Ambode...getting down to brass tacks

With his peculiar style of giving attention to little details, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode is gradually writing his name in some pretty good ink. But there’s still much to be done to catapult Lagos to a world class megacity. Olawale Olaleye writes

It was a disturbing start more or less. And this, many reckoned. Not a few also expressed concerns should this turn out an error of choice. Indeed, the concerns, if not misgivings, which at some point attracted a fraction of global attention might have been genuinely located at the time. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State was assumed to have inherited a luxury government and taking off or hitting the ground running should not have come up in any form of debate. Yet, he struggled with a rather tottering start.

It soon turned out that it’s been all about style and personal approach to governance. It was just a matter of time before the governor started to get his bearing right – fixing those small things that are today the face of the big deals because of the direct impact they have on the larger population – the real people or voters if you choose. To say he has been methodical and painstaking in his choices for the state is to allude to what everyone now sees and can relate to.

“I know him. He will perform. We didn’t just sell him to the people of Lagos; we knew the product we sold. He is very methodical and given to details. You may have your misgivings, which I do not want to contest with you but this is not politics or playing to the gallery, Ambode will perform because I have worked with him. I hope you will one day see the good in him and point them out the way you are pointing out what you assume are his failings now.
“Of what joy or benefit will it be to anyone if he fails? Lagos must not and cannot afford to fail and Ambode will not fail Lagos. Just give him time. He is a professional, who is going into office with a clear head –focused – and would do justice to the progress of Lagos. I can vouch for him,” said a former governor of the state and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in a private conversation.

If you thought the position above was profound, hear Fashola again: “You don’t have to make yourself an enemy of the state or constitute yourself as an opposition to the government of the day. Criticism is good but must be thoughtful and constructive because that is the only way it could make sense and also help the person you are criticising to get your point and perhaps, make amends.
“His failure would mean we have all failed including you and I. While we all could put him on his toes as a reminder that failure is not an option, we should also point out those areas he is doing well as a form of reward for more good. Ambode will not fail, quote me because I have worked with him and I know him,” Fashola added with the willingness to hedge a good bet.

True to these words of his predecessor, Ambode has since picked up from the rubbles and consequently setting the state on intense fire of development path. He has also since finding his feet, been rewriting the story of Lagos to the awe of the rest of the country and the world.

Although it might appear too early for some to be praise-singing the governor, the truth is that with his sustainable people-centered programmes and policies, Ambode might end up trumping the first-rate record of his outstanding predecessor, which of course, are Fashola’s prayers and the expectations of all. And probably too, Ambode sees Itesiwaju ipinle Eko l’oje wa l’ogun (the progress of Lagos State is paramount to us) as he is wont to say beyond mere campaign slogan or as just the moniker of his own administration.

The last two weeks have witnessed impressive efforts to consciously put the state on a path of steady progress, growth and development. The governor, with some of his team members were recently at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja to commission the first state-owned Helipad for medical emergencies in Nigeria, an initiative conceived to improve the healthcare delivery system in the state.

Further to this, the governor also inspected some of the ongoing projects at LASUTH, where he announced the upgrading of the 247-bed and five theatre suits for pregnant women, popularly called Ayinke House, promising that it would be ready for use by 2017.

For the record, Ambode is said to be notorious for deadlines, claimed a former senator, who is very close to him. This, he added, comes also with great speed of delivery as being witnessed today. According to the senator source, he does not joke with deadlines even if you were his biological child, adding also that he does nothing without a timeline and which no interference can change. That, for a lot of people, speaks to effective leadership, no doubt.
As a part of efforts to transform the health sector, he announced that the Bola Tinubu Health and Diagnostic Centre would become operational soon, while at the same time gave approval for the rehabilitation, upgrade and bulk purchase of medical equipment required in 20 Secondary and 21 primary health facilities across the state.
Ambode, who justified the helipad initiative, claimed that, “This is a life-saving asset and critical complement to the efficient functioning of this Unit (LASUTH) and other emergency services being rendered by the state. The helipad will also aid the movement of patients from remote areas, where healthcare facilities to provide the level of emergency medicare required are not readily available.

“Over the years, we have witnessed emergency situations, which required timely movement of victims to appropriate medical facilities. Keeping in mind that every minute matters in securing the lives of people involved in these incidents, the usual movement by road is not the best option in such situations. Helicopters have, therefore, become an efficient and reliable option, which can only be made possible with the availability of helipads within the hospital environment.

“Given the status of LASUTH, as the state’s flagship tertiary health institution, offering referral services for other public and private medical institutions, it was obvious the helipad had to be located here,” he said.
He recalled that about a month ago, a 27-bed Critical Care Unit was commissioned at LASUTH to provide life and organ support system for the critically ill patients, who require intensive monitoring and post-operative treatment, adding that the Helipad would go a long way to facilitate medical evacuation and air ambulance transfer of patients to Trauma Centers.

