I hardly ever single out governors or specific persons whenever I write except on few, rare occasions. My focus, most times has always been on issues. I am making an exception today, to write about the Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode.
The decision to write about the Lagos governor came on Tuesday. I had left the office very late. And immediately I hit the road, I was confronted by a vista that was unlike what I used to see at that particular time and at that particular axis, the Charity Osodi, Toyota bus stop and the airport road areas. I saw a different Lagos. A lagos that I knew as an undergraduate, visiting Lagos on few occasions at that time. Lagos of well-lit streets, which endeared that city to me and which made me swore that come what may, I would live and work in that city. The idea of a city paved in gold or a land full of milk and honey was clearly not a major consideration, the major consideration was the cosmopolitan nature and the beauty of street lightning of Lagos at the time.
I recall that during one of my visits in one particular year, my late brother had taken me along the airport road and had shown me the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) and said it was the residence of a former head of state. I never doubted him. The road was well lit and there was so much light towards the airport. It was in later years that I realized that he was actually catching fun at my expense.
But street lights in Lagos eventually became a thing of the past. Street lighting became a rare phenomenon. It’s not as if the poles were not there, but they were just there to decorate the roads until Fashola came and tried to light up a few areas. His effort, though not perfunctory, was also not a state policy, not until Ambode came.
Indeed, a time it was during the Raji Babatunde Fashola administration that we all thought there would never be another administration to surpass Fashola’s giant strides in Lagos. Indeed, I said then that Fashola’s tenure would be a benchmark for any other person that would come after. But as it is now, that conclusion, with benefit of hindsight, was rather hasty.
Thought still young, the Ambode administration is breaking the mould. With the way that administration is going, it is set to completely surpass the Fashola legacy. With the beginning of the Ambode administration, one would not have believed that possible. I recall that shortly after the administration was inaugurated, it was trailed by a whole lot of criticisms. Nothing was happening and people started questioning the capacity of Ambode to govern Lagos. This worsened when armed robbery incidents escalated with many losing cars to hoodlums. The situation was not helped when there was a policy mix up with the state traffic agency, LASTMA leading to a return to the chaotic Lagos traffic. London-based The Economist magazine wrote a scathing diatribe saying that the governor, within a short period had rolled back the achievements of his predecessor.
A year after that, the story is different. Ambode is in his strides and he is weaving magic lights all over Lagos. His operation light up lagos is impressive and if what would set his first term apart is the lighting project, then Lagosians would have been better served.
From Apapa-Oshodi road, Lagos- Abeokuta expressway, the third mainland bridge and so many other roads that one does not believe would ever be lit, are now enjoying street lights. Night life with its attendant economic benefits has gone up a notch. It is now possible for one to drive around streets in Lagos without remembering to put on the car headlamp. The governor is quoted as saying that when the light up project is completed, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) would begin night operations, thus effectively making Lagos a 24-hour mega city.
But I have fears, what are the plans to sustain this? Would this continue for the next three years in the life of this administration and or another four years if the governor gets a second term. The governor also seems to understand that it is important to sustain what he started, hence, he is said to have put together an advisory team, headed by the Deputy Governor, Mrs idiat Oluranti-Adebule and the charge is to make light available to the people for both domestic and business use.
Security issues which come with night life has also been tackled headlong with provision of vehicles and equipment to the police.
But that is not the only thing that is happening, new roads are equally being constructed but this should extend to inner roads. I had cause to visit Okota at a time and I left that community with the conviction that they do not have any motorable, inner road except the main Okota-Festac road which has just been completed.
Another major thing the administration needs to look at is the menace that Okada riders have constituted. They take up a large segment of the road where ever they are. They are a major nuisance, weaving in and out of traffic without any concern for their safety or that of their passengers. They are also said to aid crime, giving information to armed robbers. Some have equally engaged in unsavory activities like kidnapping and rape.
My suggestion is an outright ban, instead of restricting them to a few roads. People have argued that crime would escalate if this was done, but the fact remains that they have constituted a major danger to the larger majority. Most of them can take up vocational training if they so desire. This could be at the government’s expense. Some states have banned them and the heavens have not fallen. The earlier the government does this, the better.