We can’t really keep up with Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of Lagos any longer. Hard as we try. And for this, we are truly sorry.
Never has a new governor left us gasping this much for breath.
For the records, I attended the swearing-in ceremony of Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 and watched keenly as the man exuded bags of energy and zeal. At one point, he stood in the pouring rain before and during his speech delivery until the umbrellas arrived.
I watched closely as the newly sworn-in governor of Nigeria’s commercial capital embarked on the customary tour of the Tafawa Balewa Square in an open-top car, pointing at individuals in the crowd, gesticulating to say thank you and acknowledging cheers from everyone.
He looked a man on a mission that wet afternoon.
The next day, just hours after his inauguration, Sanwo-Olu was at his office to issue a raft of executive orders and then before you knew it, the man is in Apapa to see the damage articulated trucks have wrought in the port community. By nightfall, Sanwo-Olu was leading his team to chase a bus (Danfo) driver heading against traffic.
Sanwo-Olu has also visited the Lagos-Badagry expressway corridor–a neglected part of town and home to one of the worst road surfaces on God’s planet.
The man has donated a fleet of buses to civil servants, he’s shot videos to explain why you shouldn’t litter Lagos and disobey traffic laws, he’s inspected dump sites, he’s warned truck drivers against disobeying the president’s directive, he’s asked the state’s traffic management agency (LASTMA) to run two shifts and to close very late, he’s visited the family of a slain LASTMA official, and he’s read the riot act to contractors delaying work on a stretch of road that connects Nigeria to another African nation.
As you read this, Sanwo-Olu has just signed the Lagos State N873.5bn budget into law.
All of this in 5 days!!!
Like his posters during the electioneering campaigns, Sanwo-Olu appears to be everywhere at the same time–ubiquitous in his Polo T-Shirts and face caps, looking like the world would come to an end if he doesn’t attend to a problem or three a day. Looking like he wants to fix all of Lagos in one year.
The flip side of the coin comes from residents who have tagged the governor’s frenetic first week on the job as Initial Gra Gra (IGG)—a phenomenon that suggests that the man is only trying to impress in his first few days on the job, garner as much photo-ops as possible and that he may soon suffer burnout and relapse into that bad governance black-hole to where most Nigerian political leaders end up. If recent history is any guide, we should keep our fingers crossed on Sanwo-Olu.
The preceding school of thought has also juxtaposed Sanwo-Olu’s confrontation with the Danfo driver with similar images of immediate past Lagos Governors, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode. All men have now pulled the same stunt in a city famed for its lawlessness and chaos, some are beginning to say it is in the copybook of a new Lagos governor to stage a photo-op of a confrontation with lawless road users.
“Who staged it best?” one Twitter user posed derisively.
To be honest, I have also been wondering if Sanwo-Olu isn’t just trying too hard to impress and if he can maintain the momentum of his first week throughout the remainder of his 4-year mandate. If he does, Lagos would be the better for it, surely. Heaven knows that this city requires a governor who gets the job done and quickly too. One who thinks on his feet. But I have seen so many false starts from political leadership in this country not to break into a Zanku dance over Sanwo-Olu just yet.
Sanwo-Olu’s predecessor, Ambode, had a pathetically slow start and by the time he got round to working, refuse heaps and floods had sacked his city. Sanwo-Olu’s start has been remarkably different and refreshingly deserving of accolades. The big question remains whether Sanwo-Olu can keep this pace, energy and hands-on approach for four years and if he would keep showing up in traffic, on pot-hole ridden road surfaces and at dump sites as he attempts to whip this bedlam of a city into line.
The ball is firmly in Sanwo-Olu’s court.