Sanwo-Olu and the pursuit of a social market economy (3)

by Abiodun Komolafe
Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Once upon a time, growing up in Lagos was akin to living in El-Dorado. Life in Igbosere Road and Lafiaji was tolerable, with good social amenities and infrastructure for the common good.  On a rather sad note however was the degeneration that became its lot due to rural-urban migration; and there was no town planning, which was more rigorous in the 1950s and the 1960s. These put immense pressure on public facilities and infrastructure to a breaking point, more or less turning the state into a looming disaster.

Well, this situation could have been foreseen by those in government but partially so as the effect caught one government after another unaware. Moving forward to the present status and style of governance, that Lagos State has done well despite population explosion and its attendant debilitating consequences, the least of which are security issues, is no longer news. Be that as it may, one of the issues that led to the ‘Lagos is no man’s land’ slogan was that #EndSARS, which once turned the state into a contested space for mass demonstrations and vociferous violence, was not addressed. Tragically, this central issue hasn’t been properly addressed, still. Therefore, Sanwo-Olu needs to rejig the people’s confidence and rebuild their trust. He needs to do more in securing the state through continuous employment, training and retraining of security personnel in technology-based crime fighting techniques and frontline operations anchored on actionable intelligence. Lagos under Sanwo-Olu must continue to identify, isolate and bring to book any criminal fraternity kingpins with a view forestalling their growth and expansion.

There were governors and there have been governors in Lagos State. On a day like this, Nigerians remember Mobolaji Johnson (1967-1975), Lateef Jakande (1979-1983), Buba Marwa (1996-1999), Bola Tinubu (1999-2007), Babatunde Fashola (2007-2015) and Akinwumi Ambode (2015-2019) for the quality of their social market interventions. But who remembers Raji Rasaki (1988-1991)? Who remembers Michael Otedola (1992-1993) beyond the melodious interpretation of his surname and the ranking of Femi, his son, as Africa’s 20th richest person by Forbes? So, Sanwo-Olu will be doing his tenure a great deal of good if he takes the noises of the marketplace for what they are: hustlers, even as he seeks more proactive ways of tackling the menace of Okada (motorcycle taxi) business owing to the danger it portends. For this class of Nigerians, things are almost getting to the boiling point and one can only hope that the governor would help change the narrative. Sanwo-Olu also needs to engage with the youths, for any policy that does not address youth restiveness in a democratic setting is not likely to fly in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos.

Still on the ‘Area Boys’, it is on record that Fashola tried to handle this menace and there was relative peace in the state but, not unexpectedly, whatever achievement that was recorded at the time went away with his government. Since our major challenge as a country and people is continuity, the government that took over from ‘Èkó ò níí bàjé’ had its own plans and that’s how Lagos missed a vital opportunity. Sanwo-Olu is now in the saddle; and, since it’s about legacy trust, a very rewarding option will be to up the ante, not slow the flow.

Let Sanwo-Olu be deeply alerted to the current security challenges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for Lagos may most certainly be the target, ultimately. Though COVID-19 ravaged the entire country, Lagos was a special case. #EndSARS was also supposed to be a nationwide thing, but we all knew what happened in Lagos. So, let the governor revolutionize security matters by investing hugely in scientific and integrated technology crime detection and prevention; and ditto for a combat-ready force, to the extent that criminals will not have a place to hide. Installation of hoods and prevention of traffic bottlenecks will also go a long way in securing lives and immovable assets in the state. Although there are challenges even in the advanced nations of the world, hardly will a criminal escape without being caught, and this is not unconnected with what they have put in place.

Lest we forget, there’s an urgent need for a review of the operations of government agencies like the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) with a view to bringing the best out of their operatives. From the look of things, it is as if there’s a disconnect between what some of these agencies represent and the real needs of Lagosians.

Presently, Nigeria stinks “in the face of hunger, deprivation and ‘no gree for anybody” and the handlers of Lagos State cannot claim that all is well with the state. So, it’s time the Sanwo-Olus of Nigeria were alive to their responsibilities. In practical terms, it’s time they handled political, economic and humanitarian bickering with care”, especially now that the ovation is still ascending.

For Lagos, building a social market economy starts with an improvement in public education and health systems. Thusly, preparing for the future must start with coding so that Nigerians can start getting computer literate at, say, age 5. This will make them competitive in, say, 20 years to come. Currently, public schools in Lagos are not up-to-speed even as it is sad to note that the state is gradually becoming a disaster zone in terms of health, education and allied social infrastructure. So, there is an urgent need for revampment.

There must also be an improvement in staff training and conditions of service in line with international best practices. In this mould is the creation of technology parks and large-scale industrial hubs, like the ones in Bangladesh, so that spaces can be allotted for light manufacturing and all sorts. Fortunately, the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state is rock solid enough to shoulder these expectations; only that it needs judicious spending. Take, for instance, if, in addition to other sources of IGR, there are 600,000 enumerated houses in Lagos, and if the state is collecting an aggregated average of N40,000.00 per house as Land Use Charge per annum, should Lagos not be like Singapore? If the signage fee also stands at N115,000.00 per board per annum, what stops Sanwo-Olu from replicating another Dubai in Lagos?

Lagos State has to develop an indigenous, long-term financing system like the defunct Western Region Finance Corporation, which was reputed for giving long-term loans and equity capital to small-scale industries because, in the true sense of it, Nigerian banks are not known to be financial intermediators. It’s time the governor reflected deeply on these possibilities. After all, no man can get up walking all at once; a few attempts will have to be made.

Lastly, Lagos, more than anywhere else, must take advantage of the electricity being out of the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. Let the state look for private sector capital for the purpose of developing electricity. Give kudos to Tinubu! Had he not been stymied by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s shortsightedness, only God knows what would have come out of the Enron experiment! But again, it is not too late! Let Sanwo-Olu update the original plan and put it into fierce urgency. Over and above all, the governor should try and invest hugely in scientific and technological advancements that will make him unforgettable in Nigeria’s politics to the extent that even the national government will make Lagos State a reference point. Thank God he still has the sentiments of time on his side!

‘Ìgbéga Ìpínlè Èkó, àjùmòse gbogbo wa ni!’

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!



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