Since its creation more than 50 years ago, Lagos State may not have got any Governor or a candidate seeking to become the leader of the state that is more qualified than Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress in the coming governorship election.
The APC candidate in terms of profile and experience both in private and public sectors towers far above Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party who is the main opponent. The race in Lagos is a two-horse race between Sanwo-Olu and Agbaje. The narrative of the campaign for the APC in Lagos and Sanwo-Olu will be framed around real issues that affect the lives of the people of Lagos and enabling environment that will propel the state economy to strive and thrive.
With a very rich professional career as a banker where he rose to the enviable senior executive position of Deputy General Manager, he is well suited to bring the proficiency, efficiency, and single-mindedness of a Corporate Czar that delivers value to governance in Lagos. His over 12 years experience in Lagos public service where he served at highest level as a cabinet-level Special Adviser and also a Commissioner for 8 years in the Ministry of Establishment with responsibility for the entire state civil service in terms of Human Capital development and increased productivity means his skills in public administration is practical and well-honed. Sanwo-Olu is veritably endowed with the technocratic competence to lead a very cosmopolitan, socio-culturally and economically diversified megacity, which Lagos is.
Lagos economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) put at about $150b dollars is bigger than those of 20 African countries namely Ghana, Liberia, Cameroun, Togo, Malawi, Swaziland, Senegal among others. Lagos can compete, in GDP terms, with Kenya the largest economy in East Africa. This, therefore, underscores the seriousness of the choice the voters in Lagos will make in next year general election. The choice before Lagosians is either to vote for a Sanwo-Olu, who already has the skill sets, experience, competence and clear-headed on what he will do from his first day in the office or a PDP Candidate who will be learning on the job. Lagos needs a tested Governor in Sanwo-Olu, who will propel and rev up governance that is already on cruising level, not any other candidate who does not have any clue about what governance is at any level.
I have been at two meetings with Mr. Sanwo-Olu. And twice he had answered to my admiration, development issues that are of interest to me. He is very comfortable in his skin and very well at home debating governance socio-economic issues. To say he is a policy and development work will not be a misplaced description. He speaks with facts and figures. He knows Lagos inside out. I was particularly enamored with his Uber-readiness and speed of thoughts. He literally carries the map of Lagos in his head as he can reel names of streets in different locations within the metropolis, the intersections and where they all connect.
I asked him how he intends to solve the challenge of systemic rot and dysfunctional public education and health systems in Lagos. For most struggling poor and middle-class families in Nigeria as a whole and Lagos in particular, apart from food, the income of the household is spent on education and healthcare. Any candidate in governorship race that exposes or shows sufficient understanding on how he/she will make public primary and secondary schools functional and accessible will have my vote and support. Same goes for primary and secondary health care delivery systems.
Sanwo-Olu showed depth and rigor in his appreciation of the myriad of problems confronting the two social sectors and what he plans to do. His response to my questions on public education and healthcare was very convincing.
First, he spoke about access. How can the government in Lagos make public education at primary and secondary levels more accessible to the people? Lagos has about 900 public primary schools and about 500 public secondary schools. In terms of spatial location of these schools, Sanwo-Olu said, his first priority will be to know how the schools are serving the needs of the communities where they are currently sited. How many kilometers will pupils in the primary school or students in secondary school have to travel before they get to the school nearest to their house? By global standard, it should not be more than a kilometer radius within a community. The issue of carrying capacity of each school and needs assessment will be carried out to enable government map out appropriate response in the provision of infrastructure and conducive environment.
Sanwo-Olu said, “I am a product of the public school system from primary to the university. I do not have any foreign university degree apart from Executive Education in some foreign schools. We just have to make our public schools functional. We may not be able to fix all of them at once, but we will have the baseline report on what we need to do. I am very much interested in giving a new lease of life to public education,” he enthused.
On public healthcare, the APC candidate spoke with the candor of a man, whose wife is a practicing Medical Doctor of 30 years standing in the public healthcare system. Again he spoke about how Lagosians will have easier access to healthcare while more emphasis will be on preventive health care, revamping of Primary and Secondary Healthcare facilities to make them more responsive and meet the demands of the populace. There is also more public enlightenment to be done on access to health care according to Sanwo-Olu because the situation of public healthcare delivery system in Lagos State is not as bad as people project them to be.
He said, “We found out that most of the cases people take to LASUTH should be handled at primary and secondary levels. A teaching hospital should be the last place for a complicated health problem that requires consultants and specialists, but what we have in most cases is people with malaria also going to LASUTH. So, there is pressure on LASUTH and the personnel. We will do a lot of public enlightenment for our people to know where to access healthcare. Many of the medical personnel at the primary health care facilities are there, but people do not just patronize them. Lagos has primary health centers in almost every ward. How many people know this and take advantage of these facilities? These health centers when you visit them have new and unused equipment.”
Sanwo-Olu had been an integral member of the governmental leadership in Lagos for over a decade where he served 3 governors of the state. He was Special Adviser to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He was Commissioner for 8 years in the administration of Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), and in the outgoing administration of Governor Akinwumi Ambode, he was the Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Property Development Company (LSPDC). He has been a part of the many innovations and reforms that set the state apart as a state of example in progressive governance as a sub-national entity.
As a public sector maverick, Sanwo-Olu envisioned and set up the policy framework for the very successful Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), a fund that has become an elixir in the provision of modern security hardware and software for security agencies in Lagos. On the account of the LSSTF, where Sanwo-Olu served on its Board of Directors, security agents deployed to the Lagos Rapid Response Squad are more motivated and inspired to give their best to keep Lagos safe. Inter-agencies cooperation among the security outfit being funded by Lagos Security Fund reached a new height and Lagos is safer for it. The Lagos Security Trust Fund which started over 10 years ago and still growing strong has been described as the best model and example of Public-Private Sector cooperation in Nigeria. Thanks to the vision and pioneering effort of Sanwo-Olu.
Like he did with security, Sanwo-Olu footprints are still very fresh on the set-up of Lagos Bus Management Company popularly called LAGBUS. As part of the ways to untangle the hitherto chaotic public transportation system within the metropolis, Sanwo-Olu also worked on the policy framework that ensured continued operations of LAGBUS, unlike most public sector initiatives that die after few years of their conception. LAGBUS buses on different routes are to run on the BRT infrastructure to provide decent and professionally-managed buses for commuters in Lagos. As a Governor of Lagos, he will change the face of public transportation, improve and fully integrate the inter-modal transport masterplan of the state.
The two encounters I had with him gave me a peep into the mindset of the frontline candidate in the next election in Lagos State. I am convinced the people of Lagos will find him worthy of their votes as they get to know and interact with him, as the campaign season fully unfolds in the days ahead.
Sanwo-Olu, no doubt, has the mental aptitude, the moral rectitude and the forthrightness to carry the high office of the Governor of Lagos to the admiration of all. With Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a greater Lagos that will care for all will be delivered. I will give him my vote and work for his election.