Ambode And Politics Of Exiting High
“Beginning in itself has no value, it is an end which makes beginning meaningful, we must end what we begun.”
The above quote by an Indian author, Amit Kalantri, appears apt in situating the decision by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to complete most of the projects he started about four years ago when he took over the saddle of leadership in Lagos, despite the fact that he was cold-shouldered by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Ambode is believed to have done well. Even the APC’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu attested to the fact at his 10th Colloquium last year where he particularly lauded the strides of the governor, assuring him that he would continue to support his administration as it continues to drive Lagos on the right path of economic development.
“You (Governor Ambode) have been exceptionally committed to the progress and economic development of Lagos State and I can only say thank you. The act of many good jobs is more work and after beautiful challenges is more success. Work hard at it; we are in the booth together,” Tinubu said.
But when it was time for the party’s primaries, Ambode lost out. In the league of progressive politicians in Nigeria where Tinubu is a leading light, the tradition is to allow a governor, especially one who in their estimation has performed well, a second term.
However, for Ambode, the elders of the party believe that party patronage is an important component when measuring performance. And on that score, they returned a unanimous verdict of failure on the governor, thus making Ambode the first governor from the progressives’ family to be denied a second term ticket on account of anything but performance.
Regardless, as the governor gets set to exit the stage for his successor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, there appears to be consensus among Nigerians living within and outside of Lagos that like his predecessors, Ambode too has successfully raised the bar of governance in the state with evident legacy projects which would forever remain indelible in the hearts of residents and visitors to the state.
Those who hold the above view are quick to point at road infrastructure, which perhaps appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the impactful administration of the governor.
The intervention no doubt eases traffic congestions on a few roads in the state. In terms of easing traffic, several lay-bys and modern segregated bus parks were constructed across the state in strategic areas including Ikeja, Oworonshoki, Lekki-Epe expressway, Ogudu, Alapere, among others. And to find a lasting solution to the perennial traffic gridlock on Ikorodu Road, the governor, in November 2017, commissioned multiple lay-by and Slip Road in Alapere. On the same day, he also launched the Intelligence Transport System (ITS), the e-ticketing for commuters using the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the Ojota BRT Depot and the new complex for the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority known as LAMATA Place.
Speaking during a ministerial press conference to mark the third anniversary of the governor’s administration, Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Adebowale Akinsanya, said between 2015 and 2018, the state government completed about 500 significant projects which have, in turn, contributed to making life easier for residents and positively changed the landscape of the state, while several others are ongoing.
“From Ikorodu to Lagos-Abeokuta expressway to Badagry, Epe, and Ikeja and so on, one road project or other is either completed or ongoing simultaneously including 21 Lagos-Ogun boundary roads with two bridges in Alimosho, Pen Cinema Flyover, 114 and later 181 inner roads, Epe arterial roads, among others,” the commissioner said.
The Ojodu-Berger and Airport road projects are other laudable works carried out by the governor. Daily Sun gathered that the Ojodu-Berger project is fitted with 40-meter long pedestrian bridge across the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway down to Ogba Road, Slip Road, Lay-by and beautification works, while the airport road project include the reconstruction and expansion of the existing carriage to three-lane expressway on both directions, construction of two-lane service road in both directions making a total of 10 lanes, construction of Ramp Bridge to provide a U-turn from Ajao Estate to Airport, construction of a flyover at NAHCO/Toll Gate and drainage works. Others include the removal of existing pedestrian bridge at Ajao Estate and construction of pedestrian bridges at Ajao Estate and NAHCO/Hajj Camp, construction of Slip Road to provide access to Ajao Estate, construction of Lay-bys and installation of street lights, among others.
Also, the Oshodi Transport Interchange, the government say, seeks to transform the axis into a world-class Central Business District (CBD) with business, travel and leisure activities conducted in a serene, secure, clean, orderly and hygienic environment, comparable with other transport terminals around the world including Stratford and Victoria Bus Station in the United Kingdom.
By the project, all the 13 city and interstate bus parks in Oshodi have transformed into three multi-storey terminals, providing standard facilities including waiting area, loading bays, ticketing stands, drivers lounge, parking areas, rest rooms, accessible walkways and pedestrian sky-walks linking all the terminals.
Other components of the interchange include 20 lifts and escalators, two sky-walks connecting the terminals to each other, architectural LED lights, passenger concourse, public address systems, bus depot, passenger drop-off areas, taxi and car parks, passenger lounge for intercity commuters, loading bays, and passenger information systems among others.
