You can call him ‘Nigeria’s 5-star Governor’, ‘Governor Extraordinaire’, ‘original super-performer’, ‘Governor small talk-plenty action’ and you will be spot on. Whatever you choose to call Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the current governor of Lagos state, any of the above sobriquets and more positive ones will fit perfectly. His achievements thus far are breath-takingly exciting.
Not given to grand-standing, theatrical bluster and bombast as typical of politicians, cool, calm and very collected Governor Ambode has shocked not a few with his superlative, multifaceted achievements in just about two years of his stewardship as Chief Executive in Nigeria’s economic capital. His avowed vision is to make Lagos Africa’s model mega-city and the number 1 business destination south of the Sahara as well as a global financial and investment hub. With the grounds covered within the period under review, the bashful Governor may well be on his way to realising his vision; and in record time too.
Ambode’s performance is so riveting that even the major rival party stalwarts have acknowledged that he has positively exceeded all expectations in so short a time. Chief Bode George, former deputy national chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party spoke the minds of most Lagosians in November 2016 when he said: “I have never met this young man but I must say that I am impressed with his performance so far especially in the area of infrastructural developments.
… I must sincerely commend him on what he is doing in Epe Local Government. I am very proud of what he is doing there. I passed through Epe recently and I thought I was in a different state. I want to appeal to him that when he is done with Epe, he should head back to my local government, which is Lagos Island so that when he leaves office, not only will Epe people remember him for his performance, but the entire Lagos will remember him and say ‘ yes, there was one Governor that passed through here and his name is Akinwunmi Ambode’. “I also must commend him in the area of traffic management especially in the area of traffic decongestion in the state”.
It is clear that the accolades have been well earned especially when we take a few highlights of Governor Ambode’s milestone achievements:
LIGHT UP LAGOS
Ambode’s ambition to install 6,000 street-lights across the state seemed like a tall dream only two years ago but with almost 400 streets properly lit-up at night and many more active deployments going on in real time, it has become clear that the Governor is primed to achieving his vision with the speed of light.
To further complement the visibility and security provided by the street lights Ambode has begun the deployment of 13,000 closed circuit television sets (CCTV) complete with security sensors. This is part of the grand plan to transform Lagos into a smart city. This is being done in partnership with the City of Dubai with whom a memorandum of understanding (MOU) had earlier been signed.
Meanwhile in his community electrification drive, Ambode’s government recently commissioned the rural electrification project to connect 68 communities in the Ibeju Local Government and Lekki LCDA to the national electricity grid. This is a project that is also to be replicated in all other communities that have wallowed in darkness for decades.
ROADS & INFRASTRUCTURE
Ambode promised to build roads massively across the state in 2016. By September of the same year, the Governor shocked all when he announced the successful completion of 114 roads evenly spread across the 57 local government areas on a ratio of 2 roads each. Already, he has promised to deliver 181 roads in 2017 on an average of 3 roads per local government. This is despite the massive investments in bridges, fly-overs, multi-storey car parks, pedestrian bridges and continued investments in the light-rail project inherited from his predecessor.
Indeed, Ambode recently cried out his frustration at the refusal of the federal ministry of works to grant the state the permission to build, operate and maintain a world-class highway and access road to and from the Murtala Muhammed airport in Ikeja. He announced that the state had the plans, the designs, the drawings and most importantly, the money and even the contractor to deliver the roads within 6 months. Surely, everyone knows that, if anyone should build that road, Ambode is the man.
Naturally, a positive effect of better road networks and street lighting is easier vehicular movement and free flow of traffic. Governor Ambode, however, displayed sheer genius when, after studying the traffic headaches of Lagosians, designed and created by-passes, in various locations, removed unwieldy round-abouts, is building fly-overs across Lagos as well as creating indented bus-stops at hitherto bottle-neck spots.
The Governor did not stop there, he co-opted the Lagos State Number Plate Production Authority (LSNPPA) to produce and deploy road information and directional signage across the nooks and crannies of the state to guide motorists and pedestrians appropriately on speed limits, no parking zones, no trading zones, hospital locations, police station locations and so on.
The immediate result of these developments has been an unprecedented reduction in drive-time in many locations. For instance, a journey of 3 hours previously from Lagos Island to the old Lagos-Ibadan toll-gate has been cut to I hour or less during the same peak traffic period. Those in the Lekki-Epe axis always say a little prayer for Ambode when they also realise that an agonising 4-hour drive has been reduced to far less than 1 hour-30 minutes from the same Lagos Island.
The icing on the cake is that the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) has undergone a massive reformation to providing humane service and assistance to motorists while still ensuring strict enforcement of traffic codes and laws within the state. It is interesting to know from sources within the administration that all the great traffic management initiatives being implemented are the direct ideas of Ambode…clearly, a man in touch with his constituents.
A few months after he resumed office, Governor Ambode equipped the law enforcement agencies by acquiring 10 armoured tanks, three helicopters for aerial surveillance and policing, two gun boats, 15 armoured personnel carriers, and dozens of Isuzu trucks. Additional deployments have since been made including the creation and inauguration of a 5,700-member Neighbourhood Safety Corps which became operational in the second quarter of 2017.
In the no holds-barred tradition of Ambode, he has fully equipped the corps with 137 saloon cars to be rationed out on the basis of three cars per local government and motorcycles for the 337 wards across the state. The riders have been provided with full riders’ protection kits, helmets, knees and ankle protection materials.
Also provided were 4000 bicycles aimed at community engagements. Other accessories include metal detectors to ensure that illegal weapons are not smuggled into public places; batons, whistles, and torchlights.
Ambode noted during the inauguration of the corps that communication stations have also been built in all the senatorial zones of the state even as hotlines have been created and linked to the executive secretary of the state and other senior managers of the corps for easy communication with various communities in case of any crime.
The Governor has also urged “whistle-blowers to collaborate with the Neighbourhood Safety Corps as any useful information given to the Corps will attract handsome rewards from the state government. This is probably the best per square metre security coverage any state in the federation has ever deployed. It is hoped that pilfering and vandalism of social assets, petty crimes and neighbourhood crimes will be drastically reduced.
Without adequate financial resources, it is not possible for Ambode to have posted his sterling performance. Interestingly, in an era when many states were lamenting the huge drop in revenue due to dwindling federal allocation occasioned by the slump in global crude prices, Ambode’s administration actually recorded an increase in 2016. This is mainly as a result of the creative internal revenue strategies deployed by the state.
Speaking at a special event at the Lagos House, Ikeja, to usher in December 2016, the Governor announced that as at December 16, 2016 the state had raked in N287bn IGR for the year under review as against N268.2bn generated in 2015. The governor however heaped the praise on tax payers in the state for performing their civic obligations faithfully. While he observed that the economic challenges in Nigeria were affecting Lagos State, he said the state was, however, constantly re-strategising as the economic challenges should provide a golden opportunity for the country to re-strategise to build a sustainable economy.
Mr Yinka Ogundimu, the Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Finance however gave the credit to the Governor for being able to block all financial leakages and bringing more people into the state’s tax net. In his words: “The Governor is a former accountant-general of the state; his plan is to make sure that everything works well. Besides, Ambode has been able to reduce the cost of governance in the state by about N3 billion monthly. Thus, freeing up resources for developmental projects.
Ambode is not only making Lagos business-friendly, he is also making it citizen-friendly. He has done very well so far and indications are that he can do even better. If he continues in this positive direction, Ambode will have a very grateful citizenry keenly waiting to queue behind him and chase away any other contender to the (governorship) throne come 2019.