Sanwo-Olu: Two Years of Changing Lagos


Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

By Temitope Ajayi

For two years as the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been working day and night to transform the state to a more livable megacity where people who live and come to do business can prosper. Nothing foregrounds his remarkable statecraft than his meticulous planning and delivery of high impact projects across the state from roads, to housing delivery, upgrading of schools, urban renewal and rehabilitating healthcare facilities.

As at last count, the Sanwo-Olu led administration has reconstructed and rehabilitated 301 inner city roads within the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas, delivered over 1000 housing units, upgraded 10 General Hospitals among many others.  In specific, the administration has completed more than 1097 school projects in two years, built six Secondary Schools, provided over 100,000 tables & chairs, built 450 classrooms and provided 2000 hostel beds in government model schools.

With the boisterous nature of our politics and often uninformed citizens’ antagonism already elevated to an art form by a number of vociferous civil society actors and opposition elements, governors in Nigeria tend to focus on bricks and mortar projects.  If success of an administration is awarded solely on the basis of bricks and mortar, Sanwo-Olu is far ahead of his peers. Currently, the first phase of the 18.75km Lekki-Epe Expressway Project is progressing impressively stretching from Eleko Junction all the way to Epe T-junction. The high priority road which was first opened up by the Lateef Jakande’s administration is a 6-lane rigid-pavement road that will connect the second phase, which is 26.7km, beginning from Abraham Adesanya Roundabout and ending at Eleko Junction.  Another road project that will bring massive relief for those living around Victoria Island, Lekki and Ajah axis is the on-going Lekki Regional Road, which passes through VGC, Chevron, Ajiran and Freedom Road.

However, what will be the game changer in public transportation infrastructure in Lagos will be the Blue Line and Red Line metro projects. On completion, Sanwo-Olu and his team would have solved a significant problem in the state that future generations will proudly celebrate him for. The administration has raised funding for the completion of the Phase 1 of the 27km Blue Line Rail Project that will traverse Okokomaiko to Marina. The Blue Line will move 500,000 passengers per day. Not too long ago, Governor Sanwo-Olu flagged off construction of the Red Line Mass Transit rail project. It will run from Agbado to Marina. The line with 8 stations and 8 vehicle overpasses is expected to move 1 million people daily.

For a government that seeks to make Lagos a 21st Century economy, there is no better way to demonstrate that than to expand broadband access to every part of the state. Lagos is already the biggest technology hub for Start-ups and its ecosystem in Africa. The tech Start-ups in Nigeria mostly operating out of Lagos raised about $500m in 2019 and 2020 according to Techpoint’s conservative estimate. The Smart City initiative of the government is envisioned to make connectivity very cheap and easy within the state. Under its PPP model, the government is laying of 3,000km fibre optic cable across the State out of which it has already covered 1,800km connecting 100 schools and 12 hospitals to uninterrupted internet.

One area Sanwo-Olu won the admiration of Lagosians from inception was his focus on completing inherited projects started by his predecessors. Over 100 roads started by his immediate predecessor in Alimosho and Agege were completed. The most visible being the Pen Cinema Flyover Bridge, Abule-Egba-Oshodi BRT project and many of the abandoned housing estates.

While Sanwo-Olu has earned his deserved praise from pundits and often drenched in plaudits for his social and physical infrastructural investments in Lagos, his most admirable achievement for me is in the very serious manner he takes his fiduciary responsibility over the management of Lagos State money. His knowledge as a former Bank Treasurer and former Commissioner of Budget and Economic Planning has served him well. By his visage, the Governor can sometimes exude the swag and rambunctiousness of a typical Lagos Boy, but make no mistake; he is very parsimonious. This BOS of Lagos is very thrifty. These two examples will suffice.

I participated as an active member of his Campaign’s Media and Communication Team domiciled at Ikoyi where we operated from. Let me add that he ran, perhaps, the most sophisticated and organized political campaign in recent memory in our country with a team of young professionals who brought multi-disciplinary experiences to run a winning campaign. After the election, the party apparatchik, as expected, took charge working with the Governor-elect to manage the transition process and plan the inauguration on May 29, 2019. As it is the usual practice in our part of the world, different committees were set up to execute various elements of the inauguration ceremony.  A special committee or a sub-committee was given the responsibility to handle the inauguration ball. For inexplicable reason, the inauguration ball planning people presented a bill of over N1billion to the Governor-elect to approve. Nobody should ask me the type of special inauguration ball the committee planned that would have required such humongous amount of money. I am sure the committee members felt embarrassed themselves when Sanwo-Olu as Governor-Elect cancelled the whole idea of inauguration ball entirely. He said it will amount to an unpardonable sin against the people of Lagos to spend such money just to eat, dance and drink.

The second is about the tales and sometimes the frustration of many of his senior aides in terms of getting the governor to approve money for some of the things they consider important. Of course, few of us have complained about the attitude of the governor to spending money on communication to project the many achievements of the government he leads. This is more so for a governor whose electoral victory was pivoted on massive media campaign. A friend who is one of the senior aides told me how he had gone to the governor, many times, with memos for approval and his excitement evaporated each time Sanwo-Olu scanned through the memo to the part that is about money.

According to my friend, Sanwo-Olu’s usual question is, “How many classrooms or kilometres of roads will I build with this money you want me to spend?’’ The Lagos State Governor thinks on his feet every passing moment on how he will get maximum value for the people on every naira. Another of his aide told me that there is no ‘lau lau’ (spending anyhow) in Lagos State government again. Many of the appointees who came into government with the mindset to make tonnes of money have realized that with Sanwo-Olu, government is about service not to acquire ill-gotten wealth.

– Temitope Ajayi is a public affairs analyst