Ambode Fights to Stamp His Name on Legacy Projects

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Akinwunmi Ambode

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha write that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State is in a hurry to take the glory for his achievements before his exit

The prevailing penetrating heat could not dissuade them from the task at hand. With shovels raised and excavators making frequent assiduous journey to the earth, the picture of a busy construction site was complete. It was unbelievable that on this same site, two days earlier, the project was attended with all the spectacle of a comprehensive venture worth celebrating. However, the presence of workers on the reconstructed Oshodi International Airport Roads, a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit raised many questions that were begging for answers, particularly on the seeming haste igniting merrymaking by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on projects that are, at best, nearing completion.

Apparently, with some of these projects still ongoing, there are doubts that the facilities will be accessible to the public on the scheduled dates.

But Ambode was not previously associated with trying to pass off uncompleted projects as thoroughly executed jobs.

In 2017 during the festivities marking Lagos @ 50, Ambode embarked on commissioning of several infrastructural projects across the state. Though some of these projects were started and had progressed to near completion stage by his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, nobody raised an eyebrow that he had arrogated the achievement to himself. The story is frequently told of how Fashola was conscripted as a member of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s entourage at the commissioning of one of such projects.

Among the projects were a network of roads, bridges, seven transformers, street lighting infrastructures, monuments and a recreation park. Ambode cheerfully lapped up the accompanying applause, without as little as a hint of acknowledgement to Fashola who set the ball rolling. For instance, the Ijegun-Isheri-Osun-Isolo Road was a Fashola legacy project that was ready for commissioning, but could not be done before the end of his tenure.

Critics of Ambode are quick to announce that his priority did not align with the master plan of Lagos handed down to succeeding governments by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. An example is Brown Road in Coker-Aguda Local Council Development Area (LCDA), a link road to 12 other roads in the area and also expected to connect the ongoing Blue Line Rail Project, which was commissioned by Ambode. On the other hand, the governor has completely abandoned work on the rail project and the Lagos-Badagry Express Road. It doesn’t look like many are impressed with the justification of the governor that, “The commissioning is tax payers’ money in action.”

Ambode may have recently made a late rally to get back on track, but it looks the train has left him behind. He has been making attempts to enter a romance with indigenous contractors for the construction of 114 inner roads simultaneously across the state.

At the inauguration of the 114 roads in Oshodi-Isolo, Ambode said indigenous contractors were engaged for the project not only to boost employment but also encourage the local construction industry to grow.

“We are challenging them to do their best and as government we don’t want to shy away from mistakes. If they (indigenous contractors) make mistakes, we also try to correct and encourage them. We are learning, it is a learning process and with time, I believe they will get there,” he said.

At the commissioning of Ogunyinka Street, also in Oshodi LG, Ambode who was represented by the Iyaloja General of Nigeria, Chief Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo (Tinubu’s daughter) also urged indigenous contractors to justify the confidence reposed in them. But it is apparent that these fence-mending efforts were coming late in the day.

When pressed to give reasons for his refusal to back Ambode for a second term, Tinubu, a national leader of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) clearly stated that the governor deviated from the master plan created for the development of the state. He explained that the painful consequence of such improper departure was borne by the people of the state.

Again, the integrity of Ambode is questioned on why he doesn’t want to leave the projects for the incoming governor to commission like his predecessor did. Pundits quickly recalled how he took the glory for the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Centre at Cappa, Oshodi which the former governor of the state Babatunde Fashola began.

“The crazy rush to falsely impress the world that he had performed outstandingly well by commissioning uncompleted projects just to prevent his successor Babajide Sanwo-Olu from taking credit of commissioning those projects smacks of kindergarten and immaturity,” writes a Public Affairs analyst, Adeoba Michaels.

The perceived vindictiveness of the governor is what pundits argue deprived him of getting the desired ovation for his efforts. In his four year tenure, Ambode constructed 114 roads across the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state; 21 roads and three bridges connecting the state with Ogun State. Other projects include installation of new transformers in Ibeju-Lekki, Epe, Eredo, Agbowa-Ikosi, Igbogbo-Bayeku, Ikorodu and Olorunda areas as well as Ojuloge Monument located opposite National Arts Theatre, Iganmu; Empowerment Monument at Sabo, Yaba; Drummer Monument at Ebute Ipakodo Roundabout, Ikorodu and Badagry Recreational Park, Topo, Idale; and of course, the Liberation Statue on Allen Roundabout in Ikeja which was done in honour of the Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Despite the laudable efforts, the hostility targeted towards the governor stemmed from his outright abandonment of some of the projects by Fashola, notably the scrapping of Lagos State Waste Management Agency and the Lagos/Badagry Expressway which state is not a sight for sore eyes.

