On May 29, 2020, Nigeria marked its 21st anniversary since its return to Democracy in 1999.
No doubt, the democratic experience so far has been topsy-turvy. Despite the daunting challenges over the years, many Nigerians submit that the worst of democratic governments is still much better than the military junta which Nigeria passed through for 39 years after Independence.
For Lagos State, the 21years democratic experience has been worth the while. Keen observers will readily tell you that Lagos is lucky to be blessed with good leaders since 1999 till date.
The trajectory which began with the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from 1999-2007 and was carried on by the now Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola between 2007-2015, who then handed the baton to a former accountant general of the State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ibidapo Ambode who was in the saddle from 2015-2019 before handing over to an astute administrator, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
Since May 29, 2019 till date, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration has continued to show that Lagos is indeed blessed.
One year since assuming office as the helmsman of the State, Sanwo-Olu who prefers to be called Mr. Governor is already proving that he was the best man for the job.
Not many gave him a chance when he indicated interest to run for the highest office in the Centre of Excellence, but 365 days down the line, he has not only proved naysayers wrong, even his critics are beginning to applaud his astute leadership.
Not long had he settled in office was he confronted by adversity of varying dimensions. From bad roads to insecurity to economic challenges, Sanwo-Olu however didn’t let his guard down, neither did he take the easy path of passing the bulk of the blame on the administration he succeeded.
Day after day, complaints by the public hit the social media space, telephone interviews on radio and television were mostly about complaints from residents who wanted to see ‘miracle’ overnight. They wanted the roads fixed even though the heavens were open and the rain poured. Not even the explanation that asphalt could not withstand rain was enough to pacify agitated residents who kept bombarding the governor’s public phone lines and emails with their daily complaints.
It took a focused and determined, Sanwo-Olu and his team including his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat and others, to remain undaunted by the complaints and seeming distractions to forge ahead with the kind of engineering they employed.
While the new administration was struggling with the rain to make the roads, it saw the need to ban the use of motorcycles for public transport. That bold and courageous decision, aimed at reducing the spate of robbery as well as accidents which was on a high did not sit well with okada riders.
The government also came under constant criticism from several quarters who felt the ban was hasty. Newspaper editorials, columns, public commentators and some partisan civil society groups made strong attempt to force the administration’s hands to the end of reversing itself, but it refused to buckle, giving a strong signal that it would not pander to popular but perilous public sentiments.
Safety of lives and property was central in the focus of the government and it held on to that like a leech, insisting that his administration had a duty to save lives and prevent the unintended but callous extermination of innocent lives by uncivil and incompetent okada riders who were nearly turning the State to a free for all.
As the government seemed to have won the debate on the okada ban, the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head and chose Lagos as its first destination in the whole of Nigeria.
But instead of the Sanwo-Olu administration to buckle under, it exhibited such ingenuity that in no time, it proved itself extraordinarily outstanding in dealing with the pandemic, much to the applause of Nigerians.
Lagos within a short period became the epicentre of the virus. While there were fears from several quarters that Nigeria might not be able to handle the disease which was at that time already ravaging China, Italy and some other European countries, Sanwo-Olu yet again showed that his administration was one that packed a lot of vibrant ideas up its sleeves.
In no time, he galvanized his medical team led by his health commissioner, Prof. Akin Abayomi and the First Lady, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, herself as a quality medical doctor, to evolve measures that made Lagos a show-piece in exemplary performance for other states to emulate.
When the Secretary to the State Government of the Federation and head of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 went round the country to see the preparedness of States to contain the pandemic, he was dazzled after his visit to Lagos.
For Mustapha, Lagos readiness to combat the disease was not only comforting, but was enough to make him declare that it had set the pace for other states to follow.
The SGF visit with his team and Sanwo-Olu to the Isolation Centre built inside the main bowl of the Onikan Stadium in a partnership between the State Government and Guarantee Trust Bank left the visitors in no doubt that Lagos preparedness for the pandemic was unrivalled.
The 110 bed space was enough to compete favourably with any other Isolation centre in the western world. It became a cynosure of all eyes and a fitting model to other States who borrowed a leaf from Lagos how to tackle a global pandemic.
Despite the increasing cases of Covid-19 in the State, Sanwo-Olu ensured the State remained one step ahead of the virus. Several Isolation centres have been opened since then to accommodate the new cases being recorded on a daily basis.
To show leadership from the front, Sanwo-Olu took up the role of Incident Commander and regularly briefed Lagosians, giving them day-to-day update on the situation from the Isolation Centres. His twitter handles were visited by thousands of residents and visitors alike. It became a haven for first hand information for journalists not just in the State but across the world to get first hand information on what the State Government was doing to stay ahead of Covid-19.