New Lagos State governor must step up
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.