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Muiz Banire commends the new Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab

… He has proven he is the best choice for that ministry

All hail the Lagos state environment commissioner – Dr.Muiz Banire

Within a month prior to the composition and inauguration of the Lagos State government cabinet, I had cause to proactively intervene twice in this column on the affairs of the State. The interventions, misconstrued in some quarters to be a criticism of the leadership of the State, was essentially to draw the attention of the government to some aberrations that needed to be addressed urgently, and suggesting the caliber of persons required for the interventions. For the mischievous people, particularly the scavengers in the corridors of power, and as often misconstrued by them, that was a collision course with the leadership of the state. Muiz is at it again deriding the leadership of the State! Undoubtedly, that was not, and never my intention for scooping out the thoughts. As remarked above, it was just a proactive diagnosis and prognosis of the afflictions I observed in the course of my daily sojourn across the State.

The good news was that the leadership of the State, as typified by the Governor, never condones the suggestions of these evil set of people, and honorably and maturely chose to ignore their antics. Rather than fall for it, the Governor triggered an engagement with me and which ultimately led to a privileged invitation extended to me to address the new cabinet members at a retreat organized by the State. May I, therefore, appreciate this statesmanship of the Governor in rightly construing the alleged criticism as a positive assessment, feedback and genuinely yielding a platform to interrogate the issues. This is the hallmark of leadership that must not only be embraced and encouraged but must be promoted. Kudos to Mr. Governor in this regard. I pray and hope that more leaders in the country toe this part of leadership. Criticism, particularly where constructive, must be adored and given the desired space in our polity. Critics must not be condemned and crushed but actively promoted. Gbogbo wa o le sun, ki a ko ori si ibi kan naa, meaning that we cannot all be thinking at all times in the same direction or having the same perspective of issues always. Amongst the issues alluded to in the piece was the deteriorating level of the environment in the State. The essence of the intervention was essentially to challenge the Governor in the choice of a competent hand to undertake the execution of the redemption assignment. As I remarked at the retreat, the Governor was not only my colleague but my friend, and as a Yoruba adage says, b’oju ba ti ore re, ti o so pe oju ko ti e, ailoju ti lo n se e which literally means when your friend is put to shame and you are happy, it only proves how shameless you are. My intervention might not have ultimately influenced his choice of the cabinet but the truth is that the choice of the Commissioner for the Environment perfectly fits my bill. The Ministry is now fortunate to have a young, vibrant, hardworking, committed and dynamic person as the chief executive. Leadership in any community dictates the mood of the followership. Where the leadership is weak, inept, incompetent and corrupt, no miracle should be expected from the followers. At the barest minimum, the followers mimic the leader. The environment of a State creates the first impression to a visitor about not only the quality of the leadership in the state, but signposts the seriousness and commitment of the administration.

The environment encompasses virtually all strata of society. That explains why preeminence is accorded it globally. The actualizer and enabler that the Governor, in his wisdom, has chosen to appoint to midwife the affairs of the Ministry is Honourable Tokunbo Wahab. I have chosen to prefix his name consciously with the appellation “Honourable” for the reason that shall be unveiled in the course of this engagement. The Honourable Commissioner has hit the ground running since assumption of office, accomplishing what seemed impossible in recent times. No doubt, within the short time of his ascendancy to the office, he has proven that he is not a wrong choice. Few days ago, the social media via the X platform was on fire for the impacts the Commissioner is already making. Except for the consciously blindfolded Lagosian, even the naturally blind and the deaf in Lagos State are already feeling the impact of the helmsman in the Ministry. You cannot but notice that something is happening currently in terms of the environmental rejuvenation of the State. The story of every nook and corner of the State being converted into street market is beginning to change. In as much as one might want to appreciate the economic hardship in the land, it is no sufficient reason for the State to promote suicide on the other hand. There is no doubt that apart from the menace constituted by street traders to society, either in terms of security and environmental nuisance, their presence on the street naturally endangers them. Should there be any mishap and lives are lost or injuries suffered, it is to the State government that the society apportions blame. Hence, no responsible administration will fold its hands and collaborate in endangering her citizens. There is certainly no alternative to clearing and displacing the street traders from the road. It is to this end that the ongoing clearance of the traders by the Ministry of the Environment must be commended, and the activity rightly situated. I am glad that even the media appreciates the significance of this exercise. I am aware, contrary to the suggestion in a particular Arise TV conversation, that the confiscated items are not only usually recorded at the point of carting them away but delivered ultimately to orphanage homes before they start deteriorating, particularly where the items are perishable. Beyond this visible area of street trading, I have seen the Commissioner traverse the nooks and crannies of the State in the bid to tame potential flooding. It must be noted that Lagos is below the sea level and naturally prone to flooding. We have suffered flooding in the past affecting not only property but recording human casualties as well. A society that values human life will definitely address this danger and that is what the new Commissioner for the Environment is currently doing. In the course of the tour, I have seen him identify illegal developments on the banks and setbacks of the canals and drains. This inimical act is equally unpardonable and must be penalized in whatever form. Therefore, I commend him again for taking those hard and bold decisions to separate the illegal developments from the canals and drains. It takes a focused and firm leader to execute this. This is a bold and decisive step which takes the interest of the society as prime and most important. Governance, as I usually say, is not a popularity contest particularly after the elections. Taming the flood is a herculean task to be accomplished and the option is always to be aggressive and frontal about it. This is the mode I believe the Honourable Commissioner is and must be encouraged to continue to be. To keep the environment clean and decent requires a no-nonsense individual who is conscious of the importance of cleanliness.

Our society cannot be cleaner than our sense of cleanliness and this attributes, they say, is next to Godliness. The essence of this conversation, therefore, is not just to highlight the remarkable steps of the Hounourable Commissioner but spur him further. The Yorubas will say, yin ni, yin ni, ki eni le se omiran which means deserved praises spur further accomplishments. I personally appreciate the immediate contribution of the Commissioner to the upliftment of our environment in the State and I plead that he should not rest on his oars. He must remain focused, dedicated and continuously set his eyes on the ball. Lagos, and Nigeria by extension, is one place that a public official can get easily distracted if not careful. The visibility of the Commissioner is equally noticeable in the other areas but suffice to use the above two areas as reference points. I am aware, for instance, that the dilapidating state of the parks is being addressed along some other initiatives. The environment ministry is a vast terrain. The ecological issues are still lingering and to be addressed; the sewage challenge remains alive while the climate change issue is still on. The need for Industrial and noise pollution abatement is still extant. Environment depicts what the state stands for. There is certainly so much for the man to do. Now back to why Tokunbo Wahab deserves to be referred to as “Honourable”. In political parlance, that is one word or title that has been abused. The moment you aspire for a political office, particularly legislative, you immediately earned the appellation. It is however sad that the title is now used by every Tom, Dick and Harry, whether successful at the poll or otherwise. The sad aspect is that most of those elected, by the grace of their nefarious activities, are mostly undeserving of the title. More often than not, I will prefer to describe them as ‘dishonourable honourable’ or simply, dishonourable’. For me, it is only when the activities of a public official impacts on the citizenry that he is meant to serve that he earns such an appellation. It is in this regard that I chose to confer the title on this achiever. Not all those who are commissioned by the Legislature as commissioners deserves to be so described until they impact society. As at date, Lagos and Lagosians know that there is a new Sherriff in town. Well done, Mr. Commissioner and more grease to your elbow. A round peg in a round hole!

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