The countdown has begun. In another sixdays, it will be May 29 and Nigerians will be celebrating yet another “Democracy Day”. It will also be the third anniversary of President Muhammadu Buhari and some state governors in office. The occasion will afford Nigerians another opportunity to re-appraise the performance of Buhari and some of the state governors who have also spent three years in office. Also due for a final scorecard are those governors who will be celebrating their last Democracy Day as state governors, as they will completing their second terms in office this year.
Almost three years ago, the Buhari administration swept into office on the wings of a “change campaign” that left many Nigerians in great expectation of the wonderful changes that his government would effect in our body politic. The regime took over from the Goodluck Jonathan administration that was widely adjudged and portrayed as inept and clueless, having failed to ensure the security of the nation from the rampaging Boko Haram sect, and to rein in corruption that had then virtually eaten through the national fabric. The nation’s economy was virtually on its knees, and Nigerians widely acknowledged that the country required a Messiah to rescue it from the brink of perdition.
Have Buhari and the relevant state governors played the role of the messiah that Nigerians badly sought? The countdown to Nigerians’ answer to that question has started. It is the biggest question of the moment and some states are already rolling out the drums to celebrate the achievements of their chief executives. We can, therefore, expect the airspace to be inundated with the supposed “failings” and “achievements,” of Buhari and the governors, depending on which side of the country’s political divide the assessors belong. All the “Buharists” and the naysayers and “wailing wailers” will have their field day in the media, with the government officials, themselves, waxing lyrical on the great changes that their principals have brought about in the country.
Before I join the national bandwagon on the Buhari “achievements” and “failings” next Wednesday, however, it is good to let “charity begin at home” by considering the achievements or otherwise of the governors in some of the states that I am familiar with, beginning with Lagos. How has the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode fared in Lagos State in the last three years? This is the question that engaged a forum in Lagos last week as some senior media professionals rubbed minds with the cream of the state’s information and strategy team. The forum, which had the state’s Information and Strategy Commissioner, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan; the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Mrs. Kofoworola Awobamise, and the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Idowu Ajanaku, in attendance, took the Ambode administration through a fine toothcomb, highlighting its achievements and the areas in which improvements are needed from the government.
The verdict of the meeting is not any way different from that which has been acknowledged by many discerning Lagosians at different fora in recent months. And, it is that the state government has, through its many infrastructural projects, especially in the area of road construction, surprised many people who had erroneously bought into the campaign propaganda of the opposition in the state that Ambode would not perform if elected into the office.
The state government has, however, surprised Lagosians with its transformation agenda featuring many road/bridge projects including the ones at Berger, Ajah, Abule Egba etc. There is also the continuing lighting up of many streets in the state, which has gone a long way in boosting security at night.
The state government has also been a great help to the police, donating critical equipment including vehicles, power bikes, three helicopters, walkie-talkies, Armoured Personnel Carriers, bullet vests, helmets, handcuffs etc, reportedly amounting to N4.765bn. Many communities that were hitherto in darkness have also attested to being linked to the national grid by the Ambode government, especially in the Ibeju-Lekki area of the state, while other projects are ongoing. The N25bn Employment Trust Fund has also helped to create jobs as soft loans with low interest rates are given to entrepreneurs. The construction of the 10-lane Oshodi/International Airport Road is ongoing. There are also the various housing schemes into which Lagosians are now keying to own their own homes.
The occasion was, however, not only about what the state had achieved in the last three years. It was also an opportunity to look at the areas in which the government either needed to improve its performance or change its policies. Top, among these areas that have rubbed many Lagosians up the wrong way, is the recent attempt to skyrocket the state’s Land Use Charge to a level that made residents angry. Although it is glaring that the attempt was a fallout of the government’s efforts to get more funds to boost the development of the state, the generally harsh economic situation of the country made the increase untimely. It is, therefore, reassuring that the government has kept the scheme on hold pending further consultations. This shows that the administration is a listening one.
Another area in which Lagos State has clearly not performed well is in the area of sanitation of the state under which it took waste disposal from the PSP operators and handed it over to a foreign company identified as Visionscape, which has clearly not lived up to the expectation. Since the Visionscape issue began, many parts of the Lagos metropolis have been taken up by garbage, with the government only now struggling to redress the problem by re-engaging the PSP operators to help out, with some improvement in waste disposal in the state. The heaps of refuse on roads in many parts of the state are now being cleared, but areas close to markets still remain a problem. The government must put this problem behind it before it becomes a landmark of the administration.
The problems of dilapidated inner city roads and security, especially involving the teeming unregistered foreign okada riders who have virtually taken over the state, are also sore points for many Lagos residents. The inner city roads will require a lot of money to tackle. As the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, explained, three inner city roads have been rehabilitated in each of the state’s 57 LCDAS. But a lot more still needs to be done to relieve the people of the challenges they face daily on bad roads.
The problem of alien okada riders is another area that the government says it is silently working on to address. The state has also constructed a truck yard which is expected to solve the problem of articulated trucks on its bridges. The governor will, however, do well to leverage on the fact that he is of the same APC administration at the centre to get the tankers and trucks off the federal highways and bridges in the state. As the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode marks the third anniversary of his regime, it is obvious that he has demonstrated commitment to the task of building Lagos into a megacity. Here is hoping that he will remain on this path of development even as the state goes into election season in 2019. He should not allow the campaign to distract his attention from the important task at hand. When he is re-elected as is widely expected, his continuation of the various development initiatives will go a long way in giving Lagosians the megacity that we all dream of.