrial giants who formed the CA-COVID Alliance.

Although it will be a hard call to attempt to capture enough of the successes so far recorded by the “Sanwo-Eko, Eko a san wa o” regime, I will be content to summerise the core and provide reference to those who are interested in the details in this article.

In the area of transparency and budgetary accountability, the World Bank recently awarded a grant of about N5.51b in recognition of the commendable achievement under the States’ Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) for Result Programme. In the realm of transportation, the government has ingeniously developed the three major modes of transportation–rail, road and the waterways, in spite of fundamental challenges such as COVID-19, EndSARS violence, and dwindling revenue. Under health, the Sanwo-Eko administration has also recorded so many giant strides, having the advantage of a knowledgeable first-lady, her Excellency, Dr, Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, as well as the world-renowned Prof Emmanuel Akinola Abayomi. COVID-19 was comprehensively defeated against all odds with minimal casualties.

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In the area of housing, at least three thousand, five hundred units have been developed, with more to come (reminds me of the recently departed Pa Lateef Jakande)! In terms of Security, Lagos state has lived up to its billings in up scaling security infrastructure, equipping the personnel, with a promise to eliminate traffic robbery very soon! In fact, none of the core developmental areas has been neglected – education, technology, youth employment generation, agriculture and food security, people engagement, entertainment and tourism have all been given adequate attention.

Now let me bring you back to the main purpose of this article, which is to give honour to whom it is due and to celebrate something good in the thick of the gloom and doom that has saturated our media space. As we focus on these good sides of our governance, I hope they expand, increase and pervade our polity.

I congratulate Mr Governor for coming to this new milestone, his adorable partner, Dr Mrs Sanwo-Olu and the entire first family of Lagos. May you continue to reap the good fruits of democracy and may God Almighty help us eradicate crime, insecurity and bring a peaceful, progressive and prosperous season to us all. Happy birthday Mr Governor!
• Dan Aibangbe, a Media & Public Relations Consultant wrote from Lagos  danaibangbe@yahoo.com

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