President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to Lagos yesterday was without the usually accompanying traffic chaos, thanks to effective measures by the state government. Save for a few roads leading from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport to the project sites, businesses and vehicular movement went on undisturbed.
Considering the traffic constraints always experienced in Lagos daily, the president's visit surprisingly didn't add to the hectic experience.
Traffic on the Ikorodu Road, from Onipanu to Fadeyi to Eko Bridge, which is always hectic due to trucks parked on the road, was unusually light despite the fact that the axis was not on the president's itinerary. Buhari and his entourage landed at the presidential wing of the airport at 10:32a.m. amid tight security. He arrived aboard a Nigerian Air Force Boeing aircraft with registration number 5N-FGT and was welcomed with a dance by a cultural troupe and a presidential guard of honour.
On hand to receive him were Governors Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos State); Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); and the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Phillip Shuaibu. Others were Lagos State governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, as well as top security chiefs.Unlike during previous presidential visits when protocol demanded that everything, except the air, stood still, the commercial capital of Nigeria moved on while the president commissioned projects across the state.
As the motorcade of over 150 exotic vehicles, security vans and ambulances drove out of the airport, their occupants, veiled in tinted glasses, were cheered by hundreds of Lagos residents, some of who had walked long distances, breaking through the cordoned-off roads, to catch a glimpse of the president.
Surprisingly absent were Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing. Both strong Lagos personalities were also predecessors in office to the chief host, Ambode.The president later unveiled the facility at the Institute of Maternal and Child Health (Ayinke House) at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja at about 11: 00 a.m. and embarked on a comprehensive tour of the project which he described as a critical and timely intervention by the state government in the health sector.
Ambode described the development as historic, expressing optimism that it would provide world-class childbirth and maternal care services to Lagos residents and Nigerians at large.He recalled that the hospital was commissioned exactly 29 years ago, with the late businessman and philanthropist, Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, donating the first dedicated maternal and child care facility to the government, in memory of his mother, hence the name "Ayinke House."
Ambode said the hospital started with just one surgical theatre but later assumed a life of its own as a first-class childbirth and maternal care centre in the nation's health sector. It became first choice for expectant mothers.According to the governor, the hospital later became stretched beyond capacity and somehow obsolete. In recognition of the need to sustain Bank-Anthony's philanthropy, the state government, during the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola awarded the contract for the expansion and reconstruction of the facility.
Ambode revealed that the Ayinke House had been completely digitalised with state-of-the-art medical equipment as well as information technology services supported by the State Ministry of Science and Technology. Buhari also commissioned the 500-seater Lagos Theatre in Oregun, Ikeja. The ultra modern theatre is one of the four simultaneously constructed by the Ambode administration to increase arts spaces and create standard platforms for talented indigenes to showcase their talents.
The president who arrived at the venue at exactly 11:30 a.m. was treated to a live dance performance by a group of talented young artists before taking his leave.Other projects opened by Buhari include the Oshodi transport interchange, 820 mass transit buses and the international airport road, executed by the state government.
Buhari said his administration would continue to prioritise high-impact infrastructure which would vastly improve the lives of Nigerians. He said the projects reflected the drive and success of his administration in pursuing policies and programmes that would positively impact the citizens.
The president said that Governor Ambode had performed satisfactorily and he should be commended by all for his contribution to the growth and development of Lagos State.
Ambode attributed the realisation of the projects to the support by President Buhari through approval and the payments of the Paris Club refund.
He disclosed that the first tranche of the Paris Club refund to states approved by the president was what was used to make the 40 per cent down payment for the 820 buses.
"It may also interest you to know sir that, our second tranche of the Paris Club refund, in addition to the refund by the Federal Government on federal road projects executed by states, are the resources we applied to the construction of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport road and this first in Africa transport interchange."By 3:00p.m., when Buhari and his entourage arrived at the airport en route to Abuja after ending his tour, it was a successful outing that delivered a pleasant surprise to so many Lagos residents - the absence of traffic chaos.