I had the honor of personally co-hosting a luncheon on May 16, 2011 for the newly re-elected governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the Constituency for Africa -- one of the leading U.S. advocacy organization focused on Africa. As I introduced the governor, I underscored the extraordinary commitment, dedication and vision of this extraordinary leader. The luncheon event was attended by 50 key civil society, academic and private sector representatives interested in hearing the Governor's vision for one of Nigeria's most important states -- Lagos -- where the capital city of the same name (Lagos) heralds a population of 18 million.
Winning re-election with 82 percent of the vote, Fashola told the assembled crowd that his vision for the next four years for his state focused on infrastructure development, particularly in mass transport (rail, bus, ferries), the housing and agricultural sectors, as well as on educational and training programs for youth. I have seen personally the transformation of Lagos from 2007-2010 during the time that I lived in Nigeria as a result of Fashola's leadership and I have no doubt that during the next four years he will continue to move the country's commercial capital forward.
Noting to the crowd "the importance of coming and seeing Nigeria first-hand," he told the U.S. group that they could not understand and invest in Nigeria unless they actually came to the country to appreciate the array of investment opportunities there.
In response to a question on the recent Nigerian elections where 22 million of Nigeria's 74 million registered voters participated in the April 2011 voting, Fashola acknowledged the irregularities in some polling places which he said needed to be addressed. He also stressed his concern about the violence that occured, but he added that the outcome of the election was credible and gave high points to President-elect Jonathan for "working the hardest" during the campaign and trying to reach out to Nigerians all across the country.
In my view, the key now will be the next steps for the country, particularly efforts to address key social sector issues for Nigeria's nearly 64 million youth, and addressing the underlying causes of the violence (need for education, training, better health care, and job opportunities) in the country's north, where according to Human Rights Watch nearly 800 people reportedly lost their lives.
Most Africa watchers recognize the enormous and limitless potential of Nigeria to expand its global and economic leadership, but more needs to be done to address social sector issues. The extraordinary vision, dedication and commitment by extraordinary individuals such as the results-oriented Governor Fashola of Lagos gives us all hope!