Friday, 22 March 2019

Ambode: From Governor-General To Political Orphan - By Temidayo Akinsuyi

“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 is about the summation of the economies of 30 states in Nigeria. One will be deceiving himself not to recognize that fact” – Rauf Aregbesola

The above was the statement made by former Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, in July 2017 when the outgoing governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, paid him a courtesy visit at Government House at Oke-Fia, Osogbo.

To many political observers, that Ambode is worthy of that appellation is not in doubt. He performed excellently well to the satisfaction of Lagosians, including those who voted for the opposition in the 2015 governorship election in Lagos State. His track record for quality service delivery became a reference point in good governance in Nigeria. While many criticised the All Progressives Congress (APC) – led Federal Government for slow performance owing to President Muhammadu Buhari’s health challenge, which necessitated his absence from the country for a considerable period of time, Ambode was seen as the poster boy of the APC and many had even predicted that his re-election would be a done deal.

At his official declaration to run on October 24, 2014, Ambode, highly favoured by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to succeed outgoing governor, Babatunde Fashola said,

“I am resolved to offer you genuine leadership that will be accountable with all the principles of good governance, a government of inclusion that will not leave any race or gender behind. No matter your age, sex, tribe or any other status, as long as you reside in Lagos, we will make Lagos liveable for you”.

Similar to this was part of his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015 that endeared him to many Lagosians, when he said, “Whether you are Igbo, Efik, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, a foreigner, whoever you are, so far you live or work in Lagos, our government will work for you and you will be adequately represented.”

The very first day he was sworn in as governor, Ambode set out to work by making four key appointments. Tunji Bello, a former Commissioner for Environment in the Babatunde Fashola administration, was named the Secretary to the State Government; Samuel Olukunle Ojo was appointed as the Chief of Staff, Abiodun Bamgboye was appointed the Principal Private Secretary while Habib Aruna, a thoroughbred and highly experienced journalist and former Editor of Sunday Independent was appointed as the Chief Press Secretary (CPS).

The first three months of his administration was a very turbulent one. The governor had barely settled down for business of governance when his administration was rocked by two major hurdles – insecurity and traffic chaos.

Violent crimes like armed robberies, kidnappings and cult related killings, among several vices rocked the commercial capital of the nation. To make the already bad situation worse, Lagosians were daily stuck in intractable traffic jams, while refuse heaps resurfaced in several parts of the city.

Angry Lagosians caught in the web of violent crimes and debilitating traffic jams, quickly wrote off the governor, questioning his ability to step into the big shoes left by his predecessors. But the governor explained that the slow start was to enable him understand the terrain and tailor out his strategies to change the face of Lagos forever. And indeed, he did just that.

The story soon changed from criticism and insult by disappointed Lagosians who had initially written him off to that of accolades for his sterling performance.

In the span of three years, he has been able to achieve a lot of successes that many Lagosians are in agreement that the governor has done a great job. From the health sector to education, security, infrastructure, tourism and agriculture, the governor’s impact is everywhere to be seen and appreciated. He has proved to be a good manager of resources, which is not surprising given the fact that he is an accountant.

One of the landmark projects of the governor, which won him plaudits even from the opposition parties in Lagos is the Light- Up Lagos project, which is a major effort of the Ambode administration’s drive to light up every nook and cranny of the state so that Lagosians can move about with ease at any time of the day and to prevent crimes usually carried out by criminal elements under the cover of darkness. With the major public roads in Lagos at nights now brilliantly lit up, the dread of driving after dusk gave way to some ease, especially in areas like Oshodi, Mile 2, Ojota, Iyana Ipaja, Ikeja and other axis.

The governor also performed creditably well in the area of security, equipping the police and other security agencies in Lagos. In September 2015, he donated equipment worth N4.765billion to the Lagos State Police Command. One of his landmark achievements is also putting an end to the activities of the dreaded Badoo cult group, which was giving residents of Ikorodu sleepless nights.

Lagosians will also not forget the construction of 114 roads across the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas in the state, which was commissioned across the state by September 2016. Also noteworthy is the construction of pedestrian bridges in several expressways, including Berger, Ojota, Magodo- Alausa and other areas.

Commending Ambode at a function recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “I can see the little things you are doing here and there to make life worth living for the people of Lagos. Keep it up.”

However, while there is no gainsaying that the governor performed, many believed that he has a poor human relationship with a lot of critical stakeholders, including party chieftains, who worked for his victory and especially the media.

While many state governors will organise quarterly meetings with the media to engage them on how far they have gone and rub minds on areas of improvement, Ambode believes this is unnecessary. It was also alleged that he usually shuns invitation to events organised by media houses.

A chieftain of the party also claimed that when Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, gave out his daughter’s hand in wedding in Lagos, Ambode was invited but he failed to show up while Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was in attendance. He said till today, there is no cogent reason given for the governor’s absence at the occasion.

At the end, despite receiving numerous endorsements for a second term, including from all the National Assembly members in Lagos, 57 local governments chairmen in the state, members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the party leaders in the state accused Ambode of sidelining them in the scheme of things moved against him and chose Babajide Sanwo-Olu as their preferred candidate.

Aside making himself inaccessible, the party leaders also claimed most of the governor’s policies gravely affected their economic lifelines, adding that many of their members are unhappy with his alleged high-handedness.

Speaking on the factors responsible for Ambode’s rejection, Joe Igbokwe, the publicity secretary of the APC in Lagos said, “Nobody is disputing the fact that Ambode has performed, but I think in the human angle of it, he failed in some areas.

“People feel that he does not take advice. Elders say he does not pick their calls or listen to suggestions, or once he makes up his mind on something, he goes into it. And these are the things; playing the real politics is the problem. For you to have democracy, people will have to live. You need all these people’s votes. If there is nobody visiting Lagos, there would be no politics.

“Politics is all about people, especially the downtrodden. You can’t dismiss that with a wave of the hand. But people complained – leaders, commissioners and special advisers and these things go to our leader every day.”

However, recent developments in the party point to the fact that Ambode has put the whole episode behind him as he assiduously worked for President Buhari’s re-election. He also vigorously campaigned for Sanwo-Olu, the governor-elect. There are speculations that President Buhari may consider him for a key role in his government in the next dispensation

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