My second term ambition is not about me, says Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, spoke on why he deserved second term and his commitment to continue to execute blueprint as prepared by former governor of the state and All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
Why are you seeking re-election?
It is really not about me alone. It is about all of us. It is about what we believe about what our future should look like. It is about what kind of legacy we should be leaving behind. I want to say that in the last three years and seven months, it has been a unique opportunity experience for me. As I said earlier, I have done about 90 percent of my time. But the beauty of it is that we have kept faith with all the things that we said we are going to do under THEMES agenda. We didn’t have time to talk about tourism, security, and housing, where we have done over 17 projects, and about all of the roads we have done.
We will not say that we have scored everything but we will say to you that with all sense of responsibility, we have earned our bill. Year on, we keep making between 80 and 85 percent of our budget performance. We have doubled our budget size in three years, even in a COVID run-down environment. We are doing roads in almost every part of the city concurrently and we have so much energy to still do more.
So, what we are asking for is, don’t let there be distractions. Yes, it is politics; people will say, you know this and that, you collect this and all of that. People will show you pictures that are 10 or 15 years older; it is all politics. But I want to say to all of them, let us join hands; see a train that is moving; join the train. And because we have an opportunity to do this, we can move quicker, better, and faster for another four years and Lagosians know we can do that.
Will you say all your achievements can be located within the blueprint people talk about as prepared by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
I think these are instructive learning points that we need to put forward. With all sense of humility, I joined the Tinubu government over 20 years ago. I was General Manager in my bank before I joined Tinubu in November 2002. We had criticised the government two, three years before then and I had that rare opportunity when I was appointed Special Adviser. From the very first day of my appointment, I was in Tinubu’s cabinet and I saw things firsthand even before the end of his first tenure. I am a living witness to the development vision put forward by Tinubu. It is not anything that we are blabbing about; it is something that we know.
So, what happened at that time is that we set up documents called LASEEDS and SEEDS documents, which are Lagos State economic development documents. We also had what we called a 10-point agenda; it is like what I called the THEMES agenda now. The 10-point agenda had revenue generation drive, transportation reform, public infrastructure renewal, and many things encapsulated in the LASEEDS and SEEDS, which are economic documents. We set up and started the Ehingbeti document, where you take input from the private sector and you put it into your own flesh-up document and it becomes the working paper that you can live with moving forward.
During Asiwaju Tinubu eight years as governor, I worked with him closely for at least five years; one year before the end of his first tenure and the entire four years of his second tenure. I was the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, so I was part of those that developed the document. Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), for example, did not just come out of the space; Tinubu set up LAMATA with the World Bank in 2002. I was one of those people that recruited the first set of personnel that worked in LAMATA. It was one of the best World Bank transportation agencies that anybody can see in the world. And it was at the beginning of democracy in 1999; coming from a military rule where it is not a government of inclusiveness, now starting up in 1999 with a government that has the opportunity to include the citizens, listen to them, and have engagements, more like an inclusive role.
That was how the blueprint was developed and we had a 20-year development plan, which of course former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola improved on. He expunged some items and added some. Former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode did a similar thing. And because there is continuity in all of these things, we were able to see what the challenges of previous governments are; what are the things you need to take on and use very quickly and have a springboard movement into your own government. These are some of the things that have helped us. We give Asiwaju Tinubu that credit because he was the one that was able to bake the first retinue of very intelligent people that worked with him.
How will you react to insinuations that some influential people in the state are remotely controlling you?
It is a position of humility. It is a position in which you need to be grateful to God. Given my very humble background, when you have the unique, rare opportunity to serve over 20 million citizens, the biggest African city in the world, a city that is projected to be the rising sign of modern Africa, I think you need to wake up every day and be thankful to God with the opportunity and ask God to give you every energy that you require to be able to serve them. For me, it is really around understanding what the social contract with my citizens is. I have done almost 90 percent of my time. I count it every day. Every day I review and ask myself, how well have I done? So, for me, it is a measurement that I give myself every day.
