Sanwo-Olu: Make Lagos liveable, not duplicate of Dubai By Bola Bolawole 0807 552 5533

I have lived and worked in Lagos since 1986; so, Lagos is my second home although I am an “ara oke” from Ondo State. Besides, right from the time of ex-Gov. Babatunde Raji Fashola, I signed on to “Eko o ni baje!” and there has been no looking back ever since.


Retired Federal director and Town Planner Yacoob Abiodun, the writer of what follows, still has much contribution to make for the betterment of Lagos if his voice is hearkened unto. Read on:

“No plan is right for every community. A development plan (development model) that is right for one community may be wrong for another… John A. Lewis (Economic Development administrator in “Planners on Planning” 1996)

“Unique results only come from doing things differently. Long-term thinking leads to grand results… Dr. Tommy Weir, a leadership maximizer in “Leadership Dubai Style” 2015).

“When ex-Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State assumed office in May 2015, his developmental mantra was “CLEAN, SAFE, AND PROSPEROUS LAGOS” while his vernacular motto was “Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko lo je wa l’ogun” (The progress of Lagos State is our priority.) His policy thrust was “as a government, we based our policy thrust on a tripod of Security, Infrastructure and Job Creation”

“For inexplicable reason(s), Ambode maintained “Catholic aloofness” from the then Lagos State Development Plan (2012-2015) document handed over to him by Fashola, charting a completely different course based on his own vision and mission and planned strategies on the transformation of Lagos.

“Fast forward to May 29, 2019: Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu assumed office with the unmistakable posturing of “a new Sheriff-in-town”. He coined a new development mantra for Lagos – TOWARDS A GREATER LAGOS – a journey which he asked the people of the state to join him to accomplish as implied in his vernacular motto of: Igbega Eko ti di Ajumose’’(The progress of Lagos necessitates collective responsibility). He coined THEMES as an acronym for his development model (plan). THEMES stand for six pillars of development prioritised on the following focal areas: Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, Security and Government.

“While making his final remarks at the end of a two-day ministerial performance review retreat on September 22, 2020, the governor told the audience comprising cabinet members and executives of parastatals that “Lagos has all the potentials to attain the Dubai Development Model” and enjoined them all “to make Lagos another Dubai”

“This is surely a tall order! There are troubling developmental problems with present-day Lagos as a megacity. The sterling “leadership habits” that propelled Dubai to global stardom are NOT common attributes in Lagos because the state’s institutions are intentionally made weak and dysfunctional. Each leadership and succeeding administration prefers to work in silos, pretentious of the fact that government is a continuum.

“Environmental pollution is one problem plaguing the megacity. Acute water shortage stands in the way of wholesome sanitation. Lagos is estimated to use 724 million gallons of water daily; yet, it produces 317 million of gallons, which is not up to 50% of the total daily requirement. Open defecation along the stretch of the Marina is a daily practice, albeit unhygienic.

“What of crime, criminality, cult wars, and the menace of street urchins (area boys) who molest/rob people openly on Lagos roads, especially during traffic gridlock? Traffic gridlock paralyses movement within the city. Yet, this megacity is the only one of such status in the world known to this writer without a mass transit system. Lagos population is on a galloping increase – growing 10 times faster than New York City and Los Angeles with dire consequences for urban sustainability.

“Figuratively speaking, the megacity has “invisible zoning” and development is mumbo-jumbo. Reactionary attention is being paid to building control regulations with less or no regard for air space, height, and bulk standards. Developers flout planning/building regulations with reckless abandon and are ready to give a bribe or pay a fine to escape the penalties for breaking the law, which forecloses deterrent for bad behaviour.

“Rebecca Davis, a Daily Maverick journalist from South Africa, gave a disparaging appraisal about her first impression of Lagos being “a conurbation sprawling in a fashion that appears untouched by town planning” A vexing indictment, but factual! The over densification of both human beings and buildings, most especially on the Mainland and the Island axis of Lagos, is worrisome. Every open space is converted to corner shops, artisan workshops, and unauthorised neighbourhood markets.

