In this election season, lots of twaddle would be dished out in the form of opinion. They would descend from the sublime to the bestial, and above all, they would represent an interest that is not so altruistic but driven by ego and parochial interest in the name of politics.
In a democracy, the government is accountable to the people, to whom it owes its existence. It is on this premise that the Lagos State Government renders periodic account of its stewardship to the people every 100 days. However, no matter how transparent and accessible a government is, for various reasons, it still has to contend with opposing views from time to time. This is the beauty of democracy. It is from this perspective that one views a recent piece titled: ‘The Babatunde Raji Fashola Performance Myth’, written by Aaron Ukodie, publisher of eWorld Magazine, published on the website of eWorld Magazine, and in the Vanguard newspaper of Friday 14, November, 2014. It is important to shed some light on some of the issues raised in the piece in order to set the records straight and further enlighten as well as educate both the author and other members of the public who might take the author’s position as a gospel truth.
It is not difficult to deduct from the tone of Ukodie’s piece that he has an axe to grind with Governor Fashola. He leaves no one in doubt that his main objective is to prove, contrary to widely held perceptions, that Fashola has not performed. While it is generally believed that the Fashola administration has become the bench mark for good governance in the country, it should, however, be stressed that the goal of Fashola is not to be approved as a performer but to genuinely do all within his power to improve the well being of Lagosians.
This is what he has sworn to do. This is what he is committed to doing.
Ukodie speciously alleges that Fashola is running an elitist government that concentrates infrastructure development in the high-brow areas. The truth, though, is that the Fashola administration has a well-structured roadmap that methodically guides its development plan. Its physical renewal program that started with the redevelopment of the Lagos Central Business District has since moved to Yaba and Ikeja Central Business Districts. Space will not permit one to mention the entire major (and other networks of inner roads) roads that the administration has redeveloped and rehabilitated across the state, but I will encourage anyone who is in doubt about the extent of the intervention of the administration on issues of road’s development to visit our website, see “Revamping Lagos Infrastructure: Roads and Public Buildings.” Presently, densely populated centers such as Alimosho, Ojo, Orile, Surulere, Ikorodu and Badagry among others are witnessing various infrastructure renewal projects.
The Yaya Abatan Road, Ogba, Okota-Itire Link bridge, Ejigbo-Ajao Estate link bridge Phase 1; Wilmer Crescent/Akpiri Street and Wilmer/Osho drive with Bridge Street, Olumokun/Olayinka/ Sanusi/Oduduwa Street , Old Otta road-Phase II, Association Avenue in Ikotun, Shasa-Orisunbare- Ejigbo Road, just to mention a few, represent some of the road projects which the Fashola administration has completed across the state.
Furthermore, it has dualised the LASU-Iba road, Mobil Boundary Road in Ajeromi Ifelodun, among several others. It has equally rehabilitated Olowopopo Avenue, Alausa, Ikeja, Adegbeyemi/Afolabi Street, Alade Market area-Phase II, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, sectional part of Alimosho Road, off Abeokuta Express Way, Cemetery Road, Ebute-Metta, Joseph Dosu Road at Badagry, among others. Similarly, it has completed the Iju Road, in Ifako-Ijaye, the link road in Amuwo Odofin, between Apapa- Oshodi Expressway and Festac Link Bridge just to mention a few.
Ukodie’s spurious allegation that Fashola is using VIOs and other such agencies to terrorize non Yoruba in the state simply exposes his myopic frame of mind. Part of the tragedy of the Nigerian nation is a supposedly enlightened person like Ukodie, who gives ethnic coloration to every issue in the land. The Fashola administration enjoys a robust relationship with every group in the state, irrespective of tribe, religions and other affiliations. Lagos remains home to all in the country. However, when it comes to the enforcement of the law, the Fashola administration is no respecter of the person. It will be recalled that Governor Fashola personally accosted and apprehended several high-ranking military officers for contravening traffic law. That is the spirit of the new Lagos which the state government is building. If Ukodie and his like take delight in lawlessness, Lagos is the wrong place for them.
