Tayo Ogunbiyi

I cherish friendship. I cherish my friends. I am fortunate to have good and supportive friends. My Dad taught me to be loyal to my friends.

I have also learned to retain my friends.  I still keep my friends for over three decades. As they say, the older the wine, the better its taste.

That hot Friday afternoon, I was at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos waiting to catch a flight to Abuja to attend the wedding of a friend’s daughter.

Gbenga, the bride’s father has been my friend from our university days. Although, we were not coursemates, (he studied Medicine), but our paths somehow crossed inexplicably, and we have been close pals ever since.

Making the trip to Abuja wasn’t convenient. But Gbenga deserves every sacrifice. He has been with me through the good and tough times. In my most difficult moments, he has provided me with a shoulder to lean on. I count myself lucky to be his friend.

So, the Abuja trip was more of an obligation for me. The snare, however, is the usual epileptic nature of local flights. We were originally billed to board by 1 pm, but the flight has been slightly delayed till 3 pm.

I was frustrated, bored, and restless.  I was not the only one in that mood. Seated to my immediate right was a tall heavily built young man.

“I know they cannot be trusted”, the man murmured.  

He was not particularly directing his frustration at anyone. However, since I was equally upset, I decided to engage him in a conversation.

“So, disgusting”, I muttered, not looking at him.

By now, he was fully in his element. I guess he was boiling on the inside and only needed a little prompting to explode.

“I intended getting to Kano today. But I needed to get to Abuja first to quickly sort out a few things. I had already booked a flight for 4 pm from Abuja to Kano”, he said irritably.

No wonder he was so enraged! His plans have been badly dented! Since a common frustration has bonded us together, we decided to stick.

He told me he is a Kano-based businessman who rarely visits Lagos. I told him that I work with the Lagos State Government. At that point, I noticed that he became somehow animated. He looked at me carefully, cleared his throat, and asked: “This your Sanwo-Olu, wetin (what) he dey do (is he doing) sef?”

“You mean the State governor? How do you mean?”. I asked.

“When Fashola was the governor, we heard he did many things. But this your governor, what has he been doing?”

Oh! I got it now. It is the same familiar line. Over time, in dealing with such situations, I have come to realise that some are just being mischievous, while others are truly in search of information.

In my estimation, Danladi (that’s my new acquaintance’s name) might fall into the last category. So, I decided to educate him a little bit.

I told him that the administration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in its first term, came up with the THEMES Agenda (an acronym for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Security and Governance) as its policy thrust.

On Transportation, I told me that the government has commissioned two rail lines, both capable of ferrying over one million people per day.

This, I noted, is in addition to purchasing over 18 ferries and building over 18 new jetties to boost water transportation. I also told him that the government has bought about 2000 First and Last Mile buses as well as 500 high-capacity buses to aid road transportation.  This is coupled with various roads and bridges that have been either reconstructed or rehabilitated.

By now, Danladi had stopped talking. He was listening with rapt attention. As they say, pictures don’t lie. So, I brought out my tabloid to show him some pictures that underscore the government’s strides in improving public transportation.

He looked at them with keen interest, nodding erratically.

But I was not done.

I took him through what the government has done in the health sector, especially the commissioning of four well-equipped Mother and Child Centres (MCCs) among others.

“Now, the government is building the largest Children’s Hospital (Massey Street) in Africa. It is also building a brand-new General Hospital in a part of the State called Ojo. This is in addition to a series of rehabilitation works that have been completed in most public Hospitals”.  I added.

I also told him that the government is building a brand-new 500-bed mental health facility in Ketu-Ejirin in the eastern part of the State.

I reminded Danladi that it was the creative and professional way that the State managed the pandemic that saved the country from imminent calamity. He nodded affirmatively like a student who suddenly got the answer to a question.

On education, I told him that in four years, the government established two new universities, making the total number of state-owned universities three.

This, I told him is in addition to the rehabilitation of over 950 blocks of classrooms and construction of 1,386-bed hostels. I also told him that the government constructed a containerized 12-classroom block with facilities such as an interactive touch screen, a mini football pitch, and a multi-sports court at the Vetland Junior Grammar School, Ojokoro.

“A brand new 18-classroom block with recreational facilities was also commissioned in Elemoro Junior Secondary School, Ibeju-Lekki”. I added.

As I was about to delve into what the government has done in the technology sector, the voice of the announcer echoed around the waiting hall.  At last, the wait is over. Our flight to Abuja is ready. By now, it was 2:30 pm.

Danladi rose from his seat and gave me a warm hug.

“Now I know better. When I get to Kano, I will spread the news”.

Ogunbiyi is Director (Features), Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja