By Jide Ajani
Last year, Sunday Vanguard spent 11 hours observing the Exco meeting of the Lagos State government where Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola presided. It was revealing and instructive. We promised to bring you a second part, this time, observing Fashola at close range on the field and not in the cool comfort of his office.
Last Wednesday, the state governor was at it again. In this report, you will discover a governor in a hurry in his engagement of a development paradigm. He should be in a hurry because his tenure ends next year. This report captures Fashola on tour of projects in Lagos.
Since he took the mantle of leadership to pilot the af fairs of the people of Lagos as governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the seemingly untiring servant leader of the Centre of Excellence, has acquired the enviable reputation of “the Man in a Hurry” to develop Lagos into Africa’s model mega city. That sobriquet was acknowledged early in this administration by even the opposition, undoubtedly, astounded and overwhelmed by his pragmatic and meticulous approach to the transformation of this city. It was a name that captured the essence and vibrancy of the first few years of his administration when this City of Aquatic Splendour, then faced with serious infrastructural challenges, was turned into one huge construction site.
Ever since, his pace has neither changed nor his style altered. Each passing day has been like the one before, loaded, busy and sometimes choking.
It was Abraham Lincoln who once said that “if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend”. That, perhaps, is what has kept Lagos State together under the governorship of Fashola. At first, it was like a very difficult pill to swallow for Lagosians – his style, the need to change Lagos State and make it a mega city, the demolitions, the new rules he created on how to operate and govern; the apolitical posturing, sometimes bordering on the stiff-necked – because the old style, the affable, politically induced aura of inclusiveness and tolerance that his predecessor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had created, was seen by many as a template for success in governance.
But here was a man, a gangling lawyer, thrust upon a polity of clashing socio-economic-religious and political interests, in a manner most shocking; and pushing an agenda that was considered alien and finicky! It was so bad that even between Fashola and Tinubu, there was a disagreement on matters of style. However, today, because Fashola took Lincoln’s admonition to heart, that there was need to first convince Tinubu and Lagosians that he is indeed a sincere friend, he has been able to win many, very many, to his cause. Decisions thought to have been rash and anti-people appear to be yielding results. The catch-phrase in Lagos is, Ekoonibaje (conditions in Lagos will not be allowed to degenerate)
Therefore, Tuesday, January 21, 2014, for example, was not particularly different from most other days for him. But for the uninitiated, it was a maddening pace. Arriving Lagos in the morning from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, where he had gone the previous day to attend a high level meeting, one would have thought that he would retire straight to his residence for a well-deserved rest. But, as has been his tradition from day-one, the Governor of Lagos State headed straight for parts of the Metropolis where he inspected on-going projects as well as handed over completed ones to the beneficiary communities. His first port of call was Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area where he handed over a four-storey 110-bed Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC) located at the FESTAC Town First Gate.
It is the sixth in the series of ten Maternal Childcare Centres which he promised the people of Lagos during his electioneering campaigns. Touched by the plight of pregnant women who had to travel long distances for both antenatal attention and delivery with the associated risks and oftentimes deaths, this administration had formulated a policy to establish the MCCs in strategic locations across the State to reduce the distance the expectant and nursing mothers have to travel to receive attention.
The other completed and fully operational Centres are located in Ajegunle, Gbaja in Surulere, Ifako-Ijaiye, Isolo and Ikorodu. The seventh one being built in Alimosho has been completed and will be handed over in a matter of weeks while the eighth one in Lekki has also been completed and is being equipped and fenced in readiness for testing prior to commissioning. The ninth and tenth ones are in Badagry and in Epe. They are still under construction and, according to the Governor, they should be fully ready for deployment either later in the year or at the latest next year.
During the ceremony which lasted some two hours, Fashola threw more light on why his administration is building special hospitals for mothers and children.
He told the large audience of excited residents:
“It is because we take our responsibility to protect life and property very seriously and this responsibility will not be discharged only by deploying security apparatus like the cameras we unveiled yesterday (Monday), 1,000 cameras with another 1,000 coming to ensure that we keep an eye on all those who do not mean well for us and also to protect those who are going about their lawful duties. That is the way we will ensure that people live the fullest of the value of the tenure of life God has intended for us. By this kind of investment and by you embracing them, we can make sure that when a child is on the way, that child arrives safely and its mother delivers safely and that both mother and child can live a minimum of three scores and ten all things being equal. Our personnel have been trained to improve upon their capacity to care not just to treat”.
From this point, the indefatigable governor moved to another site and this time Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area where he handed over the 2.68 km Alaba/Cemetery Road urging residents of the area not to convert the walkways to stalls in order to ensure the safety of school children. Addressing the usually large cheering and excited crowd that always gather to welcome him wherever he goes in the State including local leaders, party officials and residents, Governor Fashola appealed to the residents not to convert the walkways to stalls and trading posts pointing out that when their children are going to and returning from school, the walkways should be their natural route.
Calling for a more caring attitude to the usage of such public infrastructure, the Governor declared: “This road was built with your taxes and I hope that you will not turn it into a refuse dump again. We have provided all the road signs and it is your responsibility now to look after it. You have asked for your rights that we provide infrastructure for you and we have delivered as your government. You now have the bigger responsibility to look after this bigger asset as a common asset built by our commonwealth”.
Sometime last year
One thing that was unmistakably commonplace during the tour was Fashola’s untiring attitude.
Just as was the case during last year’s Exco meeting, Fashola’s commitment and passion for the delivery of democracy dividend was paramount.
Last year, for instance, Fashola’s concern for the original shop owners of Tejuosho market, was a grand example in leadership sensitivity.
