By Opeyemi Bamidele
Itâ€™s been 1000 days since the present administration in the state took on the mantle of leadership to steer the ship of LagosÂ to loftier heights. Within these remarkable 1000 days, Lagos has witnessed immense transformation in various sectors of its economy and attestations to these have been received from far and near. Nigerians have been amazed by the massive appreciation in respect of the State Governmentâ€™s feats, including from outside the shores of the country.
Why would countries and international institutions invite the governor of a state to very important events or for regular discussions? Why has the State Government received impressively high number of foreign visitations from world leaders and international organisations in various sectors? The answer is not far – fetched.
The Fashola administration has displayed unusual determination and commitment to achieve set goals aimed at improving the quality of lives of its citizenry. It has lived up to international ideals of good governance found only in the developed nations.
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) at its fifth annual general meeting in New York, United States of America, recognized the State Governmentâ€™s Eko Atlantic Project by awarding it the CGI Certificate. In a citation of Lagos before the formal presentation of the CGI Certificate, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times described the State Government and its contractor, South Energyx as, â€œa committed pair against the devastating effect of the Atlantic Oceanâ€.
The project is an engineering initiative aimed at the reclamation of 9 square kilometres of land lost over the years to the Ocean. The earth friendly project would feature the confrontation of the Atlantic Ocean to take back what the ocean had taken over on the Victoria Island axis and in turn put in place a world class city.
The governorwas also invited to address the world gathering of lawyers at the International Bar Association Conference in Madrid, Spain, where he called for a new world legal order that would unleash the potentials of the African continent stressing that the future survival of the human race will depend on the prosperity and empowerment of the African people.
He told the gathering of reforms such as the reconstruction of courts, provision of hi-tech facilities in all legal and judicial institutions, introduction of alternative dispute mechanisms including the establishment of the Citizens Mediation Centre, Office of Public Defender, and the multi door courthouse initiative among others, which are on-going in the State.
In California, United States of America, the governor, now recognized as a leading environmental campaigner, addressed the Governorsâ€™ Climate Summit on Global warming. There, he told the gathering to stimulate effective action by State Governors, Local Government Chairmen, as well as city and state managers across the world, that if Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, its voice must be heard loudly at international levels as it is the most risk prone nation in Africa, being bordered in the North by the desert and South by coastal erosion.
The governor told the gathering of his administrationâ€™s efforts aimed at combating global warming. These, he said, include the formation of Climate Clubs in schools to impart global warming and other environmental issues early in children and youths, the Operation Green Lagos programme, waste to wealth programme, rehabilitation of dump sites, commissioning of transfer loading stations, organization of a climate summit among others.
The governor was equally invited to address a breakfast meeting on the â€œLagos Infrastructure Workshopâ€, organized in conjunction with the Commonwealth Business Council and City of London, held at the Guild Hall, London. At that distinguished gathering, the State Governmentâ€™s master salesman disclosed that a team of renowned town planners were working on the redevelopment of the Lagos Master plan, in order to reposition the city to reflect its mega city status.
Thereafter, a French delegation visited Lagos State to familiarise itself with what was going on in the State. An impressed team leader, Senator Jacques Legendre who led the delegation, told the governor he would make an encouraging report on his visit to the state, when they return to France. He explained that from what the delegation had seen, the visit was set to open new perspectives on how best to give French support to the infrastructural renewal efforts of Lagos.
A World Bank delegation under the leadership of Mr Ajay Kumar indicated that he would recommend the Lagos BRT model to those of South American countries, saying â€˜I would rather send officials of cities seeking to implement the BRT system to Lagos, than Bogota in Columbia or Curitiba in Brazilâ€™. Another World Bank team led by its Vice President, Africa Region, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, which also visited Lagos, was impressed by the operations of the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA).
Inspecting some road projects undertaken by the agency including the rehabilitation of Lateef Jakande/Wempco junction, she said, â€œI am happy at the testimonies of beneficiaries of this project, particularly the fact that before the junction was rehabilitated, traffic could be held up for two hours.â€
Yet another 33 – member Ghanaian delegation was also in Lagos. Team leader, Dr D. D. Darku expressed appreciation for the warm reception accorded them and commended LAMATA for its operation of the BRT scheme. He explained that the team was in Lagos to understudy the Stateâ€™s BRT operation and stated, while exuding happiness, that they had been inspired by what they had seen and stressing that Ghanaâ€™s BRT would be in operation within the next two yearsâ€.
Not done yet, another Ghanaian delegation visited Lagos to under study the structure and operations of LAMATA. The delegation had Mr Albert Zigah as leader. He said the team was in Lagos to understudy LAMATAâ€™s operational structure, as the team was impressed by the agencyâ€™s effective running of the BRT scheme.