I understand that you have a responsibility to your citizens. You have a zeal, will, commitment and integrity to put on the table and that is what gives me the motivation. I will give you a simple example. There are some telephones that I see in the morning and get scared to pick up because the guys on the other side are not calling to tell me good morning, they are calling to tell me that a container just fell off. They are calling to tell me that there is a fire incident and I need to get up. I need to encourage them and give them clear instructions on how we need to clear and deal with that issue. And these are some of the things that continue to keep you going.
What are Tinubu’s chances, especially in Lagos State?
We are confident Lagos is an APC state and you can see the APC government doing everything to ensure that we meet the yearning and aspirations of the citizens of the state. Asiwaju’s chances in Lagos are very bright; extremely very bright but we will not leave anything to chance. We would continue to engage people. We will not say that we are about one side of the divide; it is inclusive. We will ensure that we give in the very best right to every Nigerian that is possible for him to reach out to.
What is your relationship with Babatunde Fashola?
It is very cordial. I still spoke to him four days ago. He is my leader; he is my boss. He is a Surulere boy like myself. We knew ourselves way back.
Government spends so much money on commissioning of projects, is it not possible to reduce the cost of the funfare?
I will give you a simple example. In one-day offline, we commissioned 15 brand new school buildings and I did not need to leave a venue for me to go around commissioning the projects. It was the teachers and the pupils in those schools that did the commissioning themselves and I was in one location with just a few of us there and we commissioned 15 projects. There are several roads that we never commissioned that people have started using. We just want the citizens to understand and take over the assets and use them very well.
What is the update on the blue and red lines rail project?
We have completed Phase I of the Blue line and the news that I am going to pass on is that Mr. President himself will be coming later in the month to officially commission the Blue line. Phase I of the blue line is from Mile 2 to Marina. There are five stations on that corridor, we have finished it and it is completed. We have seen the new trains and additional trains are in the ports; they are going to be cleared this week and you will see them before the end of the month. So, we are ready. It is a rail that is running on electricity, which is for climate change.
Will it not be disrupted by failure of power supply?
We have Independent Power Project (IPP) and it is going to be dedicated to it. It is an intra-city train with air conditioners, meaning that we understand that we have load to carry. When Mr. President comes, we are starting Phase II immediately and Phase II is from Mile 2 all the way to Okokomaiko. The beauty of that one is that it is in the middle as well; the right of way is there. It will be done quicker and faster because it is not elevated like the first one. It is at grid level, so we will finish it in no time.
The Red line for me is the one that my heart beats a lot for because of the level of infrastructure that the Red line will do and we will complete it. By the way, we got only few months until May 29 this year, which is the date that I signed with Lagosians. We will finish it in our first term. The Red line is from Oyingbo all the way to Agbado. Agbado is actually in Ogun State and we extended it because we wanted to catch all of the traffic to make it viable. It is on the old rail corridor. We build our own with the Federal Government doing Lagos-Ibadan. So, they will leave from Ebute-Metta, go straight to Agege, and get out of Lagos but we will start from Oyingbo. We will do Ebute Metta, Yaba, Ilupeju, Mushin, Ikeja, Agege, Ayoola Cooker, Iju, and then Agbado. It is a whole stretch.
What are the measures you have put in place for emergency interventions for the rail line?
Inside the trains themselves they have CCTV cameras. We are not going to rush to start operations next week or the next two weeks, we are going to ensure that we can carry you free of charge. We will invite you one day and you will go with other stakeholders on a free ride to experience how you embark or disembark, how to use the turnstiles, and how you use your card. You are going to feel the entire terminal. It is an experience. You come into a station terminal, it is supposed to be an experience where you have cafes and viewing centers; all of that will be installed with CCTV cameras.
The tracks are going to be walled off so you don’t have anybody on the track for whatever reason. So, inside the terminal buildings, there will be CCTV. They are going to have their own local security and inside the trains themselves. You will need to show and have a turnstile to be able to go to the platforms. The platform is where you are embarking and they are elevated. All the platforms are elevated, so you need to get in, and get out. We will do this for a month or two, so that there is a lot of advocacy. Market women, children, civil society groups, civil servants, and other people will come in and have an experience free, so that they get to understand it and have a feel of it.
