Sanwo-Olu : Celebrating A Kind-Hearted Achiever at 56
By Gboyega Akosile
It is common in our clime for praise singers and vuvuzela blowers to be at their best performances, increasing the tempo of their art to crescendo on a day like this for Governors, Presidents and people of high political positions. One can’t blame them. It is their way of validation. The dramatis personae often times are not confused even though the situation may present a blurry image.
I have listened to and read various things said and written about Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State. Most of them have dwelled on how well he has performed as governor in two years under very harsh economic challenges. Most of the accolades have come from the successful management of the Covid-19 pandemic by Governor Sanwo-Olu, who saved Nigeria from what could have resulted in monumental catastrophe. Like a gallant soldier, Sanwo-Olu rose up to the occasion and gave Covid-19 a good fight. This feat ultimately left no one in doubt as to Governor Sanwo-Olu’s managerial and administrative skills.
No one ever prepares enough for disasters. The nation woke up in September 2020 to the legitimate agitation against police brutality by the Nigerian youth, tagged EndSARS protest. The protest, aimed at drawing attention to human rights abuses being perpetrated by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), was later hijacked by hoodlums and criminal elements. Lagos State was the epicentre of the demonstration. The unfortunate incidents of October 20, 2020 led to a coordinated destruction of public and private assets in Lagos. Again, Governor Sanwo-Olu rose up to the challenge, worked with the citizens and stakeholders to bring about peaceful resolution. Today, Lagos is the only State in the federation that has fulfilled the demands brought forth by the EndSARS protesters.
Taking over the affairs of Lagos at a time when the State was challenged, Sanwo-Olu has proved to the world that governance is not rocket science. His persuasive management approach has helped stabilise the State, taking it out of the near dilapidation back onto her progressive trajectory without hurting citizens -young, old, rich or poor.
Kindness comes naturally for this Governor. The first touchpoint for me was during the electioneering. On a particular day, we had worked till late in the evening and it was time for everyone to retire to bed. I was bent on going home but the then aspirant, Babajide Sanwo-Olu insisted that I stayed over at a nearby hotel. I, nevertheless, went home that night but not without thinking of his caring gesture that bought me over completely.
Another very remarkable scenario played out in October 2019. This time, Mr. Sanwo-Olu had already secured the governorship ticket of the APC. He asked me to ride with him in his vehicle for a certain review. Just as we were making a turn from Mobolaji Bank-Anthony road into GRA, our pilot/security vehicle became a bit reckless, Mr. Sanwo-Olu was quick to call them to order. He complained bitterly about such behaviour saying everyone deserved some respect. He has entrenched the same tradition in his convoy even as Governor.
With the two incidents, I saw in him a man who genuinely cared about the welfare of the people around him. In fact, three years after, Governor Sanwo-Olu is a better version of the person I saw in him at that time. He cares completely about the welfare of the residents and this is why the Sanwo-Olu touch is felt in every facet of Lagos life -Transportation and Traffic management, Health and Environment, Education and Technology and Making Lagos a 21st-century economy as well as in Security and Governance.
Without any iota of doubt, the 56th birthday of Governor Sanwo-Olu is worth celebrating considering his personal achievements as well as meaningful impacts in private and public sectors.
Born on June 25, 1965, Governor Sanwo-Olu has been part of Lagos State’s progressive trajectory in the past 18 years, serving in the Executive cabinet of the three previous governors. Perhaps this accounts for the reason he takes governance so simple as he does. Governor Sanwo-Olu ranks top among the rest in many areas of human endeavours.
Characteristic of great leaders whose sole interest is the welfare of their people, Governor Sanwo-Olu keeps vigil almost every day for Lagosians to have a sound sleep. He’s perhaps unaware that sometimes some of us around him don’t look forward to the weekly Governor’s itinerary. The sight of the itinerary can raise one’s blood pressure but it is a regular routine for Governor Sanwo-Olu; you signed up for the job and you must do it!
Mr. Governor would call you in the middle of the night and ask whether you are sleeping. I once answered him: “sir, it’s 3 am in the morning” and he simply laughed!
