Despite growing up in a community where political debates were as regular as Sunday dinners, I never thought I’d find myself amid decisionmakers in governance, let alone attend a town hall meeting with the Governor of Lagos State.
My journey to politics and governance began on that fateful Saturday, May 29, 1999, when I saw a man on the television, dressed in white Agbada and a green Yoruba cap swearing an oath on the Bible. I did not fully grasp the significance of that day, but it piqued my interest because, unlike typical noisy Saturdays, most shops were locked up on this day, making our street look like a ghost town. Little did seven-year-old me know that what I watched was the rebirth of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people, and from the people” – a mantra we have heard echoed throughout these 24 years of uninterrupted democracy. Over the years, however, the hope and trust that the citizenry had in its leaders seemed to have dissipated. Expectations were high for economic reforms, social development, and infrastructural development at the turn of the new century. Lagos blossomed and continued its journey to becoming the Centre of Excellence indeed and in truth. I have watched places like Oshodi transform into something beautiful, I have watched public schools infuse technology into their learning curriculum, I have watched COVID-19 test the tenacity of an Incident Commander, and I have seen us export music, movies and culture to the globe. In just one administration, I have seen the government produce a stateof-the-art rice mill, empower thousands of youths and women in agriculture, improve waste collection and even solve a lot of the housing dilemmas.
Despite these, “the government has not done enough” has been a constant mantra throughout the changing dispensations and administrations. I must confess that this school of thought is not alien to me. While I applaud the government for providing BRT buses, the queues at the close of business suggest that more buses need to be rolled out. While I commend the beauty of the parks in different strategic locations in Lagos, the maintenance needs to be improved. While I am grateful for the intervention of LAGRIDE to ease the transportation hitches, the traffic congestion needs to be dealt with. Armed with this same ideology, I applied for the Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy to understand why it seemed so difficult for the government to do “a lot!” It is my journey as an outsider becoming an insider I intend to document here. Perhaps, seeing through my eyes might give you answers to this age long question: “Has the government truly done enough?” On Thursday, January 25, 2024, I experienced my first town hall meeting with Mr Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu. The ambience was electrifying, and the expectations of the people were as clear as daylight. They wanted to hear their governor talk even if they weren’t sure about the promises that would be made. The air was charged with a sense of responsibility as if each citizen in the room was a superhero ready to question the powers that be. As a Fellow of the Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy, posted to the Ministry of Information and Strategy, my initiation into the town hall world felt like stepping into a political circus, complete with the ringmaster, Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, presenting the THEMES Agenda scorecard. A
s Mr Governor stepped onto the stage to speak about the accomplishments of his administration, it was clear that no other state in Nigeria was doing what Lagos was doing. With the multifaceted investments in transportation and traffic management, we shouldn’t even have the kind of congestion we now have. But, as my commissioner aptly put it: “Lagos is a victim of its own success.” It made me think of New York – the city that never sleeps – a place as fast-paced and diverse as Lagos, facing its own set of challenges. I couldn’t help but draw parallels when I learned that 57% of Americans are frustrated with their government. That’s more than half the population! Yet, without the stats, one would think that all is well with the most powerful nation on earth.