The sages say an enterprising industry player attracts to himself more noble service to the society as a mark of appreciation of his diligence. That is to say, when you work hard, you are given more work so the community can benefit from more of your expertise. But, alas, with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State it has not been so, no thanks to a grand conspiracy that upturned the wisdom of the ancients.
Now, these wise old men also warn that the people would be in agony when you reject their counsel and reward a hard-working person with a refusal to let him continue his good work. This, unfortunately, translates into a colossal loss for the people.
That’s the irony we have been forced to face in Lagos as we draw close to the end of the Ambode era: a man is departing, not because he was found wanting in performance in office, but because a cabal, against the run of play and contrary to convention, ruled that they no longer wanted him. Well, the popular verdict on this travesty of justice is that history will have the last say. And that Ambode is also going to have the last laugh on account of the mammoth legacy of verifiable and beneficial service he is leaving behind, the stand of a few naysayers notwithstanding.
The point is that the governor doesn’t need to blow his own trumpet, the proverbial one. If, as it is acknowledged worldwide, people are the bedrock of democracy, Ambode can always appeal to the citizens as the gauge of his tenure. For, in under four years of his administration, the governor has touched the lives of millions of Lagosians in every sphere such that it would appear as if he has been in office for a far longer period.
How do you use governance to touch lives? It is simply by de-alienating government and the governed. Government is deemed distant to the populace when you concentrate good roads, healthcare facilities, schools, industries, government offices etc. in only the urban centres. The message you send when you do so is that your administration is only for the elite.
Ambode renounced this approach and took the path that has made him quite popular. He moved to the suburbs and opened up their narrow roads, giving them modern streets with lights that also link the arterial highways. It’s been a seamless arrangement which has prevented traffic glut on the expressways. In addition, we can do a lot of inner community motoring and business without as much as going through or sighting the highways. A classic example is the road network in Alimosho area. Lagos has never had it so good!
No wonder a commentator has written:” In our society, there is arguably no achievement that boosts good assessment of a government than construction and rehabilitation of roads.’’
An interesting point is that Ambode has done so elegantly. In other words, he has not just built roads and bus terminals; he has also offered first-class exotic types at Ojodu Berger, Tafawa Balewa Square and Ikeja. These structures, indeed monuments, are fast turning into near tourist centres, given their architectural symmetry. You etch yourself in the consciousness of your people when you give them such quality service which outlives you.
Now, all these have flown from a man eager to give a new model of governance propelled by inclusive government. This has enabled Ambode to absorb all shades of the citizenry in his administration: technocrats, bureaucrats, professionals, grassroots representatives, labour, clergy, physically challenged, artisans etc. in the policy formulation and implementation stages of administration. It is in fulfillment of his promise when he assumed office. He declared: “As we collectively face the challenge to make Lagos a better place to live in, we must recognize our strength in diversity. In my administration everybody counts. I shall run an open government of inclusion that will not leave anybody behind.’’
Those who were not left behind included the vulnerable of the society who benefitted from Ambode’s milk of human kindness. Multiple births mother, Ruth Uche, was shattered after her husband fled home at the delivery of their third set of twins. He was reunited with the family when Ambode intervened with necessary government support for the Uches. The governor has also been known to stop his convoy to personally help in rescue operation at accident scenes.
Those who will also miss Ambode are the pensioners. They won’t forget how the governor, in one fell swoop, released the whopping sum of N11b to offset their gratuity liabilities. The state had never recorded such show of government affinity with the plight of aged retirees.
Ambode’s health and education initiatives have equally been penetrating, profound and promising. He has established templates suggesting a progressive look into the future. Stakeholders say Ambode has put up what they describe as ‘’irreversible’’ achievements in his time, just as he has done in pushing Lagos as a foremost player in the crusade for food security through its Lake Rice project. Sports, public security, tourism and the judiciary have similarly received brilliant initiatives in the hands of Ambode to emotionally endear him to the people of Lagos and to move the state to higher level.
Therefore it came as a shock to Lagosians and other Nigerians that a man who has so excelled and become the best performing governor in the country would be jettisoned at the critical time we need him most, all because of the greedy, gargantuan and grabbing propensity of a cabal alienated from the best interests of the people.
But in addition to putting up a superlative show as governor since 2015, Ambode has reacted most gentlemanly and gallantly to the rough deal he got from the All Progressives Congress. Despite provocations and the temptation to quit the party and move to other groups offering him their platform for the governorship ticket, this affable Epe-born accountant has handled all that came his way with equanimity and candor. He went as far as campaigning for President Muhammadu Buhari across the country and soliciting support for Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos State. That’s the true display of humility coupled with integrity.
A future of more noble work awaits Akinwunmi Ambode as a reward for the great service he has rendered to the people of Lagos State. History will be most benign to his era, when he returns later, in accordance with the demand of the sages that you must reward able and dedicated workers with more opportunity for noble service. That is the consolation for those who shall miss Ambode.
Thompson, an economist, wrote in from Obanikoro, Lagos