Governor Sanwo-Olu doesn’t ever delay anything-never! He treats every matter-personal or State with a dispatch except those that require further consultations or deliberations. Even those ones he handles immediately either by setting meetings or committees. He recognises government bureaucracies and red tapes but has a way of cleverly ensuring that those factors do not slow down the pace of work or intended deliverables. I have seen this at very close range in the last three years of working with him. Sanwo-Olu’s management skills and administrative acumen coupled with his personal attributes of humility and humanity have worked for him. This is why in just 757 days in office, under very difficult conditions occasioned by covid-19 pandemic and the unfortunate EndSARS protest, Governor Sanwo-Olu recorded numerous achievements across the THEMES agenda.
A tested and trusted professional, management expert and consummate administrator, Sanwo-Olu has made life more in abundance for Lagosians through the delivery of his campaign promises. During the electioneering, I remember him saying two things, which almost became a cliché: “let’s under promise and over deliver”, “Governance is a marathon and not a sprint”. These sayings are just making sense to me, and they make me to wonder where he gets his wisdom from. Most critics have forgotten that one major election promise of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is continuity. He told Lagos electorate during the electioneering that his administration would govern from where his predecessors had stopped. This is exactly what he has done.
The near abandoned LagosHoms in Igando was completed and commissioned, the Agege Pen Cinema bridge, which was roughly at 19 to 20% foundation level when he assumed office in May 2019 had been completed, with additional roads network, the Igbogbo Ikorodu housing project, the BRF Housing Estate, Iponrin, Lagos Homs in Lekki, several roads across the metropolis started by the immediate past administration have all been completed and commissioned.
For Governor Sanwo-Olu, it does not matter who started what project. What’s important is the completion of those projects for the greatest good of the people. It is all about the people of Lagos State.
In Sanwo-Olu, I see a man who is not satisfied with his level of yesterday and wants to do more today. He always desires to do more. And these burning desires drive him to deliver more for the people. He often says to us that “you must look good today, tomorrow and always”. He dislikes you giving excuses for failures even though he agrees that honest errors could be made sometimes.
leadership skill was tested by COVID-19. Expectedly, Lagos was the epicenter of the pandemic in Nigeria in February 2020. Tackling the health disaster head-on, the Governor saved Lagos and by extension the entire country from a major calamity.
Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, Lagos was hit by massive destruction of properties worth billions of naira in the aftermath of EndSARS protests hijacked by hoodlums. Despite the challenges, Governor Sanwo-Olu took the bull by the horns to put Lagos on the path of progress through the Lagos Rebuild initiative.
Looking at the efforts devoted to achieving the first pillar of the THEMES agenda, which is Traffic management and transportation, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration is closer than ever in giving Lagos a reliable intermodal system of transportation with heavy investment in waterways, aggressive pursuit of the light rail projects as well as road transportation to make life easy for Lagosians. The State Government has also reduced traffic congestion in some critical parts of Lagos with continuous road infrastructure, junction improvements and opening up more communities with new link roads and bridges.
More than 51 major infrastructure projects such as the Pen-Cinema fly over, ramp and road networks, Lagos-Ogun Boundary roads Phase II, Lekki Oniru Traffic Circulation Projects, a network of roads in Ojokoro, Somolu and Ikoyi, among others. The administration also constructed and rehabilitated 301 inner roads in the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). It also commissioned the Oshodi-Abule Egba BRT lane. The Eleko junction to Epe concrete pavement road construction is ongoing. These road projects are executed to bring succour to the people of Lagos.
Governor Sanwo-Olu has also made a significant impact in the lives of millions of Lagosians in the areas of Health and Environment. He believes that nothing should be spared to give Lagosians quality health care and that’s why he has made a lot of intervention in the health sector.
