By Emeka Oparah
I’m not frugal with praises when I am in the spirit, and I can assure you I am in the spirit today as I announce Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State, as my Person of the Year 2020.
The 55-year-old unassuming highly cerebral Governor of Lagos burst onto the crowded and tough political firmament of Lagos state as an underdog. He literally took Lagos by storm, however, beating the incumbent Governor in the highly controversial but keenly contested primaries and went ahead to beat his opponent, perennial candidate, so to say, Jimi Agbaje.
And ever since he took over the mantle of leadership of “difficult” lagos, he’s proven skeptics, including this writer, wrong. I dare say he’s taken Lagos to the next level, affirming the vision of the Center of Excellence to become the epicenter of all that’s good and great in social and economic development.
He’s taken on the gentrification of Lagos like his life depends on it. As a student of development economy, he’s carried on most of the projects of his predecessor and gradually but surely affirming the place of Lagos as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. He’s making Lagos GREAT.
It was, therefore, no wonder, that he took on the Coronavirus pandemic with the character, courage and commitment of a true leader and “soldier” and almost defeated it before the virus got the better of him. Yet, his landmark achievements in managing Covid-19 is a lesson in leadership, a case study in Business Schools. Africa is today the better for it.
His three-pronged strategy of “Trace, Test and Treat” proved the silver bullet Africa needed to keep the death and infection rates at the lowest minimum, contrary to earlier projections. Indeed, Nigerians owe him a huge debt of gratitude for rallying the populace with the support of the private sector to define an effective war strategy against the insidious coronavirus. He it was who literally coined and operationalised the word PALLIATIVE.
During the recent #EndSARS protest, which nearly marred his sterling records, Governor Sanwo-Olu showed the humane side of him by joining the protesting youths twice and even taking their case to the President in Abuja. At the risk of his personal safety, he addressed the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa Secretariat (disregarding projectiles thrown at him), just to earn their confidence and reassure them that their demands were being addressed.
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At the end of the day, he’s again demonstrated by the measures he’s taken to support the families of the Police Officers and others who were killed during the protest. His admistration is probably the first and only one to systematize the process of providing support for the businesses that were damaged during the protest.
Sanwo-Olu has a BSc in Surveying and an MBA from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the London Business School and the Lagos Business School. He is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) and fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Training and Development (NITAD).
He was the Treasurer at the former Lead Merchant Bank from 1994 to 1997 after which he moved to the United Bank for Africa as the head of foreign money market. He then proceeded to First Inland Bank, Plc (now First City Monument Bank) as a deputy general manager and divisional head. He was the chairman of Baywatch Group Limited and First Class Group Limited.
Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu began his political career in 2003, when he was appointed a Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to the then deputy governor of Lagos State, Femi Pedro. He was later made the acting Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget until 2007, when he was appointed as the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry by then Governor, Bola Tinubu. After the General Elections of 2007, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu was appointed Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions by Governor Babatunde Fashola. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu was made Managing Director/CEO of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2016.
Some of his notable public sector achievements include the supervision of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) privatization projects. He set up and was the Pioneer Board Chairman of Lagos Security Trust Fund. The LAGBUS System and the Control & Command Centre in Alausa were subsequently established under his directives.
Join me, my dear friends, to celebrate and congratulate a consummate servant leader and manager of men, women and resources, my friend and brother, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu as my Person of the Year 2020.
Emeka Oparah is Director, Corporate Communications and CSR at Airtel.