Ambode: The signs of positive change

By Sunny Igboanugo on 30/11/2015

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Ambode, (middle) Minister of Interior, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazzau (right) and Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase

Sometime in August this year, I was somewhere at a gathering in Lagos. At a table where we were seated sharing the usual drinks, the shout of Ambo oo, Ambo oo erupted, as a mutual friend walked in. Having heard and related that to the Lagos State Governor, Akiwunmi Ambode, I quickly inquired what the man had to do with that name, or is it slogan?

Ah! This is Ambode’s man o, another mutual friend quickly offered. I was then informed of how the man, carried the Ambode campaign on his head prior to the governorship election of April this year and how he was quite close to the governor. He’s the Ambode you’re seeing o. So, if you have anything to tell the governor, tell this man o, another friend at the table, intoned. Now resident in Abuja, I did not know that much.

But, this additional bit of our friend being very close to the governor, I didn’t want to swallow immediately, knowing what that suggestion could mean to a Nigerian. Or is it not here that we have seen people printing business cards that read Friend of the President or Friend of the Governor? Of course I could tell that whilst trying to make light of it and feigning that it meant nothing, our friend was quite pleased to be so described. You could always tell the feeling of a dog from its tail.

One of the helicopters

But something happened that convinced me that this friend was indeed Ambode’s man. During the brief discussion we had, amid exchange of raucous banters, the name of the governor’s predecessor, Raji Fashola crept in. I cannot quite remember how. But our friend was to make a certain disclosure that gave an inkling into the mind-set of the camp of the number one citizen of the Centre of Excellence. “That one (Fashola)? Don’t worry, we will deal with him. Just watch what will happen.” Though my journalistic antenna was activated the way a hare would at the slightest noise suggesting something of interest, I could not push the subject, in order to derive maximum benefits without doing much harm.

But there was no opportunity, to squeeze out more juice, for just that moment another shout of Ambo o oo, echoed from a distant table and my friend moved on, carrying with him the load I had so desperately craved to share into.

A day or two after, Fasholagate broke out. First, the website saga, then the tear-instigating borehole scandal, and thereafter, another scandal of unconscionable sharing of juicy lands in choice areas of the state as parting gifts to cronies, all gushing out in torrents like a faulty dyke. Then, like the Biblical Peter, at the third crow of the cock, my mind ran to my friend’s prophesy. Then, I believed. It was a case of the proverbial witch crying at night and the baby dying in the morning.


The gunboat

But somehow, I was distressed. Not that I did not like the idea of exposing corruption. Of course, not. Indeed, I was one of those who said that it served the ex-governor right. But I knew that Ambode was wasting his time taking up a major task of shooting his predecessor down. Indeed I do not have to go far to prove that a public officer in Nigeria, be he a president, governor or local government chairman, who goes about with unsheathed sword after his predecessor in office is wasting his time. Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime in Enugu, Ibikunle Amosu and Gbenga Daniel in Ogun, Godswill Akpabio and Victor Attah in Akwa Ibom, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Peter Odili in Rivers, Adamu Mu’azu and Isa Yuguda in Bauchi, Gabriel Suswam and George Akume in Benue, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Ibrahim Shekerau in Kano, Peter Obi and Willie Obiano in Anambra, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and Bafarawa in Sokoto et cetera. Waste of time. I didn’t want Ambode to waste his time in Lagos, for obvious reason(s).

Thankfully, the manner the sordid affair ended, presupposed that someone sharing my view not only must have cast a leash on the purveyors, but blocked the conduit through which more fetid garbage from the cesspit would have been spewed out into the firmament. Otherwise, the in(famous) question of I didn’t sign cheques, would have been quite farfetched. 

