Sanwo-Olu’s 200 days in office and Gbadamosi’s posers on governance
Considering the controversial circumstances that surrounded his emergence as the candidate of Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2018 governorship primary and his eventual election as governor in March 2019, not many citizens of Lagos State initially had confidence in the ability of the incumbent governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to perform. While some still bear grudges over the embarrassing manner Lagos APC denied his predecessor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, a second term ticket, others simply took it for granted that the national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had succeeded in installing another stooge as governor in the state in which he is godfather.
And so Sanwo-Olu’s first 100 days in office were not only turbulent considering the deliberate booby-traps an angry Ambode allegedly set for him, the appalling state of Lagos’ roads and chronic traffic did not endear his government to the electorate. While he used most of his first 100 days appealing for understanding due to natural cause, the rains, there are indications that Sanwo-Olu might be gradually settling down to serious business of governance.
When two Sundays ago the governor marked his 200 days in office, it was a moment for him to reel out some of his achievements, which might resuscitate the hopes of millions in his capacity to deliver. Already, some of his critics, though still not satisfied with his performance, argue that Sanwo-Olu’s government should be given some time to prove its capacity.
Candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state, Mr. Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi, is one such critic, who has scored the governor low in his performance so far. Gbadamosi insists Lagos is far too rich (with over N30 billion inflow every month) to operate at a mediocre level since 1999. For instance, rather than setting the pace, Gbadamosi said Lagos would now play catch-up with Akwa Ibom State that already has an airline.
According to him, “The governor of Lagos State is talking about palliative measures for the roads. I disagree with the way they are being executed; it is a waste of resources. Lagosians are not benefiting because our taxes are being wasted. The government of Lagos State is just throwing granite on the roads, and then they wait for rains to come and wash the granites away. When rain-washes it, they do it again, persistently.”
However, two chieftains of the Lagos’ APC and members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Chief Lanre Rasak and Senator Anthony Adefuye told The Guardian in separate interviews the need to appreciate to commitment of Sanwo-Olu and his cabinet to the development and growth of the state instead of allowing the opposition to distract the government with needless criticism.Rasak also said it was a wrong assumption to say that Sanwo-Olu has not done anything or he has not worked since he came into power, noting that people didn’t just come into government without critically studying the situation on ground.
According to him, “For instance, people are saying the roads are bad, but this is so because Lagos has never had the quantum of rain it experienced this year in the last 25 years. And Sanwo-Olu should not waste taxpayers’ money to repair roads, which will get washed away almost immediately after being fixed. We have to bear the pains and now that the dry season is here, you will see that Lagos roads are being fixed. In the next two to three months, things will be better. We appeal to our people to exercise some patience and pay their taxes to support the government.”
In a similar manner, Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Mr. Tunde Buraimoh, also expressed confidence that the ruling party has all it takes to grow Lagos under the incumbent government unlike the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that lacks structure, plan and focus for itself not to talk of the state. He also dismissed the insinuation about the government being a stooge to any individual.
Interactions with citizens across the three senatorial zones also indicate that some ray of hope is beginning to spring in the minds of Lagosians over the capacity of Sanwo-Olu and Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat to deliver, especially as the government is beginning to address and rehabilitate many bad roads since the rains stopped.
The Guardian also gathered that the positive reactions of citizens to the administration’s response to security issues, especially illicit activities in most motor parks and Sanwo-Olu’s recent riot acts to the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) signal positive signs of an administration that is ready to act.
Meanwhile, in an interaction with the media on Sanwo-Olu’s 200 days celebration, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said in the last 100 days, several programmes and projects, aimed at promoting the welfare and well-being of the people, were executed by the administration.
Starting from transportation and traffic management, Omotoso said, “The issues of bad roads are being aggressively addressed to ease movement with eight multi-national construction firms mobilised and ordered to carry out massive repair works on critical highways across the state. Extensive palliative and maintenance works are also being carried out by Public Works Corporation in different parts of the state.”He cited the flag-off of the reconstruction and upgrading of strategic roads in Ikorodu such as the 6.05 kilometres’ phase one road from Itamaga to Ewu Elepe town, 7.8 kilometres’ Owutu-Agric-Ishawo Road phase one and Bola Tinubu-Igbogbo-Imota Road and others.He also said in the bid to strengthen the drive for a multimodal transport system, “the government launched UberBoat water transportation service. The business, a partnership between the global ride-hailing company and Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), has begun to explore the state’s abundant waterways and reduce the pressure on the roads. It also attests to the confidence global investors’ repose in Lagos as an investment destination of choice.”
