BY CHARLES KUMOLU
WITH a governance template that stands out as a model among Nigeria’s 36 states, governing Lagos State requires more than just being a political heavyweight as obtains in Nigeria’s political landscape. It is a task that comes with a proportionate mixture of intelligence, character and audacity to achieve super results that befit Lagos.
Making the job exceptional, especially at this time, is the fact that the immediate past governor of the state, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, achieved results that raised the bar of leadership for his successor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode.
All these combined to make Ambode’s leadership of Africa’s most populous city of about 20 million people, one of the toughest jobs in Nigeria.
With his boyish charm and ebullient agility, Ambode assumed office heralding a blend of conjecture and suspense across many quarters.
From the onset, Ambode, who was born in 1963, was confident that his administration projected optimism and hope, but observers in so many bursts of impatience thought otherwise.
One of such early misjudgments was a scathing verdict by the London-based weekly magazine, The Economist, accusing Ambode of lacking solutions to the challenges of a megacity.
In addition to the 173-year old magazine’s hasty observation less than six months into the life of the administration, some at home also perceived his government as being slow.
The weight of these could easily have provoked a feeling of despair among residents of the city which is considered the third largest economy in Africa and the eleventh fastest growing city in the world. But Lagosians kept faith with the man, who they overwhelmingly voted as their governor with 811,994 votes, in 2015.
Indeed, it was a fleeting period when the attending frustration of high expectations prematurely came to the fore as often happens in a city like this.
However, that Lagosians did not really break faith, was a display of confidence in Ambode’s ability to provide not just the primary function of government, but also make Lagos Africa’s model megacity and global financial hub.
Behold, the conviction of the electorate paid off, as results of his stewardship started becoming manifest in key areas to the acknowledgement of everyone less than one year in the life of the administration.
That, perhaps, implied that at the time of the premature judgment, provoked by impatience, the administration’s interventions in the key areas were only at their teething stage.
With the policy thrust of poverty eradication and sustainable economic growth through infrastructure renewal and development, Ambode embarked on key reforms which resulted in greater efficiency in most areas of governance.
In this light, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, were streamlined leading to awe-inspiring results in critical sectors that matter to the average Lagosian.
Identifying the linkage between traffic gridlock and insecurity on the streets was one of Ambode’s early signs of clear-headedness. Today, the common challenges of insecurity and gridlock, which often times come handy when rating the performance of an administration in Lagos, have been maximally surmounted.
Having identified the nexus between prosperity and security, the security sector was supported with N4.8billion worth of equipment while other interventions in the sector increased the state’s expenses to N6.6 billion.
In one sense, the police now have more attack helicopters, patrol vehicles, power bikes, gunboats, armoured personnel carriers, and bulletproof vests to fight crime.
The lighting up of Lagos under the Light Up Lagos project was key to a more secured Lagos that is being experienced under Ambode’s leadership.
The project seeks to put Lagos in the rank of leading global cities like Paris, London, Washington, New York, Moscow, and Berlin among others, where every corner dazzles.
Thus, Vanguard can boldly say that Lagos is safer now without being contradicted. After all, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, recently, observed that crime rate had been appreciably reduced in the city. Indeed, empirical performance indicators abound to support this.
The restructuring of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, which at some point, ironically, accentuated the challenge it was established to address, has now given vent to a more efficient traffic management on the roads.
Of course, Lagos still retains the boisterous identity that makes it Lagos, but sanity is returning to the roads – thanks to Ambode.
Commitment to urban renewal and development has also manifested in the construction/rehabilitation of more than 500 roads with two flyovers and lay-bys under construction.
Interestingly, most of the roads which have been commissioned were identified by their host communities, affirming inclusive approach of Ambode’s administration to governance.
Others in this regard, which are long term in nature, like the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the proposed construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge, and the multiple re-design and re-construction of roads in some chaotic parts of the state, are quite germane to the smart city project.
The partnership with Kebbi State government on rice production, which was earlier identified by this paper as laudable, has cushioned the effects of the scarcity of rice in Lagos.
It was really gratifying that the administration kept its words with the launch of Lake Rice a few weeks back, in a development that was a boost for food availability in a city with the highest rice consumption rate of 798,000 metric tons per year.
Also, the product’s availability, at affordable rates, remains, indeed, a popular development in the minds of Lagosians, who are, like many Nigerians, reeling under the frustrating impact of recession.
An early understanding of the imperativeness of making the business of governance efficient informed the introduction of Treasury Single Account, TSA, in Lagos – before its celebration by the federal government.
Having consolidated its revenue into a single account, the state, which generated N101 billion revenue in the first quarter of 2016 against an expected N29.92bn deficit, curbed corruption in public service.
Truly, it is only through a purposeful leadership that the revenue, which was N4.4bn more than that of the comparative period of 2015, that such feat would be possible. Other landmarks are the reduction of cost of governance by getting the finances of the state back in shape, restructuring of debt exposure from 18 percent interest rate to 12.5 percent thereby saving N3bn monthly.
In line with its belief that a healthy Lagos is a wealthy Lagos, the Ambode administration provided 20 Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulances deployed in all Ambulance Points in the state. It brought the total number to 36 Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulances. The government created Ambulance Points across Lagos for easy access to the people.The government also provided additional 26 Transport Ambulances at the cost of N257.4m deployed across all General Hospitals.
The administration further installed 22 power generating sets ranging from 350 – 500 KVA as additional backup sets across all General Hospitals to ensure 24-hour power supply. That is in addition to 26 Mobile X-Ray machines costing N519.656m installed at all General Hospitals across the state.
The impressive results being experienced in these areas affirm Ambode’s vision of a smart city that would be globally competitive in all sectors. Of course, other sectors are receiving meaningful attention, the emphasis on the afore-examined stems from the direct connection they have with residents of the city, who daily crave for improved social services.
Thus, it is constructive to say that the 1984 accountancy graduate of the University of Lagos – who is also an alumnus of Harvard – is getting things right in Lagos with creative ideas.
Should his current approach to governance be sustained, there are no doubts that Ambode, who spent 27 years in the state civil service, would fully realise his vision of a safer, peaceful and prosperous Lagos.
For these and other reasons too numerous to mention here, Akinwunmi Ambode was voted as one of Vanguard’s Governor of The Year.