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Fashola and the quest for Lagos transformation

I reside in Topo, Badagry and work in Lagos Island; an hour and fifteen minutes of stress free journey, in BRT from the spectacular Plaza…

I reside in Topo, Badagry and work in Lagos Island; an hour and fifteen minutes of stress free journey, in BRT from the spectacular Plaza station in Badagry at precisely 6.45a.m, to the amazingly transformed mega stations at CMS, is all that I need to resume work on my desk at exactly 8.00a.m.

Happy to be a citizen of Lagos- During the day she is bright, bold,  boisterous and beautiful and at night it is glittering, seductive and alive; it is an alluring city and a true paradise; each day on my comfortable ride in BRT, I marveled as I savour the countless gardens of attractive flowers and fountain, and  the millions of tree that bounded each sides of the network of the city’s smooth wide roads, an amazing endless stretch of green colour, a vision of  natural canopy providing  shade to the succour and satisfaction of the  thousands of passers byes on sidewalks paved with dazzling multi-coloured interlocking bricks. In the last 700 days in Lagos, electricity supply has not ceased for a second. Do I hear you exclaimed Whoa!

Lagos is a wonder designed to conveniently accommodate its over 20 million citizens. Towns, such as Agbara, Iba, Mile 2 and Apapa along the route have truly evolved into magnificent well laid out conglomeration of cities; the countless bridges, millennium pedestrian flyovers, loops, underground tunnels, rail lines, magnificent fountains, sparkling gardens, stunning malls and plaza, the five star hotels and resorts centres, the stunning palm font lined beaches are delight to tourists; and, each day, after feasting my eyes on these spectacles, I would have been refreshed  and energised enough to apply myself maximally in the contribution to the daily development of Lagos.

Reflecting on the changes that have taken place in Lagos in the last 13 years, I am always amazed on the limitless possibilities of human potential and how purposeful leadership could transform seemingly impossible dreams to reality.

 This is March 2011 and we are in the last 100 days of the first term of Fashola’s administration. For those of us who  have been around in the last three years and 10 months, changes come, a mile a minute,  one day at a time and we naturally adopt and adapt to the humane condition with heart full of pride; for those who came back to Lagos after sojourning abroad since two, three and four years a go,” these Lagos wonders” is as staggering as it is pleasing; and for the foreigners visiting Lagos for the first time, With heart bursting with envy, they would say: “could it be a city in Sub-Sahara Africa; so Africa could also produce a Louis Napoleon.”

But we must digress to reality for In the quest to fast track development in Lagos, challenges are indeed enormous.

The reality in Lagos is still far from this ideal. Electricity supply to the city is near to nothing; the cost of doing business is enormous; too many people are unemployed; the population is growing at an alarming rate- largely through the influx, especially from the hinterland and the neighboring countries; traffic situation is still chaotic as it is not hard to imagine wasting 7 hours of productive time a day in traffic; millions of people have their accommodation in shanties in  degrading slums; security of lives and property is still a big issue and amenities and facilities, especially in health and education, are fully stressed.

These are the reasons that made Governor Fashola to say: “I am not satisfied with the Lagos we have. I can dream of the Lagos we should have. That is the Lagos of my own dreams. The City State that allows you to be all you can; a place where only your dreams can limit you. A Model Mega- City State and pride of black man. A testimony of our immense capabilities as against a lamentation of possibilities. A Lagos that will make the next generation marvel at how and where we found the vision, courage and energy to dream, work and deliver.”

Inconsistency between vision and reality one would say. Yet, it is instructive to know that successes are being recorded in the many initiatives of the administration of Governor Fashola. He has been showing all the right qualities that are needed to successfully guide Lagos State to the Promised Land-solid sound, systematic short and long term plans and steely will to transform plans into action, conscientious implementations and proper display of transparency and accountability. These are qualities that inspire public confidence and engender durable support.

True Lagosians daily witness rapid positive changes; BRT has become a revelation as Lagosians could not wait for its extension to many other areas of the State; tree planting and greenery has become a revolution; massive drainage construction and clearing is going on at frenetic pace,  road expansion, extension and modernisation has become a cornerstone of Fashola’s agenda In 1999. In these colossal construction efforts, huge amount of fund and efforts are being committed on scale never experienced before in Nigeria, with the exception of Abuja. Yet much more will still be required.  

Before Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to power Internally Generated Revenue stood between 500 and 600 million naira. In his first year, the former Governor, Asiwaju Tinubu grew IGR to1.6 billion monthly, not enough to pay the forty thousand plus public workers. Now IGR average between 12 and 13 billion monthly. However, despite the tremendous achievements recorded by Governor Fashola’s administration in the area of IGR, Lagos State will still need about 500% increase in revenue to take care of its gigantic expenditure requirements. Problems in Lagos present themselves in gigantic proportions and solutions to them could only be solved by a genius- A Governor with wisdom of an Aristotle and a heart of a giant.

Yes, accumulated problems by years of recklessness of past administrators in Lagos before 1999, coupled with the unwillingness of the Federal Government, since 1990, to appreciate the peculiar needs of Lagos- as former federal capital and an industrial and commercial centre-deserving special attention and enhanced funding, has translated to complex and compounded problem on enormous scale. This unfavourable posture of the Federal Government to Lagos situation, though improving, is still visible. While the unlawful deduction of council fund has stopped, the illegal deduction from the federal allocation to Lagos on account of Enron Deal continues, despite the opposition from the National Assembly and well meaning Nigerians.

Fashola’s vision, and indeed, the dreams of all well meaning Nigerians for Lagos, is still possible before 2011, but everybody, including the Federal Government must be ready to support Fashola’s initiatives and efforts at transforming Lagos to a place of pride not only for Nigerians but for the entire black race across the globe.

No doubt, since 1999, there have been visible proofs that things are changing for the better in Lagos and with the advent of Governor Fashola the urgency to transform Lagos to a functioning model mega city of world class status has taken an urgent turn. Evidences abound: BRT, millennium pedestrian bridges, sprouting of beautiful gardens in places that were hitherto blighted, road modernisation and expansions, construction of central business districts across the state and so many other well meaning projects, have gone to show that Fashola is a man of his words; he is a man full of wisdom, a courageous, dedicated and determined man. He is a leader that inspires hope and he is worthy of all support that we can offer. According to Adams Abigali. “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events not word.”

“These are times in which a genius will like to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose to pacific station, that the great characters are formed…Great necessity call out great virtue.”  Working together we can achieve a Greater Lagos. True, it is still a trying time in Lagos. But Fashola has shown that he is ready to give all that is required to conquer all challenges and lead us to the Lagos of our dreams and we make the necessary sacrifices and do all that are expected so that we can sooner live the Lagos of our dream. If challenges confronting us in our quest to achieve Greater Lagos are bringing out the best from Governor Fashola, his enthusiasm and commitment should inspire us to make more sacrifices and contribute much more of our best in whatever ways in our collective quest for the ideal condition in Lagos.

Mr Seriki is a staff of Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, and he lives at Alagomeji, Lagos.