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Super Governor The changing Face of Lagos from the mind of Mr Fashola !

A first time visitor to Lagos cannot but be overwhelmed or lose sight of the new air of physical developmental initiatives pervading this megalopolis. Entering through northern tip of Ogun state, the weather begins to shine brighter as soon as you see the sign: "welcome to Lagos." From there, you begin to see signs of massive road expansion; from there you begin to notice the deliberate beautification exercise that has begun to give the city an alluring face-lift. From there you begin to see LAMATA men and women with broom, constantly sprucing up Lagos.

From there you begin to notice sweat-immersed faces of LASTMA men and women on duty - directing and controlling traffic. From there you begin to see that a deliberate attention has begun to be paid to the road median hitherto neglected. This, I guess is the beautification aspect of it. Road medians that had hitherto been overrun by dirt have now been cleared. In their former places have emerged a conscious and concerted tree and flower-planting program. The beauty of it all is that as it is on the island, so it is on every part of the mainland.

If you are a seasoned skeptic, you will say to yourself, "Let's wait and see." Yes, wait and see until you take your time to get into Isale-Eko or Shibiri area of Lagos - to notice that this wonder boy of Lagos developmental initiative - Babatunde Fashola - is serious. That he is not fluke and that he is dead serious in conducting an even-handed development initiative for the people of Lagos State.

Population wise, reports after reports have ranked Lagos as one of the world's fastest growing cities. Official Nigeria national census figure says that Lagos is around about 8 million people. The Lagos State government says it is not true - that the population of Lagos should be in the neighborhood of 17 million people.

Although the United Nations' figure says something different in between, there can, no doubt be, that Lagos' population is stratospherically increasing even as we write. With burgeoning population (8 per cent as against conventional 2 per cent annual growth), come natural attendant developmental needs to match the numbers in this unique population growth. Regrettably, over the years, however, what successive administrations have done to Lagos could at best be described as a mere scratch on the city's monumental infrastructural developmental problems. In the area of infrastructural development, Lagos did not get it. The result is that over an accumulated time, the city-state became one of the world's dirtiest industrial cities.

New Lagos BRT - Transportation system

New VI - Ajose Adeogun Street

Under heavy infrastructural collapse or the lack of it, social service delivery in the state suffered untold neglect. Dirt overwhelmed everywhere; the environment was polluted, leading to environmental enhanced diseases amongst its inhabitants. Urban transportation became and is still a residents' nightmare as traffic congestion, mob rule by the ill trained private transport owners seized Lagos. Communication was a nightmare as housing and urban development retarded in the face of increasing population.

However, from available numbers in the books and empirical observable evidence, it looks like Lagos is changing. If you have lived in Lagos or has visited this past ten years or less, you must then be my soul mate as we stand up to acknowledge the tremendous changes that are taking place. We must stand up to applaud the man who has single handedly been instrumental to the monumental infrastructural changes that have occurred and continues to occur in Lagos even as we write.

The face behind this massive infrastructural rebirth of Lagos is no other than Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. His mission is encapsulated in the slogan: Eko oni baje - Lagos will not go under. Although, the self-effacing Governor - the architect behind this and his technicians seldom reminds people that there is a human face to the rapid changes taking place, in Lagos, it is important that he knows that some people are taking note, at least from the sidelines.

This brings me to the second segment of the caption of my essay - The New Face of Imo. Have you been to Imo State recently? Better still, have you been to Owerri, the Imo State capital recently? If you lived in Owerri or any part of Imo state this past nine years, (and I want you to be candid about this), have you not seen that Owerri, the Imo State capital has experienced and is still experiencing a robust make-over? Nevertheless, if you have not been to Imo of late and you want a sneak preview of what's been up in Imo, the eastern heartland, wait for this.

A huge infrastructural development and regeneration is going in Imo state. And, the man behind this larger than life developmental initiative is Governor Ikedi Ohakim. Infrastructural development and social mobilization of Imo state is akin to that commercial jingle made popular by the telecommunications giant named Glo: Imo is glowing, everywhere you go!