A sampler from last year’s Exco meeting where Fashola acted like a virtual governor with a quasi sense of omnipresence:
Fashola had disclosed that he needed to make some points which he “had picked up in the course of the previous week”.
Mind you, these points he “had picked up” are products of the e-mails, the letters, telephone texts, postings on facebook and tweets from you and I, as well as personal on the spot informal assessment of some assignments.
He had pointed out that in the Abraham Adesanya Estate in Lekki, some of the roads therein were going bad.
He ordered immediate remedy. He also said he noticed some abandoned ambulances at the entrance of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH. He wanted to know why the situation existed. He had one issue or the other to discuss and seek remedy for.
Next was the exchange over the Central Business District, CBD.
The governor said while he was driving through Nnamdi Azikiwe (last Sunday), he discovered that the refuse points were overflowing. He charged the Adviser in charge of CDB to be more functional. She, in-turn, made it clear that the solution was already in a memo she’d recently sent to the governor. The exchange was both revealing and instructive. The adviser would not succumb to the suggestion that she was taking a back seat; just as the governor stuck to his gun that whatever needed to be done should be done to clear the mess.
At a point, the Adviser requested for privacy to which the governor retorted that there could be no other private forum that the one they both already were in. She then told Fashola point-blank what needed to be done. At that point, a pall of silence fell on the chambers. But because here was a governor who had set tasks and deliverables, he did not push to argue against the Adviser’s suggestion which is going to be very drastic. This exchange lasted for almost 10minutes.
A stickler for details, Fashola took on the Commissioner for Physical Planning. He said a building appeared to have suddenly sprouted in-between two others somewhere on the same street. He found it curious that people could build on the space. He said he could vouch that his dependable commissioner could not have approved such; worse, he said he “noticed that the building contractor was just stacking blocks on the road, thereby obstructing traffic”. He needed the ministry officials to go there and check; and he believed the building would have to give way.
Still on things he picked up, he said he’d observed that Molue and other commercial buses were already filing on the Carter Bridge again and causing congestion.
He touched on almost all sectors from health to social welfare, the aged and underprivileged, et al. In the health sector, Fashola said “Rwanda is stealing medical tourism from Nigeria”. Though he admitted that “war throws up opportunities for fresh breakthroughs” and “I also think our own challenge with terrorism can also help build our own doctors without borders”.
Demonstrating that if “you do not constantly evolve for the better, other people would catch up with you:, he said the world had caught up with Spain and their ticki-tacki of football style and that was why the two teams from Spain were roundly defeated during the Champions League competition (of last year); the same happened to the national team of Spain.
“My people”, he continued, “the lesson for all of us is that we cannot rest. We need to keep striving to break new grounds. That people are saying we are doing well is not enough. Other states are also striving”.
Back to last Wednesday
His next port of call was Ijora Badia, a suburb of Lagos where he inspected an illegal dumpsite being regenerated for the 1008 units of flats at Ijora Badia. That dumpsite used to be a habitation for some hundreds of squatters who carried out numerous illegalities in the place and its environs. When they were ejected in the early 2000, the place was turned into an illegal dumpsite where commercial cart pushers dumped the wastes they collected from residents and from business premises. But notwithstanding that the area was illegally acquired, the Governor said his administration was committed to resettling the former occupants of the site and that Government has already approved over N250 Million to do just that. The Governor who spoke in an interactive session with some of the former occupants and later in an interview with newsmen said provisions have been made for each of the former occupants to bring their names and account details so that issues of mix ups do not arise about the original occupiers. He also said all those involved should contact the office of the Attorney General of the State who is in charge of the disbursement of the funds.
The Governor also assured the people that construction of housing units on the estate would soon commence explaining that although there is not a lot of work going on site at that moment, there is a lot of work going on off-site. According to him, there is a local technology which some architects and professors have developed that makes four blocks in one vibration sequence instead of one block with the conduit already laid inside the blocks so that the electrical fittings and the conduit pipes can be installed at the time that the blocks are being laid adding that all these are being prepared off-site at the moment.
The packed programme of Tuesday is reflective of the typical tight day-to-day schedule of this indefatigable governor who has been variously described by both admirers and antagonists as passionate, committed and unyielding in his commitment to the service of his people. Since the beginning of this year, for example, the Governor has been all over the City inspecting, commissioning and handing over various projects. On Tuesday, January 7, he was in Oshodi to hand over the 571-shop capacity Isopakodowo Market to the traders who were previously displaced when the area was cleared of traders blocking the Agege Motor Road.
The same day, he handed over the Alao Aka-Bashorun Park to the Gbagada Phase 2 residents.
Two days later, on the 9th of January, he was again in Kosofe and Ikorodu Axis to inspect on-going projects. He assessed the level of work at Akanimodo and Igbogbo Housing Estates and the 1.8 kilometre Agiliti Road in Mile 12. On Sunday, January 19, the Governor was in the Lekki-Ajah axis to inspect the Eko Akete and Fairmont Garden Housing Estates. There is no better way to notice this commitment and passion to serve the people than a look at him and members of his Cabinet whom he would rather call “members of my team”. Some of them who were naturally on the plump side when they joined him have gone slim while those naturally slim like him are even slimmer.
They are serious and won’t be found engaging in frivolities as they undertake the business of public service. But it is all for the good of the people and they have not failed to show their appreciation of Fashola and his team’s exceptional service and readiness to deliver the dividends of democracy. Apart from meeting their part of the social contract by becoming more tax compliant and voluntarily too, they readily acknowledge his performance in and outside this state even as the State is being celebrated all over the world because of his achievements.