CEL­E­BRAT­ING A MAN OF COURAGE

Habib Aruna pays trib­ute to Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode, La­gos State gov­er­nor, at age 55

THISDAY - - COMMENT - Aruna is the Chief Press Sec­re­tary to Gov­er­nor Am­bode

Pre­scient Nige­rian ob­servers who are watch­ing what’s go­ing on in La­gos State would rightly agree that hard work in the right di­rec­tion de­liv­ers en­dur­ing fruits. Hard work doesn’t kill; it yields life that his­tory ac­knowl­edges ul­ti­mately. That is the en­vi­able story of Gov­er­nor Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode of La­gos State as he marks his 55th birth­day to­day. To Am­bode, the ideal cel­e­bra­tion would not be to or­gan­ise an elab­o­rate feast, to bring friends and well-wish­ers to­gether for a mother of all feasts. Do­ing so is not in his char­ac­ter. If there would be a get-to­gether at all it would be with the de­prived, the vul­ner­a­ble, chil­dren of the poor or the spe­cial class of the hand­i­capped as he has done in nearly three years as the gov­er­nor. There­fore, It’s only ap­pro­pri­ate to seize the oc­ca­sion of his mid­dle age birth­day to ex­am­ine his re­lent­less work sched­ule that has ben­e­fited the state and made it pos­si­ble to re­fer to it as the in­vestors’ des­ti­na­tion, tourism hub and con­struc­tion site. It is in ad­di­tion Africa’s fifth largest econ­omy. De­mog­ra­phers also say with­out dis­pu­ta­tion that La­gos is Nige­ria’s most pop­u­lated state, sur­pass­ing the fig­ures for a cou­ple of some African coun­tries put to­gether. In re­cent times it has be­gun to wear a new look with state of the art road net­work and city in­ter­sec­tions and ter­mi­nals that trans­port you to scenes in Europe and oil-rich Gulf states.

Most of these have taken place only un­der the watch of Am­bode, even if I must ad­mit that gov­ern­ment is a con­tin­uum. But every age would have to carve out its own dis­tinct iden­tity. His­tory has a keen in­ter­est in tak­ing note of this iden­tity as­pect in the un­fold­ing of events. No ad­min­is­tra­tion can ap­pro­pri­ate the hon­our due its suc­ces­sor or pre­de­ces­sor, the con­tin­uum theory not­with­stand­ing! You have to carve out your own niche, as it were.

This ex­plains the rea­son some lead­ers, de­sirous of stand­ing out of the crowd in the his­tory books, would burn the mid­night oil for brand-new ideas to tackle the seem­ingly in­tractable chal­lenges of so­ci­ety. They don’t want to be clas­si­fied as sim­ply adorn­ing the wall of the gov­er­nor’s of­fice with their por­traits. They want to live in the hearts of the peo­ple through their per­for­mance. This is a gov­er­nor, who at any time of the night, come to the of­fice to scrib­ble down new ideas that come to his head. He once told me and a cab­i­net mem­ber that even if he is asleep, his brain never sleeps. Am­bode has pitched his tent with this his­tory-mak­ing camp. It comes with a price: courage. Ac­cord­ing to An­drew Jack­son, the 7th Pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica, “One man with courage makes a ma­jor­ity.’’ This U.S leader is cred­ited with nu­mer­ous coura­geous poli­cies that top­pled the es­tab­lished norms of his time. He was not afraid to take a de­ci­sion as long as it was in the in­ter­est of the peo­ple.

For in­stance, Am­bode dis­played rare courage and com­pas­sion by ap­prov­ing a hefty N11­bil­lion to be paid as back­log of ar­rears to re­tirees few weeks af­ter com­ing to of­fice. It was un­prece­dented. But more than that, it pre­sented the ap­peal­ing im­age of a gov­er­nor who can’t be ac­cused of car­ing only for those in ser­vice.

The point has long been es­tab­lished that Am­bode is a man who does not sleep, in a lit­eral sense, un­til he has touched every cit­i­zen’s life. He packs a thou­sand and one ac­tiv­i­ties into the 24-hour sched­ule he has at his dis­posal in a day. This was demon­strated early in the life of Am­bode’s gov­ern­ment in 2015, when he moved like a hur­ri­cane to prove that gov­ern­ment busi­ness isn’t meant for the laid-back.