Parts of New Owerri

You are welcome to Lagos

Permit me to say that I am at a vantage position to look at what I have seen on the physical developmental grounds of Lagos and Imo dispassionately. I am from Imo. I was raised in Lagos. I now live in the United States, though I have been a frequent visitor these past years. I have seen the two states at the worst and have seen the two at their developmental nadir. I have seen Imo State under Mbakwe and I have seen Imo State under Udenwa. I have seen Lagos under Jakande and I have seen Lagos under Mudashiru. I have seen them all.

Now, if Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and his Imo State counterpart - Governor Ikedi Ohakim were to be Americans, by now either would have been getting ready to be the next president or vice president of the United States. If the two young men were of the same age or from the same ethnic background, one would have been tempted to say that they were a siemens twin, who from the word, go, were raised together and groomed for leadership or that they had a shared secret plan for Nigeria.

In truth, however, the two are separated by biological circumstances, ethnic origins and geographical location in the larger geopolitical land space named Nigeria. For sure, the two look like they are iconoclasts. The two are young and vibrant. Can't you see? The two are awesome. Leading me to reason that if what we are seeing is not a temporary success designed for the political gallery (and we hope not), then Nigeria is in for a good harvest of alternative leadership choices, come next presidential election season. The irony though, is that none of this two performing governors belongs to the ruling party - the Peoples Democratic Party - PDP.

One does not know and may never know what has shaped the individual lives of this all-conquering twosome and or of their relative personal experiences to prepare them for what they are now doing. One may never know what carved this trajectory of "can do spirit" from the twosome. Must confess. What I, as a person know about the twosome, are those I managed to glean from the pages of newspapers, the larger media and of course the internet where you can find their scanty resumes. That Babatunde Fashola is a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and that Governor Ohakim, his Imo State counterpart, is a finished technocrat, a solid MBA and a PhD candidate could be the clue. But, they are not the first in the country to parade such fine credentials. So we must keep looking for the secret behind their can do spirits' disposition, where others before them faltered or failed.

Passing through Ore in Ondo State, Nigeria

TOn the Way to Ore-Benin Federal Road

Could it then be in their age? While Fashola just turned forty-five or is, approaching forty-six, his Imo state counter part just turned fifty and or is approaching fifty-one. It is of significance to note that this is the same age bracket that has produced some of the finest leaders, the developed world has known - Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, JF Kennedy, Barack Obama to name a few. While Fashola presides over a state that by conservative estimate is over 12 million in population and has existed for over forty years, Imo's population is under five million. The state has existed for about thirty years. While Lagos is a megalopolis, you can say with some degree of certainty that Imo is somewhat provincial. No, I meant to say that my state Imo is in the heartland of Eastern Nigeria.

When you look at the two young governors, therefore, what you see is, a promising and dynamic hopeful future, sprawling in front of them, pleading to humanity, that is, the Nigerian political humanity saying, "Please come use us." In certain democracies that I know, the arrangement would by now have gotten to advanced stage where the one that would be president between them would have been determined. The other would still be relevant and or automatically qualifies as the other's vice or at best, be assured, of a very important cabinet position - as Hillary Clinton would soon be.

Let me start with Governor Fashola. Some may argue that this young man inherited a development foundation solidly laid by his predecessor Governor Bola Tinubu whom he was his Chief of Staff. Yes, while it is possible that, that position gave him the privilege of understudying his former boss, it could arguably be inferred that he might in fact have been the brain behind some of the great achievements of his former boss. It is also possible that during the eight unbroken years of the Bola Tinubu administration, a lot of spadework was quietly put in motion, (it now appears), to turn the fortunes of Lagos around. No wonder, Fashola hit a well-prepared ground, running from day one after May 29, 2007.

On May 29 2008 - one year after the governors' assumed office, a national daily, using whatever indices, awarded eleven governors' performance scorecard, above average. In that category, it is significant to note that the same newspaper recognized Ohakim and Fashola as first and second amongst equals. Then recently, Governor Ohakim was in Ghana, to receive yet another award by the West African Students' body. We have seen from experience in Nigeria that awards are the cheapest commodity out there now for anybody. However, we the watching public also know merited and deserved honors when we see them bestowed on deserving Nigerians.


