The 11th edition of the Lagos state government quarterly town hall meeting was held in Apapa on April 16 as part of government’s effort to bring governance closer to people. That the governor has finally seen reasons to visit Apapa for a town hall meeting is a commendable gesture. Empathising with the people is an essential leadership virtue that keeps the people calm in the midst of the most devastating crisis. The governor captured it appropriately by saying his visit was meant to make him “feel what the rest of Lagosians have been feeling.” But sadly, the governor probably only heard what the people feel in the usual way he has been hearing it. The only difference this time is that he heard it in Apapa and not from the government house. In preparation for his visit, and in a typical Nigerian sycophantic manner, the whole of Apapa was cleared of traffic jam and the area became well-ordered all of a sudden with heavy security presence all over the place. The usually boisterous area swiftly became as quiet and serene like a gated estate in the highbrow areas of Lagos. So what the governor saw is in no way close to the Apapa we scream about; he only saw what some people in positions of authority wanted him to see in order to save their jobs. This is one of the many problems of this country. The people around the leaders shield them from the realities on ground. They paint a picture of the ideal society that is in dissonance with the reality. Who would have thought that Apapa could be cleared of waste in the shortest possible time frame? Who would have thought that the whole place could be cleared of traffic jam in preparation for the governor’s visit? This goes to show that the right things are possible if the men and women in positions of authority do right diligently and truly for the sake of the people.
Be that as it may, the governor deserves commendation for his acknowledgment that the government has not done enough to alleviate the plight of the people in the area – residents and businessmen. Over the years, we seem to have defined the Apapa metropolis by the ports and maritime business activities that go on there and attributing everything about the place to the federal government. We seem to have forgotten that Apapa is also a residential area for tax paying Lagosians. And truth be told, the state government has not done enough to meet their needs. As commendable as admittance of shortcomings may be, it does not solve the problems faced by the people. It is laudable that the governor has committed to completing the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Truck Terminal in Ijora with the capacity to accommodate 3000 trucks. As a reminder, the Governor Ambode also told a gathering of business executives just last month that the government had identified another parcel of land that could accommodate 1,300 trailers in addition to the ABAT. This means there are ongoing plans by the Lagos state government to provide truck terminals that can accommodate over 4000 trucks. This is quite relaxing. There is no gainsaying that the provision of functional truck terminals in Apapa will go a long way in addressing the traffic situation. But as the governor rightly said during the ‘A+ Meets Business’ forum last year, “one thing is to say what you want to do, the other thing is to quickly go and do it”. Now that the governor has said what he wants to do, we hope he will quickly do it.
It is also understandable that there is limit to what the state government can do with respect to the roads leading to the ports since they are federal roads. However, we believe the state government can pay greater attention to the inner roads in Apapa, which belong to state and local governments, because the dilapidated condition of many of those roads contribute immensely to the perennial traffic congestion and chaos in the area. Inasmuch as the Task Force set up by the government to ensure 24hours surveillance may have recorded some successes, not much has been achieved. Traffic congestion still remains a defining characteristic of Apapa and security is still porous. We believe the governor has the capacity to effect lasting change in the area by showing commitment to the solutions proffered by stakeholders at the town hall meeting.
It might be instructive to remind him that not much has changed since he visited Apapa in June 2015. We are hoping that a lot would change before his next visit to the business district.
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