SANWO-OLU: A model incident commander

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, surveyor, banker and Lagos State governor, has not rested since February 27 when the first case of Covid-19 pandemic was confirmed in the Centre of Excellence. The governor, assisted by a cabinet of talents; a blend of technocrats and politicians; has demonstrated exemplary leadership in the anti-Covid war in Lagos, the epic centre of the medical trouble. For 10 months, the dreadful pestilence has continued without respite. It has remained the greatest threat and challenge in the health sector across the globe.

The statistics in Lagos are frightening, despite the government’s effort. But, it could have been worse. It is not a lost battle. As at last weekend, the number of confirmed cases had jumped to 24,839. Even, Sanwo-Olu was not insulated from the infection. He has been in isolation for two weeks, having been hit by the virus.

But, owing to the proactive steps taken by the administration, more serious havoc had been averted. No fewer than 23, 390 patients were discharged; 1, 220 were on admission, although 229 had died.

The siege is not over. Humanity is still united in anxiety and fear. Now that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has raised the alarm about the imminence of the second wave in Nigeria, vigilance is the watchword.

The experience of the first wave can serve as a precedent in the concerted effort at prevention of the disease at an alarming rate. Here lies the significance of the Sanwo-Olu factor in the anti-Covid battle.

The governor will reflect in his memoir the wisdom that permitted him to curtail the spread of the disease in Lagos at  time it appeared the Federal Government was caught unawares. The strange and destructive plague brought out the inherent leadership traits of the governor, making him a model Incident Commander.

Under the ‘star boy of Lagos,’ the state has been living to its billing as a mini-country shouldering enormous national, sub-regional and continental responsibilities in the health sector. Lagos is big and if its economy had been destroyed by Covid, the effects will be felt throughout the country because there is no family in Nigeria without a representative in Lagos.

Indeed, the Lagos governor blazed the trail in the anti-pestilence war through the total mobilisation of human and material resources deployed to combat the pandemic. The Sanwo-Olu factor in the anti-Covid war has been to the advantage of other states, which were motivated to copy and adopt the innovative Lagos approach to problem-solving in a moment of apprehension.

There is no shortage of will and capacity. Response has been swift. By the governor’s side is his workaholic Health Commissioner, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who pairs with him for the marathon briefings on the update on the scourge.

Sanwo-Olu’s handling of the health challenge gave hope and stemmed the gloom. Yet, in spite of the priority attention given to the emergency, other critical sectors were not not abandoned. As the health sector was being vigorously defended, resources were also channelled towards other areas of need.

Covid is a distraction. But, the impact of the ‘government of inclusion’ is felt across the sectors-education, health, transportation, traffic management service reforms, agriculture, toad infrastructure housing,  waste management and security.

Putting these into perspective, Information and Strategy Commissioner Gbenga Omotoso said: “Governor Sanwo-Olu remains focused on fulfilling his campaign promises to Lagosians and is determined to accomplish set targets, despite the temporary setback occasioned by the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He added: “Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be an interesting alteration to our ways of life, and also provided Lagosians with the opportunity to confirm the enormous capacity of the Babaijde Sanwo-Olu administration to lead a people-centred government.”

It is an understatement. Urgent measures taken by the Lagos State government to tackle the scourge preceded the steps taken by the Federal Governme intervention. Impressed by the Lagos strategy, President Buhari who acknowledged the effective management of the emergency, decided to support Sanwo-Olu’s effort with N10 billion.

The first critical step was the sensitisation of the doubting and uninformed public about the reality of the mortal danger. Up to now, many Lagosians still shun nose masks, despite the enlightenment programmes mounted by government. Another leg of the information dissemination was motivated by the need to foster an understanding of the Covid protocols and prevent labelling of patients.

Schools and markets were closed to enhance the enforcement of the Covid protocols. When they were initially reopened, the shift system was adopted and social distance was vigorously enforced.

Dialogue with faith bodies were embarked upon before closure of churches and mosques. Following the sit-at-home directive to curtail the spread, Sanwo-Olu unfolded an economic stimulus package for the indigent and most vulnerable in the society, particularly the unemployed, aged, widows and people with disabilities. These preceded the initiative by the CaCovid group. Food packs were distributed to local governments and communities to cushion the effects of the stay-at-home directive.

Under the first phase, more than 200,000 households were captured. The method of catering for six people per household was effective. Although not every household was touched, beneficiaries have good tales to tell. In embarking on the novelty, Lagos State government its Social Register and the data of 4,000 Community Development Associations across the 377 wards to identify beneficiaries. The Lagos State government also extended a duty of care to the aged and retirees by insulating them from hardship during the restriction by paying of N1.8 billion bond arrears to 418 pensioners.

Lagos State was the first to unveil a 70-bed COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre within the premises of Landmark Exhibition Centre in Eti-Osa Local Government Area. It was constructed by the Young President Organisation (YPO), Lagos State Chapter. It has 10-bed intensive care isolation unit, four ventilators, monitors, respirators, mobile x-ray, ultrasound and oxygen facilities.

The isolation and treatment centre in LUTH, Infection Disease Hospital, Yaba, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium, Onikan, and the General Hospital, Gbagada did wonders.

