The April 24 one-day visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Lagos State was considered a remarkable recap of what Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration has always stood for. Bayo Akinloye captures the highlights of the occasion in which the president inaugurated some landmark projects in the state
The lanky figure looked at the rotund gentleman standing beside him, revealing a gracious grin and a smile of approval. The latter nodded appreciatively. Then, there was a warm handshake.
If President Muhammadu Buhari was a man of many words, his supporters said he would have described the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, in the most colourful superlatives of adjectives. While that might have been an icing on the cake of Ambode, the illustrious civil servant-turned-politician, people say the projects he has been able to execute in Lagos and for Lagos are enduring – and not for any show.
Some of the projects: a 170-bed maternal and child medical centre popularly called Ayinke House located on the premises of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); the remodelled 10-lane Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road; 500-seater Lagos Theatre, Oregun; iconic Oshodi transport interchange; and 820 high and medium capacity public buses had brought the president of the most populous black nation on earth to Lagos on Wednesday.
As he declared open the grand facilities, an elated Buhari subtly described the governor’s performance as “satisfactory” and “commendable”.
Until Ambode assumed power, the Airport Road in Lagos was considered a blight on Nigeria and Lagos as the nation’s centre of excellence. Today, the road and the environs have gone through a transformation having undergone reconstruction and expansion becoming a three-lane expressway on both directions. In addition, there is also a two-lane service road in both directions making a total of 10 lanes with a ramped bridge to provide a U-turn from Ajao Estate to the airport; and the construction of a flyover at NAHCO/toll gate and drainage works.
The landscape of the area is breathtaking.
But that is not all.
There was the construction of new pedestrian bridges at the estate and NAHCO/Hajj camp, slip road to provide access to the area, lay-bys and the installation of street lights.
Buhari’s one-day working visit to Lagos was a fitting farewell to Ambode, whom many claimed is the best-performing governor Lagos has ever had since the country’s return to democracy in 1999.
But when the president’s jet touched down at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, his first port of call was a maternity centre – Ayinke House, Nigeria’s biggest maternity hospital – to declare open the revamped clinic which was upgraded from an 80-bed facility to one of 170 beds with state-of-the-art medical equipment, as well as information technology services.
During the inauguration of the facility, Ambode described the opening of the hospital as historic, expressing optimism that the facility will provide world-class health care services to Lagosians and other Nigerians.
The maternity centre has a history behind it – first inaugurated in 1990 – with the late businessman and philanthropist, Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony donating the first dedicated maternal and child care facility to the state government, in memory of his mother. The building was fittingly christened ‘Ayinke House’.
With just one surgical theatre, the medical facility became a first-class hospital – the first choice for expectant mothers and eventually became stretched beyond its capacity as well as suffered neglect. All is well that ends well, people are wont to say. Ambode shared the same sentiment.
“Today, seven years after the closure of the facility, the new edifice is now a 170-bed facility with five surgical theatres. It has a 16-bed emergency care unit with three organ support facilities, 30-bed special baby care unit, five neonatal intensive care units, a fully equipped laboratory with support services, laboratories, and a blood bank,” the governor announced to the cheering of all in attendance.
He added: “Beyond its significance for the health sector, this institute is a major contribution to our education sector also as it becomes a veritable platform for our medical students in the state’s university to enhance their exposure and experience with the top-class medical equipment provided.”
In view of Buhari’s determination to making universal and basic primary healthcare as one of the cardinal priorities of his administration, Ambode noted that the Lagos government, under him, has worked to bring quality, affordable and modern healthcare to all in the state – and, that includes the launch in 2018 of the Lagos State Health Insurance Scheme which gives residents access to top quality medical care with support from the state government.
“These and other efforts,” Ambode explained “are directed at improving the lives of our people, especially the women and children; and by extension the productivity of our nation.”
Itching to tour the facility, President Buhari did not waste time in declaring open the facility and took a tour of the hospital. Afterward, the president visited the Lagos Theatre, Oregun in Ikeja, another landmark project conceived and implemented by the Ambode administration to increase arts spaces and create standard platforms for talented citizens of the state to showcase their skills.
The theatre with 500 sitting capacity is one of four such edifices simultaneously constructed by the Ambode administration in Epe, Badagry, and Igando. A fifth one, to be located in Ikorodu, is in the works.
For a first-time visitor in Lagos – and many residents of the state – the sight of Oshodi offered a giddying kaleidoscope depicting humanity at war with modernity. That was in the past as the ‘outgoing sheriff in town’ saw to it that the human, infrastructural and vehicular menace that made the beautiful Oshodi look like a monster was removed and replaced with something many Nigerians had not seen before. It is the Oshodi Transport Interchange.