The provision of these facilities, he posited, was consistent with the commitment of his administration to raise the service delivery capacity of LASUTH and other health facilities in the state to international standards. Aside the fact that government is inclined to intensifying efforts in acquiring an Air Ambulance to complete the cycle of emergency medical services, he hinted that the Helipad would be operated by specially trained personnel, who would render 24-hour service, guarantee expert medical care during emergency transfer and safe-landing at all times.
And with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with select investors, Ambode said the state was on the verge of becoming a hub for medical tourism once the Medical Park at the old School of Nursing, Ikoyi comes on stream.

“With the support of our hardworking and dedicated personnel in the health sector, we are confident that we will achieve our set objectives in the health sector, save lives and guarantee a healthy state,” he promised.
Days after the commissioning at LASUTH, Ambode also signed two critical laws aimed at eradicating the menace of land-grabbing as well as improving the security situation in all the communities in the state. The two laws are Lagos State Properties Protection Law and Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law. To demonstrate the seriousness attached to law and order, he has also read Riot Act to those concerned and affected.

Just about the same time, Ambode received members of the Indices and Disbursement Committee of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), who came to announce that the federal government had approved four oil wells for Lagos, and planned the commencement of the disbursement of the 13 per cent Derivation to the state in line with constitutional provisions.

Ambode said it was significant for Nigeria’s economy that Lagos had emerged as the first oil producing state outside the Niger Delta basin.

“We are very glad to receive this delegation. We also want to thank the federal government, most especially President Muhammadu Buhari for making this happen very promptly. I want to say that this has been the quickest action that has been taken by RMAFC since I have known the Commission.
“I used to be a former Accountant General, so I had a lot of transactions and relationship with the institution called RMAFC. Within a span of about 60 days of when we wrote our letter, and even before we wrote the letter, this technical committee was set up. It gladdens me to say that the institution worked and is working for the good of Nigeria,” the governor said.

While noting that this very development might have kick-started the path to diversification of oil production in Nigeria, the governor urged other states of the federation to begin to activate the mineral deposits in their domain as a means to boosting their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

Two days after this, Ambode also announced plans to activate multi-faceted projects designed to improve the living standards in the state. These include the commencement of the construction of a fly-over bridge in the popular Pen Cinema junction of the state. This would be the third the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration is constructing after those of Abule-Egba and Ajah Roundabout. A pedestrian bridge is already erected at the busy Berger bus stop along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to ease human and vehicular movement. The aesthetics of this edifice has continued to awe the end users.

At a recent joint ministerial briefing at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, the government announced its readiness to commence the deployment of 13,000 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras, additional 6,000 street lights and security sensors for surveillance and crime prevention across the state from October, 2016.
Here, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said government was set to decongest traffic along the Lekki-Epe axis through the removal of three roundabouts namely the 4th (Elegushi), 5th (Jakande) and the 8th (VGC). He said the affected roundabouts would be replaced by traffic lights, expansion of the roads and the provision of dedicated turning lanes as well as additional lay-bys.

According to the commissioner, government has also commenced the implementation of the Lagos Enterprise GIS upgrade and the Integrated Land Administration Automation System, which when implemented, would ensure proper monitoring of her infrastructure for optimum benefit, fast-track the ease of doing business in the state and improve government-citizen relationship.

Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Ganiyu Johnson, who explained the scope of the Pen Cinema fly-over, said the construction would be completed within 18 to 24 months and that the project would commence after the conclusion of the preliminary works. He noted that the fly-over would be constructed from Oba Ogunji via Ijaiye Road into Agunbiade, adding that it would be 700meters long with some junction improvement at Pen Cinema.

“We will expand Oba Ogunji Road and create barriers. The project will also accommodate a generous walkway similar to the Ikorodu Expressway and the bridge would have a free flow all the way to Agunbiade,” Johnson explained.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Transport, Olanrewaju Elegushi, on his part, espoused that the removal of the roundabouts on Lekki-Epe Expressway was part of the junction works and traffic system management designed by the present administration to enhance free flow of traffic, recalling that when the road was constructed, it could accommodate about 30,000 vehicles per day, but that the vehicular movement had increased over time to over 50,000 daily.
He said the project would be completed in six months, adding that additional lay-bys and other sleep roads had been designed with the project.

On the Smart City Project and the Integrated Land Administration Automation project, Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr. Olufemi Odubiyi, said among many other benefits, that the EGIS project would help promote and encourage a secondary mortgage market and facilitate investment in properties. He added that the project would witness the installation of information highway-metro fibre and deployment of 4GLT across the State, adding that part of what government was trying to achieve was the full implementation of e-services like e-health and e-agric, among others.