Governance was not truncated by Covid. Although junior civil servants were asked to stay at home, the civil service was kept going. Lagos State government also initiated a novel virtual meeting for members of the State Executive Council (EXCO). Thus, there was no lull in administration.

Remarkably, many landmark achievements were recorded during the period. These include the shortlisting of 10 firms out of the 32 eligible companies that showed interest in the construction of the Lagos Fourth Mainland Bridge. Sanwo-Olu never failed in packaging meaningful responses to other emergencies-the inferno at the Catholic school in Festac, the explosion in Abule-Ado, Iju and the petroleum  tanker disaster.

In May 2020, Lagos State government reviewed its 2020 budget by 21 percent, from N1.169 trillion to N920.5 billion. The purpose was to reflect the Covid realities and critically respond to the drastic drop in revenue earnings, following the crisis in the oil market. The House of Assembly approved the adjusted  budget in August 2020. Its feature was a 10 percent reduction in recurrent expenditure and a 24 percent reduction in capital expenditure.

It is gratifying that despite being the epic centre of the pandemic, Lagos under Sanwo-Olu recorded an improved budgetary performance from 56 percent at the end of the first quarter to 77 percent at the end of the third quarter of this year.

It is also remarkable that these improvements were recorded in a state that was worst hit by the #EndSARS protests. Lamentably, some of the hospitals that were upgraded, equipped and revitalised were casualties of the legitimate protests that were hijacked by hoodlums and arsonists. According to Sanwo-Olu, who has charted the course of rebuilding Lagos, N1 trillion would be required to fix the state.

Other strides in the health sector are equally salutary. To improve healthcare delivery, the Sanwo-Olu governmeht introduced “Healthy Bee Initiative,” which offered free surgeries and medical services to 25,000 residents, including infants and teenagers. This programme was held across the five division of Lagos, Epe, Ikorodu, Ikeja, and Badagry, bringing quality healthcare to the doorstep of the beneficiaries.

In September last year, the governor completed and commissioned the abandoned 110-bed Maternal and Child Care (MCC) in Ajah, bringing succour to women in need of maternity care in Eti-Osa axis.

Sanwo-Olu joined the First Lady, Dr. Aisha Buhari, to open another 140-bed MCC jointly completed in Alimosho area by his government and the Office of the Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire. The maternity home was initiated to strengthen the capacity of the state in providing sound maternity care for residents.

The governor of Lagos is still forging ahead with purpose, determination, courage and confidence.

His ascension to power was a fulfilment of destiny. But, he is living to expectation because he embraced the duties assigned to him by the constitution and Lagosians with passion, humility, intelligence and candour.

Barely a year and half in office, Sanwo-Olu had earned a reputation for hardwork, diligence,focus and achievement motivation.

From day one, he had hit the ground running,  conscious of the fact that the progressive beat must go on in the Centre of Excellence. He is building on the legacies of his illustrious leader, Asiwaju BolaTinubu.

The achievement of the administration is a tribute to team spirit. According to tradition, Sanwo-Olu has a solid team. The composition reflects in the performance of the administration in critical sectors.

The governor was born in June 25, 1965 in Lagos. He is a graduate of the cosmopolitan University of Lagos, Akoka, where he studied Surveying. He also attended the London Business School, the Lagos Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Sanwo-Olu earned an MBA degree from UNILAG. He is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) and Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Training and Development (NITAD).

Sanwo-Olu is not a politician without a second address. He was the Treasurer at former Lead Merchant Bank from 1994 to 1997. He also worked with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) as the Head of Foreign Money Market.

At the First Inland Bank, Plc (now First City Monument Bank), he was a Deputy General Manager and Divisional Head.

In private business, he was also a success. Sanwo-Olu was the Chairman of Baywatch Group Limited and First Class Group Limited. He was a board member of the Department for International Development (DFID/DEEPEN) Fund and Audit Committee of Caverton Offshore Services Group, PLC.

Since 2003, he had placed his hand on the plough and never looked back. Although he joined the Tinubu administration as a technocrat, when he was appointed a Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to former Deputy Governor Olufemi Pedro, he later learned the ropes. He served as Acting Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, and later, Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in 2007.

In 2007, he was appointed as Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions by former Governor Babatunde Fashola SAN). In 2016, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode appointed him as Managing Director/CEO of LSDPC. His achievements include the supervision of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) Privatization Projects.

He also played a great role in the setting up of the Lagos Security Trust Fund. He served as its pioneer board chairman. The LAGBUS System and the Control and Command Centre in Alausa were also part of his initiatives.

On September 16, 2018, he threw his hat into the ring when he declared his intention to run for governor. He was endorsed by the Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the three senators from Lagos, House of Representatives and House of Assembly members from Lagos State. Later, After winning the primary on October 2, no fewer than 63 political parties,  organisations and groups endorsed his candidature.

Sanwo-Olu is a recipients of many awards and honours. They include the Platinum Award from the Lagos State Public Service Club, 2009 Best in Human Capital Development award from the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Merit award from the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Merit award from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management in Nigeria (CIPMN), Merit Award from the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN), and LSDPC Impactful Leadership and Recognition Award.

The governor is married with children to Dr. Ibijoke.

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