By Gboyega Akosile
In fulfilling his electioneering promise that his cabinet would be constituted within 100 days of his government, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recently released the first batch of 25 nominees to occupy cabinet-ranked positions in the state. The list shows an administration that is ready to serve, given the pedigrees of nominees, most of whom are tested individuals with proven records of accomplishment of performance in their various fields of endeavour.
Three weeks after, a new list consisting 13 names of another set of tested and trusted individuals was released making the cabinet positions 38 in all. Expectedly, the two lists generated a lot of interest in the political circle as well as the public domain. Every Lagosian at home and in the diaspora is interested in who occupies what position. You cannot query their interest. First, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s government came into power, with an emphasis during electioneering that inclusive governance would be the core of its administration. In addition, Lagosians see the enormous challenges that have confronted the State in the recent years and they know that only a focused, dedicated and forward-looking cabinet can help to deliver Governor Sanwo-Olu’s campaign promises.
Lagos has grown in leaps and bounds, with its population hitting almost 23 million people and still counting. This naturally comes with its challenges; increase in tons of waste generated, rise in the number of patients at various government hospitals and primary health centres, more pressure on the existing infrastructure-roads, schools and housing among numerous social amenities being provided by government. Lagos, therefore, cannot be administered in 2019 using a 1979 template.
The state has undoubtedly benefitted from its population growth-more revenue generation; physical development is recorded in different sectors making it a state on the move. At the last count, Lagos is said to have hit close to N30 billion mark every month in internally generated revenue (IGR), making it the most economically viable state in Nigeria and fifth largest economy in Africa. However, the State government has argued that this feat is still a far cry from what is required to run a megacity such as Lagos. For example, the budgetary allocation of the police department in New York City is $5.6 billion, when compared to the budget of the entire Lagos state, which stands at $2.4 billion; one can safely conclude that there is more to be done by government to get the state running.
Being the nation’s economic nerve-centre, Lagos is a city on the move but with enormous challenges. Apart from poor state of arterial roads that complicate free flow of traffic, commuters spend productive hours in chaotic gridlocks that are caused by failed sections on roads and disorganised traffic management. Many observers have opined that planning the best campaign strategies to win the governorship election was not much of a challenge before Governor Sanwo-Olu, as his party, APC commanded large following and significant popularity in Lagos to ensure his victory. What they say will be the most testing hurdle waiting to be surmounted by him was the strategy to deploy in solving the long-standing and emerging challenges facing the state.
When Sanwo-Olu emerged as APC candidate, Lagos had literally become a dumpsite as heaps of municipal waste littered the streets. The state agency set up for waste disposal had been disengaged in a curious and controversial circumstance, leaving residents to resort to indiscriminate dumping of refuse, which became a daily eyesore, even to the government of the day. The aesthetics of the environment was affected. All of these brought down the pride of Lagos, despite its growing profile as a hub for commerce, technology and innovation.
Sanwo-Olu’s campaign was premised on the need to address these challenges, with the aim of proffering short and long-term solutions to them. Project T.H.E.M.E.S that became the thrust of his campaign slogan was formulated as an operational framework to solve these identified challenges and sustain the profile of Lagos as centre of excellence.
Upon assumption of office as the 15th Governor of Lagos on May 29, 2019, Sanwo-Olu channelled his energy towards a process of scouting for visionary individuals from various areas of human endeavour that will help him midwife his vision and deliver on his campaign promises. He said, during the electioneering that ‘‘as Lagosians, we can’t be like people who cannot solve their problems. Therefore, we must find solutions to our problems because they are created by us’’.
As one who believes in harnessing the capabilities of homegrown professionals, Sanwo-Olu assured Lagosians that his Commissioners and cabinet-ranked Special Advisers would be drawn from local pool of resources and will cut across acceptable demographics. Besides, he promised his cabinet would be constituted within 100 days to set the ball of governance rolling.
In keeping the promise made to Lagosians, Sanwo-Olu announced the names of members of his cabinet exactly 47 days after his swearing-in. This is a rare feat for a governor serving his first term. The Governor said he understood the challenges confronting the state, noting that the selection process was a painstaking and laborious exercise, which aimed at introducing fresh ideas to governance. He said the team of professionals and politicians would be serving Lagosians in line with his administration’s vision of delivering a smart city-state that will rank among the top most liveable cities in the world.
His words: “We took our time to pick the best hands for the tough job Lagosians have elected us to do. The nominees for the twenty five (now thirty eight) Commissioner and Special Adviser positions include women and men who have made their mark and at the zenith of their professional callings.” Tough job? Yes, the tasks ahead are expected to be rigorous as Gov. Sanwo-Olu posited, given the challenges the state is confronted with and the expectations of the people based on the confidence reposed in the administration.
Infusion of technocracy and political know-how
Being the centre of innovation, Lagos has raised the bar of excellence with injection of fresh ideas and energy in governance. This tradition has been sustained in the last 20 years, and the young administration of Sanwo-Olu appears to be toeing the path, if the profiles of his nominees are anything to go by.
Of the 38 cabinet members cleared for inauguration by the State House of Assembly are active politicians who are equally professionals in various fields. The infusion of politics and professionalism is perhaps the unique selling point of the Sanwo-Olu Cabinet.
A careful analysis of the nominees showed there is clear departure from the tradition of putting forward only politicians or only technocrats to fill up the state’s Executive Council. A private sector professional himself and having traversed the nook and cranny of the political space in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu understood the arduous task before his government, which possibly prompted him to go for politicians, professionals in politics and technocrats to drive the key areas of the public sector for greater impact.