The British Government, impressed with developments in the state, initiated moves through its United Kingdom Department for International Development, to assist in further developing the stateâ€™s education system through a programme tagged, â€œState Schools Improvement Teamâ€.
The programme which involves the use of professionals with a focus aimed at improving the understanding of teaching and learning environment in schools in the state, will commence in 60 schools across the state.Â Eighteen (18) public schools in the state are equally benefiting from the British Council programme, â€œConnecting Classroom Projectâ€.
British Council Connect Africa Education Manager, Mrs Olasimbo Sojinrin explained that participating schools are divided into clusters of three and collaborate with three schools in other African countries and in Britain. World acclaimed development expert, Dr Hernando De Soto, President, Institute for Liberty and Democracy was also in Lagos to verify the much touted Lagos magic and lend a voice of advice to the State Government.
Governor Fashola (SAN) was equally in Tanzania for the Economist CEO Conference which was attended by the President while an Austrian team led by the Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Christian Feller, Belgian Ambassador, Mr Michael Devez, equally spoke glowingly of the transformation taking place under the guidance of the governor. In the same vein, a Namibian delegation, led by the Chairman, Namibian National Council, Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Hon Hafeni Ndemula, was also in the state on a study tour of Lagos.
Support from home front
Back home, Nigerians from across the country have been paying glowing tributes to the transformation in the state. In fact, some distinguished Nigerians have gone beyond tributes as they have invested millions of naira in the development of the state. According to these Nigerians, the vision, commitment and dedication to effect positive changes influenced their buying into these wonderful dreams of moving the state to loftier heights.
Alhaji Razaq Okoya while celebrating his 70th birthday, awarded scholarships to students in tertiary institutions such as the Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic and the Yaba College of Technology, nine security patrol vehicles, 11 infant incubator equipment and two ambulance vans to the State Government, all valued at N50m. Renowned industrialist, Mr Michael Ade Ojo also made donations of educational materials and furniture valued at N50m to schools in the State.
Daystar Christian Centre undertook massive renovations at Oregun High School, Ikeja.Â LASACO Assurance renovated staff rooms at Ipakodo Senior Grammar School, Ikorodu, constructed boreholes and donated a computer room to Majidun Senior Grammar School. Chevron Oil Company invested in development projects at Majidun Senior Grammar School while Rotary Club of Victoria Garden City invested in Eti – Osa Commercial High School.
President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Asiwaju Kayode Onafowokan, told Governor Fashola â€œI commend you for a job well done so far. I am quite impressed with what I have seenâ€. Even other Governments (at all levels) could not hide their admiration for the remarkable changes in the state and the governorâ€™s outstanding leadership qualities and style.
Former Federal Attorney â€“ General, Mr Michael Aondoaka told over 10, 000 lawyers gathered for the annual Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) conference hosted by the State,Â â€œI am congratulating His Excellency, the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola not only for hosting us in this beautiful city but also for being a worthy ambassador of our professionâ€.
The nationâ€™s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe also lent credence to the transformation in Lagos when he stated, â€œThe governor of Lagos State has shown that what we need to change Nigeria is that you be the change. I have always told him that in my new job as Foreign Affairs Minister, he has made my job easy because sometimes to the chagrin of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party leaders, I say that the governor of Lagos State provides an absolute and overwhelming evidence of what leadership can achieve, the transformational possibilities of leadershipâ€.
It is however heart warming that despite these deluge of appreciation and accolades, the administration has not gotten swollen headed nor allowed itself to be carried away or distracted from its vision.
At the on set of the administration for instance, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) promised the citizenry regular briefings on achievements and activities of the State Government, as a way of involving the people alongside the State Government as partners in progress. As a peopleâ€™s Government, the administration wanted to establish an effective communication strategy, which would give no room for any break in the established partnership.
In the last 1000 days, the Governor intermittently rendered accounts of his administrationâ€™s stewardship to the citizenry through various segments of the society. On attainment of 300 days in office, the political class was briefed on Governmentâ€™s activities. Representatives of political parties were told of plans, programmes and projects undertaken, what informed such, strategies employed, sources of funding, impact of the projects and challenges encountered.
In addition, the Governor intimated them of on going and future projects while obtaining their views and comments on the administrationâ€™s performance. It was the turn of the corporate class to take the centre stage when the administration clocked 400 days.
At the Adeyemi Bero auditorium of Alausa Secretariat venue of the briefing, the captains of industry rubbed minds with the State Chief Executive and members of his cabinet, as well as other top government functionaries including Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Agencies and Parastatals and Local Government Chairmen and their councillors on the condition of the commercial and industrial sectors in the state, as well as activities in other sectors.
The news hounds were the focus of attention when the administration clocked 500 days in office. The media, local and international, took time out to listen to the Governorâ€™s account of his administrationâ€™s stewardship before throwing the well grounded Governor a barrage of questions, which he deftly responded to comprehensively to the admiration of all and sundry. The 600 days landmark took a different dimension, as the administration took Lagosians by surprise when the briefing was taken to the doorstep of the rural dwellers.