There are three principal areas that the success or failure of the governor of Lagos state is predicated-security, refuse management and traffic supervision. While Ambode was generally adjudged to have done well in the area of security and traffic control, administration of garbage became the manifest weakness which led to his downfall. Arguably the governor had good intentions when he replaced the effective Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) with, Visionscape, a new waste management company. It is significant that the first time a protest was staged in public against Ambode was carried out by over 350 waste service providers. Against the better judgement of Tinubu, the governor failed to see how he could be overcome by the collective power of people who manage our discarded matter. Lagos state generates over 13,000 tons of waste every day; 1.2kg per person is generated per capita and expected to increase to 1.42kg in the next 15 years. Waste management infrastructure remains the fundamental lifeline in the economic development of the state.

This recent return of public interest on the fate of the outgoing governor is not unconnected with the visit of Buhari to commission Ambode legacy projects in Lagos. Since his political ambition was truncated when the party chose Babajide Sanwo-Olu to replace him, rumours have been rife that Ambode will not take his defeat lightly. Like an action thriller, many expect the governor to break the code of omerta and spill the beans on the alleged corrupt practices of Tinubu. If that happens, then the saga would be worth a box office title.

Ambode did not just lose the bid to return for a second term. He has been haunted and harassed ever since. Many attempts have since been made to, as much as possible, obliterate his legacy from the annals of the state. The state house of assembly has been clearly hostile. The contract with Visionscape was discontinued, not minding what it will cost the state government. When the governor presented the state’s 2019 budget of N852.13bn to the Lagos State House of Assembly, members declined to debate it.

However, there are arguments that the governor is rubbing minds with top politicians at the federal level since the animosity against him at the state level is very visible. The supposition is that he is angling for a chance to represent Lagos in the Federal Executive Council, a position currently occupied by Fashola. Interestingly, Fashola clinched the office without the help of Tinubu, but his chances of being favoured above Fashola are very slim.  With less than one month to his exit from office, the latest commissioning of the projects is viewed as a desperate attempt to win the heart of the president and perhaps secure a ministerial slot since the president has shown signs of appointing his cabinet soonest. Many former governors who go on to serve at the federal level do not get an office below a ministerial appointment.

Buhari’s speech at the commissioning of the remodeled Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road, the world class Oshodi Transport Interchange and the 820 high and medium capacity buses for public transportation, may be of little comfort to Ambode. The President stated emphatically that the Lagos State Governor performed satisfactorily. “To complement Oshodi Transport Interchange, the Federal Government has recently approved the reconstruction of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway up to Oworonshoki and Old Toll Gate which was last attended to 40 years ago.

“We have recently commissioned 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,” he said.

Governor Ambode said the Terminal 3 of the Oshodi Transport Interchange will become fully operational on May 1, while Terminals 1 and 2 would become operational by the end of May.

“All these projects together form the thrust of our vision as a government and the end result is to make life better for all our people, irrespective of gender, tribe or political leanings,” he said.

He said his administration 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 Oshodi Transport Interchange, the first of its kind in Africa, while the first tranche of the Paris Club refund to States approved by the President was utilised to pay the 40 per cent down-payment for the 820 buses.

“This is our report card, Mr. President. 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.

“Mr. President, we believe strongly that the projects being commissioned 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,” he said.

Governor Ambode said he was fully optimistic that with the coming on board of the projects, the future prosperity of the State is secured, saying that the level of investment in the last four years in strengthening the social and physical infrastructure base of the State were becoming evident in all sectors of the economy.

“With the completion of these projects and given the level of commitment of the next administration as well as the continuous support of the Federal Government, I am assured that the immediate and future prospects of our State is very bright.

