By Adekunle Adekoya, General Editor
CITY dwellers will probably find it easy to judge the governor; all they need do is compare the state of their area when the governor came in, and now. For those in the non-pressure parts of Lagos State, like Epe, Badagry, Agbowa-Ikosi, Ikorodu, and other outliers, they would be right in singing the praises of the governor, yet, others like Mowo, Agbara, Ajangbadi, Ikoga and others might not have much to sing about. However, development is not about roads alone; which states have been building since the Roman Empire.
Governor Fashola wormed his way into the hearts of Lagosians at just one bus-stop: Oshodi. Prior to 2007, Oshodi was chaos personified; a spot in the heart of the city where traffic never moved; where traders displayed their wares on one full lane of the road (both sides), it was also the headquarters of all kinds of undesirable characters in society, from pick-pockets to daylight thieves, dare-devil robbers and killers for hire.
For people born in Lagos who know Oshodi, and migrants/settlers, the transformation of Oshodi definitely counted for an achievement.
For most Lagosians, any governor who ensured that traffic moved in Lagos would be their champion, even if he did not do any other thing, just like most Nigerians would celebrate the president that gives them uninterrupted electricity, so, getting the city to work by ensuring that traffic moves had underpinned the achievements of the Lagos State Government under Babatunde Fashola.
His major achievement is in raising revenue from taxation. From a mere N600 million monthly in 1999 to approximately N20.5 billion in 2013, the Lagos State Government, particularly under Fashola has changed the game around internally generated revenue, IGR, thereby making the state less dependent on federally-allocated revenue. In September, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, released its data on internally generated revenue, IGR, of 14 States in 2013. From the data, Lagos State was miles ahead of others. Of the N590.60 billion generated by the 14 states, Lagos alone accounted for N384.26 billion or 65 per cent. Security is a major challenge in Lagos. Though it remains, Governor Fashola conceived the idea of a security trust fund for the state and by September 2007, barely four months in office, the trust fund was established by a Law of the Lagos State House of Assembly. The idea of establishing the fund which would be modeled on a public/private arrangement became imperative when the Governor received the report of the high powered Security Committee he established under the chairmanship of Alhaji Musiliu Smith, former Inspector General of Police.
Almost overnight, brand new patrol vehicles became common sight, donated to the Police with funds from the Security Trust Fund and corporate organisations, and somehow, the Police, hitherto scarce, were everywhere on patrol. There just remains a snag — and a big one — many large areas of the metropolis still do not have motorable roads and when the citizens send distress calls to the police, they never could get there on time while the hoodlums escaped on motorcycles which are able to speed on the bad roads.
The list of achievements is long; so also is the waiting list. A private-public sector arrangement, financed by a bank, sees refrigerated vans transport meat from the abattoirs and slaughter slabs to markets, a vast departure from past unhealthy practices.
While the issue of open defecation and urination remains untamed by the Fashola government, an initiative launched in 2011 failed woefully when a directive to owners of petrol stations in the state to build toilets for public use went largely ignored.
In Nigeria, Governor Fashola’s biggest public health achievement is on Ebola, but on the global stage, it is what has earned him plaudits. How Ebola got to Nigeria through a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, and how a brave physician, late Dr Stella Adadevoh identified Sawyer’s illness are rapidly becoming history. It is on record that the robust, effective and all-encompassing containment efforts by the Fashola administration probably saved the whole world the spectacle of the worst epidemic it might have seen.
There had been palpable fears that Ebola, which has already claimed more than 5,000 lives Liberia, Sierra Leone and other west coast countries, would assume epidemic proportions with catastrophic consequences should it spread to Lagos. Despite a doctors’ strike, Fashola’s Lagos quarantined nearly 1,000 people feared to have been infected since Patrick Sawyer came into the country.
It was no mean feat, especially when the World Health Organisation announced that since Nigeria had had no new cases for six weeks, it was now officially rid of the virus. It is instructive to note that even after being declared Ebola-free, the anti-Ebola campaign is still on in Lagos.
While the governor deserves an inspiring pass grade, perhaps an A, especially if you live on Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Apapa, Ikeja, Surulere, and other like areas, the governor is a woeful failure if the assessors live in Ejigbo, Egbe, Ijegun, Ijagemo, Ijeododo, Aboru, and Egan, all in Alimosho Local Government.
The residents of these areas wonder what their offence is. An area that deserves more attention is the environment. Quite a lot has been achieved, especially with the proactive initiatives of the Environment Ministry in terms of garbage collection and disposal, but a huge window remains in the area of industrial pollution, septic tank evacuation disposal, indiscriminate fires, open hearth cooking anywhere, and of course open defecation and urination. There indeed remains a lot to be done, including maintenance of law and order, but it now seems the task is that of Fashola’s successor. For him, the ovation is loud.