On health and environment, it would be recalled that Sanwo-Olu’s administration inherited the relapse of the policy misfortune of Ambode in the refuse management system when he took over in May. Omotoso said the government also quickly moved to avert the disastrous state of refuse.
According to Omotoso, “Within the period under review, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) also acquired 10 new boats to boost its marine waste operations in the state. The Lagos Blue Box initiative was launched on 5 September 2019 in Community Recycling Centres across five local council development areas (LCDAs), with recyclers strategically positioned to help drive the process.”He also disclosed that in the last 200 days, a new, ultra modern, 149-bed, Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC) in Alimosho General Hospital was commissioned, facilitated through the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, evidencing a working partnership between the federal and Lagos. He said the administration is working hard towards completion of more MCCs in Badagry and Epe and others.
He added that within the last 100 days government has resuscitated Adiyan waterworks, phase two, which has a production capacity of 70 million gallons per day. He noted that government is not also taking chances in the education and technology sector, which Omotoso described as very crucial for any society that hopes to fit into the modern development must possess.
According to him, “A new primary classroom block, along with computer laboratories and outdoor recreational facilities, was commissioned at Ajegunle. The functional school building is not just a model, it signposts what is to come in this important sector. A special committee for massive rehabilitation of public schools was inaugurated to commence the turnaround in school infrastructure as well as supervise the recruitment of 1,000 primary school teachers.”
Omotoso also assured the citizen of Sanwo-Olu’s commitment to developing the economy, stressing, “Government has recorded a milestone in infrastructural development with the signing of the $629 million funding for the Lekki Seaport project. Funding was provided by China Development Bank.”
GBADAMOSI stated recently at a media parley in Lagos that there was need for continuing conversation on how to move Lagos forward, as government would be wrong-footed if left alone. He said opposition in government should not only be when elections are around the corner, saying it was the secret developed countries wield to put government on its toes. He expressed his disappointment with the Sanwo-Olu administration and accused it of performing below expectations.
“During the raining season they said they could not do asphalt because it was raining. It’s now dry and yet they are not doing asphalt on these roads. Although, they are doing in some places which they make a lot of noise about on their various platforms. I am glad that the mainstream media is not dancing to their tune. I would really like the media to challenge them on how much it is exactly costing to cover the roads with granite, as against how much it would have cost to cover with granite and immediately cover them with asphalt one time. That is cost-benefit analysis.
“We have to start speaking up. Even if we are not going to contest for office, we could still help the government by pointing out the things they should and how they can do these things in a workable, practicable way.It is not just by criticizing and pointing at the faults; it is about pointing out how to achieve what we all want. We all want social amenities; so we should do whatever we can do to help the government to achieve all these things in a workable and practical way.”
Gbadamosi noted that Sanwo-Olu’s campaign promise to fix Apapa gridlock in 100 days is yet to materialize 200 days after, noting, “From the inception of this administration, I have always said that service to Lagosians is more important than anything else and I know that the governor has certain interests other than the people he is to serve; his name is the one on the door and on the desk, not any other person’s name. He needs to find his will; he needs to find his backbone and execute the things that he said he would execute when we had that famous debate. There are certain things he said that are yet to be fulfilled.
“For instance, the Apapa gridlock, which he promised to fix within his 100 days in office; it’s not quite sorted yet. So, I am willing to give him leeway to solve that. From start I knew that Apapa gridlock could not be fixed within the time he mentioned and that was why I did not subscribe to the idea. It would take up to six months or a year to sort out the problem. I believe he said that due to political expediency to win the heart of the electorate. For me it is more of practical reality than making promises.”
