Chief Modestus Umenzekwe is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and board member, Federal Housing Authority (FHA). In this interview with FELIX NWANERI, he speaks on governance in Lagos State, the forthcoming governorship poll and the need to return the incumbent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to power
How would you describe Lagos, its development and present leadership?
Lagos as you know is the most important state in Nigeria, not just because of its vibrant atmosphere and friendly ambiance due to its coastal location, Lagos houses close to 25million people. A cosmopolitan state for that matter, Lagos is beautiful and no state in Nigeria can be compare to it, not even Abuja with all its political paraphernalia. Lagos is home to two international seaports, Apapa Port and Tin Can Port; it is home to two airports, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, and the Lagos Airport. The state hosts the best roads and bridges in Nigeria; the best infrastructures are found in Lagos.
No wonder, while some states in the federation are just celebrating construction of their first pedestrian bridge, Lagos has stopped celebrating commissioning of bridges, it is taken for granted because they are now too many. Let me just stop here. Lagos is full of architectural masterpieces that are the envy of fellow countries in sub- Saharan Africa. With approximately $30 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and $2,174 Per Capita, Lagos state is not a small state. In December last year, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a total budget of N1.768 trillion for 2023. Also last year, Lagos targeted a GDP of over $100 billion in her 30 years development plan 2022-2052, so what are we talking about. A leadership that has managed this volume of economy deserves everything.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Olufemi Hamzat, are in action for a greater Lagos. So, I don’t think we have any need to change a winning team. We don’t want a political neophyte as governor, we want a team that will sustain what it has started for another four years. As a forward thinking governor, Sanwo- Olu and his team also approved the Lagos State Wealth Fund (LSWF) bill, which he said would be sent to the state Assembly for passage into law.
The LSWF is a signal of the commencement of the state’s sub-sovereign green bond that will create sustainable wealth for the government and the residents. According to the governor, the fund will allow the state to create a wealth reserve that will be instrumental to delivering infrastructure and preventing Lagos revenue from external shocks and making the state a technology and investment hub. He added that LSWF would bring development as it is the first sub-national sovereign wealth fund in Africa, thereby joining Singapore and Canada, which have similar wealth funds and had gone on to do great things with it.
Lagos has always been headed by great minds and Sanwo-Olu is no exception. What is your view on that?
Administratively, the state is constantly headed by great minds from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to Babatunde Raji Fashola, Akinwumi Ambode and now Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his team. These people have held Lagos together and the state has metamorphosed over time into a giant status of top economy in the world, becoming the sixth largest economy in Africa due mainly to political, economic, social and administrative sagacity and ingenuity of the state governors and their deputies, including the present governor, Sanwo- Olu and his deputy, Hamzat.
In all, these people built the peace you and I are enjoying in Lagos today, the enduring legacy, the structures, the infrastructure, the superstructures. All of them are the manifestations of the visions and missions of these great leaders of this great city that never sleeps; a 24 hour economy. So, it was time we start talking about the beauty of this state that accommodates millions of people which is more than the population of many African countries put together. Indeed Lagos has a lot of aura surrounding it and this aura include economic opportunities, security, education, entertainment, receptiveness to the high and the low in the society.
How would you assess the security situation in Lagos?
The state government is not joking on the issue of security. The state makes sure that the state police command is well equipped with necessary operational logistics. This has helped the police and other sister security outfits to be effective and efficient in their various beats and the people can now sleep with their two eyes closed. With the serenity and tranquility provided by safe and secured environment, aside the agricultur-al potentialities of the state, people from different states of the country come to Lagos with food produce of various kinds, hence there is available and cheap agricultural produce in the state, making Lagos one of the cheapest states in Nigeria talking in terms of food availability. Its coastal location is also of great advantage. Because of security commercial activities thrive in the state.
Do you think continuity in terms of leadership of the state has played a role in the development of the state?
Lagos has everything that makes a beautiful city, from the well tarred roads to having some of the longest bridges in Africa, if not the longest, the Third Mainland Bridge. Are you talking about the Eko Atlantic City, a mainly commercial and administrative smart city, where life is on 24/7. Of course as you know, this is the brainchild of Asiwaju Tinubu and has been sustained by Fashola, Ambode and now Sanwo-Olu.
We talk about the Blue/Red Rail; this is designed to facilitate faster transportation of goods and persons; are we talking about the Lekki Free Zone? An investment hub; the Dangote Refinery, the second Lagos Airport coming soon at Lekki, Fourth Mainland Bridge has also been awarded. Ikoyi and Victoria Island have remained the effigy of Lagos State; Ikeja, Amuwo-Odiofin, Ajawo, Festac, beautiful estates continue to spring up in nooks and crannies of the state making the city an Eldorado of Africa not just for the residents but to tourists and visitors. To keep Lagos safe, secure, developed and respected, there is need for continuity of the leadership of the state.
In every aspect of society engagements or communal association, there is always the need for continuity, and that is exactly why Lagos has continued to make steady progress, following the developmental blueprint spearheaded by Asiwaju Tinubu and implemented religiously and assiduously by his successors, the Eko Atlantic City project and Pen Cinema road/bridge project are instances of merits of continuity.
But the opposition saying that Lagos is not what the ruling party claims…
Some say Lagos is a dirty place; they say that it is one of the most inhabitable and unlivable cities in the world, These are misconceptions; the handiwork of enemies. My findings about Lagos are shocking. Lagos is a mini Nigeria because of the diversity of the people living in it, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio and Tiv, name them. You see high-rise buildings that are comparable to what you have in America, Japan, Dubai, and this is home to Nollywood. Lagos has built an economy that no other state in Nigeria can build in the next 100 years.
Those who want to oust the present governor are on a wild goose chase; they are political neophytes, and they are the real enemies of the state who run down the state because they want to occupy political positions. Many a time people embark on pull it down exercise by exhuming the wrong side of history. Sometimes they come out with statistics and where they get these numbers from, I don’t know. Yes, because of the influx of people of varied backgrounds it is obvious that this has brought about innumerable challenges which like every other dynamic society are being fixed. So we shouldn’t focus on the problems of Lagos, but rather focus on the solutions, what it has achieved and what is capable of achieving.
Why are you convinced that Governor Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Hamzat, deserve second term?
If I tell you what this governor has done in a space of three and half years, 32 pages of this your paper will not contain it. Look at roads; the roads commissioned under this administration include Aderemi Akeju Street, Okun Street, Femi Kufo Street; Flyover construction at Ikeja Under Bridge connecting the Agege Motor Road, the Alaba-Sure/Second Rainbow flyover, the same at Oyinbo, Lagos Ogun Boundary, network of 31 roads in Ojokoro, Aradagun-Epeme- Iworo-Ajido, and Shomolu road network. They are great road projects that demand commendations.
In all, this administration in 2 years alone, according to what is public domain has constructed 51 roads and 632 others rehabilitated. The aim is to enhance effective traffic management and transportation. Sanwo-Olu received his first baptism of fire immediately he took over the mantle of leadership in Lagos, with the twin problems of Covid-19 and #EndSARS which nearly crippled Lagos but you see the governor was equal to the task, he stood firm and tackled the challenges with equanimity.
A man like that deserves a second term. And you know, Sanwo-Olu couldn’t have done it alone, his deputy, Olufemi Hamzat is also a master strategist, so the duo deserve the votes of Lagosians, they are tested and trusted to keep the tempo in Lagos, politically, economically, socially and otherwise.