By Morenike Taire
If there is any city in Nigeria that has inspired romantic notions in indigenes and visitors alike, it is Lagos. Not very large in terms of land mass but in any other respect, it is larger than life. The melting pot effect- the sheer number of people of every tribe and colour; the incredible energy, the nondescript weather, the commerce, the culture, the rat race, the resilience; the great imposing structures and dark, brooding, endlessly expansive bodies of water; make Lagos the ever available subject for artists and Artistes, designers and developers alike.
But for those who know, Lagos is not the same as Lagos state, which expands in every direction around the Cosmopolitan core. Ikeja, Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu are not merely burroughs but expansive towns in their own rights with lives of their own, which feed off this Cosmopolitan core of the same nomenclature. This is the first challenge that confronts every governor of Lagos state- the fact that it is difficult to have a really intimate knowledge of every part of the state. Brand new governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is not different as he has already shown within the first month.
Controversy lingers over whether Mr Governor actually promised to tackle the infamous Apapa traffic situation within the first 60 days in office- if elected governor- during the electioneering period as widely reported by the media. According to the number 1 man the 60 day period quoted was meant to be for situational review, not necessarily for action. The problem persists in the meantime. This is the Second major challenge before Sanwo-Olu. The Third has to do with the fragile peace that exists in Cosmopolitan Lagos and satellite towns alike, occasioned by a motley mixture of ethnic discontent and security uncertainties reflective of the larger country wide situation. Erstwhile governor Akinwunmi Ambode once boasted that Lagos was now the safest Nigerian city and definitely one of the safest in Africa. With the progressive cleanup of urban decay in hubs such as Oshodi, Obalende and Marina over the last fifteen to twenty years, notorious miscreant hangouts and the traditional abodes of criminals have become virtually non existent. The ones that survived quickly got reinvented, quickly absorbed into the ranks of NURTW and the ‘support services’ at the local governments. The rest retreated into neo-cultic groups- criminally inclined and mainly drug induced quasi organisations which are funded by communal criminal activities from one side and the underbelly of the local governments, on the other.
So while Ambode’s claim was derided as preposterous, it is unarguable that the various little interventions by his administration left the state safer, squashing spates of flash violence such as Badoo, before they became Hydra headed. It is therefore unrest of a different nature that Sanwo-Olu would be contending with. Running a magnificent campaign especially given the circumstances in which he had entered the race, the governor had anchored much of his strategy on a symbolic handshake across the Niger without actually crossing the Niger, in order to secure the votes of constituencies where Nigerians from the South East formed a major electoral block. While these blocks delivered for Sanwo-Olu there were skirmishes nevertheless that eventually settled into an uneasy quiet, one whose maintenance is dependent on the governor’s abilities to deliver his promises to these blocks in such a way as to keep them satisfied.
Sanwo-Olu needs to understand the sheer diversity of Lagos, not only in terms of ethnicity but especially in terms of the culture of each of the state’s satellite towns. There is also the infrastructural challenge, which his predecessors tried to grapple with, with Fashola completing Ikorodu Road and Ambode’s feat in his home Epe. Still these massive efforts were a drop in the ocean of the gaping infrastructural needs in interior Ikorodu where dangerous traditional religious beliefs and practices still hold sway; Badagry and suburban mainland.
He needs to identify the unique resources, capacities and comparative advantages of each town while applying them to infrastructure and development efforts in order to assure sustainability. He must urgently acknowledge the very glaring links between poverty and infrastructural inadequacies that deny citizens of the state their basic rights to portable water
Electricity and access to markets whether physical or electronic. An advisor on Sustainable Development Goals, MGDs must be engaged while their direction should be received with the utmost seriousness.
The matter of the Apapa gridlock is one that cannot be wished away. Its effect can be felt across a wide range : physical health, mental health, infrastructural abuse and deterioration, extreme security and fire risks. While most of the affected roads are federal roads, there is now a spillover into inner communities, including residential ones. It will get worse, and more so those who suffer the consequences are Lagosians. If the state government really cares about the overall welfare, well-being and the economy of its people, it will begin to take the Apapa gridlock issue as its highest priority.
Over the decades, Lagos appears to have been blessed with the best performing governors in the country, both military and civilian.
The boost in the Internally Generated Revenue profile of the state means that many things are possible.