EDITORIAL: Governor Akinwumi Ambode must sit up!
Barely six months ago when he was campaigning for the governorship of Lagos State, arguably the number one state in Nigeria, there were great expectations that Mr. Akinwumi Ambode would continue to make Lagos the centre of excellence, which it had become in recent years. The expectations were not based on a wrong set of assumptions. To begin with, Mr. Ambode is no stranger to the governance of Lagos State. He had functioned variously at the local government and state levels in very high capacities. As a professional, his educational qualification is very impressive and in fact impeccable. Having served two previous governors, who were adjudged to have performed creditably well, former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the immediate past Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, many expected Governor Ambode to follow that tradition of excellence and continue to provide Lagosians with first class governance.
Four months after the fact, there are many Lagosians who will not be in any hurry to admit that their expectations have been fully realized. Four months is surely a very short a time to measure the performance of a governor with a four-year mandate, but as the Yoruba would say, ‘morning shows the day’. Mr. Ambode’s initial responses to the overarching demands of Lagos State have been below par, and that is regrettable. While it is true that underwhelming performances by the governorship class of 2015 is not a phenomenon limited to Lagos alone, there is a reason why Lagosians feel particularly worried about their own situation. To begin with, Lagos is not like any other state in Nigeria. As Lagosians would like to say, theirs is a state that other states talk about. It is Nigeria’s richest state and the heartbeat of its industrial economy. It is also Nigeria’s most populous, most sophisticated and most cosmopolitan.
Beginning with former Governor Lateef Jakande, successive governors of Lagos State have tended to perform rather creditably. Exception must of course be made of former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola who set a new record for mediocrity and the late Governor Michael Otedola, who was humbled by his inability to be decisive. But overall, Lagos has had a fair share of successful governors.
One must recall the tenure of former military governor Brigadier General Buba Marwa, who won the hearts of Lagosians with his decisiveness in combating the menace of criminality in the state. In many parts of Lagos, he is still revered as a cult hero. Of course, memories are still fresh of the immediate past Governor Babatunde Fashola who exceeded previous performances, and raised the bar of governance. Fashola’s attention to the environmental needs of Lagos, his responses to the chaotic traffic situation, his combative approach to criminality and his overall code of governance endeared him to many Lagosians. As a matter of fact, many including this newspaper content that it was on the basis of Mr. Fashola’s achievement that Mr. Ambode rode to office as the winner of the 2015 governorship election.
It is therefore regrettable that since the assumption of office of Mr. Ambode, Lagos has gradually slipped on all the indices of progress which the previous administration established. The chaotic traffic situation which used to be the dominant characteristic of the state and which Mr. Fashola tamed has returned with a vengeance. These days, movement within the metropolis has become a nightmare; the roads are clogged, as it usually takes between four and five hours for people to get to their homes and offices and to other areas of business.
The question many Lagosians are asking is, what is really happening to traffic control in Lagos? How did the previous administration tame the monster? And why has it resurrected within a short period of time? And more importantly, what is the administration doing to contain it?
Secondly, armed robbery, kidnapping and sundry criminality has returned with a vengeance. Almost on a daily basis, Lagosians are regaled with frightening stories of dare-devil armed robbers wrecking havoc on harmless citizens.
It does not matter the location and it does not matter how highly placed the individual: robbers terrorise, kidnap, rob and maim. Only a few days ago, a highly placed government official was brutally murdered in broad daylight by a gang of hoodlums. A few weeks ago, the wife of a leading journalist was kidnapped for ransom, and last week armed robbers cordoned off a major street in Festac town and robbed banks in mid-morning. We could go on and on recounting these incidents, the list is inexhaustible. This is sad and unacceptable.
It is true that Mr. Ambode, like many of his other governor colleagues inherited an economy that is bleeding, but with the respect to him, we insist that it is not enough reason to justify the poor performance.
The hallmark of leadership is to evolve creative responses to challenges that confront leadership. It is therefore incumbent on the administration of Governor Ambode to evolve responses, and quickly too, to the problems confronting Lagos State. Lagosians are notoriously impatient with inefficient leadership. Already, this newspaper has noted the concern expressed by a cross section of Lagosians over this ugly situation. It is clear that unless there is improvement, the citizens of Lagos State will become increasingly disaffected with the Ambode administration and that will not bode well for the government. Lagos is not a typical state in Nigeria; it is rather a model state. Its self-acclaimed status as the centre of excellence is truly justified. Its leadership, therefore, should also be a model of excellence.
The governance of Lagos State should be all-embracing. All the inhabitants should be involved and integrated within the governance structure. The best brains and most qualified professionals in different areas of life live and work in Lagos, and so the administration should tap into this treasure trove of human and material resources. We find it puzzling for instance, that it took four months for the administration to name its cabinet. There is no justification for that at all, unless the government was copying the Federal Government, and it had no reason to do so. Now that the administration has named its commissioners, we hope they will come on board and hit the ground running. We urge Mr. Ambode to wake up and face the challenges of governing the most cosmopolitan state in Nigeria and give it the attention it requires. If he does not sit up, the situation stands the risk of degenerating. And that will be a real tragedy not just for the government but also for all Lagosians.