To MM airport Ikeja - Lagos

In Lagos, it is something, like a developmental hurricanes sweeping across the land. From Ebute-Ero to Ebute Meta, to Ikorodu. From Victoria Island to Isheri, from Badagry to Kosofe to Lekki, the physical developmental of Lagos is continuous, robust and palpable. The air is abuzz with transformational initiatives. This, I am told has been encapsulated in the Lagos Mega Plan initiative of the Babatunde Fashola administration.

Take the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) initiative of Babatunde R. Fashola (BRF). I do not know where he got the idea, which I pooh-poohed when his agents were "recklessly" marking and destroying parts of the unexpanded roads - of Lagos - from Ikorodu to Lagos Island. Nevertheless, when BRT was launched, it was an instant success. In fact, it worked so well that reports came in that the governments of Ghana and other countries have sent powerful delegation to come and understudy it. I ate my words, which had hitherto, been colored in skepticism.

Conscious of the fact that transportation has been the biggest headache for metropolitan Lagos, the young governor right there hit the bull's eye by targeting that sector as a matter of priority. Now, most parts of Lagos, who have not benefited or are not benefiting from the BRT initiative, are begging the governor and his team to please "come over to Macedonia." With this has brought a collateral developmental fervor. Road construction and reconstruction are going on at the same pace in every part of Lagos. "Recently, the papers reported that the government of Lagos has signed a $220 billion contract to turn the Lagos/Badagry expressway into a 10 lane freeway. Even, the Lagos metro rail project, which had been in the back burner for ages, is now about taking off.

What of Lagos State's health care delivery initiative? This, under Fashola has also received a huge boost. The other day, Governor Fashola himself, visited a government run hospital incognito to assess things for himself. There, according to reports, he had an eye full, which we need not recount here, for lack of space. In Lagos, there are mobile ambulances that serve as mobile/emergency health care centers. I have seen them at Mile 2 and Anthony Oke. I have also seen them somewhere on the Lagos Island. I have only seen this type of health care delivery methods on the streets of the United States and other developed economies of the world. I have also seen meat vendors now transport their wares in semi-refrigerated wagons - all deliberate efforts by the Fashola administration to make the people of the state enjoy dirt-free meat delivery services. This is innovative. Flash your mind way, way back when reckless meat vendors ferried their cargo using the most unsightly methods.

What he is doing in Lagos is similar to what the Franklin D Roosevelt administration did for America with his Public Work Administration initiative of the 1940s. I was so amazed and enthralled when a friend of mine told me that BRF studied at the University of Benin, Nigeria and may not have been directly or indirectly influenced by the policies of FDR and his New Deal policies of his time. With beautiful and appropriate acronyms, which the FDR administration adopted, the BRF administration of Lagos is blazing similar magnificent trail in innovation and programms with beautiful acronyms that will stand the test of time.

Beautification of Lagos

Through The Niger Bridge

Tree planting which is the hallmark of any environmentally friendly personality is taking deep roots everywhere you looked at, in Lagos. Road expansion is going on everywhere you looked. Rail transportation development - all part of the multi-modal transportation development of the sate that also include dredging of the Lagos canal for effective water transportation. If you have not been to Lagos, lately, go to Lagos now, to see it yourself. One is only hoping that this frenzied organized developmental initiative would endure. One is only hoping that the zeal is not sabotaged. Is Babatunde Raji Fashola from our corner of the planet? Only time will tell.

A piece of Advice to Fashola: can it be possible that some of the reconstruction and construction works presently being performed during the day be conveniently done at night?

Governor Ikedi Ohakim is even more enigmatic. Whereas, Governor Babatunde Fashola may have inherited a solid foundation on the development of Eko, from a previous administration in which he served as Chief of Staff to the Governor, Governor Ikedi Ohakim is building a new Imo from the scratch - thus - his "New Face of Imo" slogan. Not since De Sam Mbakwe has, Imo witnessed an orchestrated, genuine effort at a blissful rebirth.

According to information derived from the official website of Imo State, the New Face of Imo Agenda is summarized in this feisty philosophy: "aimed at transforming Imo State into a secured, modern model state with strong diversified manufacturing and tourism-based economy, anchored on the emerging skills, and mid-wifed by science and technology with guaranteed employment opportunities."

