By Lateef Raji
In recent time there have been lots of hues and cries about the course Lagos is charting under the less than 6-month leadership of Mr. Akinwumi Ambode as the governor of the state. While some analysts and commentators have been quite understanding and considerate, some others have passed damning verdicts on the administration and even in the extreme, demand his resignation.
Indeed, many have gone short of arguing that the governor doesn’t possess what it requires to steer the ship of the Center of Excellence to meet the yearnings and expectations of the people.
Much of these criticisms have been premised on recent breaches in the security and traffic controls across in the State. It is alleged that Ambode’s decision to embrace civility by relaxing enforcement, and relying more on persuasion in traffic management was responsible for the new chaotic traffic condition in the State. Another thread that became noticeable in the whole of the anti Ambode tirade is to compare him with his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN.
My evaluation of these scenarios is that most commentators have been rather harsh and unfair instead of sharing an understanding of the perception of the new Lagos helmsman on governance.
The fact that the former governor, Mr. Fashola, his predecessor, adopted stern postures and measures in his approach to governance does not mean that is what must obtain forever, and that subsequent administrations must toe the same path.
Fashola surely had his reasons for adopting stern measures as a shock therapy to stem the rate of recklessness and lawless in the public space.
Fine, his approach yielded impressive outcomes. However, tough measures are only used on the short term to drive a consciousness that would make the people embrace a culture of order and decency. It has to be phased out overtime.
Ambode for one made it clear from the outset that he was going to run an all-inclusive government that departs from his predecessor in terms of style. His idea of an all-inclusive government is one in which “no one or segment of the society, irrespective of colors, race, faith, status; ability or disability is left behind.”
His philosophy is that for democracy to truly remain the government of the people, by the people and for the people, the active involvement of the people in governance must always be constantly encouraged and, indeed, deliberately courted. This is because the citizens are the bedrock of democracy. This explains why Ambode has never derided himself of having the monopoly of knowledge with regards to finding the right solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the State.
Curiously, this development goes a long way to underscore the complexity of the human nature, and it simply explains what has always made the study of man and his society an interesting subject of study. It is the same people that accused BRF of running a dictatorial, aloof and elitist government that are seeking the head of his successor for transiting onto a more open and considerate mode of public engagement.
No two individuals are the same. Ambode is entitled to his own style of government. He should, therefore, not allow himself to be coerced by any person or group into replicating someone else’s style. The most important thing is to get the job done, and as the governor has demonstrated in a clear understanding, the pact he has with Lagosians who are always eager to appraise and appreciate good performance. He should be focused on the job and not allow himself to be distracted.
A fact he must hold sacrosanct is that human beings are always very difficult to satisfy. As benevolent as the Almighty God is, He still cannot please everyone. Therefore, Ambode should be focused on fulfilling his electoral promises to Lagosians. He should follow his convictions and be his own man. At the end of the day, the buck stops on his table. Governance is about continually devising and adopting strategies to advance the course of humanity and meet the challenges of a dynamic and constantly evolving society.
Ambode surely has all it takes to move Lagos to greater heights. I have no doubt in my mind that he does. His over 27 years experience in the Lagos State public service will definitely serve him in good stead with extra mileage to steer the ship of State to the right channel. Without any doubt, Ambode has had a vastly memorable career as a public sector accountant and administrator in Lagos State. He rose to become the Auditor General for Local Governments in the State, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Accountant General of Lagos State, a position he held until his voluntary resignation from the public service in 2012. In a competitive public service environment like ours, one does not accomplish such a feat by being a neophyte.
Perhaps, more importantly, Ambode was involved at, possibly, the two most critical periods in the history of the State within the current democratic dispensation. The first was the era of spiteful financial offensive on Lagos, and the other was the period of the dramatic fiscal reengineering that gave rise to the ambitious accomplishments being witnessed in Lagos today. Recent revelation by the governor that the State is now able to save 3 billion naira monthly expenditure, as a result of the various fiscal re-engineering measures, he has put in place in the past five months, is indicative of his vast experience as a financial expert.
Only last month, the governor flagged off the construction of 114 inner roads, two in each of 20 Local Government Areas and the 37 LCDA’s made possible with the intervention of the state government in funding, implementation and supervision. Aside from the direct benefit of the critical link roads to the people, the project will go a long way to enhance local capacity, which translates into a more rapid development at the grassroots.
Now that he would have the privilege of working with a budget that fits into his own vision for Lagos by 2016, Lagosians would, no doubt, experience breathtaking infrastructure development. Just last week, the governor in an elaborate event, handed over three helicopters for crime and traffic surveillance, which would no doubt impact positively in the management of the two areas of concern. Already, he has professed ‘Operation Zero Tolerance for Pot Hole’, ‘Operation Light up Lagos’, construction of fly over and pedestrian bridges along selected roads in the state among others.
Eventually, those who are already crucifying Ambode based on early developments would be disappointed. His experience is almost similar to that of Asiwaju Tinubu. Upon return to civil rule in May 1999, the Tinubu administration was equally roundly criticized as being ‘slow’ in attending to critical issues in the State. The security situation in Lagos at that time was complicated by the nefarious activities of men of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress, OPC, armed robbers and contest of strength among the various transport unions. However, by the time the Tinubu administration left office in 2007, it has become a pathfinder in the evolution of contemporary Lagos. Agencies such as Lagos State Advertising Agency, LASAA, Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, Lagbus Asset Management, LAGBUS, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Agency, LAMATA, Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, Office of Public Defender, among others, are some of the enduring legacies of the administration. It was the administration that began the systematic fixing of the state’s infrastructure. Roads were rehabilitated and expanded, drainages and carnal were cleared. Perhaps, more importantly, the Tinubu administration put the state on the trail of economic independence as it shoved up the monthly revenue base of the state from a meager N600 million to over N10 billion.
In the same vein, the Ambode administration is fine tuning new plans to birth a new Lagos. As the governor embarks on the huge task of consolidating on the gains of his predecessors in Lagos, my advice is for him to chew deeply the words of a celebrated American author and writer, Patricia Lynn Reilly: “Hold on to your vision: don’t let others preach it out of you.” God bless Lagos State. God bless Nigeria.
Raji, a public affair’s commentator, lives in Lagos.