The OTI seeks to transform Oshodi into a “world-class central business district (CBD) with business, travel and leisure activities conducted in a serene, secure, clean, orderly and hygienic environment, comparable with other transport terminals around the world, including Stratford and Victoria Bus Station in the United Kingdom”, the Lagos government said.
By the project, all the 13 city and interstate bus parks in Oshodi have transformed into three multi-storey terminals, providing standard facilities including waiting area, loading bays, ticketing stands, drivers lounge, parking areas, restrooms, accessible walkways and pedestrian sky-walks linking all the terminals.
Ambode and his team are the brains behind the OTI, designed to reduce travel time on Lagos roads, unlock gridlocks associated with the megacity and “help people commute without stress”. The interchange, like the previous ones before it such as the Ikeja Bus Terminal, Berger Bus Terminal, Yaba Bus Terminal, Oyingbo Bus Terminal and Race Course Bus Terminal will make Lagos function like other megacities in the developed world.
Inside the OTI are 20 lifts and escalators, two skywalks connecting one terminal to the other, architectural LED lights, passenger concourse, public address systems, bus depot, passenger drop-off areas, taxi, and car parks, passenger lounge for intercity commuters, loading bays, and passenger information systems, among others.
The glint in President Buhari’s eyes as he looked at the facilities spoke volume as he inaugurated the facilities which include the 820 buses (equipped with cameras, USB point, internet, television, and reserved spaces for the physically challenged, pregnant women and the aged, among others,) being integral components of the Bus Reform Initiative of the Ambode administration through which the government plans to inject 5,000 high and medium capacity buses into the public transportation architecture of the state.
“Your Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has performed satisfactorily and we should all commend him for his contribution to the growth and development of Lagos State,” the impressed and excited president said to Lagosians.
For Ambode, the presidential commendation was a pat on the back for effective governance – not politicking – in Lagos State in the last four years.
The governor believes that at the core of politics is good governance, not power.
“In our promise to deliver people-oriented projects and programmes, a closer look at all the projects indicate that nearly all the different pillars of our development plan as a state have been affected positively through these projects. The Institute of Maternal and Child Health at LASUTH contributes to our health and education sectors simultaneously.
“The Lagos Theatre, Ikeja is about our social development sector while the Oshodi transport interchange and buses come under our transport, infrastructure, and commerce sectors. The Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road is an infrastructural development project,” Ambode said to Buhari.
All the projects, the Lagos State governor explained, form the thrust of his administration’s vision with the ultimate aim “to make life better for all our people, irrespective of gender, tribe or political leanings.”
Ambode explained further that the state invested the second tranche of the Paris Club refund, in addition to the refund by the federal government on federal road projects executed by states to the construction of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road and the OTI, considered the first of its kind in Africa.
The first tranche of the Paris Club refund to states approved by the president was used “to pay the 40 percent down-payment” for the 820 buses.
“This is our report card, Mr. President,” Ambode said with a smile. “We have used your approval and releases judiciously because we believe strongly in you – in your leadership and in your vision for our country. This is our modest contribution to the growth and development of our state and to the country in general.”
Continuing, the governor said: “Mr. President, we believe strongly that the projects inaugurated today are our own modest contributions to the national development of Nigeria. As I said earlier, these projects would not have been possible without Mr. President’s quiet but impactful decision to approve and release the payments of the Paris Club refund and the refund on federal road projects incurred by the states.”
Brimming with optimism, Ambode believes that the projects will secure the future prosperity of Lagos, pointing out that the level of investment in the last four years in strengthening the social and physical infrastructure base of the state is becoming evident in all sectors of the state’s economy. There is more Lagos can do.
Ambode said: “Mr. President, Lagos State will continue to support your aspirations to move Nigeria to the ‘Next Level’. The business community in the state is desirous of partnering your government in moving our economy forward.”
That does not appear a gesture the president will take for granted.
According to Buhari, projects executed by the Ambode administration clearly demonstrate the need to continue to provide high-impact schemes for the development of infrastructure and opportunities for job creation at all levels, saying that the development is in sync with the efforts of the federal government to improve infrastructure especially in the transport sector.
Buhari said further: “To complement the Oshodi transport interchange, the federal government has recently approved the reconstruction of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway up to Oworonshoki and the old toll gate which was last attended to 40 years ago.
“We have recently inaugurated the new International Airport Terminals in Port Harcourt and Abuja, as well as the rail lines from Abuja to Kaduna. The Lagos to Ibadan rail line is under construction. Our government will continue to prioritize high-impact infrastructure which will vastly improve the lives of our people.”
Grinning with delight, the president thereafter went on a bus ride with dignitaries to tour the facility and also drove through the remodelled Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road.
By May 29, Ambode will take a bow from his exalted office and not a few Lagosians will “stand up for the champion.