By Uche Chris
In a few weeks time specifically May 29, the administration of Gov. Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos state will come to an end and he would join the growing rank of ex-governors in the country. Actually, this is no longer news. But in doing so he achieved the infamy and unenvious status of being denied the party’s ticket for a second term.
For any politician and leader, his fate should be the worst nightmare, even worse than a direct defeat in an election, given the fact that Lagos is virtually a one party state. It was both a betrayal by the party which he represented and the triumph of the prebendal political culture inherent in the one man dominance of the politics of the state.
Whereas the party and its leadership in the state are at liberty to decide who to field for the election – after all it was the way Ambode emerge – however, the reason for the action should be clearly and unequivocally stated for the benefit of history. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case in the matter as an alternative narrative of the events is now being propagated by obviously vested interests. This is tragic and should be resisted.
But first a caveat! I have never met the governor or any of his agents or officials. As a senior Editor, that says a lot about his media and PR strategy. This is a clear indication of his naivety and immaturity as a leader in this country. His failure to understand the important role the media and public relations play in governance is symptomatic of how he ended. Compared with Fashola in this regard, he is a complete failure and perhaps deserves what he got.
However, this also was not why he lost the ticket of the party to run for a second term. It was not that he did not perform, contrary to the narrative being canvassed by those who think they can rewrite history. Ambode was dumped because he lost favour with the party chieftains who thought and believed that he was pursuing an alternative agenda and indifferent to their needs and interests.
Ambode is not your typical politician; having spent most of his adult life as a civil servant, he was decidedly unaccustomed to the wily nature of politics. Fashola would have faced a similar fate but he was smart enough to leave politics to the politicians and focused his attention on governance challenges. Ambode felt otherwise and he faced a revolt from the party members.
Undoubtedly, Ambode made a few mistakes as a leader especially given the dynamic and peculiar nature of Lagos politics. The PSP/Visionscape issue was his major albatross and Achilles heels, and the consolidation of state/local government project execution, which deprived the party machinery at the grass-root the usually democracy dividends, sealed his fate.
But that is exactly the issue: without taking full charge of the finances of the states as an accountant, and plugged the leakages that drain government resources, very little could be achieved as we have seen even at the federal level. By going against the grain of party politics in the state, he incurred the wrath of the political carpet baggers and consequently lost the position.
These are the reasons why he lost out; and the party even said so. However, the growing view that he was rejected because of non-performance is contrary to these facts. This view emerged after the commissioning of some projects in the state by President Buhari before he went on his private visit to U.K. Some people have questioned the rationale for commissioning the projects which are yet to be completed.
They argue that government is a continuum and the incoming governor should have been allowed to complete and commission them. The question will also be: who takes the credit for them then? Having disgraced him out of power, is the government likely to give him credit for initiating them? Having removed him for whatever reasons, why does the party want to claim the benefit of his governance?
I agree that government is a continuum especially where one party dominates the state and he should have normally left the projects for his successors to complete. But this is a not a normal situation and the party hierarchy was trying to demonise him for non performance as a reason for his rejection. By commissioning the projects he made the point that he did some great things and no less a person than the president himself acknowledged his performance.
For his detractors, especially Mr. Jimi Disu in his programmes on Classic Radio, Fashola has become a model of performance in the state, yet at this time under Fashola, Ambode’s performance towers above his record. Even after eight full years, what legacy projects can we point to the credit of Fashola except the Ikorodu BRT lanes and the Red and Blue rail project? Not pursuing and completing the later by Ambode was a major disservice to the state although he may have his reasons.
By denigrating the achievements of Ambode and comparing it with Fashola’s we are invariably reducing the standard he has set in governance to the mere routine and mundane. Fashola maintained the roads, built a few ones, kept Lagos clean and improved security. Ambode has not done well on some of these areas. The roads are bad and refuse disposal deteriorated, though orchestrated.
But without diminishing the records of Fashola, Ambode has set a record that few governors will ever match in just four years. Governance is not about doing the routine things such as patching roads and disposing refuse as good as they are. Governance is about taking the society to a higher level of development to improve life and economic activities.
His legacy projects in just four years are unparalleled: The flyover bridges at Ajah, Abule Egba and Pen Cinema which unfortunately may have been abandoned have improved lives in those areas; the eight lane Oshodi-Airport road expansion with a flyover bridge at Nahco junction is unprecedented; the Oshodi Bus Interchange and the Oshodi-Toll-gate road modernization project has greatly raised urban infrastructure. What about the transformation of Epe? Ambode has invested more in security in four years than Fashola in eight years. He commissioned 23 sub urban roads linkngh Lagos and Ogun states in one day, etc.
These are the facts; those who condemn Ambode should do so on the basis on facts not revision of history. He had his problems both personal and political; and made some mistakes for which the political machine in the state pulled the rug under his feet. But he is just human like any other. Long after him the state will look back and remember some of these projects and realized the fallibility of those behind his fall.