Complementing these are the intra-city road renovations that are fast changing the face of the road network in the state. To assume that the state has embraced the culture of steady road maintenance and on time is evident as practically every part of the state is presently experiencing this timely initiative intervention.
Besides, the security of the state has also improved from what it used to be when Ambode newly took over the reins of power. Although the security architecture of the state is presently reactive, it is hope that the governor would ginger some proactive policing of a state like Lagos through thorough intelligence gathering, so that there would be more instances of police bursting crimes or and preventing them from happening at all as against the prevailing trend of running around to apprehend criminals after the harm had been done.

The helicopter emergency service is another development initiative that depicts vision and good thinking. Even though such a service is not expected to come cheap because of the cost implications, it is hoped that it would not be available only to the rich or the elite in the society if it must address the impression that is presently being created, especially when the primary motive is to save lives.

It is also worthy of mention too, the fourth mainland bridge that is already in the works. This humongous development idea (although has been in the works for a long time) is designed to contain the huge traffic challenges as related to the mega status of the state and at the same time, the remodeling as well as relocation of the occupants of the popular Alade market to a more serene, safe and decent environment is worth pointing out.
Has anyone noticed the metal-wire fencing of major roads across the state to prevent unintended hazards? It is part of the small things. In addition to this, the state government has also taken a notch up, the greenery culture of the state, using in some cases, same metal-wire fencing to protect the beautification tradition of the state, popularised by the Fashola administration.
Some of the major motor parks have also been remodeled as part of the expansion initiatives required to help brace up the transportation challenges a state like Lagos confronts. Even the BRT lanes have been receiving good attention for what is called concrete renovation for their durability and capacity to absorb pressure from regular uses.
There is no doubting the fact that things are increasingly getting better in Lagos State and interestingly, they are the big deals that come in small but significant packages.
Tomorrow, Ambode will launch what has been described as the largest mall in Africa, called Novare Lekki Mall. With 22,000 square meters of gross lettable area, it is presently the largest mall in Africa’s most populous city.
Beyond the deceptive road constructions and sometimes useless monuments often associated with the character of every government, these small things directly affect the people. How Ambode came about the idea of giving serious attention to those small things that matter is particularly commendable. This is because not only have they sculpted a niche for him and his government, they are also telling the success story of his style.

In Germany, for instance, government recently put traffic lights on the ground for distracted phone users. The idea must have been informed by increased death toll arising from distractions caused by the use of phones on major roads. That may appear a no-big-deal to some, only a responsible government can pay attention to such details.
This shares closely with the improved traffic light regulation in London too. Now, in London, immediately the traffic light signals green, which asks you to go, there is another countdown from 10 to 0 before vehicles on the particular direction of the road can move. This is not just creating grounds for contingencies but also building sufficient safety mechanism into policy assumptions following periodic reviews.

Also, in London, their police officers usually have in their regular patrol vehicles (not the ambulances) first aid kits and the officers have been trained too on how to administer first aid to victims at any scene of crime or accident. This way, attention is paid to little details that could help give life meaning as part of the collective for good governance. And most probably, such a practice is common with a majority of the developed countries of the world. Lagos too can embrace this idea to further improve its medical delivery services in times of emergencies.

Ironically, such initiatives could be no big deal for some because they are somewhat negligible. Interestingly, they do matter in calibrating practical developments because governments in advanced climes take seriously those things that not only guarantee the safety of the people but show steady progression in their everyday life. This is why these small things are fast changing the face of Lagos and progressively so as everyone notices.

While expectations from the government is not likely to cease or decrease regardless of the palpable efforts to turn things around for the good of all, it is only imperative that the citizens too not only sustain their support to the government, but also mindful of their responsibilities.

Evidently and in no distant time, the people of Lagos and indeed, Nigerians will begin to tell the narratives of the Ambode administration, albeit from their different perspectives, depending on how good it affects them.
What is most certain is that if Lagos did not baje (decline or rot) during Fashola’s reign as the signature of his government was, then, the itesiwaju (progress) of the state appears even more secure and reassuring with a seemingly worthy successor. And this much, Fashola foretold of a government sold on his own record of sterling performance in eight years.

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Evidently and in no distant time, the people of Lagos and indeed, Nigerians will begin to tell the narratives of the Ambode administration, albeit from their different perspectives, depending on how good it affects them. What is most certain is that if Lagos did not baje (decline or rot) during Fashola’s reign as the signature of his government was, then, the itesiwaju (progress) of the state appears even more secure and reassuring with a seemingly worthy successor