Ambode: The Shape of Hope to Come

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Akinwumi Ambode

From Gbenga Ogunjinmi

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done… Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th president of the United States of America.

Gradually, Nigerians are being led into the new world in which they would live under the second coming of President Muhammadu Buhari. Everyday since he was reelected, he has unveiled in bits what his encore presidency would look like. He opened a chink shortly after the result of the February 23 ballot was announced. Buhari said he would run an ‘inclusive’ administration where all stakeholders would be accommodated. Days after, he widened the aperture, telling us what was in the offing: only men and women of integrity would make his cabinet.

Then in the closing week of March, he dropped more hints: he said he would put in all effort to ensure the best for Nigeria and her citizens when his second term begins on May 29, 2019. His words:” I assure you I will do my best during the second term. We will work for Nigeria and her people.’’

When leaders publicly make such solemn declarations, they assume the aura and force of covenants or contracts that must be redeemed or honoured. You can’t break them for the sake of your integrity and good name. Now running such an ‘impeccable’ administration in the interest of the people as Buhari is planning simply implies you populate your government with ‘good’ men and women,as the 26th US president counsels above. They must be tested citizens whose past bears no blemish. Nor do they have a baggage of scandals that slows down governance. Still more: they must be on the same page each step of the way with the leader of government and other strategic functionaries of the system.

If truly we want Nigeria to move into the ‘next level’ of greatness, the mantra the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, waved before us to win the presidential ballot, then we must go for such men in the next government. All over the country, we can locate them, not requiring a trip to Mars or some other outer planet.

One personality that easily springs up to meet these qualifications is Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos, who has been described superlatively as the ‘Governor General of Nigeria’. After a survey of the transcendent achievements of Ambode in all areas of performance in the economic powerhouse of Nigeria, Rauf Aregbesola, himself then a governor in Osun State, turned in the verdict that indeed Ambode is first among equals.

Receiving Ambode in his office in Osogbo, the state capital, Aregbesola said:’’ I recognize the Governor of Lagos State who by my own assessment is the Governor General of Nigeria. I say so for a very good reason. It is not a question of age of the occupant of that office or his tenure. It is simply an attestation to the fact that the economy of Lagos (under the guidance of Ambode) is about the summation of the economies of thirty states in Nigeria. One will be deceiving himself not to recognize that fact.’’ Aregbesola went on to ascribe the feat to what he called the ‘brilliant performance’ of Ambode.

Observers have said that Aregbesola only alluded to a national feat by Ambode. They assert that Ambode’s era has also earned Nigeria a positive place in contemporary annals, which put Lagos as the fifth largest economy in Africa. This makes it bigger than Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya, two of the continent’s most promising economies. Neighbouring Ghana, reputed to be one of Africa’s poster nations in national growth rates, also falls behind Lagos in the Ambode dispensation.

At the higher federal plane, the country can do with the wand Ambode deployed to give Lagos this facelift, now that President Buhari is shopping for a fresh and dynamic engine to take the country to the next level.

He is going to be available for call-up to Buhari’s team from May 29, after an outstanding work in Lagos where he gifted residents with some of the best urban and rural development deliveries ever witnessed in Nigeria. The president will find in Ambode a kindred spirit, whose passion is integrity in hard and ceaseless work to ease the plight of the masses.

Both are pro-poor. Buhari revealed this streak repeatedly as he gave salary-defaulting states huge amounts as bailouts to save the civil servants from hardship. In Lagos, Ambode revealed this same pro-people inclination by not owing salaries and by doling out billions of naira at a go to meet the pension of senior citizens. The humble backgrounds of the duo have influenced them to show pity to the vulnerable of the society. We need such leaders to identify with the people they govern, if we are not to have a disturbing cleavage between government and the citizens that pushes a nation to the precipice.

But the abiding attribute Lagosians have noticed in their governor is his knack for legacy monuments for the benefit of the society. I dare say Ambode has about the same adroitness at thinking up first class structures as the legendary Brazilian striker Pele had for scoring goals in during his days. The footballer is credited with 1281 goals in 1363 appearances, the highest by any player.

Now spread across the small water-soaked area called Lagos are great landmarks that some societies only get during a succession of administrations or over generations of leaders. However in under four years, Ambode’s government has presented us with great mementos that will still command the attention of the future. Even now, as he prepares to leave the scene, he’s taken over the expansion, rehabilitation and complete upgrade of the Murtala Mohammed Airport Road. It’s sordid state used to be the nemesis of motorists and a reproach to the nation, given its status as the window to our country, being the busiest airport not only in Nigeria but the West Africa sub-region. It’s a federal road; but Ambode can’t tolerate what brings shame to his fatherland, the same way Buhari wouldn’t stand shameful treatment of the masses!

Not a few believe that the president can’t but look the way of such a man as he seeks a team to join him guide the nation into the next level. Ambode has proved in Lagos that he is for a legacy-pursuing agenda, a mission he pursued stoically and pragmatically to the end, even when unconscionably denied a conventional privilege to automatically seek a second term without a challenge within the party.

––Ogunjinmi, a lawyer wrote in from Surulere, Lagos