At Two, Ambode’s Lagos Dream Unravels

0

By Idowu Ajanaku
His defining moment came when he was sworn in as the 4th
democratically elected governor of Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence and
Africa’s ever ebullient commercial hub, Lagos State. That was
precisely on May 29, 2015 after the two-horse, riveting race between
him, the gubernatorial flag bearer of the All Progressives
Congress(APC) and Jimi Agbaje of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP). A
lot of water, as the wise ones say has gone under the bridge ever
since. But this piece is not all about his modest achievements within
a short span of two years, across the spectrum of security, massive
infrastructural outlay, agriculture, education, transportation,
healthcare delivery, human capacity development and of course,
entertainment and tourism. No.
Rather, it is a personal perception about the distinguished gentleman
who Fate brought me in contact with at Glover Home back in 2014.What
was my first impression about him? It was that of a well-groomed,
complete gentleman whose alluring persona radiates a cool, composed
and calculating ambience. It was that of a man with a touch of finesse
reflected in his carefully chosen clothes, wrist watch and shoes! Has
that first impression dimmed?
Of course not, if not bolstered by getting closer to him at work and
more significantly discovering that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s taste
and touch for perfection has been extrapolated to all the solid
structures his administration has brought to bear, so far. If in
doubt, check out the roads, bridges, school buildings, that dot the
landscape of the fast-developing megalopolis. But before then there
was another enigmatic bearing about him that raise some dust.
That was when he decided to throw his Epe-grown cap into the
governorship ring back in 2014.Not a few observers then had some
reservation about his capacity to deliver in the intricate art of
political governance. Here was a man, who though as an accomplished
auditor has traversed 13 out of the 21 local government councils and
written his name in gold as an Accountant-General. But he was no
politician. He may have even become the youngest and an achieving
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance. Yet, that was a different
kettle of fish. What did he know about managing erratic and ever
ambitious politicians with their idiosyncrasies?
Besides, his looks and demeanour were that of a top technocrat, not
carved cut out for the gadabout gamble of poll-i-tricks. He was too
meek, too simple, too gentlemanly. He could not even shout to brow
beat opponents. Simply put, he did not have the guts to delve into the
murky waters of Nigerian politics and swim with the sharks! One could
not blame those who held on tenaciously to this line of argument. But
how wrong could they be, as one was to discover on closer observations
and events over the past two years have since unveiled.
With more intimate interaction, I discovered and felt both impressed
and intrigued by his deep knowledge of the city called Lagos. Throw
questions on the nitty-gritty of governance and one is awed by his
full and firm grasp on what it takes to run the ever ebullient city
that has become home to all. He does not believe in rhetoric or
beating about the bush with wishful words. He is a down-to-earth, man
of action. And even before such actions are taken he must be convinced
that he has had the right background information with thorough
thinking through.
All these came to the fore and eventually manifested during the first
gubernatorial debate held at the
Church at Ikeja. It was between him, Agbaje and other governorship
hopefuls. At the end of it, the Bishop in charge confessed that if the
good people of Lagos were looking for someone with a clear vision;
someone who knew his onions on how to pilot the affairs of Lagos and
take it to the next level, Ambode was the man to choose.
On the flip side however, he observed that if they were out for a
sweet talker, one who could convince Lagosians to toe his political
path, Agbaje fit that bill. To him therefore, Ambode stood head and
shoulders above his competitors. But it was left for the electorate to
make a wise choice. So, looking back today one is grateful to Lagos
people for taking their destiny in their own hands. Thank God for
that!
Indeed, Ambode never ceased to tell those close to him that his
political ambition was directed by the ‘hand of God’. It was a divine
project. It was not too surprising therefore, to listen to him sing
two of his favourite gospel songs. One is the popular line that says
that: “I have a father who will never fail me. Jesus is my father and
he will never fail me,rock of ages, never,never fail”.
The other, popular as well is: “Olore mi”. He would sometimes break
the silence, after a hard day’s campaign with: “ Olore mi, olor mi,
kini ma fi so fu en o”. He was grateful to a benefactor that he was
short of words on what he could do to repay Him for his divine grace
and favour.
Perhaps, it is that grateful spirit that has imbued him with the
uncommon virtue of patience. Evident during the planning and take off
for the campaigns were the attributes of a patient soul, a good
listener as well as a good team leader. He never for once betrayed the
trait of a bossy person; of one who rams his views down the throat of
others. Ideas for programs and projects were thrown open for
thoughtful debate. At the end, the decision of the majority always
held sway. One admires him much for such sterling qualities of a
visionary leader.
Without sentiments therefore, one is not surprised by Governor
Ambode’s astounding achievements over the past two years. Name them:
the veritable vision of Lagos as a destination of choice for far
sighted entrepreneurs from all over the world. And why not? There is
the assurance of all-round, tight security network, courtesy of his
donation of top-of-the range security gadgets to the police and
all-inclusive community surveillance, across the state. The fast
growing mega-city was in 2016 ranked as the 5th most robust economy on
the African continent. With a population 21 million people it accounts
for 80 per cent of the maritime trade conservatively put at some N3
trillion.
In addition, the Internally Generated Revenue, which rose from N20
billion in 2013 to N23billion in 2014 has under Ambode achieved a feat
of N380 billion in 2016-the highest ever. These are properly
utilized in the massive infrastructural development of roads,
bridges and clearing of waterways to facilitate journeys by sea. There
is the increasing focus on the triple projects of Eko Atlantic City,
the $300 Elegushi Kingdom Imperial City as well as the history-making
Smart City, coming up in conjunction with Smart City LLC, Dubai being
the first of its kind in Africa.
On food security, there is the adoption of all-season farming and
establishment of green houses across the state, including the recent
one established at Iyaafin Vegetable Estate in Badagry. The LAKE Rice
project is to be boosted with the 16 mmt per hour rice mill in the
state as an upgrade on the Imota Rice Mill set up with a 20,000
metric ton rice processing and milling plant .On fish farming and
aquaculture the government has optimized the use of the natural
endowments to develop industrial fisheries, artisanal fisheries and
aquaculture facilities across Lagos. So much more can be added in
other sectors of the economy.
Interestingly, the man who was not given a chance to succeed back in
2015 has surpassed the expectations of millions of Lagos people. Just
like the biblical Joseph who was not thought of as a credible leader
in the time of famine, he has truly confounded his critics even in the
nation’s trying period .That is why many in Lagos today sing that two
is greater than eight
It is again a tribute to the political sagacity of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed
Tinubu that when a credible successor was been sought for, to replace
Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) he pitched his tent with a financial
expert, knowing that an economic recession was looming. Now, we
applaud that choice.
Like the phoenix, Ambode has risen from the ashes of political
backwaters to become a reference point in Nigeria’s economic
development. This indeed, should be an inspiration to all.
– Ajanaku, is a senior special Assistant (media and strategy )to Gov Ambode