Three teams comprising members of the State Executive Council Body of permanent Secretaries and other top public servants rubbed minds with the grassroots at their home front. A team was at Epe, another at Badagry while another team was at the Kudirat Abiola Freedom Square in Ebute Metta to inform the people of Governmentâ€™s activities and feed the Government back on their responses to its activities in their localities.
The Governor rounded off the briefings, when he met with a selected audience of society, dwelling much on feedback received from teams despatched to the rural dwellers. 700 days was commemorated with the Governorâ€™s inspection of on-going projects in different parts of the state while 800 days was devoted to children and youths whom the State Government described as future generations of the country.
With the rejuvenation of voluntary youth clubs in schools, return of Schools Debate, Schools Festival of Arts and Culture , essay competitions among students, etc,Â the Governor, who had earlier led his cabinet to the re â€“ launch of voluntary clubs dressed in Boys Scout, Girls Brigade and Brownie uniforms, was very much at home with the little ones. He promised his administrationâ€™s unflinching support to their cause, as they had to be re â€“ oriented in the right direction with the right values, right models and right environment.
The 900 days commemoration was devoted to members of the informal sector, barbers, tailors, mechanics, hair dressers, panel beaters, vulcanizers etc, who were extremely thrilled and excited to have been so honoured by the State Government. Speaker after speaker, at the briefing which took place at the Blue Roof centre of Lagos Television, expressed their happiness at being the centre of focus by government.
Today, being exactly 1000 days since assumption of office, the Governor in line with this entrenched tradition, will honour public servants, the engine of his administrationâ€™s machinery, with his briefing on the activities of his administration in moving the state forward.Â Much of the successes recorded were carried out by this group of dedicated workers and the appreciative administration would address them and listen to their concerns and needs.
Though infinitesimal when compared with the 18 million populations of the state, (115, 552) to be precise, the public servants have been responsible for bringing to reality lofty policies, plans and programmes conceived by Mr Babatunde Raji Fasholaâ€™s administration and the previous administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of which the current administration is an offshoot, to further hasten developmental strides in the state, through deft execution.
The administration itself has minced no words in the last 1000 days in expressing its delight at the performance of the workers.Â Speaking at the grand finale of the 2009 Public Service Week, the Governor expressed delight at the â€œever resourceful and committed public servantsâ€ and promised to â€œcontinue to encourage, recognize and reward diligent, resourceful and outstanding public servantsâ€.
Equally, the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, a renowned banker, administrator and key player in the corporate sector, Mr Ben Akabueze, in an interview described workers in the State public Service as â€œthe benchmark against the civil service in the rest of the federation, which includes the federal. The Lagos State public service to me is the most productive and has the best work detailsâ€.
Modest and unassuming
At this juncture, it must be stated that the modest and unassuming Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has repeatedly said that these public briefings are no celebration. According to him, they represent a time for sober reflection of what has been achieved in the past and an insight into future undertakings.
The last 1000 days witnessed such landmarks as the launching of the helicopter service purchased by the Security Trust Fund for, among others, surveillance and traffic monitoring duties, organization of the third tax stakeholdersâ€™ conference which brought Government and the citizenry together to assess the tax drive.
Another stakeholders forum was held to assess the impact and operation of the Lagos State Drivers Institute scheme, training of staff on the applications of information technology in the public service continued alongside the training ofÂ school managers on the operation of the Lagos State Education Management Scheme ( LAGEMS), organization of the first Lagos State Governorâ€™s Cup Open Squash championship, finals of the Head of Service (HOS) Football cup, hosting ofÂ the Federation of Public Service Games, Eko 2009 and disbursement of funds to micro finance banks partnering with the state in the micro finance scheme.
Within the last 1000 days, the administration also celebrated the Community Day in recognition of the contributions of local communities and the Community Development Associations as well as the commissioning of four water works at Mende in Maryland, Magodo, Ikorodu and Epe.
The Governor also continued his regular monitoring of ongoing projects to ensure the sustenance of high quality standard with visits to the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) premises at Ebute Metta where the Chinese contractor (CCECC) to handle the construction of the light rail project, which will roll off pretty soon, is preparing for the take off of the project. He also visited Egan and Oregun Skills Acquisition Centres among others. The list cannot be all exhausted in a short article.
In conclusion, even my extreme sense of modesty and humility will not prevent me from saying what would appear to be the obvious i.e. that Governor Fasholaâ€™s 1000 days in office has been a period of major actualisation and consolidation on the achievements and legacy of commitment to best practices of the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who, some 1000 days ago, had handed over to a fine gentleman he had identified and insisted was the best man for the job. Bravo to the dreamer; kudos to the actualiser.
*Bamidele is the Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Lagos State.