• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tinubu, Fashola, Ambode and the baton of excellence

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The last 15 years of civil administration in Lagos State has been an epic. Lagos has been able to live up to its alias as the “Centre of Excellence” as successive administrations continue to build on the foundation laid by the enigmatic pathfinder, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who became governor when the democratic ship berthed on our shores way back in 1999.

With a professional background steeped in highly efficient private sector audit, Tinubu was quick to realize the need to depend less on federal allocation by shoring up the revenue base of the state. This feat was achieved through a systematic re-engineering of the internally generated revenue (IGR) regimes by plugging loopholes and leakages, keeping within existing financial guidelines in a way that does not impose additional burden on the people.

In addition, he initiated far-reaching policies in all sectors of the socio-economic spectrum such as transportation, education, judiciary, health, environment, commerce and industry as symbolized by the Lekki Free Trade Zone and other initiatives. His reforms in the judicial sector were quite legendary as they are now templates for other states. To ensure that these policies endure beyond the lifetime of his administration, he created institutions that will not only sustain the initial gains but ensure that the policies and programmes continue to evolve to meet the dynamics of time.

An astute statesman and strategist, the Asiwaju of Lagos played safe with his choice of Babatunde Raji Fashola as his successor – a capable hand he styled as the “The Best Man for The Job” to steer the ship of the state after him. Ever since, Lagos State and its people have been the better for it as the state continues to move from one level of advancement to the next. Tinubu has become the powerhouse of grooming successful leaders in Nigeria, a feat yet unequalled in the history of the country. The Fashola administration has redefined the art of governance in the country through its numerous innovative and creative programmes and projects. He strongly demonstrated that with a focused, visionary leadership, and hard work, the Nigerian of our dream is not unattainable.

From the outset, Fashola set out to do government business in an unusual fashion, completely different from what we are used to. That is why he always affirms an Albert Einstein’s maxim that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Hence, Fashola set out to place Lagos among the prime investment hubs, not only in Africa, but in the whole world. With the relative success of the State Security Trust Fund in taming crimes in the state, Lagos has become the preferred point for investors as the business atmosphere has become predictable and stabilized. Lagos is safer today by any standard of the world.

Many have been trying to analyze the Fashola phenomenon in Lagos. Some analysts are of the view that the governor succeeded because he has a passionate commitment to connecting with the people, particularly the ordinary man on the street, and building their trust in the sincerity and noble intentions of his government. Others, however, ascribe Fashola’s success to his rugged determination to leave an indelible footprint in the sands of time. This, according to pundits, has really made him to focus totally on governance. Quite a few also attribute the success of the administration to the assemblage of a crack team of committed individuals, an intricate blend of professionals, administrators, scholars and politicians.

It’s only a few months to the end of the Fashola administration, yet there are indications that the progressive train of governance in Lagos is not in any way ready to berth. The emergence of Akinwunmi Ambode as the gubernatorial candidate of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressive Congress (APC), is another indication that the party is not in short supply of capable hands to keep the state on the path of growth and progress. With the intimidating credentials of this candidate, it is indicative that the tradition of excellence in the state is about to soar to greater heights. It is difficult to fault this line of reasoning for many reasons. For one, everything about Ambode sparks of brilliance and excellence.  At 21, he graduated in style in Accounting from the University of Lagos, Akoka. By the age of 24, Ambode had earned a Master’s degree in Accounting and had also become a chartered accountant.

It is, however, the selfless and committed stance of Ambode to the service of the government and people of Lagos that actually marks him out as a diligent and conscientious public administrator. An astute public servant, Ambode has had a highly illustrious and consummate career as a public sector accountant and administrator in Lagos State. In a most distinguished public service career spanning almost three decades, Ambode 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 till his voluntary resignation from the public service in 2012.

A resourceful and ingenious administrator, part of Ambode’s enduring legacies as accountant-general of the state was the establishment of the State Treasury Office (STO), which transformed public sector financial budgeting, management, planning and expenditure in Lagos 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. A prudent and shrewd manager of public resources, Ambode strongly holds the view that public funds should be judiciously expended for the good of the people for whom it is primarily meant.

Indeed, Ambode’s 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 the amazing financial wizardry of Ambode. How the Tinubu administration was able to stay afloat in those trying times remains a major talking point till date. Of course, there is no way that the political economy of Lagos State of the period would be discussed without giving him a prime of place.    

With Ambode poised to take over from the incumbent, Fashola, as the state governor, Lagos would, indeed, be the better for it. The direction of things to come in the next few years became clearer recently when Fashola publicly presented the Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025. The import of this is that Ambode, when he eventually takes over from Fashola, already has a master plan to work it.

The lesson here is that continuity in governance, especially from one visionary leadership to another, is quite critical for the social, economic and political stability of the polity. This is where Lagos differs. This is why Lagos continues to excel.

Lateef Raji