Gov. Sanwo-Olu: A Timely Balancing Force in Cosmopolitan Lagos City
By Prof. Ojo Emmanuel ADEMOLA
Lagos (as a derivative of the constitutionally created State of Lagos) is peculiar in many respects and can be signed-post as a micro Nigeria. In population and diversity, it’s about a tenth of Nigeria’s uncertified 200 Million people (population wise) for the Fulanis/Hausas’ North East (NE) and North West (NW); Igbos’ South East (SE); the Ijaws/Itsekiris/Ibibios’ South-South (SS); the Tivs/Agatus’ North Central (NC), and the entirety of the Yoruba race of the South West in their numbers (SW). In the composition of the race-settlers therein, Lagos can be likened to the present Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja with clear distinction for the aborigines, and this is both historically and politically induced.
Pre and post-independence, Lagos has been the seat of the Federal Authorities for the administrative running of the entire Country, combining the status with the commercial/economic nerve centre of the Nation. Again, the business primus of the State is natural, divinely accorded because of its location to the largest seaport in the sub-region. No wonder, it’s right described as the “Aquatic Centre of Excellence”. Thus, Lagos is home to the aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, the bureaucrats, the technocrats, the capitalists in commerce, the low/ medium/high-income earners, and to a larger extent, the masses in their different classifications (petty traders, hawkers, ‘agberos’, the urchins, ‘area boys’, etc). And as a mantra, we can say: “Our Lagos, and their Lagos”, echoing the cosmopolitan nature that the State has acquired over time. Lasisi Olagunju, PhD, in a classic article published recently (Monday 13th March 2023) in the Nigerian Tribunes Newspaper gave a similar position:
“Lagos is forever viable, metropolitan and successful not just because of its coastal assets and its huge population. Its diversity and rainbow demographics are its greatest allure”.
In modern political administrative sophistry and setting, Lagos has been ahead of other bustling States of the Federation, and this is systemically expected. It has been gleaned from the Colonialists who rode shore and above the traditional authorities of the past era, and thankfully passed on the baton to the local leaders. The earlier Administrators are essentially the aborigines (of mostly the Yourba extraction) and were uniquely learned, tutored and exposed in outlook. Buttressing this assertion, Olagunju, PhD, in his piece titled, “The Scramble For Lagos”, quoted Professor Akin Mabogunje extensively over the rightful landlords/ownership/authorities of the traditional Lagos shortly after independence in 1960 thus:
“In his University of London PhD dissertation (1961), Mabogunje established profoundly that the Yoruba were in clear occupation and ownership of Lagos of that era of innocence. Pauline Baker cited Mabogunje copiously in her ‘Urbanization and Political Change: The Politics of Lagos, 1917-1967’ published in 1974. Donatus Okpala, years later, cited both Mabogunje and Baker while tracing the “ethnic origins of landlords in Lagos residential areas, 1960.” This is well laid out on page 39 of Okpala’s doctoral thesis submitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in January 1977. As of 1961, the whole of Idumagbo, Ebutte-Ero and Idunshagbe was 100 per cent owned by Yoruba groups with Lagosians, Egba and Ijebu producing about 90 per cent of the landlords there. Lands in Ebute Metta East and West, Isalegangan-Aroloya, Idumota-Alakoro, Offin-Itolo, Olowogbowo, Ereko-Agarawu, Araromi and Yaba East were also 100 per cent owned by the Yoruba. Epetedo and Surulere were 93 per cent Yoruba; Mushin and Shomolu were 92 per cent Yoruba. Ojuelegba was 80 per cent. The Lagos area with the least number of Yoruba landlords was Obalende where Yoruba landowners were just 52 per cent of the whole. This figure was made up of Lagosians, nine per cent; Egba, six per cent; Ijebu, 13 per cent, and other Yoruba groups 23 per cent. The balance was made up of Igbo, 13 per cent; other Nigerians, three per cent while non-Nigerians held 33 per cent of Obalende land”.
Notably, that was the story of the past over 60 years plus, and much has since changed that the configuration of Lagos land ownership today cannot be truthfully said to be the same. But the how and why are yet another discourse for another day. What’s more, whatever is developing as current demographics can never invalidate the valid existence of over a millennium of history regarding the rightful landlords, ownership and authorities of the traditional Lagos.
For now, the successful political administrative management of the tribally blended mixture of the cosmopolitan Lagos is of interest, and needs to be examined; one that calls for a historical excursion into the successive power transitions (at least) from 1999 when the democratically elected players assumed the leadership roles after the military interregnum. This academic x-ray and analytic cannot be divulged from the assumption of office by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), his exploits and achievements; who not only, 24 years ago, consolidated robustly on the legacies of the past Administrators of Lagos, but went on to lay a solid foundation for what is referred to as “New Lagos, or Modern Lagos”. It’s a vision that has expanded in structure, size, manpower/capacity building, infrastructural renewals, policies upgrade, etc for the entirety of Lagos and its neighbourhood. It’s a vision that has been modified from time to time, meeting the challenges of a “Mega Lagos”, and allowing for greater opportunities for its inhabitants, both foreign and local. It’s a vision that has been translated into a Masterplan, executed brilliantly by successive administrations of Governors Babatunde Raji Fashola (2007 – 2015), Akinwunmi Ambode (2015 – 2019), and recently, Babajide Sanwo-Olu -BSO- (2019 – 2023). It is aptly to say that Asiwaju’s master plan for Lagos follows essentially Awolowo’s infrastructural development blueprint of the spiral effect associated with the MPH formulas of Singapore.