Having worked closely with the Governor, one can safely say that he is inclined to work with technocrats, because he is a man that’s given to details-someone you can describe as ‘‘prim and proper’’ but one equally knows that he values the roles of experienced politicians, who are fully integrated in the new cabinet arrangement for political balancing.
The Governor is a politician himself and he quite understands the roles of politicians in governance and development process. Despite his inclination to work with professionals, he will not be leaving out politicians, especially those who have garnered ample experience in previous administrations, to join the team of key private sector players he has nominated to his cabinet.
It therefore came as no surprise that the name of Mr. Tunji Bello, the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, who had served three previous administrations, featured in Sanwo-Olu’s list of cabinet members. Aside being an influential figure in Lagos politics, Bello, a trained lawyer cum journalist, possesses vast skill on environmental issues and policies to help the administration have clear direction in this area.
Lagos is confronting fierce challenges of climate change, flooding and municipal waste disposal among other environmental problems. With him in the cabinet, Bello’s wealth of experience in climate issues and the environment would come as a great benefit to the Sanwo-Olu administration.
Gbolahan Lawal is another experienced administrator and politician that will be in the Executive Council. A seasoned development expert and social entrepreneur from the security background, Lawal has deep understanding of political economy for integrated development especially in low and medium-income economies. He has proven his mettle in previous administrations as Commissioner for Housing and in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
Same can be said of Wale Ahmed, a medical doctor turned politician. Ahmed is well grounded in the politics of Lagos State having traversed the different political tendencies in the state. He is no doubt a good pick by Mr. Sanwo-Olu to help create the political balancing that is required in today’s democratic governance. There are few other experienced politicians in the list of the new cabinet members.
Fair representation of women
Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, Lagos has been setting the pace for gender balance and women involvement in political process. The state became the first that elevated the status of women in the realms of leadership and politics, producing the first woman Deputy Governor.
The state had sustained the tradition of reserving one of the two topmost leadership positions for women. However, the political horse-trading that trailed the emergence of Dr. Obafemi Hamzat as Sanwo-Olu’s running mate in the build up to the general elections raised concern among womenfolk, giving rise to insinuation that Sanwo-Olu may be nursing an agenda to upset the progress made in the State in the area of women representation in governance.
In his response, Sanwo-Olu allayed the fear of relegation of women, explaining that the choice of his running mate was to display the dynamism of Lagos politics and present a formidable team for the tough job of governing a State with big economy as Lagos. He promised to complement the work of his administration with an improved involvement of women in decision-making positions. True to his words, the Governor, after being sworn in, surprised the womenfolk with his first appointment, picking Mrs. Folashade Jaji, as the Secretary to the State Government.
This was followed by nominations of thirteen women in the cabinet list, signifying the Governor’s conviction of getting women involved in leadership and decision-making. The number showed women make up 32 per cent of cabinet members in the State. This is 3% less of the 35% affirmative action for women in politics and governance. Again, Lagos remains the first and till date the only State that has moved closer to the number advocated.
Sanwo-Olu did not just pick any woman out of gender consideration, the Governor gunned for greater service delivery with the selection of seasoned and highly resourceful women, among who are engineers, lawyers, experienced politicians and development-driven individuals such as first-rate engineering project manager, Mrs Aramide Monsurat Adeyoye.
Mrs. Adeyoye, a University of Lagos (UNILAG)-trained Civil Engineer, cut her professional teeth at Julius Berger Nigeria Plc in 1988 and rose through the ranks to become the multinational engineering firm’s Project Coordinator in Nigeria’s West region.
The list also parades Mrs Adetoke Benson-Awoyinka, a public-spirited legal practitioner with 30 years post call experience in Nigeria and United States. Benson-Adeyinka was among the highly skilled team of the Governor’s transition committee.
Ms Ajibola Ponnle, another nominee, is an accomplished consultant, accountant and entrepreneur, with experience in transformational and result-oriented leadership in start-ups, volunteer/member-led organisations and multinational firms. Mrs. Lola Akande and Mrs Yetunde Arobieke are seasoned politicians who will bring their individual wealth of experience to the new drive to deliver a greater Lagos.
Other women in the list, with enviable track records in public and private sector, include Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, Ms Ruth Bisola Olusanya, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, Ms. Adekemi Ajayi, Mrs. Bolaji Dada and Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, Mrs Shulamite Olufunke Adebolu and Mrs. Sholape Hammond.
Key roles for the millennial
Having joined public service as Special Adviser on Economic and Investment at his youthful age, Sanwo-Olu seemed inclined towards engaging the youth with the aim of harnessing their energy to deliver his programmes and vision.
This may have influenced the decision of the Governor to nominate four young people under the age of 37 years for cabinet-ranked positions in his government. By the time the cabinet is constituted, these four millennials will be among those that would be driving the Governor’s policies in key public sector, creating a generational shift in governance.
Olatunbosun Alake, a 35-year-old Product Development and Data Management Executive and three other young administrators will be in the cabinet to infuse youthful vigour into governance by bringing to bear his cognate experience in local and international telecommunications and innovative solutions.
Lagos continues to blaze the trail in ethno-religious diversity. The State in 1999 under former Governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu appointed non-Yoruba professionals into the Executive Council. This great feat has been sustained and almost becoming a norm. Govenor Sanwo-Olu, during the electioneering, unequivocally promised to reflect ethnic representation in his cabinet. In keeping to his word, erstwhile spokesperson for the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe and a strong grassroots politician Architect Kabiru Ahmed made it into the cabinet of Lagos State.
Following their legislative ratification by the Lagos State House of Assembly, the 38 cabinet members will be sworn in on Tuesday. With this, residents of the state will begin to witness dynamic governance being driven by fresh, energetic and passionate team of professionals drafted to the Executive Council by equally adroit game changers – Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.
Gboyega Akosile is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu