By TEMITOPE AJAYI
The jury is still out on how well Governor Ambode has fared as the Chief Executive of Lagos in the last 5 months. The perception of the Governor and the government he leads has not been too good for some, especially among the vociferous middle class, who only use their personal experiences as the only performance measurement of a government. For me, all factors considered, the Governor has done very well compared with his two illustrious predecessors since 1999 within same periods of 5 months.
The two sore points many have raised against the Governor are traffic management and insecurity. I can never wish away the right of any person to complain about service delivery wherever lapses are identified. What i don’t readily accept is the misplaced and uninformed charge of incompetence against the governor and the mischievous comparisons with his immediate past predecessor. Those in the middle class in Nigeria could be sometimes boisterous and oftentimes selfish.
Just because of traffic inconvenience, some people are writing off Ambode within 5 months without any recourse to some of the great strides the administration has made across major sectors in the state. While those who commute to and fro Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Mainland axis complain of traffic those who suffer the nightmare of commuting around Ayobo-Ipaja, Ijegun, Okota and other parts of Lagos due to the deplorable level of the roads are rejoicing that the state government is fixing the abandoned roads. The State pensioners who were paid their 4 years accumulated pensions and gratuities in an N11billion pay out the Governor ordered within his 30days in office sure have a very good opinion of the administration.
Within the 5 months in office, Governor Ambode has retooled the emergency ambulance service in the state with 40 new well-kitted-mobile-hospital Vehicles for optimal service delivery and all General Hospitals in the state have also got new Vehicles and necessary equipment.
In the area of proper husbandry of the state resources in the face of current depressing economic situation of the country where virtually all the states in Nigeria are bankrupt, Ambode, a chartered accountant has proved to be a better manager than the man he took over from. The governor recently announced that through his financial re-engineering the state has been saved N3billion monthly hole in its finances. What Ambode did was to simply renegotiate all the debts of the state incurred by his predecessor with the banks and blocked some of the leakages in the state public finance. Anyway, one can say the Governor is only living up to his reputation as a brilliant accountant and auditor.
The attempt to whitewash the last 8 years of his predecessor as one free of traffic snarl and security breaches is a complete baloney. In the best of time, traffic snarl has always been a part of commuting in Lagos. Let us take the traffic issue as a starting point. I will say the recent traffic upsurge is a progressive challenge that will soon go away. I can safely say that 60% of the traffic issue is as a result of road repairs and reconstruction going on simultaneously across the state. We must all accept the fact that road repairs naturally will affect free flow of traffic. There was almost a 3-week traffic lock-down at Ogba, Pen-Cinema, Agidingbi and Ikeja environs because of the reconstruction of Acme Road and the road linking Acme and Wempco roads. Now that the Wempco and Acme link road had been fixed and Acme road, though still ongoing but reasonably fixed, the traffic within the axis has disappeared in the last week. I know this because it is my daily route.
On security, I am of the view that it is not as bad as the peddlers of the anti-Ambode rhetoric and some social media pundits are making it look. Social Media is always a mad house. You see so much intelligence, so much ignorance and outright stupidity in equal measures. This is what leaders in both private and public service will have to live with. Social media has become part of us and those on social media are the demographics no serious leader can ignore. The demographics can only be engaged. It can’t be ignored. Public communications managers of the Governor have a job to do across social media platforms.
It is will amount to a wishful thinking for anyone to think that a city-state like Lagos with almost 20million residents will be crime free. Government must improve on the security situation through proper mobilization of necessary logistics- materials and men. Yet, I dare say it is not an Armageddon yet as far as security situation in Lagos is concerned. There have been no major robbery operations that the security agencies had not responded to swiftly and gallantly too. The two major incidents at Ikorodu and Festac were decisively dealt with and the criminal gang apprehended. While the criminals need to get it right once to make news headlines, the security agencies must get it right all the time.
I read few posts on Facebook recently where some guys said Ambode is incompetent and should, therefore, resign because all the roads in Lagos are bad. I then asked if Fashola fixed all the roads in Lagos in his 8 years and Ambode made all the roads bad in 5 months.
As much as i agree that the bar of governance should be raised a notch higher in Lagos by Ambode, i am also realistic in my expectations, more so when the challenges of leadership and time are not the same. A Governor of Lagos is naturally expected to do far better than his peers. One, because Lagos is more resourced and two, Lagos is the headquarters of media in Nigeria coupled with a very cosmopolitan population.
Fashola and Ambode are operating under a totally different socio-political atmosphere. Fashola ruled in a time of boom except for his last few months in office. Ambode is ruling in a time of austerity. Under Fashola Lagos was netting average of N10b every month as Federal Allocation. I am not sure if Ambode is getting N4b per month now. The need to invest heavily in media and publicity to prop up Fashola as the poster boy of ACN later APC during PDP-controlled Federal Government was understandable. Now, APC is in charge of the FG, Ambode I was told, does not see any need for him to spend money he should spend on development on media just to get applause. He may have to reconsider his position on media and publicity in this age of social media. People want information per seconds even if they can’t make sense of it. Just give information about what you are doing and plan to do.
Social media has not gained this level of ascendancy and influence in shaping public discourse with its attendant pressure on leaders at all levels during the first term of Fashola between years 2007-2011. May be the conversation then would have been that Fashola should resign within his first 5 months because he couldn’t measure up to Asiwaju Tinubu. Like i opined in my social media interventions and submissions on Lagos under Ambode, he has done very well when we look at the aggregate of what he has done across all sectors/facets of governance in the state. He may not have got a pass mark in all but he has surely proved that he is capable to lead the state to prosperity and greater development.
It is not for nothing that virtually all the High Commissioners in Nigeria, especially those of the Western Europe and the United States have visited the Lagos State Governor in the last 5 months pledging more investments in Lagos with many multinationals coming in tow. This shows their believe in Lagos and in the competence of Ambode, the Fulbright Scholar to steer the ship of the state aright.
Now that his commissioners and Advisers have resumed work with a Leadership Retreat where he shared his vision and pace of work with them and the body of Permanent Secretaries including Heads of key MDAs, I am sure service delivery across board will only get better and better.
Ajayi, is an Executive Director of Portion Consult Limited, a full service communications and printing company lives in Lagos.