Great expectations from Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat
Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday took the oath of office as the sixth elected civilian governor of Lagos State alongside his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, at Tafawa Balewa Square. A lot is expected from their government as dividends of democracy just as the new governor is expected to use the resources and influence of Lagos to coordinate other Southwest states ahead of the political dynamics that will play out in the country ahead of 2023 when the presidency would return to the South.
Although Sanwo-Olu may not necessarily need to formulate a new template to run his government since there is already an existing one put in place by former governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His (Tinubu) successors Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode built upon that blueprint. But Sanwo-Olu’s attention would rather be how to manage the combination of forces, interests and political dynamics within and outside APC that will play out in the next four years.
Citizens of the state would also look up to him to fulfill some of the promises he made while campaigning for office. Key among them is the promise to resolve the traffic gridlock in the Apapa axis and other axis of the state. The Apapa situation has become embarrassing to the state and federal authorities. He promised to fix Lagos traffic in the next 90 days of assuming office just like he promised to tackle the rampant spate of insecurity.
Some citizens who spoke ahead of his swearing in today said if the new governor could live up to his three promises within a year, he would not only have won the hearts of the electorate but forces that would contend second term ticket with him in 2023 would need to redouble their efforts. But whether he would be able to address the Apapa gridlock is still a conjecture since entrenched forces well outside Lagos State’s power dynamics are at play.
While Sanwo-Olu may rely on his deputy to handle the administrative and policy aspect of governance, the new governor will ultimately be involved in the political dynamics that will take place in the South ahead of 2023, especially if his political benefactor, Tinubu, is drawn into the next presidential race. The ‘stupendous wealth’ of Lagos that would be at his disposal in the next four years may be needed to oil and support the ambition of whoever is going to contest from Southwest on the platform of APC. This he would have to do in conjunction with other governors in the region. In this regard, Sanwo-Olu would have no choice than to cooperate with the likes of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who is currently the chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
If there is anything he must guard against, which is one of the factors that cost Ambode a second term ticket, he must be able to balance governance and politicking and not to erroneously confuse whatever his achievements are with playing the ‘politics’ of Lagos. For instance, the leadership of Lagos APC did not accuse Ambode of lack of performance; they simply truncated his second term ambition for not being a ‘party’ man. It would be imperative of Sanwo-Olu to study the past and relate it with the future.
A respondent in the party said, “This is necessary because those forces that removed the former accountant general of Lagos are still intact and very active. They are also around Sanwo-Olu even though Tinubu may be much more involved in national politics in the next four years.”
Probing or lampooning his predecessor
Unfortunately for Ambode, one of his first political miscalculations was the attempt to ridicule his predecessor through media probe and campaign of calumny. These eventually generated sympathy that earned Fashola three ministerial portfolios. The insinuation was that the power that-be in Lagos deliberately instigated Ambode to malign the minister, a trick he fell for but which he later regretted. In fact, that may have been part of the reasons he said recently, “I am now wiser.”
It is also expected of Sanwo-Olu not to follow the footpath of his immediate predecessor by discontinuing most of Ambode’s uncompleted projects. This is one area Ambode obviously failed.
The general opinion as The Guardian learnt from top party members is that Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat should be magnanimous enough to complete all unfinished projects of their predecessors even if it warrants reviewing the contracts but not stopping them, as this would be to the benefit of the state.
“For instance, the people of Epe Division, in Lagos East, which is Ambode’s political base, are currently worried whether the new administration would not abandon most ongoing projects in their axis,” a party member said.
Breaking the soup pot of the poor
There is the fear that Sanwo-Olu may turn against the interest of party members just like Ambode did when he tampered with the Private Sector Participant (PSP), Services Providers and others in the waste management sector. When Ambode decided to change the waste management policy by introducing the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, managed by a foreign company, almost all the members of the party predicted his fall.
“This is one of the factors that aroused the anger of the grassroots people, who were considered as the less privileged in the party against Ambode,” says a respondent.
Ambode merely disbanded LAWMA, which as at then had become a showcase to other West African countries and other states in Nigeria. Will Sanwo-Olu revamp LAWMA to the benefit of the people, the state and members of the party?
But the governor in his inaugural speech yesterday promised not to change. According to him, “The Babajide Sanwo-Olu you see today shall not change and try to become something I am not. My prayer is only that I grow and improve as your governor to implement good policies and bring the prosperity you deserve.”
Two governors for the price of one
One of the landmines Sanwo-Olu must avoid and which can bring down his government may be his failure to manage the relationship between himself and his deputy. Some disgruntled elements may decide to sow seeds of discord between them. A source from the party advised the duo to commence reconciliation exercise to bridge all the political gaps in the party. Already, some core stakeholders have been forced to play the politics of Abuja as ‘Abuja boys’ because of the composure and character of Ambode’s government in the last four years. The former National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, was a victim of such bad politics.