“Good leaders are trailblazers, making a path for others to follow”- forbes.com
As global attention is riveted on the unfolding spectacle of the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup in Russia today, there are interesting parallels to draw with a goal-getting Nigerian, whose illustrious life trajectory clocks 55 years on this same day. Much like the world-acclaimed beautiful game, which few observers gave a chance to survive, talk less of exploding when it began back in England in 1863, Lagos State Governor Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was the little known aspirant when political pundits began to permutate on the likely successor to erstwhile Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola then in 2014.
But the leadership narrative has since changed, as Lagos state has become a reference point to Nigerians, nay Africans within the political power context. In a similar compelling, centripetal attraction that soccer enjoys amongst people of diverse races and religion, social strata and even political persuasion, the question on virtually everyone’s lip is what magic wand has Ambode waved to turn Lagos into an emerging smart city? That is, within a short span of three years in the saddle of the world’s fastest growing city and Africa’s fifth largest economy. The questions persist.
However, to be on the good side of history and more significantly to become better by the day, let us attempt answers from Ambode’s life experiences. Especially, those that have stood him in good stead. Just like football, with its thrills and frills and its team- game format there are rules to obey. We can only win life’s daily matches if we, like Ambode have the focus, the desire, the determination to excel no matter who would tackle us when we eventually have the ball.
For instance, the early death of his father was one of such challenges. However, instead of capitulating, he took it as a stepping stone to climb to greater heights by sacrificing his time and talents to concentrate on his studies. That he emerged the second-best student in the West African Examination Council(WAEC) O\L examinations at the end of his secondary school days is a testament to such iron-will determination to succeed against the odds, as John Harold Johnson(now late) of Ebony Magazine fame once admonished.
Secondly, Ambode was one young man who was written off by his uncle, at the age of 11 years, especially when he expressed his desire to becoming an accountant. The older man thought he did not possess the DNA to ever qualify as one. But the story has since changed its tempo and tenor. By 2015 when Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode became the APC flag-bearer of the state, he had already metamorphosed into a thoroughbred, tested and trusted technocrat. He was the former Accountant –General, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Auditor-General who has traversed several of the local government councils in the state.
Another salient, vital feature of successful leadership, as exemplified by Ambode is to be fully prepared for the onerous tasks at hand. Based on his wealth of experience he knew the needs and nuances of the state like the lines on his palms. So, he hit the ground running.
Little wonder that within six months in office his forward-looking administration, achieved all these and more. Specifically, in the health sector, the governor commissioned 20 Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU) and 26 Transport Ambulances one for each of the 26 General hospitals. He ensured that ambulances were bought for all the public hospitals in the state, paid the aggrieved medical doctors their outstanding salaries and the long-suffering pensioners.
Similarly, Ambode approved the recruitment of more paramedic staff and special medical coordinators to guarantee 24 hours service. Besides, he upgraded the General Hospitals and constructed a Medical Park fully equipped with quality drugs and new mobile X-Ray machines. He similarly lent helping hand to victims of disasters including motor-accidents, fire outbreaks as well as mudslide in addition to diffusing governance to those at the lower rung of the Lagos society.
Making a wise choice, he began by beefing up security across the state. This he did by acquiring 10 armoured tanks, three helicopters for aerial surveillance and policing, two gun boats, 15 armoured personnel carriers and dozens of Isuzu trucks. Still on security, he initiated the LightUp Lagos Project covering at least 365 streets across the state.
On the massive infrastructural development, Ambode has turned Lagos into a vast construction site, as people are currently awed by the 10-lane Airport Road and the Oshodi Interchange edifice. Indeed, Lagos now boasts of state-of-the art flyover bridges at Ajah and Abule-Egba with that of the popular Pen-Cinema in the works.
Also, in less than one year in office some 282 inner roads received massive rehabilitation, as requested by the people during his tour of the LCDAs before his election. In fact, his ‘114 Roads’ project where each of the 57 local councils in the state got two good roads was completed by May, 2016.
Economic empowerment was next. It received a boost in December of that year as he began the disbursement of the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund,(ETF) to carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, vulcanizers and other players in the informal sector in the state. The initiative will see the disbursement of N6.25 billion annually over the next four years. It was also one of the promises he made during his campaign in 2015.
The food security issue was kick started with the launch of the Lagos-Kebbi (LaKe Rice) in December 2016. It came at the right time as thousands of residents trooped out to various centres across the three senatorial districts to buy the commodity which sold for N12,000 (50kg bag); N6,000 (25kg); and N2,500 (10kg). It was a much needed respite for a population that had been reeling under the impact of economic recession. The smiles widen as Lagos is getting ready to commission one of Africa’s largest rice mills months from now.
Barely over two years in office the state had raked in N287 billion in IGR, a whopping N19 billion more than was generated the year before. A revamp of the state’s revenue generation agency played a major role in this feat, but Mr. Ambode also gave credit to tax-paying citizens in the state.
It is a similar swan song from education through agriculture, to transportation and tourism. One great lesson for millions to learn from the governor’s success story therefore, is for one to be blessed with a strong God-fearing family. Both he and Bolanle, his woman of virtue have their lives firmly rooted in God. She is there as a pillar of support and as one who has stood by him through thick and thin. Besides, is their humility and tracing every success to the throne of God.
Said he, at a recent Sunday Service to mark his three years in office: “No matter how much strategy that you have read in school or how much work you have done in the public service, …if it is working back- to -back and consistently, there has to be some other source that is making it work because you are just one out of several others. Why it works for Lagos is the more reason why one has to be very sober and humble, to actually know that there is something that is making that to happen and that has to be God”.
If, for the first time in the history of Lagos state and indeed Nigeria no other politician has come forward to challenge Gov. Ambode, nine good months to the 2019 gubernatorial election , it must be God. That explains why he is being celebrated nationally and globally, like a World Cup winning goal!
Many happy returns, my dear, iconic boss.
Ajanaku is the Special Adviser, Information and Strategy to the governor.