• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Lagos 2015: Why Ambode is the man

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In his 1983 book The Trouble with Nigeria, Africa’s foremost novelist Chinua Achebe summed up the nation’s malaise thus: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. Pundits have since then advanced reasons for this leadership deficit in a country so highly endowed with abundant human and natural resources. One key factor that all analysts agree on is what has been termed accidental leadership – a situation where inexperienced and ill-prepared fellows stumble on power only to find themselves overwhelmed and intimidated by the complexity of bureaucracy and the enormity of official powers. As one commentator aptly puts it, “Accidental ascendancy to leadership is a big gamble. It often comes with bitter consequences.” And the consequences for the country have been sobering.

But for Lagos State, especially since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, the story has been entirely different. The state has grown in leaps and bounds in all spheres in the last 16 years. Indeed, Lagos has lived up to its sobriquet as “Centre of Excellence” and has remained a model for other states of the federation. The reason is simple: Lagosians, in choosing their leaders over the years, have been wise enough to avoid the path of accidental leadership. This is why, as the clock ticks on the tenure of the indefatigable Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, Lagosians have again found another dependable ally in Akinwunmi Ambode, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the April 11 governorship election in the state.

Ambode’s credentials are intimidating. At 21, when many of his mates were still battling to scale the hurdle of JAMB, Ambode bagged a Bachelors’ degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos, and three years later, at 24, he crowned it with a Master’s degree in Accounting and also qualified as a chartered accountant.

But his strength goes beyond sterling academic records. According to Mahatma Gandhi, “Knowledge gained through experience is far superior and many times more useful than bookish knowledge.” Ambode’s “bookish knowledge” is therefore clearly complemented with hands-on, on-the-job experience through a highly illustrious and consummate career as a public sector accountant and administrator in Lagos State. Those who have worked with him closely describe him as “a diligent and conscientious public administrator”, “an astute public servant”, “a resourceful and ingenious administrator”, and “a prudent and shrewd manager of public resources”. It is instructive that in a most distinguished public service career spanning almost three decades, Ambode rose to become the auditor-general for local governments, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, and accountant-general of Lagos State.

As accountant-general, Ambode established the State Treasury Office (STO), which transformed public sector financial budgeting, management, planning and expenditure in the state. In his six years as accountant-general, the financial position of the state recorded a great boost while budget performance averaged 85 percent per annum. Indeed, his meticulous process of re-engineering the state’s financial status was partly responsible for the development and sustenance of the Lagos mega city. The ingenuity of the Tinubu administration in overcoming difficulties and frustrations occasioned by the seized allocation of local government councils in the state by the Obasanjo administration has been traced to Ambode’s amazing financial wizardry. How the Tinubu administration was able to stay afloat in those trying times remains a major talking point till date.

Across the centuries, great minds have not failed to recognize the place of experience as a factor of success. Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright and author of one of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces, Don Quixote, once said that “Experience is the universal mother of sciences”. Similarly, a Danish proverb has it that “He knows the water best who has waded through it.”

This was exactly what Governor Fashola meant in his remarks at the 2014 Christmas Eve party of Island Club/Yoruba Tennis Club in Lagos, when he said: “Akinwunmi Ambode served with me as accountant-general for six years. He worked in the local government for many years. He was part of the building process. He understands how government works; he will not be guessing on day one if you elect him as my successor because he is experienced. The alternatives to him will be an experiment with your lives, your businesses and the future of your children.”

At another forum with tradesmen, artisans and farmers in Lagos, Fashola said: “The time to make very important decision is now. I know Ambode, he worked with me for six years. I support your request for continuity and I am saying that Ambode will continue from where I will stop and do better.”

What this also means is that continuity in governance will be guaranteed. In a country littered with uncompleted and abandoned projects across the state – for no other reason than the penchant of incoming governments to vilify their predecessors and condemn every single project they have done, leading to abandonment of projects and commencement of new, mostly unfeasible, ones – Lagos has been quite exemplary. The state has recorded high level of projects completion and has also enjoyed commendable social, economic and political stability.

This is also why Lagosians have chosen Akinwunmi Ambode. A vote for Ambode is a vote for the continuity of such laudable projects as the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the Lagos Home Ownership Scheme (LagosHOMS), ongoing construction and equipping of Maternal and Child Care Centres across the state, numerous flagship Primary Health Centres, ongoing efforts to realise bigger water projects such as the Adiyan Waterworks Phase 2 (under construction with projected completion date of 2016 and expected to supply 70 million gallons of water daily), Odomola Water Scheme (where 25 million gallons are being added), ongoing effort at upgrading the Ishasi Waterworks from 4 million to 12 million gallons of water, the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, Eko Health Mission, Eye Care Health System Development Initiative, Eko Free Malaria Programme, among numerous others. It is also a vote to ensure that the Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025, which signals the transition to the next phase in the state’s development plan, is followed to the letter.

With Ambode, Lagosians can be certain that the progressive ship of governance in the state is not about to berth and that the tempo of growth and progress in the state in the last 16 years will not ebb soon.

Nnanna Nwafor