Where does one begin? That this governor does not harass us the citizens with daily wail of sirens like his thirty-five other counterparts cannot wait to do? That this governor always seems to be able to engage Nigerians as adult in a conversation, be it an admonishment to attentive followership or need to enhance education? That for the first time since Chief Obafemi Awolowo delivered his now epochal valedictory address (one for the record books) in the 1959 valedictory sitting of the Western Region; a leader can actually list concrete achievements that are not white elephant projects?
Take a read at Governor Fashola’s 2009 budget address (the same budget was adjudged to have 73% performance; far cry from thirty percent awarded to the Federal Government). In my living memory, I cannot for the life of me think about reading twenty pages or more of a governor’s speech given the sheer propaganda and sloganeering that is usually the lot of most. Usually budget reading is a tradition for governors to obfuscate their real act in government i.e. looting the people’s fund.
However, this was a different budget address. This budget sounded like melody in my ears and sure sends rhythmic thrills down my legs! Containing clear, linked and achievable plans- one cannot argue with the vision of the presenter, the brilliance of his mind and above all the soundness of his policies. Certainly, the fact that Lagos State website is functional, up to date and is pleasant to behold is an upfront affirmation of the progressive leadership at its top.
Is it his proposal to abolish the multiple property tax system that see citizens pay disparately (or evade as most do) to multiple agencies different fees, levies and tenement rates? Of course, his proposal to have a unified property tax system for Lagos makes absolute sense. Why did it take so long is what we should be asking? But I guess in a country where out of the box thinking is a rarity; such is the lot of stale policies! Speaking of taxes, one cannot argue with the achievement of his government, building on that of his predecessor – Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu (of worthy mention), that is now accruing a whooping one billion dollars a month.
One cannot but commend a governor that does not see “job creation” as just a compulsory slogan for propaganda documents that keeps the government press busy. Here is a governor that is able to list to the last estimated number, the people employed by his novel policies and project the countless multiplicity effect of such on the state’s economy.
And forget about an address or the ability of the governor to read a beautiful speech, look at the pictures. Visit Lagos and see for yourselves how this once “urban jungle” is turning to the pride of Nigeria, a true center of excellence and a magnet for youthful talent, energy and enterprise. Who doesn’t like a good thing? The fresh new classrooms, beautiful modern clinics, new fire fighting engines and vehicles, new market centers and the new city hall are potent testimonies to the can do spirit of the state of Lagos. The beautiful streets of Victoria Island, the ocean wall of bar beach, the rising sands of Atlantic city, the coastal and Badagry expressways that is slowly taking shape, and the beautified CMS Marina, Oshodi (oh Oshodi!) and Yaba areas are testimonies to a “can do” leadership.
All these of course cannot be possible without the cooperation of Lagos state residents, whom in the words of the governor have paid their taxes, have volunteered their time, have obeyed the rules and borne the burden of development. Those transient residents that land through our airports (speaking as a land owner) should please obey the rules: especially the traffic ones, lest our state police (sorry, LATSMA) descend on your wallet.
Beyond these infrastructural achievements, what delights me the most are the intangibles. The education agreement that will see a World Bank grant turning around the fortune of Lagos schools; the focus of children healthcare especially with the opening of the ultra-modern Ahmed Tinubu Pediatric Hospital; or is it the ongoing reforms in the court systems that is seeing to the continued renovation of courts that started under Tinubu at the high court level and is now extending to the magistrate court levels. Even now, magistrate courts are set to open on Saturdays! Can you imagine that? A governor actually cares about law and order, and does not buy guns but instead equips the judiciary? Are we sure this guy is Nigerian?
By the way, I have one question for the Governor. When will he promise and actually fail? Is there no credit crunch and recession in Lagos? I mean, the guy promised to start a light rail system this year and he is on track to deliver! Now we understand the red and blue line are already under construction, with lines being cleared and shovel ready for the concessionaire for the blue route. This thing has been promised since the days of Baba Kekere by every successive governor, including 1-inch coal tar laying Marwa, and no show! Suddenly like a magic wand, the Guv is set to deliver. Even the water jetty based water transport system that was supposed to have eased our transportation since the 80s is suddenly getting some life in them.
Gone are the days of scrappy Texas Connection, Lagos is getting new and ultra-modern jetties and ferries to better utilize her vast waterways. Even the Mass Transit (BRT and LAGBUS) website is functional. Of course one must appreciate the governor’s move to set up a refinery to free Lagos from the economic shackles of federal mandated monopolies and profiteers, continually sabotaging the oil that grease the wheels of her economy.
While he is at it, can Lagos start making plans for an alternative independent grid that will free us from the shackles of federal corruptocracy and dramatic inefficiency? Clean wind energy, and nuclear power hold the clearest promise to transform Lagos appetite for power. Twenty GW of juice will spur countless economic benefits whose reward we can only reap in more tax revenues and increased services.
Of course the governor can do more, but that will make me into an Oliver Twist. For even developed world standard, his plate is fuller by every standard than President Obama’s i.e. the all doing President. The governor can pay more attention to our state prisons, he can move the ball farther on quality health care for adults, and he can force the hand of local governments to improve the quality of trunk-C roads that connect our neighborhoods. Security can generally be improved upon; we still have ways to go.
It is also true that regardless of the achievement of this governor, this is still Nigeria. His political
detractors are already strategizing. They are working through the higher echelons of federal power. Within his own party, they are scheming. The vanquished PDP is reeling like a wounded lion seeking revenge. They will concoct up terms and terminologies, but will the people allow them to prevail?
For a man that lives by the spirit and letter of Awoism, Eko o ni baje! Mr. Governor, go on soun!
“The aim of a leader should be the welfare of the people whom he leads. I
have used ‘welfare’ to denote the physical, mental and spiritual
well-being of the people”- Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1967)