Visit Owerri, the Imo Stat capital and see work in progress and wonders in motion. This was the Owerri, which in more than twenty-five years, suffered under the putrid stench of neglect and deprivation. This was the Owerri - the capital city of Eastern heartland, which had hitherto, been turned into a refuse dumping city. This Owerri suffered under the weight of humiliating successive mal-administrations.

When Ohakim stepped in, he decided to begin first with, sweeping clean, the dirt-infested city. To this end, he ordered through his (Environmental Agency) the dismantling of all the shacks and illegal structures that dotted the city and state. Thereafter, he banned Okada (motorcycle) drivers from operating in certain parts of the Owerri metropolis. To smoothen the pain on the average Okada rider and user in Owerri, Ohakim introduced a functioning intra-city transport service. To actualize this, he flooded the city with luxury buses - its own version of a BRT. He then followed with affordable taxi-system, which now has spread, to other cities in the East - Port Harcourt and recently, Enugu. Governor Ikedi Ohakim began a road expansion network that has given Owerri, the much-needed breathing space under which other goodies would follow.

Imo Job Centre

Opening up the hinterland - Imo State

Rural parts of Imo we learnt have not been left out under the Ohakim administration development programs. Imo Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA) is busy opening up villages with new rural or old roads some of which have been hitherto clogged and or overgrown with weeds. Launching the venture the other day, the able governor said his aim was to bring back the old method where members of the Public Works Department - PWD worked diligently to beautify every nook and cranny of Imo.

Now remember, that unlike Lagos where Fashola was a chief of staff in a government that served two terms, Ohakim started the rebuilding of Owerri from the scratch. He destroyed shacks that dotted the streets of Owerri and thereby restored its diminishing topography. Ohakim sent the notorious timber shed packing and promised that a better edifice would rise from its former place. Not done, within a year of ascending office, Ohakim has opened up road networks in several parts of the state using his environmental sanitation agency as his springboard. Uncoordinated erection of billboards has been banned; old and unauthorized ones have been removed.

Roads into Owerri and roads out of it are being dualised. Education, I learnt has received a shot in the arm as redundant and dead wood teachers have been replaced by well-trained teachers. An Education Development committee has been set up to address and redress the education problems of Imo State.

Now, all this have happened within one year and half of Ohakim's stay in office. At this pace, the developmental initiative of the Ohakim administration would have definitely reached every nook and cranny of the state within the shortest possible period.

The industrialist in Ohakim is seen everywhere as he has within a short period resuscitated industries that had seemed until now moribund. The Standard Shoes Industries Limited is one of such and the, Adapalm, another. It is also on record that the young governor has entered into agreement with such countries as China and Malaysia, for industrial development of Imo State - only in less than eighteen months he got onto the saddle of Imo leadership. What then do we expect when and if Ohakim stayed for full term in office?

So let the battles begin. Let a new Nigeria rise from the vision of these two young and dynamic governors who were groomed, trained and produced by Nigeria. Let us eschew ethnicity, tribe, geo-political balancing and begin to look at them up close if they could be the elusive messiah that would come to rescue Nigeria - the next presidential election time.

