Adeniyi Adekunle is a public affairs analyst. He is also the President of Achievers Archive, a non-governmental organisation involved in youth empowerment, training and entrepreneurship. Adekunle fielded questions from reporters recently on the sidelines of a conference in Lagos. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI was there.
How would you assess Lagos State in the last two and half years?
Lagos State is evolving into a wonderful state, because of the rate it is being transformed under Governor Akinwumi Ambode. In fact, it would soon become the Dubai of Africa. I’m not a politician and I’m apolitical, but I’m an advocate of good governance. Sincerely speaking, Ambode’s performance in the last two and half years has been stellar. He has surprised everybody. You know there were initial doubts by some people, as to whether Ambode would be able to step or fit into the shoes of his predecessor. But, see how God works, Ambode has been performing brilliantly and the positive touch of his administration is being felt in every sector in Lagos State. Those initial doubting Thomases and other skeptics have now been forced to eat their words. Many of them are now showering encomiums on him.
Why were people initially skeptical about Ambode?
Ambode is not your archetypal politician and his name did not ring a bell then. But all along, he has been an accomplished professional – a chartered accountant who has distinguished himself in public service. Ambode rose to become the Lagos State Accountant-General before he retired from public service, but many people did not know him then, because he was not in active politics. But, what many people don’t know is that even while in public service, Ambode excelled. It was the period when he was the Accountant-General of Lagos State that former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was in office then withheld monthly statutory allocation to the state, following the creation of 37 new Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) by the Bola Tinubu administration. When that action was taken by Obasanjo, the belief by many was that Lagos State would be starved of funds and the Tinubu administration would be brought to its knees. During this critical period it was Ambode that God used to rescue Lagos State; as he was able to use his wealth of experience to increase the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR). This enabled the Tinubu administration to remain on course and for three years or more that Obasanjo refused to release the allocation, it was the IGR that the government depended on to survive. I believe that a man that deserves credit should not be denied his due; the success of the Tinubu administration cannot be divorced from Ambode’s ingenuity. This is why it didn’t come as a surprise to me when Ambode was announced as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). I knew that he would transform Lagos State beyond expectations. Truly, since he became governor of the state, he has proved his mettle. He hit the ground running and Lagos State has been better for it. It is only those who didn’t know about Ambode’s pedigree that initially doubted his ability to deliver. Today, Lagos State has been a success story under Ambode. But, I also believe that kudos should be given to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for discovering Ambode.
It is believed that other state governors and even the Federal Government have one or two to learn from Ambode’s governance style…
I believe they have a lot to learn from his style of administration, because Ambode has clearly shown that you do not have to be a politician of 30, 40 years experience before you can get it right. Look at how the man has been doing a lot of things at the same time. New roads with fly-over bridges have been constructed in Abule-Egba and other places. A lot of projects are ongoing: look at the new BRT lanes from Abule-Egba to Oshodi. If you get to Ikeja, especially at night, you will think you are in New York City. Also take a trip to Oshodi; a lot of construction works ongoing there. Soon, Oshodi will be transformed into Disneyworld of Nigeria. However, one thing I admire in all these is that projects that are being currently undertaken by Lagos State government are of high standard, because they are being handled by reputable foreign and local contractors. You know there was a time that some of our leaders believe and trust only foreign firms for any construction work. Ambode is not one of such; his administration has been giving jobs to local contractors and they too in turn have been living up to expectation. With new projects and contracts going on in different parts of the state, Ambode has been creating job opportunities for the unemployed. He has been helping to tackle the problem of unemployment. I believe other state governors and even the Federal Government should emulate him.
Which areas would you like the administration to accord top priority this year?
Power is the key to everything. Efforts should be made to ensure that there is stable and steady supply of electricity. There was a time Lagos State government was even talking about Independent Power Projects (IPP). It is a good idea which I will want Governor Ambode to pursue to a logical conclusion. I will also like the Federal Government to make efforts to increase power generation. Look at a country like South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia where stable and electricity is being generated, all their industries are working, and their economy is vibrant. If there is steady power supply in Nigeria today a lot of things that have been moribund will come back to life. If there is steady power supply, industries will function optimally and in the process job opportunities will be created. Not only that, small-scale entrepreneurs like hairdressers, welders and barbers will have work to do. Steady power supply will engineer rapid socio-economic transformation of the country. I implore all stakeholders to do everything possible to ensure that in the coming year 2018 that steady power supply would become a reality.
– The Nation