Few weeks ago I was in the of­fice of a prom­i­nent com­mis­sioner and we were talk­ing about on-go­ing projects spread across the state and the

THE POINT HAS LONG BEEN ES­TAB­LISHED THAT AM­BODE IS A MAN WHO DOES NOT SLEEP, IN A LIT­ERAL SENSE, UN­TIL HE HAS TOUCHED EVERY CIT­I­ZEN’S LIFE

amount of time and cap­i­tal the gov­er­nor is com­mit­ting to mak­ing La­gos a smart city. The bot­tom line and the ag­gre­ga­tion of opin­ion of those at the meet­ing was that of a gov­er­nor who is rest­less, com­mit­ted, de­ter­mined and pas­sion­ate to change the face of the state for good.

Con­sider these stag­ger­ing sta­tis­tics: in his first year in of­fice, the gov­er­nor ini­ti­ated and suc­cess­fully com­pleted more than 40 im­pact­ful projects, in­clud­ing in­jec­tion of 434 new BRT buses for Iko­rodu cor­ri­dor, for­ti­fi­ca­tion of se­cu­rity in La­gos with a whop­ping N4.7bil­lion equip­ment for the Po­lice and sub­se­quently up to N7­bil­lion, em­ploy­ment of 1300 teach­ers to re­vive pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, set­ting up of N25­bil­lion Em­ploy­ment Trust Fund, mas­sive road re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­con­struc­tion in inner La­gos, ap­proval for devel­op­ment of N49­bil­lion medical park in Ikoyi, pro­vi­sion of 20 mo­bile care unit am­bu­lances and 26 trans­port am­bu­lances, build­ing of fly­over bridges for Ajah and Abule-Egba ar­eas, re­brand­ing of One La­gos Fi­esta to boost tourism and en­ter­tain­ment, cre­at­ing en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for for­eign direct in­vest­ment, etc.

Also in the first year, he planned for gi­gan­tic schemes that be­gan to blos­som into re­al­ity in his sec­ond year. For in­stance, he signed an MOU with Kebbi State on the devel­op­ment of commodity value chain (rice pro­duc­tion). In his sec­ond year, Lake Rice be­came the talk of the town. Lake is the acro­nym for joint ef­fort of La­gos and Kebbi to pro­duce the grain. An­other achieve­ment of this toil­ing gov­er­nor is his bound­less vi­sion to move the state from a pedes­trian plane to the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of a 21st megac­ity through the erec­tion of struc­tures of gothic and ex­otic ex­pres­sions. Ex­am­ples: Ojodu Berger Fly­over In­ter­sec­tion, Tafawa Balewa Bus Ter­mi­nus and the breath-sap­ping Ikeja Bus fa­cil­ity re­cently launched by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari.

Shortly af­ter, the gov­er­nor de­clared open 21 roads and two bridges with a com­bined stretch of 27.4 kilo­me­tres in Alimosho-Ag­bado-OkeOdo area. Yet, other iconic con­struc­tion go­ing on across the state has turned La­gos into a huge con­struc­tion site to make it look like the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China when it was be­ing trans­formed into a world power by Mao Tse Tung be­tween the 1950s and 1960s. But as much as Am­bode ap­pears rooted to work in the of­fice and on the streets to in­au­gu­rate projects, he is also ad­dicted to seek­ing com­pas­sion­ate affin­ity with the peo­ple he gov­erns. He has been known to show up at road ac­ci­dent scenes to help res­cue vic­tims. Once when he read of a woman whose hus­band ran away from home be­cause she gave birth to three sets of twins, Am­bode di­rected prompt wel­fare sup­port that brought back the fugi­tive man.

The gov­er­nor has re­ceived no­table lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for out­stand­ing gov­er­nance and the ser­vice to the peo­ple. For a man who has demon­strated sev­er­ally that ex­pe­ri­ence can in­deed be an as­set in gov­er­nance, the gov­er­nor is al­ways calm and du­ti­ful when there is a ma­jor chal­lenge in a state that is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­plex to gov­ern.

For sure, La­gos un­der the prag­matic, hu­man­ist and vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship of Gov­er­nor Am­bode can only get bet­ter. And as the gov­er­nor rightly noted re­cently, “Where ever you come from, as far as you labour and add value to the pro­duc­tiv­ity of our dy­namic and vi­brant state, our gov­ern­ment shall work with you to make La­gos State a bet­ter, live­able and more pros­per­ous home”.

Happy birth­day sir!

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