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Comment by DANIEL EDOBOR on May 18, 2009 at 11:39pm
Comment by ASUNI OLANREWAJU SAHEED on May 18, 2009 at 9:13am
This is greatest man in lagos......God we help you 2 do the rest....Governor BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA you are born to be great
Comment by skibochi on May 16, 2009 at 6:59pm
Fasola is doig a wonderful job a can be seen and i think this can be replicated in other states if the political will is there....this is not rocket science at al, this is just will power to turn things around....God bless him indeed
Comment by mikky adisa on May 15, 2009 at 2:56pm
God will help our governor fashola to continue the good work in lagos state.
Comment by ugoji K on May 14, 2009 at 1:02pm
I went to Nigeria in November, 2007. Then the Port Harcourt Airport was closed for repairs so, I had to fly from Lagos to Owerri and then drive to Port Harcourt by road. My observations and experiences between these two cities are worth making here - Lagos and Owerri were: my journey from Lekki to the Lagos local airport was harrowing; traffic jams at every exit points of major roads. Anxious to get to the airport on time for my flight, I asked the driver to take a detour. The driver informed me we could not take alternative roads as the state government only concentrated in the repairs of the major ones and not the side roads. If you look left and right from the major roads into the side roads, you see appauling dillapidation; and rot everywhere. When the traffic finally moved, rickety vehicles were moving at such speed they became weapons of death on four wheels. When we finally arrived at the Local airport, we spent another 2 hours in the local airport in Lagos waiting for the flight to depart for Owerri.
Owerri airport was a disappointment. A shark rather than an entrance to a state capital was what greeted us. The most amusing thing happened during my musings outside the airport lounge; a top range SUV mercedes arrived to pickup one of my co passengers. The estimated cost of the said vehicle can be put at 25Million Naira. To run and maintain this vehicle in Nigeria can be put at N1million a month. From my enquiries I discovered that the man who owned the vehicle was a senator representing a constituent in Imo state.
As we left owerri airport heading for port harcourt, we went through appauling sights as we kept loosing our way out of owerri town; owerri town was one heap of gabbage dumps, potholes and puddles.
I used to have this image my father and mother painted about Owerri town; my first 3 years of life was spent in this town - a metropolitan and serene town that the first nigerian geological draughtsman for Shell oil company settled with his young family. My fathers first mode of transport I was told was a bicycle. Can anybody tell us what owerri town look like in the early 1960s?
Another place I had some memory of was in lagos where I went to primary school. We used to live a complete house in yaba before the civil war. My immediate younger sister went to a nursery school while I went to a primary school about two hours away in victoria Island. Sometime after school, before the driver arrived to take me home I used to walk back through well paved and clean roads all the way back home. I cannot recall going into anywhere anytime in lagos without electricity. The civil war broke out and my father sent us back to Port Harcourt; my home state.
It was in Port Harcourt I first heard a gun shot. After this we seem to be running deeper and deeper into the bush trying to avoid the Biafrian and Nigerian Army. My family ended up in Uguta and was staying with relatives for the duration of the War. I was 5 years old when the war finally ended in 1967. The impact of that civil war will remain with me till the day I pass on. My place of birth was Kano.
The reason I brought these things up was that what makes our society rich is our diversity. This divide and rule culture by ethnicity is isolating Nigerians from knowing, living and working with other ethnic groups of our country in their place of origin. Some primary school children today now think say kano is a place in USA. The list can be endless if you look. And we may be heading straight to a situation where this time Nigeria will split into several ethnically based Countries; 6 if we are lucky.
The battle to save Nigeria can only begin if we can rid us of these so called experts and replace them with Nigerians who will do our job properly and patriotically and save us loosing so much foreign exchange. In order to achieve this in a shot time, anytime companies employ an expert he or she must be understudied by a Nigerian. If there is an opening in the company, the company must be required to check if there is a Nigerian anywhere in the world that can do the job. If there is no one, the job should first be offered to the expert already in the country on a permanent basis otherwise on a contract basis for a maximum of 2 years during which time he is understudied by a Nigerian. After which, the expert must leave unless he have something new to give in another position a Nigerian is not available to fill. Every job done by an expertrate must be understudied by a Nigerian no matter the duration of the job. If we fail to do this all the work being done by say these two state governments will come to nothing when those foreign companies pack up and go. I hope our lawmakers are listening. God bless Nigeria and these two Governors.
Comment by Joke on May 14, 2009 at 1:02pm
This is very beautiful. God will help Governor Fashola to continue the good work in Lagos State.
Comment by Paul Agiopu on May 14, 2009 at 12:59pm
Well done Gov. Fashola. Where is there is will, there is always a way. Impossibilty is an extinct word today. This is why the centre must be weak. Give power to the states and let the nation move. Then, we will not have these mind boggling looting and corruption assaultining our collective psyche every day. Yesterday was Cross River, today is Lagos, Akwa Ibom, we are watching. We hope the Northern Governors are taking cue?
Comment by chinwuko victor on May 14, 2009 at 11:17am
Comment by Allan ramsey on May 14, 2009 at 8:56am
I love what is happening in Nigeria and wish tovisit it soon
Comment by Temi Atse on May 14, 2009 at 8:43am
Indeed the man is a miracle worker. But let us ask ourselves, what are we doing to assist him and the hard working men and women in his cabinet to make this change a long and lasting one?




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