Home Features OPINION: Why Akinwunmi Ambode Should Be Pardoned – By Ademola Orunbon

OPINION: Why Akinwunmi Ambode Should Be Pardoned – By Ademola Orunbon

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As the primary of All Progressives Congress (APC) to the diverse positions across the country gather momentum, pressures continue mounted on the Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode to step down for Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, indeed, Ambode has done well for the state that could earn him another term, as the proverb says, ‘One good term deserves another’, and this is the man Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of the Centre of Excellence, Lagos State describes as “an uncommon civil servant” who works for the state diligently and to the best of his knowledge, in which he discovered an embodiment of the sterling attributes of a great accountant. Imagine this assertions and it was when the road is good and smooth but now the reverse is the case, he has become “rogue, selfish, arrogant, rude and all”. The acclaimed political strategist with a knack for discovering great talents surely knows his onions. Even his successor then, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) in his letter of commendation poured encomiums on him for “the high sense of dedication, selflessness, loyalty and integrity” which he brought to bear during his glorious day as a public/civil servant in the State.

And during a public presentation of his biography at Lagos, The Art of Selfless Service written by Marina Osoba deafening applause greeted to the enviable life trajectory from across section of those who have known him closely for the past five decade. So, who is this illustrious and industrious son of Lagos State, nay Nigeria?

What is more meaningful and significant to this writer are the moral lessons and traits of a sound professional that Nigerian youths should imbibe, drink and digest from the flowing fountain of his wealth of experience, within a short span of 27 year being spent as a public/civil servant with Lagos State government before he become the state governor that he helped out during the crises of Obasanjo regime when he declined to give Local Government Council its allocation.

Another lesson has to do with his mission and vision to excel in whatever situation he finds himself. This, combined with an inner strength to conquer the hurdles that fate may place along his path, marks him out as a unique Nigerian. Ordinarily, he would have capitulated and turn himself into an area boy when his father died at the age of 18 years. But he didn’t because he wants to become something in the future in life. So, he chose to focus his energy fully on his academics which paid off handsomely today. From recording the second best result in the entire West Africa in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 1981 to graduating with honours in Accounting from the University of Lagos at 21 years and a Masters degree in Accounting combined with being a Chartered Accountant all at 24 years, the stage was set for a brilliant career in Accounting. One could therefore re-write his biography with the title: Ambode and the power of focus.

That brings us to his choice of where to ply his trade, many in his shoes would have opted for a private practice for quick monetary gains. Instead, Ambode chose the civil service job, with its bureaucratic bottleneck and slow-grinding rise to self actualization! Why did he do so? The answer, as exhibited by the landmark achievements he recorded at the various places of work is to leave an enduring mark on the sands of his Accounting profession. Only a man with the passion for selfless service would do that. And truth be told, there are few of them, not only here in Lagos but the entire Nigerian nation.

Rising from the humble position of a junior Accountant, he moved rapidly up the ladder of success to becoming the youngest ever Auditor General for Local Governments in Lagos State in 2001. Subsequently, he was made the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance in January 2005 before bring combined with the additional responsibility as the Accountant General in February, 2006. As one determined to make his mark the genius in him, restructured the financial transactions that resulted in the state budget’s performance of over 80 percent increased.

But of a remarkable achievement was how he assisted to keep the state running during the embattled period when the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration unilaterally stopped allocation to Local Governments in the State. A more critical look at his book: Public Sector Financing may shed more light on the strategies used to keep the State afloat in those dark days. The book simplifies government accounting system from the local government through the state to the federal level. Or, he may have to write another book specifically focused on how states and even individuals could survive the hard times. That was parts of achievement of Ambode when he was a civil servant which nobody can contend with, and that’s more reason Asiwaju Bola Tinubu fingered him then as Fashola successor.