Apart from the comprehensive renovation of medical facilities at various Health Centres and General Hospitals in the State, the State is also developing new facilities, such as the New Massey Children Hospital, New General Hospital, Ojo and a Rehabilitation and Mental Health facility in Ketu Ejinrin. The State Government is also building a 300-bed Isolation Centre and a Research Institute at IDH, Yaba. It has also improved maternal and child health with the provision of the Mother and Child Centres (MCCs) in Eti-Osa, Igando, Badagry and Epe. In the area of Environment, Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration within two years in office has invested significantly in the waste collection capacity of LAWMA as well as significant improvement in drainage management and maintenance.
Sanwo-Olu’s passion for quality education is a driving force behind his numerous interventions in that sector. His administration has completed more than 1,097 school projects in just two years, built six secondary schools, provided over 100,000 tables and chairs, provided 2,000 hostel beds in model schools and recruited over 2,000 teachers for public schools. It also introduced EKO EXCEL – an education reform programme targeted at developing highly skilled teachers through training, support and motivation, which has reached about 1,009 schools, 13,000 teachers and 450,000 pupils.
Governor Sanwo-Olu is not paying lip service to security and governance in the State as his administration has worked tirelessly to ensure that Lagos is safe and secure for residents. Today, security agencies in Lagos State can boast of modern crime fighting equipment. On Thursday, June 10, President Muhammadu Buhari joined Governor Sanwo-Olu to officially handover patrol vehicles and security equipment to security agencies in Lagos State. The equipment were; 150 Double Cabin Vehicles, 30 Saloon Patrol Vehicles, 1,000 Ballistic Vests, 1,000 Ballistic Helmets, 1,000 Handheld Police Radios/Walkie Talkies, 100 Security Patrol Bikes, two Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), four High Capacity Troop Carriers, two Anti-Riot Water Cannon Vehicles and Office/Command Furniture and other Ancillary Support Resources.
Despite delivering on his campaign promises, Governor Sanwo-Olu is not looking back as he is marching on toward “Greater Lagos.” During his State broadcast on May 27, he said his administration is working tirelessly to deliver the Fourth Mainland Bridge, Imota Rice mill, Integrated Mass Transit System and other infrastructure to Lagosians within the next two years.
He said completing the projects within the next 24 months will bring absolute transformation to the livelihood and the economy of Lagos State.
Going by his track records and achievements in office, Babajide Sanwo-Olu at 56 stands tall among contemporary African leaders. He also remains a model to his generation.
Happy 56th Birthday to an achiever!
Akosile is the Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Ahmad Lawan: The Doyen of Nigerian Parliament @64
By Ola Awoniyi
Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, the Distinguished Senator representing Yobe North Senatorial District of Yobe State, turns 64 on 12th January, 2023. Within those almost six and a half decades, he has seen it all, especially in public service. In just about five months from now, he will conclude his tenure as the 14th President of the Nigerian Senate and sixth consecutive session in the National Assembly.
Lawan has been around for so long in Abuja that it is easy to assume he was never elsewhere. Yet, his earliest work experience was in the academia, and it lasted long enough for him to bag a Doctorate degree in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) before yielding to the pull of partisan politics in 1998.
In that calling, Lawan has clearly made his mark. And not just because he attained the dizzying height of third in the order of succession. People see politics as a dirty game. But Ahmad Lawan does not see it that way. For him, politics should not change the core beliefs and principles of an individual. Service to the people should be the driving objective of partisan political practice. And whether in politics or elsewhere, Lawan believes one’s yes must mean yes.
This has, in no small measure, paid off for Lawan in his almost 25 years in politics, 24 of which has been as a federal lawmaker. A member of the pioneer class of the National Assembly of the Fourth Republic, he was first elected in 1999 to the House of Representatives from the Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe State. He was re-elected to the House in 2003. But in 2007, Lawan crossed over from the Green Chamber to the Red Chamber as the Senator for the Yobe North District. He was re-elected to that Senate seat in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
If you know what it takes to win elections in Nigeria, you would appreciate that what multiple winners like Lawan have accomplished is no small feat. His numerous reelections underscore that his constituents appreciate the quality of representation that he has been providing to them in Yobe North District.
