Greater Lagos Project And My Conversation With A Public Official

Source: Jerome-Mario Utomi.
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Jerome-Mario Utomi.
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For a very long time, I have had these views that civil servants are the ‘real enemies’ of the state. This notion was predicated upon the believe that they are allergic to open communication, perhaps in obedience to the time-honored believe that a civil servant should be seen and not heard. A dictum considered the hallmark of civil service in Nigeria.

But a seeming shift in paradigm in the notion occurred on Monday April 19th, 2021, after my brief but fruitful visit on behalf of the Social And Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), to the Lagos State secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja. The visit was purposefully to furnish the state Ministry of Health with the Health Insurance Policy of a vulnerable citizen, Mrs. Ibekwe, as demanded.

The level of concentration and priority attention the staff of the Ministry has so far given to SEJA’s request, first sets the stage for my conviction that the ‘Greater Lagos’ mantra by the state may not only exist in words but in reality.

To help readers understand the piece well, I will briefly explain what led to the demand of the policy, and by extension necessitated the visit.

Mrs. Ibekwe, was reportedly, on May 29, 2017, while returning from a service at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, along Ogudu/Ojota, road at about 9pm stepped on life and naked electric wire that was recklessly and negligently exposed and abandoned on the base of an old Street Light electricity pole owned and managed by the Lagos State Electricity Board. The shock wave lifted her and landed on the ground. It was a devastating electrocution but mercifully she survived. The impact left her incapacitated. She was only able to stand with the assistance of some good spirited individuals who were within the vicinity of the incident.

An X-ray result later revealed that her left femur bone was broken. In view of this, she was referred to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, and since her referral to the National Orthopaedic hospital, Igbobi, where she has been an in/out patient. To help resolve the delay in addressing her second surgery and other challenges, the Social and Economic Justice (SEJA), a Lagos-based non-governmental Organization, via a petition/letter of request for assistance brought her plight to His Excellency, the Babajide Sanwoolu led Lagos state Government. It was in furtherance of this request that informed my visit to Alausa on the said date as the intervening Ministry of Health, as demanded the victim's health insurance policy which SEJA promptly forwarded.

With the above fact highlighted, let’s now focus on the crux of the piece.

Upon submission of the policy in room 301 at the 3rd floor, on my way out, something remarkable happened. An unprepared decision to ask of, and possibly see a particular public official (name with held) of the Ministry of Information and Strategy came flooding in.

Though I have neither communicated with him in the past nor seen him physically, yet, from information at the public sphere, he is an Assistant Director, in that particular Ministry. I have read so much of his pieces in the national dailies and in most cases, his opinions and mine were paired on the same pages of the newspaper. I have indeed longed to see him for I sincerely love his writing styles particularly the way he marshals his arguments and that visit presented a golden opportunity for me. Without hesitation, I asked the female security personnel working at the third floor of the block; how can I see Mr.,,,,? Lo and behold, to my greatest surprise, she turned and pointed at a man coming from the other end of the corridor and said; He is the one coming.

Just immediately, thinking it’s going to be a ‘standing conversation’ and exchange of pleasantry. I without waiting for him to get close greeted and introduced myself.

But that was not the end as he offered that we go to his office. He brought me to his office beautifully and simply but elegantly furnished with a few pieces of furniture-chairs and table. He is a tall man. He is human and humane both in the expression of his face and his posture. He has a development mind, analytical and quick on the uptake. Even in our casual conversation, the subtlety of his presentation shows a sharpness of interest that can be fully appreciated by all. In physical appearance, he, to my judgment, shares common features with Pastor Sam Adeyemi of Day Star Christian Church, Oregun, Lagos. Most importantly, he is by no means different from what he professes on the pages of the newspapers.

Despite these virtues and attributes, I listened with rapt attention to his use of carefully framed arguments, vividly supported evidence and emotional match to demonstrate how the policies of the present administration are in the best interest of Lagosians. I pretended not to be convinced of what he sermonized. But he was making sense indeed and in truth. Alas! I could not pretend for too long.

More than anything else, my conversation with him created a new awareness in me that a leader should not try to convince his people that he is working for their good just by taking decisions that eventually benefit them, but, through efforts that make the people see tangible results through projects that do just that.

From this standpoint, ongoing projects, as evidenced by the materials/publications he handed over to me, exists some ingrained truth in the public official’s assertions.

Out of many instances contained in the publications that narrates the state governments efforts to engineer sustainable development in ways that protects the present and the rights of the future generations, particularly in the areas of transportation, education, infrastructures among others, as someone that resides in the Kosofe Local Government Area of the state, I was able to cross check and confirm as true the claim about the construction works which has been completed along the Ketu-Mile 12 and several road projects ongoing in the Ikorodu axis. For instance, the rehabilitation/upgrading of the Agric-Isawo Road into a 4-lane dual carriageway are on course. It was conceived to link the Ikorodu axis with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway through Arepo in Ogun State.

Even as this piece and of course entire lagosians celebrate a people-focused leadership currently delivered in the state and efforts to develop a smart city agenda; it is in the opinion of this piece that the state government gives Mrs Ibekwe and of course other less privileged lagosians priority attention.

The state government needs to do this not for political reasons but for the interest of our democracy. They must not fail to remember that ‘the more satisfied the people are, the more focused they will be on building up national wealth. And the more focused on building up national wealth they are, the stronger and more capable the government will be in taking the right decisions. This, in turn, contributes to building national wealth. It is a continuous cycle that benefits everyone once it is properly linked. But once it is cut, everybody suffers’. This is a universal practice.

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;j[email protected]/08032725374

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