Ambode’s New Lagos Rail Lines

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Ambode’s New Lagos Rail Lines

Listening to the chief executive of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, speak on radio about Lagos’ plan for multiple new rail lines, my emotions were a mix of excitement and cynicism especially as I was right in the heat of the notorious Lagos traffic – it seems to have worsened recently.

Excitement at how more convenient moving around Lagos will be if those ideas came to fruition; how much less we will spend on vehicle maintenance, repairs , replacement as well as importation; and ultimately how enhanced our productivity will be with less time and stress in traffic and more working or resting for that matter. I was also excited about what this will mean for “bustling and hustling” Lagosians (and indeed Nigerians with its cascade effect) if this is indicative of the paradigm shift character of Ambode’s leadership.

My cynicism? Is this not the usual abracadabra of new governments – as Fela would say “the more you look the less you see”; is this not another white elephant project? – the expanse beside the Presbyterian Church Yaba is a monument to another botched attempt over three decades ago. I was also concerned with the gnawing questions: what is the vision behind these rail lines? How are they integrated with the roads and waterways that run around Lagos? What is the time frame for construction? How much is going to be expended on it and from what sources? Will the Governor seize this opportunity to start with the better foot forward and blaze a trail of transparency and accountability.

Because my heart yearns for us to begin to live like other human beings in more civilized climes, I say to those cynics who would say “this is one of the projects that have been on the drawing board even before Ambode”, development is not on drawing boards but on the streets and in the people’s lives. And to those who say “it is another of those political promises”, why not give the man a chance to prove himself or fail.

Why are the roads done by Pa Awolowo many decades back still intact in many locations? Was technology better in those days? Or does it have something to do with the people? Does it have to do with the communal spirit? As one Spirit of Lagos message says we need to Change (Y)our Thinking for development is about the people more than the facilities, far more.

Mr. Governor Sir, please note that alongside infrastructural development, the human mind must also be worked on to ensure proper utilization and in fact ownership of all the good projects that has come and will come, hopefully. Your success rates will be higher and enduring if you drive that communal spirit of trust, co-operation, and complementarity with the people. As we have seen over and over again, the government cannot do it alone especially in a mega city such as Lagos. You will need to consciously drive the celebrated spirit of excellence to a level where the people take ownership of their communities and indeed of the government.

It is not rocket science to see that you need to galvanise the people through new approaches to be their own government in the sense of self-policing and regulating. One immediate result is that the investments are protected, last longer and make greater impact. This way, the resources can be spread to other areas instead of returning to facilities that were done only recently but have gone bad because of improper usage and maintenance.

We are keenly watching and following developments.

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