Sanwo-Olu’s Challenge

Posted by News Express | 1 July 2022 | 861 times

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A small crowd had gathered ahead of us as we entered Chief Abiodun Oniru Road, also known to some as the Alternative Road. Fearful of any gathering these days, the driver slowed down on instruction, so we could properly discern what was playing out in front. A delivery motorcycle was lying on the side of the road. Its driver was sitting and moaning softly on a kerb not too far away. As to be expected, a few okadas had stopped in solidarity, hence the crowd. Some passers-by stopped briefly to remonstrate a man believed to have caused the ‘accident’. He was a pseudo government official who was trying to collect toll while the fallen motorcyclist was trying to evade him. It was a disaster waiting to happen. All it would take was a push, a scuffle, or a miscalculation, and the motorcycle with its rider would be on the ground. It was also a scenario witnessed all too often with varying degrees of injury.

Further down the same road as you approached the City of David Church, dualisation of the road has been going on for eternity. Many businesses along the road – event centres, car lots, upscale car services among many – have become casualties of this government tardiness. Some will be revived later at a cost. Many will not be and a lot of money would have been lost not to talk about the people who would be thrown into the unemployment market. Along that same road by the beach, construction work on a tall, multi-storied building has been stopped. Many buildings of varying sizes have also been stopped for quite a while probably as a consequence of the collapsed Ikoyi building. In these days of crippling inflation and tumbling Naira, whatever budget these developers had would have been long thrown out of the window. It is a very heavy load – pun intended – for their investors to bear.  Of recent, commercial buildings that have been existing for years are now being sealed for verification of planning papers – again probably as a consequence of collapsed buildings in parts of the State. Although this time, we hear the State is looking for money by all means for the elections – gubernatorial and presidential. But as the process for verification and subsequent payment goes on, and we know the way Civil Servants operate, goods, some perishable, are trapped inside the warehouses, trucks are trapped inside the compounds, commerce is slow as staff loiter and revenue is lost.

The Eko Bridge is one of the shortest bridges as bridges go around the world these days. It would take just two to three minutes to drive through on a good day. But good days have left that bridge for quite a while. These days, it is a torture to ply the bridge and a journey of three minutes could take three hours. Added to the ordeal is the constant menace of area boys and thieves who regularly have a field day. To be fair, this ordeal which started with tanker drivers blocking the bulk of the bridge, to having a side blocked either for repairs or for a rail track to be routed, predated the present Governor. But the closure of Apogbon bridge by him has further complicated matters. It does not look as if there is any end in sight. So the suffering continues for those who live along that axis and have to go to the Island daily. Everywhere in Lagos, roads are either being repaired or constructed. That is what development should be about. But what is harsh, what is unconscionable, is the way the road repairs are done. You can pass a road today only to find it closed tomorrow to traffic and the alternative extends your journey for at least an hour.

The road to setting up a business is very rough. There is a question of finance. There is a question a conducive and affordable space. A young entrepreneur gets a small corner which is not in any way ideal but it is his best deal in the circumstances. He puts up a small sign board to attract some traffic to his young business. Within a month, the signboard is either pulled down or defaced. Within months, different officials have visited with all kinds of levies. Not one official has come to ask how they can facilitate his business and make it grow.

Lagos is easily the commercial capital of Nigeria. But this is largely more of the accident of history borne out of location than any conscious effort from its past leaders. Its ease of doing business is as archaic and unfriendly as that of the rest of the country. There is little or no effort to grow businesses and generate employment. Maybe because no Governor sees it as a critical part of his job unlike developed countries where that is seen as a leader’s main task. The Governor needs to change that business model. The State’s Agencies ought to see themselves as partners in progress rather than as policemen trying to whip erring Lagosians into shape. Many of the closures will be avoidable or minimized if the agencies see closures as the last resort instead of the first line of discussion. To State officials, every businessman is crooked until proven otherwise and everyone walking the street is a cow to be milked.

Lagos can actually earn more if it changes its business model.  First, every tier of government and every infrastructure designed, must have the interest and convenience of the people in mind. That includes not starting projects without adequate finance. The rail project along the Lagos – Badagry route for example has taken too long and has disrupted too many lives. Secondly, young businesses should be nurtured and not strangulated. It should not be out of place to have officials go round to see the problems businesses face and how they can be helped. There is every indication to show that Lagos can continue to be the leading business light in Nigeria. It has a young and intelligent Governor who can make it happen. But he has to change his business-as-usual model and encourage his Agencies to do the same. Too many Agencies are antagonistic towards businesses. Thriving businesses will translate to a thriving State with a thriving revenue and thriving employment.

It is no surprise really, that Lagos State was recently declared as the second worst livable city in the world. All the indices that make a city livable were listed and Lagos was at the bottom of the ladder even among war-torn cities. Governor Sanwo-Olu’s challenge now is to change that ignoble appellation. It will not be done by ignoring the comfort of your people. It will not be done by the constant harassment of uniformed and ununiformed ‘officials’. It will not be done by taking as much as possible from the people and giving them as little as possible. It could be done by creating a friendlier and more conducive climate in a city where everybody pays his fair share.

•Muyiwa Adetiba is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via titbits2012@yahoo.com


Source: News Express

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