Culture of Excellence in the Center of Excellence: The Tokunbo Wahab Charge.
When Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu appointed Tokunbo Wahab as the Special Adviser on Education in the Lagos State Government in 2019, those who knew him felt the appointment wasn’t as befitting, as they believed he had more capacity for even bigger roles. Little did they know that it was a good thing for him. Crawl before walking; precept upon precept.
He turned that position into a high-performing role. Among many other achievements is the addition of two new state-owned universities to tertiary institutions by the state government: Lagos State University of Education (LASUED) and Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUSTECH).
It was against this background that, after a landslide victory in the 2023 election, giving a second term to the Sanwo-olu Administration based on numerous achievements of the Governor and his team, Tokunbo Wahab was named the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources. Many who know him well could not help but hail the governor’s choice and appointment, believing this to be a more befitting role for the Honourable Commissioner. He came on board fully prepared, and in one week, Lagos felt him. A new sheriff is in town.
Lagos, the most boisterous city in Nigeria, the 5th largest economy in Africa, and the most populated city in Africa, has its accolades and myriad challenges. Chief among these challenges is that of the environment. Flooding, dirt, waste disposal and management, noise pollution, and environmental degradation are key issues the Lagos populace deals with on a daily basis.
However, the main cause of all these is the “culture of impunity,” that ‘I don’t care attitude’ and sense of irresponsibility by the citizenry. Tokunbo was undaunted by any of these. It is therefore instructive to note that in the very first week of assuming office, he unveiled a vision “towards cleaner and greener lagos,” and he set to work with clarity of purpose and a deep sense of urgency.
He engaged his team and agencies within his ministry, identifying the challenges, the hotspots, the blindspots, and the usual suspects as they set out on this daunting task of cleaning up lagos. Firstly, the markets were visited to ensure cleanliness, and those found wanting to maintain environmental fidelity were shut down. Markets like Alayabiagba, Ile Epo, Owode Onirin, Alaba International Market, Mile 2 Fruits Market, Ajah Market, etc. were either self-censoring or sanctioned.
Today, the fear of the ministry and its officials is the beginning of wisdom for markets, lounges, religious centers, and environmental offenders. Today, markets and estates are using their initiatives to ensure a clean and habitable environment even before the visit of officials.
At some point, when some zealots in one particular market went on social media with spurious allegations that certain officials were demanding bribes to reopen their market, the Honourable Commissioner challenged them to name the culprits, if there were any. Keen Observers knew immediately that this was a trumped-up lie; those who know can vouch without wincing that the new commissioner cannot be bribed or bought. With what? They’ll be quick to ask. God has blessed him beyond his imaginations, and this silent philanthropist has been adding value to numerous people’s lives across the country for years even before finding himself in public service. This “Do Good” lawyer has a phenomenal personality and has been blessing thousands of people via education, health, legal, and other supports from Epe to Ogbomosho, Lagos to Borno, and across the landscapes.
If you name 20 performing political appointees in Nigeria today, Tokunbo Wahab will stand tall amongst them; if you name 10 appointees or government officials that have ever served in Lagos State since 1999, he will be a leading figure; and if you are required to name one top performer in the current Sanwo-Olu administration, he will take the day.
Lagos is wearing a new look right now. The “Culture of Impunity” is changing across locations with his war against street trading, dirty markets, open defecation, etc. amid his flood prevention drive, water management, environmental protection, and several other initiatives. The ‘culture’ of impunity has been replaced with a new ‘Culture of Excellence befitting Lagos, which prides itself on being the “Centre of Excellence”.
This is one appointment that best describes the saying, ‘a square peg in a square hole’.
It is believed that the acknowledgement of his achievements in the last few months will serve as a call to greater service and a testament that Lagosians recognise performance and will reward it. Kudos to this high performer, and ‘Congratulations’ to Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu for his commitment to exceptional performance. Lagos will not forget you.
Sola Fajobi is a content creator and media and entertainment entrepreneur. He resides in Lagos.