Transportation is a major issue we have in Lagos State. What is your government doing to help improve transportation across the State?
Transportation is the first pillar in our THEMES agenda. It was something that we designed out of the questions from our audience during our campaign and after we won the election. So, it is not something that just fell on us. Traffic Management and Transportation is the most challenging issue that people asked us to solve. Talking about our direct intervention in that space, we have introduced about 1,300 high-capacity buses, which we call BRT. We have introduced about 1,000 medium-capacity buses. We have introduced about 500 First and Last Mile buses, which are like the bigger version of Korope, eight to 10-seat minibuses. We have also introduced about a thousand taxis, which is LAGRIDE. So these are just interventions in straight road infrastructure, which all of us usually ply today. But you know that one-third of Lagos is also water, so the question is how well can we use the water infrastructure as a means to move people from one point to the other?
The good news is that we are currently constructing 16 jetties concurrently and we have actually completed eight of those jetties. We just need time to go and commission; cut the tape so that we can open it up for people. They are like small-small terminals, which people can embark on and disembark. It is meant to improve movement on the waterways. But we are not sitting back just to wait for that completion; we have added about 22 ferries, meaning they are carrying 60, 50, 40, and 30 passengers in fairly big capacities like that.
Two weeks ago, I opened the first Security Command and Control Centre on the waterways, where we have CCTV cameras. We have equipment that can remotely go and pick people from the water because security on the water is very important. If there is an emergency, we have equipment that can remotely go and rescue people. They are like a ball but they can drive on their own without anybody and they can go and rescue you and bring you back. It was launched about two weeks ago and we have the Command-and-Control Centre at Falomo. We have done fairly enough dredging and we still need to do a bit more.
The third one is the rail. The plan for public transportation is to have what we call an Integrated Urban Mass Transportation System; using rail, waterways, and BRT road infrastructure. All three connections are completed. What you will see is that we have an interplay of a single solution of payment; the Cowry Card. It was the Cowry Card that we used when we went on the train during the recent infrastructure commission of the Blue line rail. Passengers are using the Cowry card to board the ferry and also using it on the buses. It is a single payment solution designed by young Nigerians, Lagosians and we are seeing it; it is working very well.
The plan eventually is to be able to reduce journey time. It is to ensure that as a mother, you can fairly predict your journey; a journey that hitherto can take you an hour or two hours can be reduced to 30 to 40 minutes so that you can improve the quality of your life. You can determine when you need to get out and come in and also make Lagos a resilient urban working city for all. Are we there yet? Maybe we are not fully there but we have a road map. We have a clear vision. We have a walk-through that will take us there.
Many construction projects are currently going on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway axis but there are some other factors affecting it, especially NUPENG activities while trying to access the port. How do you plan to manage the challenge? We also need ramps like the one on the Ikorodu Expressway where people can easily exit from the Lagos Badagry Expressway to their communities. What is the plan?
The plan around that corridor is to continue to improve apart from the right of way. It is a road that hitherto was four lanes; two lanes on each side that we have turned into 10 lanes. So you can see that it is more than double the number. The plan is to have one BRT corridor; have one lane for BRT, the most inward lane, two express roads and then two outer roads. So, on the bypass road you are talking about, for example, if you are coming in from Eric Moore, you know that at some point in time before you will get to FESTAC or wherever you are going to tee off, make sure you leave the express road and go on the service lane. It is when you are on the service lane that you can now get out. If you come out from FESTAC and you are going to be coming out at Agboju again, why would you want to enter the express road? Stay on the service lane and continue to go until you get to Agboju or Trade Fair.
One of the challenges is that people want to get on the express and also want to exit at their own convenience; road transportation is not designed like that. Express road is the express road. If I want to do 40 kilometers and I am on the express, let me fly the express for at least 35kilometers before I get on the service lane but if I am going to do two and a half kilometers, I shouldn’t get on the express and imagine that when I want to get out, it would be available for me to get out. What is called an express cannot be accessible to everybody and anybody at every time because they are moving fast. They want to get to Agbara and begin to go to Badagry faster and quicker, and that is what we promised.
