Damilola Emmanuel,  the general manager,  Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), unarguably represents the future of  young persons in the corridors of power, not only in Lagos but also at the Centre. He is enigmatic, humble, consistent and fearless. 

Emmanuel does not drink tea or have breakfast with fools and carefully chooses his strides and foot soldiers. If there is one one thing that guts his strong sense of direction, it is the fear to fail and to walk blindly into established patterns of business as usual, as seen among public officers who come to the national space to serve without dream and vision.

 

In this column, which we have proudly  penned every week in the past 14 years or thereabouts, we are careful not to run expositories on pedestrian bystanders or succinctly put baggage carriers without verifiable deliveries. We do not associate with opportunity wasters and zombies.

I met Damilola Emmanuel some years ago. It was at the height of certain dislocations in the Lagos waterways and in particular concerning the many troubles faced by organised boat operators in Lagos.

The issues were on double taxation-cum-levies and the many avoidable boat mishaps, which I later found out were  the after effects of faceless regulation and power tussle by state and federal actors, due to many factors,  particularly conflicting regulatory matters on the waterways, which have been resolved amicably.

It is indeed not out of place to reveal that the Nigerian brown water economy is so huge and begging for critical advocacy and intervention beyond the obvious attention to just how crafts move on water with human or material cargoes.

Let me digress to say that it was President Ahmed Tinubu as governor of Lagos State who beamed light on Lagos waterways, particularly in putting the rural communities in focus as platforms of new estates and town development initiatives, drawing creative energy  from the amazing but unmapped Lagos waterfront treasures.

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I also recall the tenacity and determination of Muize Banire as then commissioner for transportation, who sought and obtained support and collaboration from the Gani Tarzan Balogun-led body of organised boat operators to disvirgin the then reptile-filled mangrove and forest ecosystem of Badore and others.

I witnessed firsthand the patriotism and love for our nation and people by  the Tinubu-led government in Lagos and indeed the magical presence of Banire who just wanted to deliver on mandate and carefully, openly and sincerely worked with the boat operators.

Looking back and seeing how far Badore community and other littoral communities in Lagos have become choice investment destinations and bluechip waterfronts, I dare say that Banire deserves recognition as the pioneer of the emerging waterfront reclaimed town development initiatives.

Lagos State must also appreciate Tarzan Balogun. However, today is not about these two gentlemen but about Damilola Emmanuel, who shares the same unputdownable projects delivery ethics with Banire.

On Wednesday last week in Lagos,  the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, unveiled 15 new water crafts locally built by Caverton marine in collaboration with the state government. Desirable and important, you may say to that critical initiative but what caught my attention was the inspiring appreciation of Damilola Emmanuel by the governor and the unveiling of the young general manager of LASWA who has shown courage, sincerity and commitment to changing the narratives of Lagos waterways.

Sanwo-Olu, who spent a few minutes patting the irrepressible Emmanuel on the back, revealed the inner thoughts of a caring leader and boss who spares nothing in encouraging young persons like the LASWA boss.

I do sincerely worry if Emmanuel does have time for recreation. I have, on a few occasions, run into him at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed Airport, and the not too recent was a long engagement about Nigerian waterways at the catering back section of a foreign airline on our way back to Nigeria.

He was out on a study stint to help improve his plans for Lagos waterways and his untiring frame was indicative of a self-motivated leader, willing to burn energy and the midnight candle to leave  enduring legacies.

I really don’t know how long Damilola Emmanuel will stay in LASWA, but one thing is certain and that is the unveiling of this young Lagosian whose verifiable project deliveries speak for him and not mere academic qualifications or political connections.

I won’t be surprised if Lagos State Government saddles him with more responsibilities in the near future, and it is a prayer worth praying for this admirable game changer.

What next will Damilola Emmanuel bring to bear on Lagos waterways? He didn’t tell me, but I can perceive that  the unveiling of those boats will propel him to  win the confidence of  organised boat operators and other stakeholders on Lagos waterways. 

I salute the governor for staying strong behind this young man and for the organised boat operators for honouring him  at all times with their presence.  Damilola Emmanuel’s conflict resolution strategies are top-notch and come with a human face, not a double face. Dami, take a bow and pull up your socks for more enduring assignments.


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