Though governors from the neighbouring South-west states rallied round Ambode to complement the paraphernalia of state rolled out for the presidential visit, there was a hint of cold reception and the reason is not far-fetched. When Buhari stormed Lagos last year to commission the Ikeja Bus Terminal, Lagosians were hopeful that the facility would be accessible to the public in a couple of days. But till his recent visit, the Ikeja Bus Terminal is still perching beautifully on the Ikeja axis, begging to be used. Ambode had touted the terminal as a world class facility befitting for the world class state he is ruling. For this visit, Ambode again invited the president to commission the reconstructed Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road, the Oshodi Transport Interchange, the New Ayinke House — a modern 170-bed Obstetrics and Gynaecology Specialist Hospital, located within the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); and 820 medium/high capacity transport buses.

The advertised projects that were commissioned by the President were said to be incomplete and proved to be so. Ambode in a tweet had assured Lagosians that the Airport Road and the U-Turn Flyover will be “opened for public use from May 10 after the completion of the quality assurance test.” If for any reason, the governor had reasons to doubt that the product or service meets specified requirements, how would he justify the haste to put them to use?

Again, the integrity of Ambode is questioned on why he didn’t leave the projects for the incoming governor to commission like his predecessor did. Pundits quickly recalled how he took the glory for the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Centre at Cappa, Oshodi which the former governor of the state Babatunde Fashola began.

“The crazy rush to falsely impress the world that he had performed outstandingly well by commissioning uncompleted projects just to prevent his successor Babajide Sanwo-Olu from taking credit of commissioning those procks smacks of kindergarten and immaturity,” writes a Public Affairs analyst, Adeoba Michaels.

The perceived vindictiveness of the governor is what pundits argue deprived him of getting the desired ovation for his efforts. In his four year tenure, Ambode constructed 114 roads across the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state; 21 roads and three bridges connecting the state with Ogun State. Other projects include installation of new transformers in Ibeju-Lekki, Epe, Eredo, Agbowa-Ikosi, Igbogbo-Bayeku, Ikorodu and Olorunda areas as well as Ojuloge Monument located opposite National Arts Theatre, Iganmu; Empowerment Monument at Sabo, Yaba; Drummer Monument at Ebute Ipakodo Roundabout, Ikorodu and Badagry Recreational Park, Topo, Idale; and of course, the Liberation Statue on Allen Roundabout in Ikeja which was done in honour of the Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Despite the laudable efforts, the hostility targeted towards the governor stemmed from his outright abandonment of some of the projects by Fashola, notably the scrapping of Lagos State Waste Management Agency and the Lagos/Badagry Expressway which state is not a sight for sore eyes.

Nevertheless, Ambode is not one to be caught off guard. As an accountant, it will be unruly to think that he is yet to carry out calculations on his next political leap. Whether the recent visit of Buhari will work in his favour or not, only time will tell.

QUICK FACTS:

*Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost his bid to rule Lagos State for a second term

*Ambode did not just lose the bid to return for a second term. He has been haunted and harassed ever since. Many attempts have since been made to, as much as possible, obliterate his legacy from the annals of the state

* This recent return of public interest on the fate of the outgoing governor is not unconnected with the visit of Buhari to commission Ambode legacy projects in Lagos

*President Muhammadu Buhari was in Lagos recently to commission the remodeled Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road, the world class Oshodi Transport Interchange and the 820 high and medium capacity buses for public transportation

*The commissioning has been condemned in many quarters as fraudulent presentation of incomplete projects

* Ambode was not previously associated with trying to pass off uncompleted projects as thoroughly executed jobs

* In 2017 during the festivities marking Lagos @ 50, Ambode embarked on commissioning of several infrastructural projects across the state

*Some of these projects were started and had progressed to near completion stage by his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, nobody raised an eyebrow that he had arrogated the achievement to himself

*Ambode is accused of not aligning his priority with the master plan of Lagos handed down to succeeding governments by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu

*The governor has completely abandoned work on the rail project and the Lagos-Badagry Express Road started by Fashola

*Ambode has recently made a late rally to get back on track, by making attempts to enter a romance with indigenous contractors for the construction of 114 inner roads simultaneously across the state, by it looks like the train has left him behind

*Tinubu refused to back Ambode for a second term because the governor allegedly deviated from the master plan created for the development of the state

*Ambode is questioned on his refusal to leave projects for the incoming governor to commission like his predecessor did

*Lagos State governors are assessed on three principal areas -security, refuse management and traffic supervision. While Ambode was generally adjudged to have done well in the area of security and traffic control, administration of garbage became the manifest weakness which led to his downfall

*The first time a protest was staged in public against Ambode, it was carried out by over 350 waste service providers