Lagos State Governor of, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN (8th right) in a group photograph with the President, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), Ms. Osayi Alile (7th right), founder/Conference Chairperson, WIMBIZ, Chief (Mrs.) Leila Fowler (8th left) and other members during the opening ceremony of the 13th Annual Conference of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) with the theme, “Nigeria Rising… Accelerating Transformation”, at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Monday, November 3, 2014.
As the nation looks forward to a better direction in its socio-political life come 2015 election, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has urged Nigerians to use their votes wisely to change the fortune of the country for the better.
This, he said, was the only option left for the most populous black nation, which is currently drifting, to continue to occupy a position of reckoning in the comity of nations.
Delivering a keynote address at the Eko Hotel and Suites, venue of the 13th Annual Conference of Women In Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), the Governor noted that choice was imminent on Nigerians who must change the country for the better with their votes.
Speaking on the Conference theme, “Nigeria Rising…. Accelerating Transformation”, he noted that the decision of Nigerians in the coming election was very crucial to the existence of the country and implored them to be very determined to redirect it to the path of greatness through their votes.
He believed that the country could not continue to run its present state in which there is no appreciable transformation and progress at the centre since 1999 and insisted that Nigerians must seek a change of the current situation through their votes in the coming elections.
Quoting from the Transformation Agenda of the President which was published in 2011 as his campaign strategy, the Governor pointed out that whereas the President promised to provide more Power to Nigerians “at the earliest possible time”, to rehabilitate all existing Power generation, distribution and transmission assets, complete all NIPP projects and harness alternative sources of energy, not much of these have been achieved as the administration is winding up its term.
He recalled that in the said document titled “Jonathan Transforms Nigeria” which detailed policies and programmes and projects that would be delivered in key sectors of the economy if he was elected, the President set a minimum target of 16,000 megawatts which he said would be achieved by 2013, to give a minimum of 6,000 megawatts of electricity from rehabilitated existing power generation, distribution and transmission assets and to generate an initial 13,000 megawatts of Power from alternative energy sources.
Governor Fashola, who expressed regrets that none of these promises have been delivered, asked rhetorically, “Were these promises realistic when they were made to us? Were they made sincerely or just to catch the votes? Why was it not possible to deliver? Could we not find the men and women who could do it? Has there been a resource limitation to the Government or to the country? Don’t we have money?
“In 2011 when this document was being presented to the public, Mr. President said, “By common consent, solving the electricity supply problem in Nigeria is the key to the country’s development as it will unleash tremendous capacity in the economy that has been hobbled by inadequate and epileptic Power supply”. But have we realized any of the promises?
He asked the eminent women delegates to the Conference, “If, as Mr. President argues, solving the electricity supply problem in Nigeria is the key to the country’s development, the question to ask is, how well have we done? As women in business whose prosperity is dependent on regular Power supply; do your business operations and premises have regular electricity supply; have we achieved the 6,000 megawatts that was promised in 2011?
“Have we harnessed the alternative energy sources of coal, wind and solar to give us the initial 13,000 megawatts now?”, the Governor further asked pointing out that crude oil, which is our major revenue source, has done well for almost a decade trading at $100/barrel until recently when it dropped to $80/barrel.
He noted that the nation has sold oil for a long period of time for over 100 dollars a barrel during which time Nigerians have also seen what other countries who earn their major resource from oil have done with their money adding, “Oil has now dropped to $80/barrel”.
“The question I then ask is, if we couldn’t do well when oil was selling at $100/barrel, what is the logical sense that something would change for the better if the price of oil is now dropping. Can the managers of our resources do better with fewer resources what they could not do with larger resources? Where is the new refinery that we have built in the last seven years?
Using Lagos State as basis to define true transformation, Governor Fashola itemized some of the changes that have taken place in the State in the last seven years pointing out that services in the State have become better than they were when the present administration took office in 2007.
Citing the venue of the Conference as an example of transformation, the Governor pointed out that it was not there seven years ago adding that the Conference was once held in another venue or in a tent in the premises of the Hotel.
He also drew attention to the tremendous change in the night life and night economy in the city saying as a result of the administration’s policy of lighting up the streets and the Independent Power Projects (IPP), night life in Lagos today has become much better compared to seven years ago.
Other areas of transformation, the Governor pointed out, are lane markings on Lagos roads, the environment which has become cleaner in the last seven years, construction of Maternal and Childcare Centres (MCCs), six instead of three months of paid leave for nursing mothers who are working in the State, a transit home for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and enacting a law that makes it a criminal offence for a man not to support a woman he has put in a family way, among others.
The Governor asked the women, “As women and as mothers, is it progress if our State has developed seven out of ten Children’s maternal hospitals to reduce infant and maternal mortality? Is it progress that our environment is now greener with more trees? Indeed, is it progress to deliver 200 homes every month from March this year without fail?
“Is it progress to build Akute, Lagos Island, Alausa and Lagos Mainland Independent Power Projects to power strategic facilities like waterworks, maternity homes, hospitals, police stations and schools, is that progress? Is it progress to empower 3,000 farmers with implements and training to become self-employed and create jobs for others? Is it progress to train 26,000 people most of whom were women in such skills as dress-making, soap-making, so that they can support husbands and their homes? I leave you to answer those questions in your minds”.
Urging the women to make the right choice for sustenance of the gains already made in the State in the last seven years, Governor Fashola declared, “All that I wish to say, depending on which answers you give, is to remind you that an All Progressives Congress Government governs in this State.
“This is very serious because whether we have changed for the better or not, choice is imminent to us. That is why the choice of this topic, “Nigeria Rising…. Accelerating Transformation”, is important. Whatever answers you come up with for those questions will be important for you and for me in the coming elections and in the years ahead”.
Earlier in her welcome address, Chairperson of WimBiz, Mrs. Osayi Alile, said the Conference provides a valuable opportunity for women to engage in a meaningful discourse about their pivotal role in nation building and economic development adding that it also affords them the opportunity to assess their influence in the public and private spheres towards making a difference to Nigeria’s future.
Expressing joy that the Conference is in its 13th edition, the Chairperson said it spoke to the unwavering commitment of the women to provide sustainable platform to empower women to reach their full potentials adding, “Indeed since we began this journey in 2001, we have worked tirelessly to inspire and empower women to attain and maintain leadership positions in business, management and public service”.
According to her, within the duration of the Conference, participants would critically examine the emerging trends in Nigeria’s growth and development “to expose our women to the available prospects in the various sectors of the economy and equip them with the necessary tools to maximize these opportunities”.
Also present at the Conference opening ceremony were some members of the state Executive Council including the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Olusola Oworu; Proprietor of Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls and Chairperson of the Conference, Chief (Mrs.) Leila Fowler; scores of eminent and distinguished professionals, experts, policy makers and captains of industry and leaders from both public and private sectors.