New La­gos State gover­nor must step up

Finweek English Edition - - IN BRIEF -

I’m in a cab in La­gos, on my way to a meet­ing. “How i s Am­bode do­ing?” I ask my cab driver, re­fer­ring to Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode, gover nor of La­gos St at e s i nce gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tions ear­lier this year.

He moves his head from side to side, a sort of yes and no at the same time. He thinks for a few mo­ments, an un­usual enough thing in this noisy, opin­ion­ated city.

“Well, he is just start­ing, but I would say the de­vel­op­ment of the city is good, he is good for that, but for se­cu­rity, not so much.”

Neatly un­der­scor­ing his point, a mo­tor­cade barges through the mid­morn­ing traf­fic of La­gos Is­land: three po­lice pick-ups, sev­eral out­rid­ers, and one 4x4, flag-be­decked with blacked-out back win­dows, in the mid­dle of it all. The po­lice per­son­nel in the back of the last pick-up are heav­ily armed and are wear­ing riot hel­mets with grills across their faces and thick bul­let­proof vests I can’t imag­ine are much fun in La­gos’s Au­gust heat.

A mb o d e h a s the big­gest gu­ber­na­to­rial shoes in Nige­ria to f ill, fol­low­ing on as he does from the much­lauded Ba­batunde Fashola. It is Fashola who is cred­ited with help­ing clean up the streets of La­gos through re­al­is­tic, in­cre­men­tal de­vel­op­ment that has made a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence to life in the Nige­rian megac­ity (though as I was leav­ing La­gos, ques­tions were cir­cling over some of his ex­penses).

The s o- c a l l ed a r ea boys, t he dis­en­fran­chised crim­i­nal youths once the scourge of La­gos, were sent to work in parks, tak­ing them off the streets and out of their ex­tor­tion rack­ets. In­fra­struc­ture projects un­likely else­where in Nige­ria be­came pos­si­bil­i­ties un­der Fashola, espe­cia l l y t he es­tabl i sh­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of city trans­port links. These changes cre­ated a sit­u­a­tion where some for­eign in­vestors were Nige­ria neg­a­tive but La­gos pos­i­tive, view­ing the city as an is­land of progress in a coun­try ap­par­ently in sta­sis.

Now, Am­bode has to keep it to­gether and keep the mo­men­tum up.

On the one hand, Lagosians say he’s help­ing those at the top, cre­at­ing an open busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment for for­eign­ers and Nige­ri­ans alike; last week Wal­mart said it’s plan­ning to open in La­gos, with photos re­leased of the su­per­mar­ket chain’s ex­ec­u­tives meet­ing Am­bode.

On the other, some say La­gos’s poor aren’t ben­e­fit­ting from the change in gover­nor, and in the Nige­rian power struc­ture, there are many more on the bot­tom than at the top. Af­ter all, it won’t be La­gos’s poor­est who’ll be shop­ping at Wal­mart.

Area boys a r e c r e e pi ng back and armed rob­beries are on the rise again, I am told, while con­cerns over un­der­em­ploy­ment per­sist. Granted, he has only been in place a few short months, but he was tak­ing over a well­run brief from a fel­low All Pro­gres­sives Congress gover­nor, un­like Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, who took over his post from the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party’s Good­luck Jonathan.

In La­gos for­tunes change in sec­onds and progress can re­verse in the blink of an eye, so you can never waste time. If Am­bode is to en­joy the same suc­cess as Fashola, and if La­gos is to con­tinue its progress, the gover­nor must re­mem­ber his im­por­tance to the many as well as the few.

IN LA­GOS FOR­TUNES CHANGE IN SEC­ONDS AND PROGRESS CAN RE­VERSE IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE.

Rul­ing La­gos gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode casts his vote in the state’s Epe dis­trict on 11 April.

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