Gbadamosi also said although he was willing to cut Governor Sanwo-Olu a slack in some areas, however noted, “There are areas where he could have done better. For instance, in the area of appointing commissioners and special advisers, I think that went on for too long. So in some areas, he is not doing the things we expect him to do. There are some areas where he made mistakes, in the area of water, which is zero. In the area of road, which is still a zero. In the area of education, I think there are moves being made, but we have to wait to see the result of teacher training and others going on right now. I would give him another 18 months and see what happens.
“In the area of electricity, there is no initiative in that direction and that is one thing that is really affecting the state. In the area of housing, again it is zero, because the housing project that was commissioned when the governor took office was something that started from Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration. And he just came in to fix it, and claim credit for it. Again 18 months is enough for the governor to begin his own fresh projects and finish.
“Minimum wage again is a zero. Like I said, Lagos can pay its civil servants N100,000 minimum wage considering the cost of living in Lagos, especially when you consider what it costs us to leave our homes early to go to work these days. During the debate, I said that the average time an average Lagosian spends in traffic was six hours. It has gone up to at least eight hours. Some people spend four hours to work and another four hours back on traffic.
So, the governor needs to wakeup and sort out this low or lowest fruits, which is construction of roads. We can achieve a lot more and we can achieve it faster and more strategically than we are doing in the area of road construction. Like I said, the first major road to be built was the Ikorodu Road; that road was built by my Ikorodu people and they finished it – 50km of it within six years, self-funded, self-built – from Ikorodu to St Agnes Church from 1947 – 1953. So, if they could do that back then with less intervention from government, what can’t we achieve if we put our mind to it?” While Gbadamosi’s scorecard of Sanwo-Olu in most areas is a zero, he still does not write him off as a failure just yet, saying the governor needs to grow into his own man and begin to take responsibility.
“It’s too early to say his a failure,” he concedes. “In the area of transport development, it is not where it should be. In the area of publicity, I can say that Lagos is really doing well; there are festivals everywhere. In tourism, it is zero. Security is zero as well. Because investors want to be assured that their investment is safe. For example, with O Pay has to be certain that its riders are safe; then what security are we talking about? If their riders are been harassed by state-actors and non state-actors and extorted, what kind of security are you providing? That alone would drive away investors from Lagos State.”
The ADP candidate slammed Lagos State’s helmsmen in the last 20 years, saying it has bee colossal failure.According to him, “The Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a shame to 20 years of APC governors in Lagos and we Lagosians and the same administration that let that road into such disrepair despite getting the funds from the federal government and its partners. In fact, now I understand that a briefcase company has been handed the contract to resurface the road, but they are not doing anything; they are just trying to look busy.
“At a recent event, one of the people that came to represent Lagos State Government was talking about certain things the Ambode administration did not do, and I said ‘you can’t go on like this; Ambodee represented your party, APC, and whatever Ambode did wrong, it was your party that did it. So if you keep talking about Ambode, we are going to accept that your party is a failure and that was the only time he shut his mouth.’”
Strategy of ousting APC in Lagos
GBADAMOSI said it’s not about getting into power for its own sake, but about enlightened self-interest and about getting things right.“The way you are today is not the same way you would be in 20 years time, and here we are now in 20 years of Tinubu’s era,” he said. “Is your lot as Lagosians better? Again, I tell you it is about enlightened self-interest. What do you want for your selves? If somebody becomes governor today and begins to do the things I’m supposed to do, I would sit in my house and enjoy my estate. I’m not interested in government, but I know I can actually do more than they are doing. If somebody stands up and starts doing the things I thought I could do, if somebody starts building the Lekki-Epe Expressway, starts building the coastline for up to two kilometres for tourism, I would be in my housing clapping for him. This kind of meetings is to support the governor and not to oppose him.
“I want us to be better, to be several factors better than Rwanda. I would want us to be better than Ghana. And the truth is that we do have the capacity in terms of human resources to be better than these countries if we allow our best to run things. I am not the best politician; it is a sad commentary that I, a university dropout, should be talking about somebody who has several university degrees and still be able to find flaws that I can fix. It shouldn’t be like that; it should not be at this stage of our development. I should not be talking about 24-hour light and water. I should be talking about the designs for property, not basic amenities like water and light.”