The life of a politician is not all gloss as it may sometimes seem. Election is not a tea party. A parliamentarian in particular needs very hard work to get a return ticket from the party. In Parliament, getting the support of colleagues for motions and bills requires deep knowledge and passion for the subject; focus and temperament. It is actually an extra burden if you are a Presiding Officer in parliament. Success or failure at every stage has its implications.
No wonder, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, the outspoken Governor of Kaduna State, at a recent public function in Abuja, said he has no intention of seeking a seat in the National Assembly like many former governors now do.
Speaking as chairman at the second edition of the “Distinguished Parliamentarian Lecture” organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies(NILDS): the governor said:
“The Legislature is one branch of government I know I can never function. The hardwork needed to convince people to support even your motion is something some of us have no patience for. You know management in the Executive is very straightforward. It is very hierarchical and once you are a governor, your word is almost law. But in the Legislature, everybody is equal and there is no management that is more difficult than managing your equals. I don’t envy Mr Speaker and the Senate President at all because their job perhaps is the hardest job in this country. Managing equals is difficult.”
Despite the difficulties, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan has shone at the National Assembly since its inauguration in 1999. Lawan is today one of only two lawmakers remaining in the National Assembly from the 1999 set. He has also attained the most enviable of heights in his many years of service at Parliament, becoming “first among equals” in the Upper Chamber, which is the very pinnacle of the hierarchy in the parliament of any democratic society. That makes him the Doyen of the Nigerian Parliament.
In his three and a half years as the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the ninth National Assembly, he has set a high standard for whoever will be his successors. He has demonstrated the value of parliamentary experience as a prerequisite for election as a presiding officer for the Upper Chamber.
His experience of more than two decades in parliament has made him an encyclopedia on the inner workings of the National Assembly. Lawan has the standing rules at the tip of his fingers. When any of his colleagues raises a Point of Order, he would ask the colleague to specify which order. But before the text is read out, Lawan already knows the provision and its applicability.
As “first among equals,” Lawan knows the importance of fairness in the conduct of the affairs in plenary. Even though the majority will always have its way, the minority must have its say as well.
Lawan knows the value of a bipartisan Legislature. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the job of a Presiding Officer is to know when to hit the gavel and when not to. As one of Lawan’s aides, I heard him say, many at times, that he had no choice but to hit the gavel or rule in favour of a majority voice vote even when he held a different view to the voice vote. That is democracy.
Lawan also knows the value of promoting harmony between the Legislature and other arms of government, particularly the Executive, without compromising the independence of the Legislature.
Lawan has seen it all in Parliament. From my vintage point of observation, I quickly realized that he did not become the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the Ninth National Assembly by happenstance. It was the result of long years of self-preparedness, self-discipline, consistency, perseverance and tenacity of purpose.
Those attributes are essential for success in any endeavour and Lawan obviously learned that very early. And wherever he goes next, they will accompany him and pave the way for more success.
As I wish the Sardaunan Bade a happy 64th birthday, I also wish him more success in his future endeavours.
***Awoniyi is Special Adviser on Media to Senate President
Predictable Budget Cycle: A great Legacy of Ninth N’Assembly
Shortly after his emergence in 2019 as the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the Ninth National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan promised to ensure the 2020 Appropriation Bill was passed and signed into law by the President before the end of that year. That promise would have sounded outlandish in many ears and many would have dismissed it outright as a flight of fancy induced by Lawan’s euphoria of electoral victory.
Going by precedent under the Fourth Republic, there were valid reasons for such scepticism.
By 2019, it had become normal for the Appropriation Bill to come into law not earlier than the first quarter or even in the middle of the budget year. This was in spite of the apparent injury the delay was delivering to government’s annual spending plans and the economy.
How to reset the budget cycle or financial year to run from January to December as was the case in distant past had confounded and beaten the previous National Assemblies. But that was not for lack of efforts on this part of the federal lawmakers. Session after session, they visibly worked to instal a steady, reliable and predictable January to December budget cycle. That just didn’t happen, for many reasons.
However, with great determination, strategic thinking and multipartisan cooperation in the Chambers, under a new milieu of effective collaboration amongst the Arm of Government, the Ninth National Assembly achieved the feat on first attempt in December 2019!
