AMBODE: Between Light and Darkness

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By Nduka Uzuakpundu

“For what fellowship can light have with darkness?” – The Holy Bible 

It was clearly in keeping with his unswerving belief in the Christian faith that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has a forward-looking programme and strategy of administrative renaissance for Lagos State. As if it was on one of the days of creation, Ambode, in his wisdom, said: ‘let there be light’. And as most workers, tax-payers, and road users, especially commercial bus operators and petty traders would testify, Ambode has opted, for an obvious reason of morality and good leadership, to be faithful, and for which – on most of the state and federal roads in the Lagos metropolis – there has been light, erected on tall black lamp-posts. Ambode’s “Light-Up Lagos Project”, which has been carried out with the amazing speed of light is – for its strategic and security constitution – about the most impressive, ambitious and costliest that the Lagos metropolis has had – in the past five decades. Ambode has been enthusiastically applauded for its colour and economic appeal by those who rightly feel that it’s a well-thought-out and wise project, which would help the cause of the economic history and development of the state – with particular reference to tourism and the environment.

 It’s a project that marks the Lagos metropolis out as the only one so blessed amongst the country’s major cities and towns. It’s a capital-intensive project that – in billions of naira and generation of some 2, 752 job opportunities – compares quite favourably with the planned Lekki deep sea port, Lekki airport and Fourth Mainland bridge. It’s an ambitious project that promises to distinguish Ambode from his two previous sires: Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Fashola ( SAN). The reason, as some of Ambode’s associates told this writer, is this: as a centre of excellence, the Lagos metropolis can least afford the absence of light – one that steels the confidence of road users on most of its ever busy highways – especially at starless and moonless nights.

Besides, amidst the modest, but assuring, success by the Ambode administration in the light project, it’s the position of some analysts that it may well require the leadership qualities of the chartered accountant from Epe for the Lagos State Government to embark upon a special power generation project – unlinked to the national grid, for industries and the metropolis’s ever ballooning consumer population. The state, the analysts rightly believe, has the capacity; yes, as Africa’s fifth largest economy. It’s, perhaps, time for the Ambode-led All Progressives Congress ( APC ) administration, they offered, to consider an alliance with the skippers of the organized private sector (OPS) for such a capital-intensive project. And that’s because, for Ambode, the “Light-Up Lagos Project”, has come at a time when Lagos and Abuja are rented by  APC  tenants. It’s been an auspicious tide with which he is swimming along, such that his statement of success ought to encourage the Buhari administration and the National Assembly to grant Ikeja a special right to have what promises to be a robust response to what was once the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). The modest and assuring success of the Ambode administration, in it, is, to borrow from ex-president of the United States – Mr. Barack Obama – a yes-we-can statement.

A fulfillment of Ambode’s campaign promise, the light project, is one whose time is now. It’s a project that fits well into his effort at making Lagos a tourist’s Mecca; diversify the state’s economy, take a visible number of youths off the unemployment queue, and brighten, as a result, the state’s security profile. In consonance with classical economics, Ambode has realized that he has to spend and invest, quite ambitiously, too, as in the light project, if only to shoo away, as it were, the hostile effects of today’s recession. Truth is that how Ambode’s has transmitted to reality his command: “let there be light”, his vision and wisdom in managing the project is, presently, of informed interest to investors, tourists and economic historians.

And yet, the “Light-up Lagos Project”, has come with a compelling challenge: how to protect the lamp-posts and bulbs from agents of darkness, who vandalize and pilfer them, when nobody is watching. To such agents darkness and economic sabotage, the Lagos metropolis has, in the past forty years, lost nearly N18 billion. They are the ones, who vandalize and pilfer lamp-posts, bulbs, railings on bridges, transformers, parks and gardens, street and public facility signs, bus shelters, cover of under-ground cables and water man-holes, iron medians etc., on most of the major roads in the metropolis. To such agents of darkness, Ambode has a robust response: He’s currently training an army of uniformed men and women, who’d watch over the capital-intensive infrastructure throughout the state. It should also be the duty of such men and women to monitor dealers in metal and plastic scraps, besides, such that anyone of them found in possession of plastic, aluminium or iron railings that had been used as part of public infrastructure, should be arrested and prosecuted for being an accessory to, or committing an aggravated act of economic sabotage.

 In addition, Ambode may need the assistance or direct involvement of past and current elected  members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, past and current members of the National Assembly from Lagos State, councillors, operatives of Community Development Associations (CDAs) landlords, members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), operatives of vigilante groups and neighbourhood watch organizations, members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), operatives of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASMA) etc. Ambode should also co-opt politicians from other political parties into the army of protectors.

As one writes,  the lamp-posts, bulbs and railings on bridges and parks and gardens, and green iron medians, interlocking paving stones on the Lagos-Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Iyana-Ipaja to Iyana Iba and elsewhere in Alimosho area; Costain to Mile 2, Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way (old Airport Road), Herbert Macaulay Way, Murtala Mohammed Way, Apapa Road in Ebute Metta, Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Simbiat Abiola Way, Ikeja, Lateef Jakande Street (formerly Agidingbi Road), Ikeja, Mobolaji Johnson Avenue, Alausa, Ikeja, the whole of Oshodi area, Mafoluku-Ladipo to the International Airport, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, the Eko Bidge, the Third Mainland Bridge etc. are fast being vandalized and pilfered by criminals. So, too, are electricity cables and transformers. The Ketu-Mile 12 area is worse hit.

For the political class – including the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Mudashiru Obasa and Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan – who belong to the  top-most rung of stakeholders in the tourism-security, peace-development and business investment project of the Ambode administration, the “Light-Up Lagos Project” should be seen as one of their ‘Constituency Projects’. They should, therefore, mobilize their teeming supporters to back up the Ambode administration’s campaign against the vandalization and pilfering of infrastructure. Ambode should institute an award for diligence, teamwork and excellence in the project.  Enough of lawlessness, vandalization and pilfering of infrastructure and uglifying of the Lagos metropolis. So, let there be light, the Ambode style. Itesi waju ipinle Eko l’ojewa l’ogun.