Lagos — In the annals of the country's political history, June 12 remains a watershed. No matter how hard its antagonists try, for many reasons, June 12 will continue to be a landmark in the nation's political landscape. On that day, Nigerians expressed a strong resolve to chart a new course for their beloved country by redefining and reshaping the nation's political setting.
Prior to that time, the country's politics sharply reflected our palpable religious and ethnic divides. But on June 12, all that changed. Chief MKO Abiola, who was the presidential candidate of the defunct SDP, had more votes in the Northern part of the country than Alhaji Bashir Tofa, his Northern challenger from the defunct NRC.
Sadly, the then ruling military junta, led by General Ibrahim Babangida (retd.), annulled the result of the June 12, 1993 election, thereby ensuring that the acclaimed winner, Abiola, was unable to claim his mandate. He died in that process. The annulment of the election threw the country into needless chaos and turmoil. Thus, an election that was supposed to cement our unity became an albatross.
Cheerfully, the supreme price paid by Abiola and others over the annulled election is not in vain after all. Last May 29, the country celebrated 21 years of unbroken democracy which is quite unprecedented since 1960. It is not just about the stability of democracy, it is about the people having access to the dividends of democracy.
Lagos State stands out in this respect, especially under the current leadership of Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu. Using the T.H.E.M.E.S. (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) Agenda as the vehicle to drive its lofty vision of a 'Greater Lagos', the Sanwo-Olu Administration is developing a reliable intermodal system of transportation by investing in the waterways and light rail system.
The objective is to move people through water and rail, in addition to roads. On February 4, 2020, eight new state-of-the-art ferries were commissioned by Mr. Governor, signifying the commencement of full-sale commercial operation. There have been remarkable increase in the number of commuters on the waterways since the launch.
Similarly, with the successful completion of the elevated sea-crossing track of the Blue Line Mass transit project, at Marina, Lagos, late last year, construction work has begun on the final phase of the scheme. The project is critical to the achievement of the intermodal transport vision of the administration.
The plan to construct the Fourth Mainland Bridge is equally on course as eight out of the over 30 firms that expressed interest in the project have been shortlisted. Similarly, more roads have been rehabilitated while others are at various phases of completion. The Oshodi-Abule-Egba BRT Corridor, the Pen Cinema Bridge, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the Agric-Ishawo Road and the four junctions' improvement projects at Allen Avenue, Maryland, Ikotun and Lekki among others would soon be ready for public use.
A major highlight of the government intervention in roads was the commissioning of 31 network of roads at Ojokoro area of the State. Equally on May 29, the Intelligent Transportation System, ITS, for Bus Reform Scheme at Ikeja and Oshodi Bus Terminals, Oyingbo Bus Terminal, Concrete jetty with shoreline protection and waiting shelter at Baiyeku, Ikorodu LG, Fadipe/Salami/Eyiowuawi/Odubanjo Streets in Shomolu LGA, Alhaji Akinwunmi Street, Mushin LGA and Adagun-Imeke-Iworo-Ajido-Epeme Road, Badagry LGA were all commissioned by Mr. Governor.
On traffic management, 1,017 LASTMA officers were recruited and inducted to achieve better flow of traffic and reduction in travel time. In terms of unhindered access to healthcare, two Mother and Child Centers, MCCs, at Eti-Osa and Igando, respectively, were commissioned, while the Badagry and Epe MCCs will soon be ready for public use.
In same vein, the investment of the administration in upscaling infrastructure in the education sector has led to completion and commissioning of projects such as18 Classroom Blocks at Muslim Junior College, Egbe; 18 Classroom Blocks at Maya Secondary School, Ikorodu; 18 Classroom Blocks at Eva Adelaja Junior Secondary School, Bariga; Block of 20 Classrooms at Bashua Military School Primary School, Shomolup;13 Classrooms at Saviour Primary School, Ifako-Ijaiye LGA; Block of 20 Classrooms at Ayanleye Memorial Primary School, Ifako-Ijaiye LGA; and Block of six Classrooms at Ansar Ur Deen, Ibonwon, Epe.
Equally, through the EKOEXCEL training initiative, over 4,000 primary school teachers were trained on how to competently utilise technology in teaching. And the results have been quite amazing as more pupils now register in the public primary schools, while attendance rate has remarkably improved.
In the area of housing, four major housing projects were recently commissioned in commemoration of the administration's one year in office. These include LagosHoms, Igbogbo Scheme with 360 home units comprising 120 one-bedroom, 120 two-bedroom and 120 three-bedroom apartments. Lagos State Affordable Public Housing Scheme, Topo, Badagry with 252 two-bedroom apartments, Courtland Villas, Behind Alhaji Femi Okunnu Estate, Igbohushu, Lekki with 120 units of four-bedroom Maisonettes and BQs and Lekki Apartments, Ikate-Eleguishi, Lekki
Similarly, on January 30, 2020, apartments' keys were handed over to 492 beneficiaries of the administration's maiden rent-to-own housing scheme at the Lateef Kayode Jakande Housing Estate, Igando. It was, indeed, a joyous moment for all the beneficiaries. In the coming months, more housing schemes will be delivered, thereby creating opportunities for more residents to own houses. The good thing about the housing project is that it also has a job creation component as many residents are also earning a living through the projects.
To tackle poverty and create wealth for more residents, several empowerment schemes were also initiated by the government to develop the skills of beneficiaries in specialised areas such as bead and soap making, tiling, fashion designing, interior decoration, hairdressing and make-up, among others.
The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF, 'W' Initiative, initiated to help women birth their entrepreneurial dreams into reality, is also an integral part of the State's empowerment programme. It principally seeks to tackle unemployment through job and wealth creation. Recall the LSETF was established to provide financial support to residents of the State with creative business ideas.
Through the LSETF, various loans have been given to small business owners and start-ups operating in the State, in a bid to empower them, in line with its mandate to provide access to financial and institutional support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs. Recently, in a partnership between Access Bank and the LSETF, Governor Sanwo-Olu presented cheque to 794 female beneficiaries of the LSETF. The exercise is a continuation of the LSETF business support policy which has benefited over 11 million individuals since inception.
For Lagos, the future, no doubt, looks bright. With more investments in intermodal transport, the prospect of the Lekki Deep Sea Port as well as the possibility of a fourth Mainland Bridge coupled with the coming of more housing schemes, completion of more road projects as well as the Imota Rice Mill among others, the Sanwo-Olu Administration is surely taking a great leap towards the realisation of its 'Greater Lagos' vision.
Omojoye, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Palmgrove, Lagos.