There are some notable achievements which Lagos state political gladiators need to put into consideration for him to run for second term among them is the Backlog payment of N11billion as arrears to retirees of Lagos State Government, construction of Safety Arena, in Oshodi, in order to bring all the Departments and Agencies responsible for safety and emergency management under one roof, completion of more than 300 Local Government road projects, since 2015, repositioning of Lagos State Emergency Agency, LASEMA, and the Agency now operates via 4 centres, namely Command and Control Centre, Alausa, Ikeja; LASEMA Response Unit (LRU) Cappa Oshodi; LASEMA Response Unit, Lekki (by Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge) and LASEMA Response Unit, Onipanu. Construction of  LRU with modern equipment (trucks, power bikes, heavy-duty vehicles and fire trucks, Mobile Intensive Care Ambulances and Light Rescue Equipment, and 14 new BMW Power Bikes for on-spot reconnaissance assessments of emergency incidents.

Though, nobody has a monopoly of wisdom and a tree cannot make a forest, it is high time to prevail of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other APC stakeholders in Lagos to be calmed, patient and re-consider their stand on Akinwunmi Ambode to continue the good work he has started, his giant strides on infrastructural facilities also includes launching of Amnesty period for land/property owners to obtain/regularize building permits. Between March 1 and August 31, 2018, Lagos State Government was not charge any penalty for those who have erected structures on their land without a building permit. This window offers a 6-month grace period for landowners to obtain their building permit, construction of 10-lane Oshodi–Murtala Muhammed Int’l Airport Road, scheduled for completion by December 2018, and Completion of palliative repair work on section of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway between Eric Moore and Okokomaiko. Work ongoing on Okokomaiko to Badagry section. Establishment of Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency, LASCOPA in 2017, for speedy redress of consumers’ complaints.

Governor Ambode acquired equipment worth more than 5 billion Naira for the State Police Command and Rapid Response Squad, equipment donated include 100 4-door salon cars, 55 Ford Ranger pick-ups, 10 Toyota land cruiser pick-ups, 15 BMW power bikes, 100 power bikes, Isuzu trucks, three helicopters, two gun boats, 120 power generating sets, 15 armoured personnel carriers, revolving lights, siren and public address system, vehicular radio communicators, security gadgets including bullet proof vests, helmets, handcuffs, uniforms, kits and improved insurance and death benefit schemes for officers. The governor has impacted meaningfully on the lives of many Lagosians and its residents through the launching of the Bus Reform Initiative, that bequeath a world class transportation system to the State and the construction of new bus terminals, introduction of 5,000 new buses, and construction of 100 modern Bus Shelters across the State. He had already completed Tafawa Balewa Bus Terminus and Ikeja Bus Terminus; Acquired 434 new buses for Ikorodu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor; and commenced work on Oshodi-Abule Egba BRT corridor along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway (13.5 kilometers; 14 bus stations; 14 pedestrian bridges).

The Governor was able to launch the Lagos To The World (L2W) global campaign, to better market and communicate investment opportunities in the State. As part of the launch of L2W, the Ambode administration has also unveiled a deal book detailing investment opportunities in key sectors including health, transportation, oil and gas, among others and employed 1,300 teachers into primary education system; and provided free medical services and psychosocial therapy to 700 survivors of domestic and sexual violence. He also presented 500 million Naira in Grants to 275 Community Development Associations in July 2018 to enable them complete various self-help projects, installed Skywalk Bridge to link Terminals 1 and 2 at Oshodi Bus Interchange, upgraded 9,174 square meter Alfred Rewane Garden, Ikoyi and opened it for use by members of the public within and around the Ikoyi axis.

He further established N25 billion Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. The Fund has provided loans worth more than 5 billion Naira to more than 8,000 persons since inception, and helped create more than 11,000 jobs, commenced development of N49 billion Public Private Partnership Medical Park in Ikoyi, to be located at the old Nursing School along Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. (Lagos State contributing land; private investors putting up the funding). He redesigned Lekki-Epe Expressway to improve journey times and reduce gridlock by replacing roundabouts with traffic lights and launched Ready-Set-Work, an entrepreneurial and employability training programme aimed at ensuring that every student who graduates from any tertiary institution in Lagos has knowledge, skills, and attitude required to gain employment upon graduation. More than 2,500 final year students trained since 2016.

