Acknowledging a year that many have described as outstanding in the state, Lagos State’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, appraises Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s performance and also highlights what to expect in the New Year.
How would you rate the performance of the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in the last one and a half year?
I would rate it the same way Lagosians have rated the administration. And their verdict, without a doubt, is that the administration has scored A+ in the delivery of services, as promised during the campaign to Lagosians, in terms of security of life and property; in terms of improved infrastructural development, of roads, traffic management, sports development, tourism and culture, health care, and of course, in job creation and opportunities for younger ones.
There is no other way to show that our self appraisal, in the last 18 months, is in sync with those of Lagosians. Lately, there was an approval rating of 79% for Governor Ambode, the highest for any Governor in the country and indeed the highest ever attained by any Governor in his first two years. So, we really need no further evidence of the acceptance by the majority of our people.
The popularity of the governor is not in doubt and this is attributable to his keeping his electoral promises and ensuring that truly there is continuity and improvement in Lagos State. We are satisfied with the rating we are getting, both at home and abroad.
It looks like the LAKE rice is the icing on the cake for a long list of achievements of the governor in 2016?
Without a doubt, yes. Our analysis shows that the acceptance that greeted the LAKE rice is perhaps the single biggest news item of the year in this country. And what this shows is that positive news can be very impactful. As we speak thousands of LAKE rice are still being pumped into the market for Lagosians to take advantage of. What this has demonstrated is the capacity to pursue a great vision with courage. Lagos signed an MOU with Kebbi in March and today, many homes are having the best Christmas of their lives because of the commitment and large Heart of a visionary Governor.
Is this a one-off intervention?
No it is not. The partnership between Lagos and Kebbi on rice will continue and will even transcend rice production. Lagos is the largest market in the country and it is has the comparative advantage in terms of disposable income, which is why we are entering into partnerships with other states that will impact on our people.
But LAKE rice will continue into the new year and will continue to sell at those subsidized prices. But don’t forget that Lagos State is also developing its own capacity for milling through the Imota Rice mill.
The previous administration in the state adopted the use of every 100 days to render account of stewardship to the people. It looks like Governor Ambode’s is slightly different.
This administration has maintained the concept of continuity but continuity with improvement and inclusiveness. As a matter of fact, what further evidence of government of inclusion will the people want, if not in the government giving information and taking feedback directly from the people?
Therefore, instead of the old 100 days of rendering account of stewardship to the people, we now do it quarterly, four times in a year, but not as a press conference. We take it round the three senatorial districts, whenever we hold the Town Hall meetings. It has even been held in Badagry, where, for the first time in the history of the state, the Executive Council Meeting was held there, outside of State House.
The quarterly town hall meetings have been very effective and that is how we will proceed in connecting with the people throughout the tenure of this administration.
The outrage sparked by the ban on street hawking seems to have abated. Do you think it is a battle that has been won?
It was never a battle. It was and will continue to be a dialogue with Lagosians. It is a dialogue that is well-meaning, because the law has always been there since 2003.
There was a need for that law at that time. The need for that law is still very germane now. One, it is unfair to continue to expose our people, no matter their economic class, to the sort of hardship that they go through on the road, trying to sell a few oranges, sausages or bottled water.
There has been some muffled grumblings among some Lagos politicians that the governor has become inaccessible. What do you have to say to this?
I do not understand what being inaccessible means in this regard. When people say someone is inaccessible, what I think of this is that people are always quick to say that they can’t reach anyone who is saddled with the responsibility of public service.
There are two things to note here: the first is what they want to reach you for. The second is, how many people, really, can you accommodate, in terms of personal relationship, once you have been given this type of job? I believe that if you carry the sort of weight that you claim you have, gaining access to the governor shouldn’t be much of a problem.
I concede that a governor is not somebody that you pick up the phone and you just call, and you expect him to be there. A governor is voted into office to be busy; to serve the generality of the people. But then again, it is a question of the genuineness of the motive of the people trying to have access. It may turn out to be that, usually, 8 out of 10 times, those who make this sort of claim, make them for self-serving and flimsy reasons.
But this is a governor that is always available anyway – at Town Hall meetings every quarter, where anybody is allowed to ask questions and engage with the governor and his team. This is a governor that has held several activities, political, business and entertainment-related where guests from every strata of the society had always been invited and welcomed. What class of politicians will it be then, that finds it difficult to meet the governor at such fora, and then suggests that he has been shut out if his intentions are pure? Something clearly is not adding up, if any politician of note claims that he is not able to reach the governor, I would hesitate to take that with absolute seriousness.
What should we expect from Lagos State government in 2017?
A lot, in continuation of the noiseless but strategic achievements that the Ambode administration is now known and celebrated for. 2017 will be an important year for Lagos. The state will be 50 and it will be an opportunity to celebrate. But we shall be celebrating for a good reason.
In 50 years, Lagos has remained the only state that has remained indivisible since it was created. It has shown that something great can come from Nigeria and more than any other state, our state has demonstrated the spirit of togetherness and unity in diversity that has kept Nigeria itself great. A good number of the iconic projects started last year and in 2016 will be ready for commissioning.
The flyover bridges at Ajah and Abule Egba would be ready. The Agege Pen Cinema flyover bridge will start. A new set of 114 roads will be announced and completed in 2017. The Online Vehicle Ownership Verification will continue. The Osgodi Transport regeneration would be completed.
The Fourth Mainland Bridge will commence in the course of the year, the Smart City project that would bring about the installation of 13,000 CCtv cameras all over Lagos will progress steadily; five theatres will be built across the five divisions in the state and five stadia projects will start also across the five divisions in the state; and the channelization of our waterways, construction of more jetties and the introduction of standard ferries would come to transform water transportation in the state.
The Cleaner Lagos initiative will ensure a cleaner environment and of course the Lagos City Marathon will hold in February. I may know of a few places worth visiting in 2007, but I know of only one place to live in the new year. Its called Lagos.