The past three weeks has been full of public works in the twenty local government areas and the thirty-six(36) local council development areas of Lagos State. A stranger might think a state of emergency has been declared on infrastructure by the government of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-olu, the executive governor of the state. Lingering projects are hurriedly being completed, drainage and refuse are being cleared, and roads are being graded. The more I daily hear the jingles on the radio about the scheduled inspection of projects coupled with the high level of activities, series of questions arise in my head: why so much publicity? Was the local governments and councils on shut down before now? Is there more that meets the eye?
I am expressing my displeasure as a concerned Lagosian and tax payer that has high expectations from this new administration. I may be a novice to how the government works, but I strongly believe that a government that wants to transform the lot of its people should not go around publicizing work inspection tour for almost a month before the event because it will not get the true picture of governance at the grassroots.
Permit me to share an experience of sincere and excellent leadership. It happened a little over two decades ago when I was a resident of Nigeria Air Force Base, Ikeja where I had a taste of good governance. Before the appointment of late Group Captain Sam-Ethnan as the Base Commander, the barracks was in a state of paralysis and shame. The environment was highly polluted as refuse was collected and burnt close to residences, electricity and water supply was a luxury, sewers leaked, domestic animals roamed everywhere, crime rate was high, infrastructure was dilapidated and lawlessness prevailed.
Before him there had been commanders that maintained the status quo. On his appointment, he set to work, spoke less and acted more. He Never Announced Inspection Tours; and they were frequent. He was tireless. He randomly entered flats and inspected the level of hygiene, food in the kitchen, furnishings of the living room. Soldiers were parked and locked out of their flats for things like dirtiness, no beef in the soup, etc. If a block was unkempt, the entire occupants were relocated to a non renovated section of the Base. His transformation would be much appreciated under subheadings below.
Environment and Refuse Management
Trees were felled and the environment was landscaped with flowers that produced sweet aromas. Everywhere was lit with street lights and powerful flood lights, no more hideout for miscreants. Refuse was collected and taken out of the Base everyday except on weekends. Burning of refuse stopped and the sight was transformed into a beautiful lawned field. Little baskets were tied to poles to collect trash. No one dared litter the streets. All domestic animals were banished.
Security, Law and Order
There was 24 hours Air Police patrol. Criminals(even soldiers children who stole) were paraded around the base and banished. There was prompt response to distress calls. The fire department was revamped with new vehicles and equipment with constant fire drills. Speed limit and traffic rules were strictly enforced. Parking spaces were marked on the streets. Curfew was imposed from 11pm to 5am. Indecent dressing was banned. There was zero tolerance to indiscipline.
Infrastructure and Social Amenities
There was 24 hours uninterrupted water and electricity supply. Residences were completely renovated. The only time in my life I enjoyed constant electricity for two consecutive months without ceasing at some point. The medical centre was upgraded and service was improved. The Mammy market was enlarged and modernized and home retailing was outlawed. The roads were rehabilitated. Indoors and outdoor sports facilities were improved and, recreation centres were built.
He installed intercoms in all blocks as there was no GSM at that time. Service delivery between the Base Service Group, BSG, institutions and the residents was excellent.
Air Force Base Ikeja underwent complete transformation that it became the most beautiful, organized, neatest, and functional military barracks in the country. It became a centre of attraction for Nigerian tourists. Life was exciting. Unfortunately we lost him and he was immortalized with the renaming of the base to Sam-Ethnan Air Force Base, Ikeja.
This is not a eulogy but a point of reference to leadership and how governance should be. During his frequent unannounced inspections, everyone was on his toes. Everything worked. Ex-Governors Lateef Jakande, and Raji Fashola are of one spirit with Sam-Ethnan. They exhibited exemplary leadership that puts the people first.
In conclusion, I call on Governor Sanwo-olu to eke his name in the hearts of Lagosians by delivering good governance. Lagos was excellent under Fashola because he was known for Unannounced Inspections. His credentials made President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint him twice as a super minister: a minister that handles more than one or two portfolios. There was a reversal of this excellence under the last administration. Mr. Sanwo-olu should make the local governments work by unscheduled visits. We should feel their presence.
I wish the governor well in his duties!