By Olakunle Abimbola
The Ides of March are come,” a jocular Caesar, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, ripped at the Soothsayer, en route his fatal walk, to the Theatre of Pompey. The Soothsayer had earlier warned Caesar: “beware the Ides of March”.
“Aye, Caesar; but not gone,” riposted the Soothsayer. The Roman biographer, Suetonius, identified the man as Spurinna the Seer.
Before the Ides of March 44 BC was gone, Caesar was history, as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, stabled him to death; triggering a bitter civil war in the Roman Republic.
Well, this is no foray into the Classics or into Literature. It is rather an alert for Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu (BOS), the high-flying governor of Lagos, on the mid-term storm that snared Akinwunmi Ambode, his predecessor, and blitzed his second term dreams.
Gazing at mid-term, Ambode was riding high, doing wonderful foxtrots with projects and enjoying a wonderful and blissful press — until mid-term, he announced he was fixing what wasn’t broken: the Lagos refuse and waste management system.
That, for Ambode, was the beginning of the end. Could mid-term then, for Sanwo-Olu, be the beginning of the beginning? Maybe. Maybe not.
But that is only if BOS can avoid mid-term “traps”, which like the Ides of March that cut short Caesar’s life, incinerated Ambode’s second-term dreams, even if he wasn’t the worst governor in town.
Costly but avoidable mistakes! They could make political life short and nasty; much more than Hobbes’s state of nature, where life is “nasty, brutish and short”!
Governor Sanwo-Olu’s 91-second video clip, Sanwo-Olu: 731 Days and Beyond, inspired this piece. In it, BOS pledged “a duty of accountability” to the Lagos electorate, as his tenure races towards the 731-day mark — mid-term, of his four-year tenure.
What struck you most, aside from the background collage of videos and still pictures, showcasing the administration’s accomplishments in very troubled times, was how collegiate BOS sounded.
He referred to his ruling collective as “my colleagues and I in the cabinet”; and pledged mid-term full disclosures, by cabinet members, climaxed by the governor’s briefing.
Just as well, that collegiate temper! It not only gives a glimpse of some intra-regime peer checks-and-balances, even if the buck stops on the governor’s table, it also seems an acute reflection of what caused Ambode to stumble.
Indeed, the Achilles heel of the former governor would appear that penchant to go solo, both in day-to-day executive action; and in grabbing regime glory, thus alienating peer trust; and plaguing the ruling ensemble with avoidable dissonance.
So far, BOS appears to have avoided that pitfall. But so is power and its dynamics, as they play on the psyche of the top dog, that that danger is almost always on the cards.
Still, by appearing to run with collective glory against personal triumph, Sanwo-Olu, in nearly two years, has adroitly plucked screaminging “low-hanging fruits”, which his predecessor, because of his solo temper, left to fester.
Take Lagos Homs, an ambitious home-ownership, owner-occupier scheme, a flying legacy of the Babatunde Raji-Fashola era, that Ambode simply abandoned.
Had the former governor picked up where Fashola left, Lagos Homs would, during his tenure, have become a Fashola/Ambode legacy, sealed and delivered, in the best tradition of regime continuity, since both governments belonged to the same party.
With BOS, it is different. Even during those early but stormy days, when the governor got blitzed as “Atoka” (Yoruba for idle “pointer”); and ridiculed as “point-and-kill governor” (after that picturesque bukateria slang that describes the making of sizzling pepper soup from live fish), BOS focused on Lagos Homs, amid a general commitment to completing all Ambode-era ongoing projects, instead of lunging into new ones.
That earned the governor the collage of achievements in his 91-second video: Lagos Homs, Pen Cinema flyover and adjoining works, a slew of medical facilities in Gbagada and Igando General Hospitals, the Oshodi transport hub-cum-plaza, with the Oshodi-Abule Egba bus rapid transit (BRT) track — most of them carry-overs from the Ambode era.
That was admirable asset from the previous government, duly earned by keeping the eye on the ball, and shunning fatal distractions, from cheap solo glory. Ironically, BOS’s early ridicule resulted from the liability side of that same account: the rotten state of Lagos roads, a seedy Ambode legacy, worsened by the rainy season.
Much of that liability is much improved now, even if Lagosians always think of the rainy season with dread, with the way rain water appears to shred the tar. Still, both sides of the Oshodi-Cappa segment, of Agege-Motor road, are still an eye sore. BOS should get his men to fix it and other failing sections.
Beyond 731 days, it is clear continuation pays. Another Ambode-era project, the 32-metric-tonne an hour, 115, 200-metric-tonne a year Imota Rice Mill, part of the Lagos-Kebbi (LAKE) rice collaboration, among other linkages, is nearing delivery.
If well managed, and well supplied with paddy and allied raw materials, it has the potentials of 250, 000 jobs. It can also push 2.4 million 50kg bags of rice yearly into the market; and gross a projected N60 billion yearly revenue. That, other things being equal, should brighten the Lagos economic outlook.
Of even more crucial prospects, as economic stimulator, is the December 2022 delivery of the Blue and Red lines, the first two in the seven-line Lagos urban rail.
Back at the Lagos gubernatorial debates, the then Candidate Sanwo-Olu spoke of completing, in two years, the two lines — the Blue Line, long-running from the Fashola era but abandoned by Ambode; the Red Line, hoped-for alignment, for most times, with the Federal Government’s Lagos-Ibadan-Kano rail.
BOS has not quite achieved that two-year target. Still, it’s salute to fierce focus that delivery is viewed a year down the line, despite the highly disruptive COVID-19 global meltdown and the consequent slow-down in economic activity; and the best-forgotten #EndSARS free arson and killing: the torching of iconic Lagos assets, monuments and heritage, by barbarians masquerading as reformers.
COVID-19! #EndSARS, with its “soro-soke” (speak-loud-and-clear) insults! — twin-crucibles that literarily melted but forged a better, humane citizen-governor in BOS!
The BOS mid-term video points at a rare promise of Lagos, despite the doom and gloom elsewhere. Yet, the governor himself comes across as no muscle-flexing Leviathan; but only a suave leader of a focused team.
It’s no time to abandon that seeming collegiality, that has worked well these past two years. It’s a smart way to push away the “ides” of mid-term — and beyond.