The impacts of timeous passage of Appropriation Bills on budgetary performance, governance and the general economy have been severally articulated by economic experts.
Even at the best of times, the Nigerian economy has needed every positive effort it can get for revamping it. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine war and sundry local challenges make such efforts even more imperative now. Imagine, some of the advanced economies are already reeling in or tottering at the edge of recession.
Of course the Nigerian economy too slid into recession twice in recent past. But on each occasion, it quickly pulled out. The quick recovery was significantly enhanced by the effective collaboration and proactive interventions of the NationalAssembly.
It is on record that the performance of the budget has improved under the new stable cycle to such extent that the performance numbers are now almost hundred percent.
This is one of the achievements for which the Ninth Assembly has not been granted the deserved credit.
Instead, the doubting Thomases and mocking birds did not immediately stop laughing. Even while some acknowledged the feat, they doubted it could be sustained.
However, it has. In 2020 and 2021. And now again, the Appropriation Bill 2023 was passed by the Assembly on 28th December, 2022.
According to the Senate President, it would have been passed even earlier, before the lawmakers went on Christmas recess, but for some problems that emanated from the Executive in the process of preparing the Appropriation Bill. Those problems, later resolved through collaborative efforts, delayed but did not frustrate timeous passage of the Bill.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari signing the Appropriation Bill 2023 into law on Tuesday 3rd January, 2023, which was the first work day in 2023, is historic. Not just for the National Assembly but for the country at large.
Yet, it is particularly historic for the Ninth Assembly because that is its last Appropriation Bill as its tenure ends in June this year.
It is noteworthy that the virus of late passage of Appropriation Bills year in year out had infected even state Houses of Assembly. But with the action of the Ninth Assembly setting good example at the national level, the trickle down effect has encouraged a turn around in the process in the states too. Many state governments have embraced this new culture at the national level and those that were not doing well before in that regard have taken the new cue from Abuja.We have seeing virtually all state Governors signing Appropriation Bills before the end of the year.
There is yet another innovation that has been entrenched in the country’s financial system by the Ninth Assembly. This has to do with the practice of approving the Finance Bill side by side the Appropriation Bill. The Finance Act provides the support base for an effective implementation of the Appropriation Act through some major reforms in fiscal policies of the government.
For instance, the 2022 Finance Act, which was passed same day shortly before the 2023 Appropriation Bill was passed, is to facilitate amendment to some fiscal laws as the Capital Gains Tax, Company Income Tax, Customs Excise Act, Federal Inland Revenue Service Act, Personnel Income Tax and Stamp Duty Act.
The Ninth Assembly has made it a tradition to pass this piece of legislation alongside the Appropriation Bill and this is another legacy that the succeeding Assemblies must sustain. All these feats are made possible by the effective and efficient collaboration between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government.
Also, through this cordiality, the Ninth National Assembly has accomplished all the items in its Legislative Agenda months ahead of the expiration of its tenure in June. It may also be difficult for some people to believe, but this Assembly has passed more Bills than any other before it. The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, noted recently at a public gathering that President Buhari has signed more Bills into law that were passed by this Assembly than any of his predecessors had done under any Assembly.
The tenure of the Ninth Assembly under Ahmad Lawan’s watch has less than six months to run out.
However, its legacy and work rate guide us to expect more accomplishments from it until its last day.
*Awoniyi is Media Adviser to Senate President
Was Lawan a stranger to Nigerians before his emergence as Senate President?
By Ola Awoniyi
I might have titled this piece: “Re: Once again, most legislators will not return to National Assembly,” because it was prompted by an article under that title written by the highly respected academic, rights activist and columnist, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, and published by some media outfits on Friday, 17th June, 2022. However, I decided otherwise because Prof. Ibrahim’s commentary, as usual, made many points that I consider valid and thus have no issue with.
But an aspect of the article is capable of leaving the reader with a wrong impression, and that is what I have set out here to correct.
Which means this piece is actually not a rejoinder, in the full sense of that word, to the article by the good Professor.
