“YOUR EXCELLENCY, THE ROAD IS ROUGH”
Mr Akinwunmi Ambode emerged as the governor of Lagos after a keenly contested election in March 2015 and was sworn in as the 5th (civilian) governor of Lagos state on May 29th 2015. His entry into the history books as (Lagos Governor) was as expected heralded with mixed reactions. In some quarters, his experience in the fiscal community was seen as reasons why he will ‘turn around Lagos’ while others believed he is a rubber stamp, an imposition from the Lagos political establishment. There will always be divergent views from the electorate irrespective of performance whether good, bad or ugly before, during and after assumption of political office.
Upon settling down in office to deliver on the much anticipated ‘dividends of democracy’, Mr Ambode set forth on wide ranging policy initiatives that left Lagosians and indeed political watchers with mouths open in bewilderment.
Justice will however not have been served if history fails to chronicle the governor’s achievements. The Light Up Lagos Initiative (a CSR partnership between the Lagos State Government and organised private sector where an organisation adopts a particular road or highway and gets tax breaks and other incentives in return) has brought about reduced accidents at night due to the illumination of the streetlights on highways and major roads. The construction of 114 roads annually where two roads are constructed per local government has improved (rather slowly) the hardship commuters face while on the road daily. This continuous policy has received positive vibes from some section of society and greeted as a major signpost of his stewardship in government. The Lake Rice Project between Lagos and Kebbi State is yet another significant milestone in Ambode’s administration. At a time Nigerians were reeling from the pangs of recession, the introduction of Lake Rice gave hope to Lagos consumers who had to pay as much as twenty two thousand naira back then for a 50kg bag of rice. At twelve thousand naira, a 50 kg bag of rice was by far a better option for a consuming bracket that had little or no consideration for quality. Mr Ambode crowned his success as a governor by increasing the IGR of Lagos to thirty billion naira on a monthly average. From all indication, these accounts of service are largely impressive but when it appears as if the governors ‘services are no longer required’ by the same political hegemony that brought Ambode to the parlour of political opulence, we must ask ourselves this question… What went wrong?
News making the rounds has it that the political godfather of Lagos (Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu) has refused to back Mr Ambode on his second term bid by insisting that the governor just like any other person aspiring to become governor of Lagos state must present himself or herself for primaries. While this posture appears simplistic and democratic, there are political undertones and grand scheming going on in the shadows. Tinubu (apart from being the national leader of the ruling APC) is the head of the all-powerful mandate group that decides who becomes governor of Lagos and he enjoys the unbridled loyalty of local government chairmen who have openly expressed a deep desire for another aspirant. The chairmen are basing their grouse on Ambode’s interference in the local politics at the grassroots and they know they will definitely have a say during the primaries which is just around the corner. If this is bad, what’s worse?
Mr Ambode set forth on a self- destructive agenda to upturn people-centric initiatives introduced by his predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola. LAWMA, LASPARK, LASTHMA and other agencies of government became a shadow of themselves in a state largely regarded and recognised as ‘the centre of excellence’. Mr Ambode stated during an incident involving LASTHMA officials and a road user that the traffic agency had no power to arrest traffic offenders. Naturally, the ripple effect is seen today on Lagos roads with one-way driving, public buses with expired documents, tanker accidents and so much more. LASPARK, the agency that saw to the serene environment gradually returning to Lagos with the presence of flowers and beautiful landscaping was stifled with funds and equally rendered toothless due to lack of policy mandates. LAWMA has attempted rather averagely to manage the humongous waste generated in Lagos and progress has largely being seen to be recorded, but the governor in his infinite wisdom introduced a waste management company that has done little or nothing to manage effectively the waste management challenges in Lagos. This company has failed to incorporate the waste truck owners, cart pushers, street cleaners and other stakeholders into its processes, a decision that is suicidal given the fact that a chunk of PSP operators are grassroots politicians. The loans and other pecks of office usually enjoyed by civil servants are reported to have been either stopped or made difficult to access, and to imagine that these loans are what civil servants need to build retirement homes, side businesses, see their children through school is certainly not a well calculated decision. The governor can’t enjoy the support of civil servants who are by all means ‘loyal’ to the government of the day. The incident that saw to the removal of the chaplain of the state house is indeed fresh in the minds of the Calvary community which should also be a source of worry for the governor. Another minus? You can say that again.
At a time when the political atmosphere is charged and aspirants are ‘consulting’ with their godfathers, the governor is running from pillar to post in a bid to ensure his political survival in a not too friendly environment. The lesson for all of us from this experience is to humbly realise that power is transient and definitely not a one-man show. To gather political capital, we need to be team players, approachable, able to compromise and most of all generous in wisdom. The heated political atmosphere presently suffocating the governor is largely not on the grounds of non-performance, it was brought about by the same self-illusion that has always claimed all men in positions of power…it is deceitful power in its raw form. Your excellency, the road is indeed rough!