A cursory assessment of key performance indexes (KPIs) of each of the stated administrations shows that they have been spectacular, and indeed the current tenure of BSO has been icing on the cake in terms of democratic dividends for Lagos citizens in many respects.
For one, Gov Sanwo-Olu (BSO) has brought into bear a rich heritage of civil service experience that is second to none in Lagos State Administration. A leader with a corporate background in banking as Treasurer, Lead Merchant Bank; Head, Foreign Markets, UBA, and Deputy General Manager (DGM), FCMB, BSO was well grounded for the task of governing the cosmopolitan State of Lagos. In 2003 when he was made the Special Assistant Corporate Matters in Lagos State Civil Service, BSO quickly imbibed the rudimentary of managing public life, and then began an upward journey towards the ladder, becoming the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in 2007; Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions; the Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Development Property Corporation and lastly, the Pioneer Chairman, Lagos State Security Trust Funds before he emerged the Executive Governor in 2019. So, credentials and experience-wise, BOS has the inbuilt capacities to run the affairs of a cosmopolitan Lagos. It’s, therefore no surprise that within a pace of four (4) years, he’s excelling and vertically outperforming his contemporaries, managing the huge human and material resources of the State exemplarily, and earning the awards of the ‘Best Governor of the Year’ on two (2) consecutive times.
Secondly, realising the peculiarities of Lagos State in terms of Infrastructural needs, Gov Sanwo-Olu effectively moved to open up major trucks A, B and C roads to manage the transportation requirements of a Mega City. These roads are put in thousands of kilometres across the length and breadth of the 20 Local Government Areas in the State and are enhancing the ease of doing business generally. With a population rearing over 20 Million, the need to deepen the road infrastructure with integrated transports of metro rails and inland waterways received a huge boost from his Administration. More than ever before, it’s easier and more effective to crisscross the Lagos metropolis today via waterways, reducing the man-hours waste on the hitherto densely Lagos traffic.
Thirdly, during Gov Sanwo-Olu’s out-going term, low, medium and upper housing schemes were given accelerated attention to cater for the deficits in the sector. The urban and semi-urban areas of the State have been turned into huge housing estates construction, and the real estate development has been accorded a pride of place in the economic growth of the State.
Fourthly, the health sector of the State has been rejuvenated into modernity such that both private and public players see new avenues to cater for the health needs of the citizens. Of interest here is the effectiveness of primary healthcare services at the local level.
Fifthly, the Administration of Gov. Sanwo-Olu gives undiluted attention to capacity building of the Civil Servants in the State being the nerve centre of service rendition. The Lagos State Civil Service had been adjudged one of the best-configured and motivated forces in the Country.
In the area of job/ employment generation particularly for the teaming youths of the State, Gov Sanwo-Olu has surpassed expectations, opening up massive opportunities in the untapped technological fields to the State’s advantage. The concept of a ‘Smart City’ built on digital innovation has assumed greater dimensions in the State (clustering in all corners as Computer Hubs), and the population of the youths is relating to the breakthrough faster than imagine. The generation of empowerment is also aided by the State’s Government Initiative in agribusiness. The recent commissioning of the Rice Mill Plant in Imota, (a suburb of Ikorodu Division in Lagos State), the largest on the West Coast, is an attestation of Gov Sanwo-Olu’s zeal to gainfully employ the cross sections of people. Similar job creation projects are earmarked for the Badagry and Lekki axis of the State.
With the major push for private sector participation in the economic development of the State, the administration of Sanwo-Olu has continued to provide an enabling environment for the investors (local and foreign) to tap into the great investment opportunities in the State. The recently commissioned Lekki Seaport and the Dangote Refinery (one of the largest in the world) eloquently affirm the projections to turn the State into a huge industrial estate.
Understanding the perspectives that developmental goals are time-phased, the future tasks are to turn the adjoining suburbs (grassroots) into mini smart entities to achieve all-around growth of the State. In the phased plans ahead, all the major Divisions of Lagos (Badagry, Epe/Lekki, Ikorodu, Ikeja, Shomolu and Egbeda) will be placed on an auto-pilot drive for integration. In his current Manifesto of “Rising Star”, Gov Sanwo-Olu promises a renewed acceleration of developmental plans in the next four (4) years, believing that the emergence of Lagos State into the league of world-class cities can no longer be delayed. It’s one major reason for a single-minded re-election of Sanwo-Olu’s Administration to become essentially germane. Overall, the continuity agenda of BSO will strengthen to ensure that the dividends of democracy are solidly at the grassroots and across all the fabrics of the cosmopolitan development of Lagos State for all Lagosians.
Generally, when one considers the giant strides that have been recorded in all sectors of the State lately (all within a short span of three (3) plus) and the enormous plans ahead to gravitate towards a modern-model City, there is that compelling reason to ascribe Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as a timely balancing force in re-configuring the cosmopolitan Lagos to the better advantages of all and sundry, either aborigines or foreigners. Against the foregoing backgrounds, it’s in the best interest of progressive continuity, consolidation, growth and development of Lagos State that Gov Sanwo-Olu’s Administration MUST be retained, supported and propelled to deliver on all mandates beyond 2023.
Prof Ojo Emmanuel ADEMOLA is a distinguished and foremost strategic political analyst and a global Cyber Security technocrat