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We’re Working To Make Lagos A Liveable Megacity –Fashola

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola

…As Governor declares open Liveable City Conference in Lagos

Kayode Adelowokan

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has flagged off the Lagos Liveable City Conference 2013 declaring that in grappling with challenges of managing the Mega City that Lagos has become the well-being of the people including the man on the street remains the central focus of government.

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola

The Governor who spoke at the opening of the Conference with the theme, “Preparing for the Mental and Social Health Needs of the Lagos Megacity”, held at the Oriental Hotels, Lekki explained that the project of governance in a mega city “is firstly and lastly for the people and about the people including the man on the street who must be able to LIVE in it. He must be able to BREATHE in it. He must be able to DREAM in it – dream for himself, for his family, for his succeeding generations. He must be SAFE in it”.

According to the Governor, doing so however requires that, “he must know the RULES OF ENGAGEMENT in the defining transactions of his city – including his interactions with the law enforcement agents, his financial institutions, his moral and religious institutions”.

Governor Fashola challenged the participants to, in the course of the conference come up with ideas and implementable suggestions on the listed matters, adding that he is already thinking about the structures that can be put in place to carry the inter-Ministerial, cross-territorial project forward, beyond the deliberations of the conference.

He recalled the experience of a particular person who migrated to Lagos some years ago with no possessions but just a beautiful voice and who has succeeded in living a respectable life, describing his experience as a symptom of the ‘liveability’ in Lagos.

“The essence of this conference will be partly how we can multiply these opportunities in such a way that other people’s journeys to Lagos do not end in slavery, destitution, crime, drug abuse, mental illness or sudden and avoidable death”, he said.

The other main objective of the conference, according to the Governor, will be the exposition of the responsibilities that come with rights and opportunities which constitutes responsibilities that emphasise the nature of the commonwealth from which the successes of liveable cities derive.

He identified the responsibilities to include prompt and voluntary payment of taxes by those who earn incomes, compliance with laws, rules and regulations, such as public health laws, sanitation laws, traffic laws, building and planning laws and so much more.

“Indeed they will also be defined by responsibilities driven by codes of morality and compassion for humanity that drives us to support the physically challenged, the elderly, the vulnerable and those with special needs”, he reiterated.

The Governor said he is concerned and sometimes obsessively so, about that man on the street as he is often nameless and faceless, but in reality has a name, a face and a story.

He stated that statistically the man on the street is only one out of the over twenty-one million residents in Lagos and may be forgiven if he gets lost in the crowd just as he may be also be forgiven if he himself does not believe he matters in the scheme of things.

“We may forgive him when he keeps his demands and expectations from the superstructure of the state minimal, with little faith in the likelihood of their fulfilment, and absolutely no sense that he has any power to demand or enforce their actualisation.

“The leader, the city planner, the dreamer of great city concepts, the builder of great iconic monuments may also be forgiven if, in the lofty scale of his vision, he has failed to take the little man on board”, the Governor stated.

Governor Fashola recalled that during the last general elections, he had to request that the physically challenged people be allowed to vote first, adding that though all the people in his polling station agreed, the question he had asked himself is whether the same thing happened in all other polling stations and if it did not what can be done to ensure that it happens at the next election?

“How can we make it a way of life for us to create special queues for people with special needs in our airports, supermarkets and other public places? What must be our common strategy for responding to and supporting people with mental infirmity?”

“How do we evolve a strategy of re-integration for prisoners who have served out their punishment with demonstrable contrition and penitence, so that they can have a new beginning?” he asked.

Governor added that the listed points are some of the main reasons why a conference like Liveable City Conference has become a necessity as the State Government grapples with the challenges of managing the mega city that Lagos has become.

“How healthy is our general environment? How do we deal with our traffic? How caring a society are we? Are there a lot of visibly mentally ill or intellectually challenged persons wandering unattended through our streets?”, the Governor stressed.

Governor Fashola asserted that while it is true that there exists a rich harvest of data about the origins and evolution of cities as centres of human habitation, it is doubtful whether there is an agreeable gold standard that is applicable to all cities about what exactly makes them liveable.

He stressed that this must be so because as long as cities are about human civilization, their sizes, the diversity and complexity of their people, they provide understandable justification for the difference in their liveability needs.

Speaking earlier, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris expressed the optimism that with the opening of the 2013 Liveable City Conference no one will leave the venue asking about what is the connection between security and health and what is the relevance of transportation to health or what is the government’s business.

He explained that cities offer both the best and the worst environment for health as everything is holistically connected to everything else and that the creativity of a society can be significantly enhanced or limited by the mental well-being of the generality of its citizenry.

The conference featured presentations on society and crime, environmental psychology on the first day by Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, renowned geographer, Dr Andrea Koch- Kraft and Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Richard Gater among others.

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