The APCs

Apparently, having ditched the idea of chasing after the past, the governor seems to have rediscovered himself with regards to the promises he made to the people of Lagos State. He seems to have recalibrated his priorities and refocused his compass. The result has come in some recent inspiring and even ennobling feats. Suddenly, the bulldozers are back in the streets, patching up, repairing and opening up new roads. Jubilant Lagosians celebrating different acts and activities are now becoming constant features in the new Lagos story, instead of the loud grumblings that were rising in many quarters a few weeks back. To me this turn of events, though are not only what governance is all about, but in Nigeria, the only thing that counts.

The cars

With the launch of the N4.765billion security equipment, last Friday, November 28, proved one of Ambode’s most ambitious and far-reaching outings, since coming into power six months ago.

The equipment include three helicopters, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), two gunboats, 165 vehicles and others purchased at a cost of N4.765 billion by Mr. Ambode.

The full security equipment are 100 four-door saloon cars, 55 Ford Ranger pick-ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser pick-ps, 15 BMW power bikes, 100 other power bike brands, Isuzu Trucks, three helicopters, two gun boats, revolving lights, siren and Public Address System (PAS), Vehicular Radio Communicators (VRC), security gadgets including bullet proof vests, helmets, handcuffs, uniforms, kits, and improved Insurance and Death Benefit Schemes (DBS) for the police.

With that he practically ignited the fire of hope for better things in the state. Of course, there are many significances of that event. But I’m more inspired by it conducing a swift and direct response to the desires of the people. The fact that the equipment came at a time there were already loud whispers and open discontent by some people about the security situation in the state, suggests that Ambode is not only a listening governor, but would not be given to arrogance or the penchant for getting angry at public criticisms, a very big problem with many of his contemporaries.

That said, one major aspect he must also focus full attention to is the issue of the Lagos poor. I particularly did not like Fashola’s attitude to the poor and I said so in my own little corner. It appeared that he either blamed them for their conditions or did not even see the reason for that condition.

Yes, it is good that Lagos should look like London or Dubai or Madrid or Vienna. But that cannot happen in the manner Fashola attempted to make it. It would not happen by employing scarce resources to acquire machines to crush okada, seized from the streets or some bandits in the mould of KAI (Kick Against Indiscipline), chancing on people struggling to eke out a living and seizing their bread, fruit juices, pure water, handkerchiefs and other articles in high demand at crunchy traffics, which eventually end up in the shops of the wives and girlfriends of the same KAI officials. Experience and reason must have informed by now that no matter how hard anyone tried, or how fierce the consequences, desperate people must eat, even if they die trying. It even wets the ground for bigger crimes and bigger societal prblems.

Solution? Create an unprofitable situation for them to be in the street or help them out of poverty. No sane person would sell ewa agoyin or cold drinks on Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, Champs-Elysees in Paris, Valencia in Spain, Obasanjo Way, Accra, or even our own Aguiyi Ironsi Way, Abuja, because there would be no patronage due to the light traffic.

Also, it would be foolhardy for anyone to start riding okada in London because the cheap, reliable and working means of transportation would take care. The moment cheap, reliable and comfortable buses begin to ply on paved roads all over Lagos, joined by effective rail and water transportation system, okadas would disappear from Lagos streets.

Indeed, it is not difficult to notice the change that has since come to Lagos in these few months. From a Fashola, who always looked austere, serious and frowning all the time as if governance is all about quarrelling with the same people you rule over, we now have a complete opposite in Ambode conjuring the image of a good dresser, debonair attitude and a man happy with himself and his job. Nothing can be more inspiring. From the little peep, we were able to make into the past, it is obvious that nobody is deceived by any show of self-righteousness.

I have always maintained that nobody who helps to make a governor, associates with him or works for him should remain the same or go home unhappy. It is unnatural to serve at the table of a king and go to bed on empty stomach.

Therefore, Ambode must strive more to make the people of Lagos happy by how he treats them and what he puts on the ground that could be seen by the naked eyes than striving to prove to them that he is a saint. Nobody will believe him. I won’t.    





Posted on November, 30 2015

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