Just an amendment to it, as they would have described this effort of mine in Parliament.
The focus of Prof. Ibrahim’s article was the stranglehold of state governors on their political parties in their states and how this continues to reflect in the high turnover of lawmakers, especially in the National Assembly.
The writer mentioned the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as one of a few lawmakers who have had long tenures in the National Assembly, despite the harsh political atmosphere he observed.
His misstep was in how he explained Lawan’s survival.
Prof. Ibrahim wrote: “The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, is the most spectacular exception that breaks the rule.
He has been in the National Assembly since 1999, first in the House of Representatives and subsequently in the Senate.
For some reason, successive governors of Yobe State have always given him the green light to stay on.
I wonder why? Could it be linked to his style and record of being unobtrusive and inconspicuous as a legislator who did nothing and was therefore perceived as non-threatening?
What is clear is that until he became the Senate president, hardly anyone noticed him.
He was discovered when he became Senate president three years ago and then broke the Richter scale of political ‘arrivism’ when the APC chairman announced him to be the ‘presidential’ choice of President Buhari.”
I would have ignored it if those assertions were made by an undistinguished writer.
But they are hard to overlook in the well-read column of a Professor of Political Science who is universally respected for the fairness and profundity of his opinions.
It is a typical of the columnist to claim that Lawan was unknown prior to his emergence as the 14th President of the Senate in 2019, because that claim is not true.
And it is not fair to say Lawan was “an unobtrusive and inconspicuous legislator” as of 2019.
Those claims left me curious because, more than most people, Prof. Ibrahim is in a position to know better.
He knew Lawan was the choice of his party,
the APC, for election as Senate President in 2015, based on his reputation as one of the most effective and better known opposition lawmakers in the Fourth Republic by then.
Of course, Prof. Ibrahim would remember that Lawan was the Senate Leader before his emergence as Senate President.
So, how can the Senate Leader be “unobtrusive and inconspicuous”? Even if a person was randomly appointed to the position, the role would haul him out of obscurity.
Aside from the presiding officer, the next most visible in parliament is the Majority Leader, who leads in championing the cause of their party’s government.
The Majority Leader harnesses support for executive bills and government policies in parliament.
Parties hardly assign such a critical role to a greenhorn, talkless of an “unobtrusive and inconspicuous” member of parliament.
And Lawan did not step into that position from darkness. Before his election to the Senate, he had spent two terms of eight years in the House of Representatives, where at different times he was privileged to chair critical committees like Agriculture (2003-2005) and Education (2005-2007), despite the fact that he was in the opposition at those times.
Such committees are usually chaired by members of the majority party in Parliament, so it is a reflection of what his colleagues thought of him to have accorded him those privileges.
At the Senate, to which he was first elected in 2007, Lawan held the very important chair of the Public Accounts Committee for eight years(2007-2015) and the Defence Committee for two years (2015-2017).
All those were before he became the Senate Leader. Does that profile fit the description of the “unorbtrusive and inconspicuous”?
I cannot understand why Prof. Ibrahim tried to serve his readers the impression that a man with such resume and history in Parliament was unknown before his emergence as the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly. Did he forget Lawan’s political journey out of
Lawan spent 10 years in the academic and acquired a doctorate in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System before he ventured into politics in 1998.
That year, he was elected the pioneer vice chairman of the defunct All People’s Party (APP) in Yobe State and in 1999, was the Secretary of the Electoral Committee of the APP National Convention which held in Abuja.
As I was quick to say at the start, I have no quarrel whatsoever with the focus of Prof. Ibrahim’s said article of June 17, which addressed two phenomena that have become a malaise that needs to be checked for the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
One is the system that allows state governors to unilaterally determine who become party officials and candidates for elections. The other is the high
turnover of lawmakers in our legislative assemblies, especially in the National Assembly, as captured by the current situation whereby about half of senators did not get their parties’ tickets for the elections.
On those points and for his usual well-grounded interventions, I salute the good Professor.
Awoniyi is Special Adviser on Media to Senate President
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