“At Oyingbo Market, traders display their wares on the road sidewalks while KAI officials at the location to check-mate such infractions pretend to see no evil. The market edifice nearby with over 1000 shops is left unoccupied because the traders cannot afford the exorbitant fees being demanded as rent.

“Lagos State drowns in laws on any matter of governance under the sun. However, the political will to strictly enforce these purpose-specific laws has been an uphill task, which invariably encourages bad civic conduct. All the problems identified here are age-long and they continue to escalate year-in, year-out because succeeding administrations in Lagos State cherry-pick what they want to do, not what is expedient /important to do for the benefits of the people.

“Citizens are seldom engaged despite ‘inclusiveness’ as an essential ingredient of good governance. Lagos residents desire a manageable and LIVEABLE CITY where things work properly, not a grandiose dysfunctional and unsustainable megacity. Can Lagos be truly the “State of Excellence” going by its sobriquet?

“Sanwo-Olu must start a crusade of Urban Reawakening whereby all employees of the government “re-pledge” themselves to excellence. Dubai’s remarkable achievement (both physical and intangible) is solely based on a LEADERSHIP style with tenacious “Habits for Remarkable Success”

“I share here a couple of those habits:

• Study your past. Be conversant with the history of Lagos’s development. He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that you learn.

• Think about tomorrow, today. Be a visionary leader by seeing generations into the future and making decisions accordingly, even if those decisions bring short-time pain.

· No gain without pain. Dare to do what others fear to do. Majid Al Futtaim, a famous Real Estate guru in Dubai, must have had “tomorrow” on his agenda when he dared to develop the 560-store “Mall of the Emirates” in the early 2000s, complete with its world-famous indoor ski resort, in the middle of the desert. Some questioned his sanity then but years later, the mall became one of the Middle East’s largest shopping and leisure centres. Sanwo-Olu should go ahead with his agenda to build a new port at Badagry with gusto. It is a desirable and futuristic project.

• Be decisive about your dreams for Future Lagos. Give your denizens hope for the future and they will follow you without hesitation.

• Create an environment where businesses thrive and help others to succeed. Be reminded of America’s 6th President, John Quincy’s eternal quote: If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader!

• Don’t accept “good enough as good enough” As a leader, crave and demand excellent performance from your employees in the manner of Dubai’s style of leadership philosophy – “Aim for the 1st because nobody remembers the 2nd”. The leader should encourage critical thinking and competition among employees and handsomely reward excellent performance accordingly.

• Spot-check employees’ performance using surrogate shoppers. Monitor employees’ performance by deploying under-covers who pretend to be customers. For efficiency, this aspect is necessary.

“Finally, LASG should have several copies of Peters and Waterman’s bestseller treatise “In Search of Excellence” and Dr. Tommy Weir’s seminal book “Leadership Dubai Style: The habits to achieve remarkable success” in the State’s public libraries as well as make the two books a “must-read” for government officials.

“The Report of The Presidential Committee on Redevelopment of the Lagos Megacity Region (2006) should also be revisited by the LASG.


“Dubai’s economy, which thrives partially on oil, real estate and extremely on tourism/entertainment, is sinking! It is an economy that rests on a tripod. Remove one leg, every other thing cascades! Since the advent of Covid-19, global travelling has been drastically curtailed. Foreign tourists, workers and property developers have stopped coming to Dubai, the price of crude has plummeted and the hospitality sector of the economy has gone south – creating a revenue fiasco for both the municipal government and local businesses; and massive job losses. Dubai’s Development Model is not infallible but vulnerable. The economic planners of Dubai put their eggs in one basket, unmindful of Murphy’s Law that says: if there is the possibility of anything happening, it will happen at the least expected moment!

“The lesson from this – All that glitters is not gold! Development models should zero in on the elements/variables of local economic conditions and not on one-size-fits-all models”

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