I understand the challenge you talked about. Talking about the NUPENG challenge, for example, we are sitting with NNPC. That corridor strategically feeds about 65 percent of the total fuel corridor of this country. That is where you have all the tank farms, I didn’t create it. It is a national issue and if we look at it, we didn’t wait for the Federal Government. The Buba Marwa Road that I am doing cost us close to N10 billion. This is a federally used road by all of the tankers that you are talking about. We are constructing the road and the concrete is very thick and we are trying to finish it. So, that will be some sort of continuous conversation that we need to have with NNPC. We don’t control NUPENG. So they will tell you that if you don’t give them access as well, there won’t be fuel in every part of the country. So, it is something that we need to continue to solve and dialogue upon.
I know there is a need for a lot of bypass roads on the Ojo axis. We are doing roads in Mosafejo, Afromedia, and other places. We are doing inner roads in that axis so that people can indeed have relief not just on the express road. We will finish Navy Town Road very soon. We are on Old Ojo Road so that we can have an alternative.
I appreciate what you have done in Epe for those of us in the real estate sector. Your video is our biggest marketing tool. But whenever I am going to Epe, it is war and it has been like that for the past two years. Anytime someone stops at Lekki axis for the traffic light, beggars will come to you.
What is Lagos State’s plan to reduce the number of mothers and children that are allowed to be on the road begging?
Let us be analytical about it. We have done an 18-kilometer road from Eleko Junction to Epe. We have turned two lanes into six lanes, rigid pavement, highest level of concrete. That is Phase I of the Lekki-Epe Expressway and it has been completed. Phase II starts from Eleko Junction to Ajah. The total length of the road is 33 kilometers. It is going to be six lanes and contractors are there working. The Lekki-Epe axis is the highest real estate development corridor. As a government, we are trying to solve the challenges. It has become herculean because as you are laying the solution, other things are coming. So, we are the bane of our own successes. Each time we succeeded; we are attracting a lot more people onto this corridor. Indeed, the roads are beginning to widen and we are doing the 10-kilometer Regional Road, which is a bypass from VGC all the way to Freedom Road. It is six and we are taking it head-on, just for us to be able to solve it. So, these are some of the things that we are doing on infrastructure; and the big one, which we promised Nigerians, Lagosians that we are going to announce before the end of the year, was on December 30, 2022, which is the Fourth Mainland Bridge. It will start from the Lekki-Epe corridor; from Abraham Adesanya all the way climbing the bridge to Ikorodu; it will be like an M25 Solution. That is the concept and I think it is important for us to have it.
The issue around women and children on the street around Lekki Phase I and Phase II is a double edge thing. These are Nigerian citizens that are looking for sustenance and livelihood on a daily basis. I tell you; we go clear them almost every week, but they find themselves there. So, is it a solution for me to say that I want to pack them to another part of the country? No. The solution is we will continue to build additional homes, and continue to give them solutions where they can become useful to their family; train them and see how we can take them up and give them skills so that they become providers of jobs themselves. That is the solution. It is a national issue. You don’t need a visa to come to Lagos. So, it is not me that has created that; it is a social inclusion issue that we all need to continue to solve as we go along.
What is your government doing to provide potable water for people in Lagos?
Water is a challenge and I will be fair and honest with you. It is a challenge and it is because we need to raise the funding that is required to fix it. And it is a lot of money. We are talking about N150 billion. So what are we doing? We have major waterworks in Iju and Ajuwon. We are building from what we have now currently 70 million gallons per day, which is running at less than 50 percent because these were built in the 1970s but we are currently building a 50-million-gallon additional infrastructure that is slowing us down. So, once we can do the real big one, it is to do what we call the transmission, which we need to build the next level of funding that we need to have. You know, it is like power once you do the generation of water you need to transmit it, which has to get to all of the nooks and crannies of the state.
I want to appeal to my citizens and say to them that relief for water is coming. People see water as part of social service but it has gone beyond that. The funding of water is something very creative, and it is not cheap. It is almost equally as expensive as power itself. We understand and appreciate that we are in a city and we need to be able to give our people potable drinking water.