Ukodie further took hypocrisy to an astonishing height when he submitted that most public schools in the state are not fit for human habitation. He wrote: ‘I could not pass them for places where real learning should take place’. He, nonetheless, exposes his mendaciousness when he claimed that his judgment was based on the outcome of a capacity building which a group (which he belongs to) organised for some public school’s students in the Surulere area of the state. Presently, Lagos state has over 1,045 primary schools, 317 junior secondary schools and 319 Senior Secondary schools. Ukodie and his group visited ‘some schools in Surulere’ (he did not specify the number) and mischievously concluded that Lagos public schools are not fit for human habitation. One doesn’t need to be a prophet to discern that Ukodie was only doing a hatchet job for some pay masters.
The author probably needs one of our old ‘Jigi’ to see the redevelopment of schools in Eric-Moore School Compound. He should take a stroll from the unnamed school he visited to this place, which is in Surulere, where a total of 16 blocks of 18 classrooms (288 classrooms) is being built. If he visits, he would be able to count eight blocks of Science laboratories, libraries/ICT rooms; two blocks of six flats each as staff quarters; eight blocks of a canteen; a multipurpose/event hall; a stadia and grand stand and a sewage-treatment plant. When completed, it would accommodate Government College, Surulere (Senior and Junior Schools); State Grammar School, Surulere (Senior and Junior Schools); Eric-Moore Grammar School (Senior and Junior Schools) and Onitolo Girls High School (Senior and Junior Schools).
It is, therefore, not surprising that Ukodie condemned almost everything that has to do with the state government. He lambasted LASTMA. He derided the VIO. He saw nothing good in the giant strides so far recorded at LASUTH (which has achieved several firsts since inception) and LASUCOM (which remains a model for other colleges of Medicine in the country). He is against the state’s IGR drive. As far as he is concerned, Lagos in the last seven years has done nothing that is worth celebrating.
Fortunately, Lagosians, Nigerians and the world at large see things differently. Recently, Fashola was listed among 100 Top Global Thinkers for 2013 by an international personality assessment organization, Lo Spazio della Politica (LSDP). The organization asserted that it listed Fashola “because he made Lagos an African hub of innovation.” Furthermore, global leader in credit ratings and research, Fitch Ratings, recently upgraded Lagos State’s national long-term rating to ‘AA+ (nga)’ from ‘AA (nga)’, thus giving the state a stable outlook. Fitch equally confirmed the state’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at ‘BB-‘with stable outlooks and its short-term foreign-currency IDR at ‘B’. In terms of budget performance, the state government was also commended for recording high successes that reflect not less than 70 percent annual budget performance. In 2012 and 2013, the state’s budget recorded 89 percent and 85 percent performance respectively. Recently, it announced an 84 percent third quarter budget performance for the 2014 budget with an 86 percent cumulative or aggregated performance for the first three-quarters of the year covering from January to September.
The state government is not resting on its oars as it is presently implementing six simultaneous transport solutions namely; Mile 12 – Ikorodu, Lekki-Epe, Lagos – Badagry, Lagos Light Rail, Lagos Ferry and Lagos Cable Car. In terms of housing provision, the state now delivers 200 Housing Units on a monthly basis with a 10-year mortgage and a maximum interest payment of 9.5 %. Out of the ten Mother and Child Centers, it planned for the State; seven have been completed and are fully operational, including the Amuwo-Odofin MCC which recently became operational. Others are located in Ajegunle, Gbaja in Surulere, Ifako-Ijaiye, Isolo, Ikorodu, Alimosho, and Ibeju Lekki, which is 70% completed and awaiting to be equipped. The other two are for Epe and Badagry. These two will be the focus of the government in 2015.
It is a universal reality that there is no government that can meet the expectations of all its citizenry at the same time. However, the good thing is that Lagosians have the assurances of continued prompt response to their needs by the Fashola administration, with creativity and vigor, until its last day on May 29, next year. The administration has never deluded itself of having the monopoly of knowledge. For those with positive ideas and contributions that could assist in moving the state forward, the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of Lagos public functionaries, including the Governor, are in the public domain. Calling Fashola performance a myth is denying the reality that Lagos has since moved on.
Lateef Raji, is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Information and Strategy.