Governance – Re-Invented: The Ambodian Style


There is a touristy frenzy in Lagos that is palpable. Governance is being re-invented. The Ambodian government is in a class of its own. It is a government of hi-tech creativity: A government that operates with common-sense and uncommon ingenuity. It is a government that encapsulates democracy and its attendant dividends.

I am enthralled by the massive facilities and infrastructure at the disposal of the citizens of the state who seem overwhelmed with the evident and rapid development that is becoming the hallmark of the Ambodian administration. Every government that has ruled and reigned in Lagos State since its creation in 1967 had played its part in the development process of the State. Such development had been unleashed with determination and driven by political goals. Such tendency for development in the past provoked zeal, promoted passion and genuinely ignited the inspiration for competition by successive administrations.

The difference, however, is that the Ambode’s kind of development symbolizes its own finality and peculiarity. It is what you can call “development ti o nsoro” meaning “development that speaks for itself”.
In less than two years, this man called Akinwunmi Ambode has lifted governance from its sleepy crawling condition to a level that excites and fascinates. When you look at the amount of energy and passion that drive this government, you will marvel at the trinity of ideas that characterizes the government. From the political leadership led by the governor himself you see the commitment and vision that form the philosophy of the government.

From the bureaucracy and the civil service, you see the enthusiasm and will that galvanize and stimulate the ideation that is the bedrock of the government. From the professionals and contractors who humanize and accentuate the political and bureaucratic ideas, you see the aggression and the honesty to move and deliver projects and programmes as conceptualized. In all facets of life, this government has shown that modern governance (pardon my qualification if it is hyperbolic) is scaffolded on frameworks that define the design and character of governments. These days, vision alone is not sufficient to drive ideas.

These days, determination alone is incapable of guaranteeing achievements. These days, energy alone is not able to generate the dynamic for movement. What drives a government in contemporary politics is the combination of all these attributes. What can vision do if there is no passion? What can determination do if there is no energy? The novel thing about the Ambodian government is that it has been able to raise governance to a higher pedestal by stringing every relevant and useful exemplar and archtype into a model and template that will be complex to replicate and demystified. The Ambodian administration is an embodiment of all that is good about a government of the people.

In so many areas where government is supposed to touch lives, the government has been responsive. In critical sectors where government is supposed to lift lives, the government has been pro-active. Take agriculture for instance, the government ab initio, placed much value on the quality of life of an average citizen. Realizing that nothing defines quality life better than food security and food sufficiency, the government took the initiative to partner with the Kebbi government in the production of the Lake rice which competed conveniently and proudly with imported rice (whether plastic or glass rice). There must be something in the Lake rice that was special considering the long queues that were formed at the selling points. This was about the first time that a government in the state thought of a synergy with another state government for the purpose of creating a sensation that would serve as an inspiration for other states in agricultural production.

In the health sector, the Ambodian government is shifting focus to the Primary Health Care (PHCs). The logic is that the PHCs are nearer the grassroots. Once the massive populations at the grassroots are managed by the PHCs, the pilgrims flocking to the General Hospitals with litany of ailments will reduce. Hence, all the PHCs are undergoing comprehensive renovation to make them attractive and conducive for the patrons. Before now, emphasis and attention was on LASUTH and the general hospitals. Most of these hospitals have the best technology and facilities you can ever think of.

But this time around, the swagger is in favour of the PHCs which in the past seemed to have suffered critical neglect until this resurrection and resurgence. The face-lift is a motivation for the personnel whose morale was at the lowest ebb because of “historic” frustration.

In the area of security, the strategy for combating and reducing crime to its lowest level has been reconfigured. Unlike in the past when checkpoints were a narrative for crime ubiquity, today, the Ambodian government has placed premium on intelligence-gathering and pro-active operations. Police vehicles dot every flashpoint corner with policemen on amber alert in case of emergency situations.

Quality and sophisticated weapons were bought for the police from the Security Trust Fund which is being managed by credible and influential members of the society mostly from the private sector. In the past, December used to be a nightmare for Lagosians who were regularly under the siege of armed bandits pillaging the city with terror-like ferocity. But for two Decembers now, peace and ‘rock’ appear to have taken over with Lagosians streaming with comfortable bluster to the “One Lagos Fiesta”.

The fiesta which used to be a one-day affair before now has been enlarged and expanded to all the IBILE divisions so that for one week, the whole of Lagos, including the armed robbers, can converge at these places to dance to the music of assorted musicians. The thinking here is that this musical jamboree will distract the lazy ones from conferencing with the devil who is always blamed for every evil. Though cases of kidnapping are still reported in some parts of Lagos, the death penalty bill passed by the State Assembly complements the abhorrence that the Governor has for kidnappers. Hence, his decision to sign the bill into law without further hesitation and inhibitions.

Taking the budget of the state from 489 billion proposed by the Fashola administration in 2015 to 813 billion in just two years shows the resurgence in the financial mechanics of Lagos economy. There is an indulgent assumption that Lagos is rich and that even the worst manager of funds and resources can succeed in Lagos, this is arrant nonsense. A dummy is a dummy. There is no amount of wealth that can make up for cerebral deficit. While it may be true that Lagos is rich, it takes the instinct of a genius to know the precinct of its wealth. Nigeria is rich but according to the former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, “our economy is being run by “gbatu eyos”. To those who don’t understand Yoruba, “gbatu eyos” means amateurs (courtesy of a viral post in the social media).

The economy of the state is rated high, sound and solid because there is a professional and a guru in charge who understands the engineering of accounting to its basic fundamentals. The economy responds positively to the commands of the new financial Sheriff in town because this Sheriff knows how to squeeze revenue from the retinue of treasures hidden in the state.

The foundation for the ambodian epoch was laid by the one who made the ‘final choice’. He it was who insisted that the development process he initiated in 1999 would be best sustained by the one who could create the wealth for the massive projects that contemporary Lagos deserves. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a committed and emotional believer in development, was the one who chose Ambode from the pack of aspirants who religiously trooped to his house for special anointing. As a true democrat, he did not rubber-stamp his choice.

It was a choice that went through a competitive internal electoral process full of intrigues, bickerings, betrayals, reckless spending and voters’ inducements. But at the end of this ‘sasorstic and ‘fasholstic’ creation, Ambode the eponymous hero of modern Lagos, emerged as the only acceptable and popular final choice. And in the general election, Ambode the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) shoved to the ground the candidate of the PDP, Jimi Agbaje whose trajectory in electoral competitions is gradually becoming a historic embarrassment.

Since he became the governor of Lagos State, Ambode has shown without any doubt that the steady development of Lagos is the supreme object of his mission. (Itesiwaju Eko lo je wa logun). This is not a posey government. Nor is it a government of empty swags. You cannot also call it an impressionistic government. This is a government that cares; a government that touches lives. A government with meteoric profile. It is a government that means business. When you see the governor frowning most of the time, it is not because he does not like to smile or laugh but because he registers the frown permanently on his face to tell his appointees, aides, workers and contractors that his government will not compromise efficiency and quality service delivery for opportunistic fraternity.

A man who knows and recognises that the fountain of strength of His administration lies in the compound of the Almighty God; a man who knows that his gubernatorial ascendancy was not without the support of his Creator, has no other favourite song than “I have a FATHER that will never never fail me…” Therefore, anytime you hear the governor sing this song, he is simply showing gratitude to the source of his grace to power and the one that has helped him thus far.
– Thomas is a university lecturer