Like a diver in the stormy gale of the Atlantic Ocean, Akinwunmi Ambode began his early journey at the Lagos House in Ikeja as the 17th Governor of the State amidst strong criticisms and hasty derogatory remarks by people expressing doubts and uncertainty of his prowess to meet the yearnings and expectations of Lagosians.
Just like a passing mirage, a year into his administration, a clearer shape of the Lagos being incubated in those early days is now unfolding. The Governor’s work approval rate has since shot up and logically so. In order to reduce the Lagos traffic gridlock, Ambode embarked on the re-organisation of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA. Ambode believes that since LASTMA officials are a reflection of the state government, they should ensure that their activities add value to the government’s covenant with Lagosians to make life easier for them. Recently additional LASTMA officials were recruited as government observed that the 2,300 LASTMA personnel currently manning over 9,000 roads in the state were inadequate.
One other innovation that Ambode has brought into governance in the State is the introduction of the Treasury Single Account, TSA. It is to address the challenges previously faced with the operation of the multiple accounts system. Through the TSA, government saves over N5 billion monthly. It has not only assisted in saving more money into the State coffer but has curbed sharp practices that might have arisen in the process of collecting government revenues.
Ambode also demonstrated his mettle by first getting the finances of the state back in shape, restructuring a choking debt exposure from 18% interest rate to 12.5% upon assumption of office, thereby freeing N3billion every month for the state to put into other pressing use.
Ambode equally improved the state finance by bringing back all government agencies occupying rented apartments outside the State Government Secretariat to the main secretariat. This is in line with his renewed commitment to strengthen the civil service and make it respond to the needs of all citizens in the same manner quality services are rendered in the private sector.
Worthy of mention also are the additional offices and Ministry conceived and created by Ambode namely: Civic Engagement Office, Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (Lagos Global) and the new Ministry of Wealth Creation & Employment. These new Offices and Ministry have been at the forefront of delivering Ambode’s electoral promises. For instance, The Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (Lagos Global) since inception, has facilitated the visit of hundreds of investors who have shown considerable interest in tapping into the investment opportunities in Lagos. Most of them are from key countries such as the United States of America, France, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Belgium, Japan, South Africa and Poland.
The Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment which was part of reforms of Governor Ambode has so far created jobs for hundreds of youth across the State with a target to increase the number as new Job Centres opens across the State and more entrepreneurs empowered. The N25 billion Lagos State Employment Trust Fund is also another innovation of the state government aimed at empowering entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.
The Light up Lagos Project, road construction and rehabilitation, construction of pedestrian bridges and fly overs, improvement of the public health sector, boost for food security with the Lagos, Kebbi and Access Bank partnership for rice production, development of tourism and sports among several others represent the steady strides of Governor Ambode in the last one year.
Ambode’ steady move within this short while is a prove that making rash and hasty conclusions about personalities and linking individualism with capabilities is not only an erroneous conclusion but also a crass assumption. You don’t have to be the Winston Churchill or David Trumble of this world to make life meaningful for the people. No two individual or personality could have the exact same traits regardless of the biological affiliation or politically inclination just as no two different administrations could ever be the same in terms of approach, policies and administrative prowess.
One interesting thing about Ambode is that he is not given to much talk. His work simply speaks for him. In the week preceding his one year anniversary in office, over 100 projects were commissioned by the state government across the state. It is, however, instructive to note that Ambode did not personally commission any of those projects. Rather, they were all commissioned by members of his cabinet. This shows the Governor as a team player who is not interested in taking the glory all for himself.
The significant thing from the Ambode’s experience is that the performance of a public officer does not lie in much speeches or talks but in the strength of his vision and conviction. Another is that public officials should learn to take criticisms in their strides. They should not only be interested in the voices of sycophants who tell them only what they want to hear.
At a recent public forum, Ambode gave an insight into how he took the initial criticisms of his government in good light and moved on. He said: “I read and listen to all the criticisms. I try to learn from the positive criticisms and try not to let the abuse get to me. It is a challenge that comes with the job. Managing Lagos is a difficult task and it is difficult to make everybody happy at the same time. We know what we signed up for and we are committed to delivering on our development agenda for Lagos”.
To the Governor, I say, let the sleeves remain rolled, continue to build a working consensus across the nook and cranny of the State until the glimpse of the dreamed Lagos becomes clearer.