Ambode also launched Lagos State Traffic Information System (LATIS), a world-class traffic information and management system comprising hundreds of cameras, road sensors and electronic displays specially designed to collect and deliver real time information to city commuters, and thus help regulate traffic, launched Code Lagos, an initiative aimed at teaching 1 million Lagos residents to code by 2020. Currently, Code Lagos has trained over 31, 000 Lagosians to code while 364 Coding Centres have also been set up in 352 primary and secondary schools as well 12 Out-of-School Centres. http://codelagos.org/ and annual hosting of Lagos City Marathon, since 2016. The Marathon has placed Lagos on the global athletics map. The governor received Presidential approval for handover of National Stadium to Lagos State, to redevelop and transform it into a world-class  facility; and rehabilitated Agege Township Stadium to meet Confederation of African Football (CAF) standards; and Mobolaji Johnson Sports Complex, Rowe Park, Yaba.

Where do you now said that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode gone wrong? he forged ahead to upgrade 14 flagship Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs); procured 20 Mobile Care Unit ambulances and 26 Transport Ambulances across the State; he also approved the establishment of three new Maternal/ Child Health Care Centres to expand the scope and reach of public health service delivery, he also constructed Flyover bridges for Ajah and Abule-Egba residents to avert been knocked down by motorists, and Multiple Lay-by to ease traffic congestion along the Third Mainland-Iyana-Oworo-Toll Gate Road, he established Special Task Force, ‘Operation Restore Sanity On Lagos Roads,’ to clear Apapa-Oshodi Expressway of Trucks, Tankers and Trailers. Between July 20 and 22, 2018, the Task Force successfully cleared more than 2,000 Trucks from section of road between Toyota Bus Stop and Mile 2, he further rebranded and expanded the Lagos Countdown, into the One Lagos Fiesta, to boost tourism and entertainment. The fiesta now holds simultaneously at five locations across the state: Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Lagos Island and Ikeja

The establishment of three new Fire Stations at Bolade-Oshodi, Ejigbo and Abesan, and upgraded facilities at the existing Fire Stations in Alausa, Ikeja, Isolo, Agege, Ilupeju, Badagry-Suru, Ikotun and Agege, rehabilitation of 225 old fire hydrants in Lagos metropolis, and installed 50 new ones connected to the mini/micro water works across the State. He also employed 250 new personnel into the Lagos State Fire Service, and purchased new fire-fighting equipment, such as complete sets of Master Breathing Apparatus, Tripod Stand Rescue Equipment, Dragon Max Floodlights, Duraline Hoses, and Power Stream PPU Blower, and completion of Ojodu-Berger Flyover Intersection; also completion of 21 roads and two bridges with a combined stretch of 27.4 kilometers in Alimosho-Agbado-Oke-Odo area. He also established Relief Resettlement Camps in Agbowa and Igando to cater for IDPs across the State.

He also established Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment to promote and coordinate investments in Lagos State, and the Small Claims Court to fast-track justice delivery in commercial disputes involving claims not exceeding N5 million. The entire period of proceedings from filing to judgment will not exceed 60 days, Developed the Strategic Plan for Accelerated Agricultural Growth (SPAAG), and set aside 50,000 acres of land for agriculture in the State. The land will be allocated to farmers and investors for production of tomato, rice, fish, etc, he also collaborated with Kebbi State to produce LAKE (Lagos-Kebbi) Rice; and with Kano State to organize the first Lagos-Kano Economic Summit. He launched, in partnership with the private sector, the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), to improve waste management and processing in the State, among other interventions, construction of Transfer Loading Stations, Maintenance Depots, and Engineered Sanitary Landfills and signed into law the landmark Lagos State Electric Power Sector Reform Law, to guarantee 24-hour power supply in line with Governor Ambode’s vision to attain a 24-hour economy. Also signed into law an Amended Land Use Charge Law.

Though, with all these achievement not even enough for an open endorsement supposed to have stirred the hornet’s nest, from the PDP, Mandate Group of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and even the Pan-Lagos Development Advocacy Group (LDAG) who are rooting for Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, one thing is certain. Ambode certainly has the leadership qualities to build on the great works both Tinubu and Fashola had achieved so far. As an over comer of daunting obstacles, many are watching how Ambode would surmount the hurdles ahead.

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