The interchange and the 820 buses launched by President Muhammadu Buhari recently are integral component of the Bus Reform Initiative of the administration through which government plans to inject 5,000 high and medium capacity buses into the public transportation architecture of the state. The buses are equipped with cameras, USB point, internet, television, and special spaces for physically challenged, pregnant women and the aged, among others.
Buhari, others laud Ambode
Speaking while inaugurating the project and others in Lagos recently, President Buhari said Governor Ambode deserved to be commended and appreciated for his good works.
The president, who spoke at Oshodi Transport Interchange, said: “Earlier this morning, I commissioned the Ayinke House of the Institute of Maternal and Child Health and also the Lagos Theatre in Oregun. Your Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has performed satisfactorily and we should all commend him for his contribution to the growth and development of Lagos State.”
Apart from the president, a few other critical stakeholders have also commended the governor for his infrastructure drive. They include the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL).
Speaking while handing a Special Episcopal Award on behalf of the church to the governor, Diocesan Bishop of Lagos, Rt. Rev Humphrey Olumakaiye described Ambode as an administrator with a patriotic drive who, through hard work and grace, rose to become distinguished among his peers.
“We are very proud of you (Governor Ambode) for taking Lagos State much higher. You have proved beyond doubts that there is a great hope for a better Nigeria through your transformational touch in this state.
“You are a man of courage who believes in possibilities against all odds; a man of focus and dignity. We are indeed very proud of you and we pray that God will grant your heart desires and take you to the next level of your political career. Today, we have decided to honour you in due recognition of your exceptional achievements as our governor,” Olumakaiye said.
The immediate past Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev Adebola Ademowo also congratulated the governor for his achievements in the last four years, saying his name was already written in gold.
“I want to congratulate our governor for a very successful tenure. Your name has been written in gold and I do hope that Abuja will do something,” the respected clergyman said.
CACOL’s Executive Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, equally hailed the governor for executing no fewer than 423 impactful projects each year since 2015.
“No part of the old five divisions could be said to have been left behind, hence, Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu, Lagos Island and Epe divisions were reported to have benefited from the Ambode administration.
“It is clear that based on the findings of our researchers during the proceedings of Lagos Open Parliament Five, Ambode made reasonable impact on the lives of residents for the period under review,” Adeniran said.
He added that CACOL’s findings revealed that 1,480 projects were executed by Governor Ambode’s administration in the last four years.
Also speaking recently, MURIC Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, described Governor Ambode as a top performer whose achievements are indelible and can never be altered by anybody.
The renowned Islamic scholar said aside the massive infrastructure drive, the governor also prioritised welfare of Muslims and worked hard to enhance peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationship among religious groups in the state.
“Quran Chapter 14 verse 7 says if you show appreciation, we would give you even much more. This is what we have come to do to you (Governor Ambode) today sir. We want to appreciate you; you are a performer and numero uno. We have seen action in Lagos State.
“Other states are burning as we speak but Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode took the political landscape with astounding equanimity. When there should have been storm, you calm everything down. Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, your name is already written in letters of gold in the annals of Lagos history; it is indelible and nobody can ever erase it again,” Akintola said.
He particularly lauded the governor for setting up the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in the state and going further to decentralise the activities of the council in all the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas.
On prompt payment of workers’ salary, the MURIC boss said, “Salaries are owed for eight months, nine months, eleven months in several states of the federation in spite of all the financial facilities they got from the Federal Government; Lagos has not owed one month, not even one week. Salaries are paid, workers are happy; there is industrial peace in Governor Ambode’s time. We appreciate the governor and this will go down well in history.”
Explaining how the governor was able to save to execute most of his projects, especially considering that he started very slow, a senior government official revealed that “he is a public financial expert extraordinaire, and to prove that, he came up with checks and balances for revenue inflow and also introduced the Treasury Single Account which in turn blocked revenue leakages and loopholes. The development ensured that there were funds to cater for government activities, while he immediately followed same with N11billion approval to offset arrears owed since 2010, not only for Lagos State government mainstream retirees but also retirees in local governments and parastatals. As we speak, the government has done a lot in that regard in terms of taking care of retirees and, of course, the staff that are still in active service.”
Governor Ambode may not have secured a second term, like his two previous predecessors, he too has successfully raised the bar of governance in the state with evident legacy projects.
Since even his critics believe he has done well, and flowing from the popular axiom that the reward for hard is more work, the question many people are asking is, what would be his next move after May 29?