Elected Governor of Lagos State in 2007 soon after a Bola Tinubu era that was more political consolidation than actual governance, Babatunde Raji Fashola transformed into a man on fire:
The streets became pristine overnight, Oshodi was sanitised, the filth beneath flyovers turned into lush green parks, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses were all air-conditioned and cosy with their lanes marked as no-go areas for anyone (including army officers), law enforcement agencies were up to their responsibilities and the abandoned lamp posts on the streets began glowing again.
It was break-neck stuff and we just couldn’t keep up with the Fash.
Law and order began creeping slowly into a city famed for its ghetto appeal, shanties and anarchy.
It appeared Fashola was unstoppable and just couldn’t slow down even if anyone had begged him to.
Except that as he received a new mandate from Lagosians in 2011, the energetic Fashola began to show signs of burnout as his hair began to assume the now familiar tinge of silver.
Residents of Lagos between 2011 and 2015 will tell you that it was a different Fashola who handed over the reins to Akinwunmi Ambode in the spring of 2015. Gone was the gusto and speed of his first tenure. Gone was the fast-paced governance and hunger to complete infrastructure projects. It was just as though the man couldn’t wait to leave Alausa for all of us.
Ambode had a first few months dotted with inertia, but as soon as he had settled into his new role as Governor of Nigeria’s most populous city, he became a different animal. The pace has been frenetic; the energy levels for a man his size, awe-inspiring.
Ambode has been easing traffic gridlock—a perennial problem in Lagos—one pedestrian bridge, lay-bys and dedicated turning lanes at a time.
In only his first year on the saddle, hundreds of roads have been completed. Where Fashola was accused of paying scant attention to the suburbs and inner cities, Ambode has waded into Iyana Ipaja, Alimosho, Abule Egba, Iyana Oworo, Okokomaiko and Oworonshoki, with spades and tractors, rolled up sleeves and all.
“We have commenced the removal of three roundabouts on the Lekki-Epe expressway and replacing them with signalized junctions. Lay-bys and dedicated turning lanes will be created at these junctions to further ease the flow of traffic”, Ambode announced during a town hall event this week.
“New bus shelters have been installed at Tafawa Balewa Square”, he added.
More jobs were also going to be created, Ambode announced. “We will curb the menace of kidnapping and other crimes in our communities, 5,000 men will be employed in our Neighbourhood Watch team. We will transform the Yaba Bus Park with the provision of modern Bus Shelters just as we have done at Tafawa Balewa Square…
“We will roll out all our empowerment programmes immediately to assist all our youth, artisans and the less privileged in our society. Our budget performance for January to September is 69% as against 65% for the same period in 2015. We’ll concentrate more resources on Capital Projects and put money in the hands of our local contractors, to stimulate and reflate the economy”.
Fashola was all of this and more, it has to be said. His ability to wow an audience with the spoken word was also something to behold as he left one eye on his reelection chances in 2011.
Will Ambode reach for the brakes after securing a re-election in 2019? It’s still early days.
But for all of Lagos’ sake, it would be nice to see him continue with the energy levels with which he started.