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Extending democratic dividends to grassroots

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Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has kicked off the building of 377 projects across the wards, thereby turning the Centre of Excellence into a huge construction sites, writes Deputy Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU.

 

It is a new dawn in governance in Lagos State. From yesterday, many contractors were mobilised to sites across the local governments in Lagos State for the implementation of projects dictated by local needs.

No ward is exempted, according to Local Government and Community Affairs Commissioner Wale Ahmed, who described the intervention by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as unique, novel and largely beneficial to the grassroots. He said the initiative is rare, adding that it has never happened before at the federal, state and local governments.

“All the 377 wards across 57 councils in the three senatorial districts are covered. The councillors, following extensive consultations with community leaders, residents and stakeholders named the specific  projects, based on consensus. The governor approved them and their implementation  has kicked off,” he stressed.

During the campaigns last year, Sanwo-Olu promised to run an all-inclusive administration. The inclusion is not limited to appointments to broaden the scope of political participation, but also extends to fighting infrastructure battles at the grassroots, where the majority of voters reside.

In keeping with the promises, the governor flagged off the execution of the state-wide projects last week. Apart from over 250 roads, there will be installation of 23 power projects. Some wards chose environmental renewal, new buildings and street lighting. Others, particularly riverine wards opted for jetties and other impectus for boosting water transportation.

All the ward councillors are to go home to preach the gospel of project ownership, which is critical to implementation, evaluation and maintenance.

The comprehensive intervention has been hailed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the first of it’s kind in the history of governance in the state.

The chairman, Tunde Balogun, a former Home Affairs Commissioner, who witnessed the kick off at the Adeyemi Bero Hall, State Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, lauded Sanwo-Olu for fulfilling his promises to Lagosians. He praised him for his dynamism, hardwork, sensitivity to the challenge of welfare, stressing that he has not let the party and the state down.

To Balogun, the projects have local appeal; they are grassroots-focused, confirming that the Sanwo-Olu administration is sensitive to the yearnings of the local areas for benefits of welfare.

The chairman said Sanwo-Olu, in the process of strategic engagement with the councillors for speedy execution of the projects, had also established strong connection with the grassroots.

He said: “The state government has been investing in provision of infrastructure to make the state’s economy stronger and give people a new lease of life. Despite these efforts, the governor still found the reason to touch the grassroots by initiating these 377 projects. With this, Sanwo-Olu will be leaching lasting impact on the grassroots.”

At the ceremony, where Sanwo-Olu reiterated the motivation and significance of the projects were his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who shed light on the number, spread and implementation strategies; Ahmed who welcomed the dignitaries, Chief of Staff Tayo Ayinde, Information Commissioner Gbenga Omotoso, his Finance counterpart,  Senior Special Assistant on Local Government and Commjnity Matters Prince Sola Olusi, permanent secretaries, directors and other government officials.

In the mood of joy were party leaders, including Deputy Chairman Sunny Ajose, Secretary Lanre Ogunyemi; councillors, led by Nurudeen Alimi, and ward party chairman, led by the Obalende-Ikoyi chairman, Prince Abiodun Abu, who on the spot was appointed by Sanwo-Olu as his Senior Special Assistant on Political Matters.

Hamzat, Chairman of the Projects’ Implementation committee, explained that the projects’ selection followed a a process of extensive consultations.

During the meeting between the governor and all 377 councillors, Sanwo-Olu asked them to nominate specific projects that could be executed in their wards.

After identifying the projects, the deputy governor said the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget and professionals from various ministries evaluated the cost of the projects. After the internal evaluation, it was also subjected re-evaluation by an independent consultant.

However, the projects vary according to ward preference. Giving the breakdown of the projects, Hamzat said the state government would be constructing 257 community roads and drainages. Besides,  86 public buildings would be rehabilitated, while two jetties, nine water projects and 23 power projects will be installed.

Their distribution also reflects equity, balance and principle of inclusion, although certain projects may have been dictated by population. Hamzat said the three senatorial districts are, generally?, beneficiaries; Lagos Central has 94 projects, Lagos East has 99 and the vast Lagos West has184 projects.

In the course of the implementation, government will not be aloof. The execution is a time a joint duty involving the contractors, ministry experts, councillors and local party and community leaders.

Hamzat said: “The projects will be implemented by contractors in collaboration with Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Directorate of Technical Service, Lagos State Electricity Board and Public Works Corporation. Supervision and monitoring of the projects will be done in collaboration with the ward councillors and party executives.”

However, the time frame is not stated. It is believed that since it is a novel intervention project, there will be no default as they are likely to be completed with the speed of lightening.

The projects will also generate multiplier effects for local people, particularly artisans and peasants, who will participate and benefit from the chain.

The projects have revealed the style of governance adopted by Sanwo-Olu. To the councillors and party leaders, he is accessible and he has listening ears.

The governor gave insight into this popular approach to governance in his speech at the flag off.

Sanwo-Olu said the intervention was initiated in response to the series of requests by the various communities to address specific infrastructural challenges. In his view, their execution would change the narrative about the linkage between grassroots development and government’s responsibilities.

“The state-wide 377 ward projects being launched today are state intervention projects in grassroots development. The projects are conceived in response to requests by the various communities across the State to address specific challenges. These projects are not universal; they are diverse, reflecting the needs of each ward across the state.

“The implementation of the projects will commence immediately after this official flag-off, as contractors have been fully mobilized to move to site.”

The governor urge residents who are the ultimate beneficiaries of thr projects to take ownership by monitoring the implementation process and ensuring that the job conforms to quality and standard specified in the project design.”

Sanwo-Olu said the process of identifying the needs and the design of the projects was in line with the concept of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and participatory governance in which the people were considered as key stakeholders.

Describing the grassroots as “the bedrock of development,” he said  the projects were strategic in promoting the wellbeing of the people across communities. He assured that his administration would continue to give residents a voice on issues that affect them.

“This administration’s development agenda is driven by the spirit to build a greater Lagos that is livable, and conducive for the growth and development of enterprise.

“The dream of a greater Lagos is not exclusive; it is predicated on the principle of inclusiveness by which development is not considered as satisfactory, until it has addressed the yearnings of the greatest number of the people who contributes to the commonwealth, he stressed.”

Sanwo-Olu urged elected and appointed officials in public offices to be responsible in dealing with people, noting that governance would be meaningless without the input of the people on whose mandate public officers derived their powers.

The governor flaunted the profile of the ruling party and the achievements of his administration. He said despite the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, which created some distractions, his government has been on course and alive to its responsibilities.

Reflecting on the preparations for the Lagos East senatorial by-election, Sanwo-Olu fired salvo at the opposition, saying that it cannot threaten the APC as the dominant party in Lagos.

He charged the councillors and other ward leaders from Lagos East to demonstrate the influence and strength of the ruling party to mobilise effectively for the victory of its standard bearer, Tokunbo Abiru, at the October 31 by-election.

An elated Prince Abu, who spoke on behalf of all the local government party chairmen, described the intervention “a new dawn” in the history of governance in Lagos, adding that the projects would accelerate development across communities.

Echoing him, Alimi, who spoke on behalf of 377 councillors, said by the gesture, Sanwo-Olu had taken dividends of democracy to the grassroots in an unprecedented manner.

“This has not happened before. Thus, we are giving the governor a new name: Governor Koseleri.”

 

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