Lagos is 50

Some say it is the land of opportunities; others say it is the land of possibilities, yet others describe it as a haven of prosperity, considering that 90 per cent of Forbes-listed Nigerian Billionaires work, live and play in Lagos, it cannot be anything but a Centre of Excellence.

One thing certain is that Lagos, Nigeria’s Commercial Capital and the nation’s most populous city has its own verve, its own colour, its own uniqueness and its own style. Little wonder that you just cannot but Love Lagos, the state of aquatic splendour.

This year, Lagos State is celebrating its landmark birthday. Yes! Lagos is 50-and this golden moment is being celebrated in grandeur, after all, it is not for nothing that they say Lagos never sleeps, and the fun never stops. The famous Eko For Show was in full flow as the city celebrated this important occasion.

Providence must have known that at this remarkable period of its existence, Lagos desired a visionary leader, an ideas man and a workaholic par excellence. That man is Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

When His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in his book, My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence wrote thus “ The most gifted leader is one who does not shape only the present, but a good part of the future. An even rarer type of leader is one who uses his astuteness, intelligence and leadership skills to produce events that shape life and consequently, history. He, in fact, must have been referring to Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Golden Governor of Lagos State.

The man who runs Lagos today, the God-appointed Chief Executive of the state at this momentous moment, who now has the tough task of laying the solid foundation for the next half a century.

As an insider, a dedicated Public Servant, who rose to the enviable position of the Accountant-General of the state, Ambode knew full well that his dream of turning Lagos to a smart mega city will take a lot of work.

From the outset, he said it will be business unusual and that it was time for more work, less talk. His plans were clear from his inaugural address on May 29, 2015.

According to him “As we collectively face the challenge to make Lagos a better place to live in, we must recognize our strength in diversity. A common national identity where everybody counts. I shall run an open government of inclusion that will not leave anyone behind. No matter your age, sex, tribe or any other Status, as long as you reside in Lagos, we will make Lagos work for you.

“Lagosians are hardworking people. Lagos is striving because of its undying entrepreneurial spirit. However we must realise that there are no short-cuts to success. To our youths, we must nurture good family values to succeed in any endeavour.

“I want our younger ones and children to draw some lessons from my story. Anyone of you can rise up to be the best you want to be. Your background and circumstances cannot be an obstacle to your dreams. In our country, particularly in Lagos, you can always succeed. This is the Nigerian dream where hard-work, courage, perseverance, persistence, merit and rewards pay.

“We must therefore embrace new thinking and be determined to succeed at all times. I am ready to encourage and nurture that dream in our children, youths and every hard-working Lagosian. We would reward merit, hard-work and loyalty to the State. The future is for those who dare to dream and find courage to pursue their dreams.

“We are all witnesses to the economic downturn and dwindling revenues at the national and state levels. The present economic situation has affected the financial profile of most states in the country.

“The state is blessed that the foundation of its financial autonomy was designed and implemented by that visioner and our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Thus, the state has been partially shielded from the negative trend flowing from the federal level.

“For us to sustain the progressive and radical transformation on-going in the state, we have to redouble our efforts on all fronts for our commitment to excellence. While we must be creative and innovative; we are not citizens until we become responsible tax payers. I want to assure all of us that I will make your taxes work for you. You will surely get a transparent and incorruptible government that will give you good value for your taxes paid.

“Creativity is the most valuable asset in any public institution. Progressive governments must reward contributors of good ideas. Therefore, wherever practicable, we shall practise government by incentives and not government by enforcement. We shall implement creative ideas and concepts that reduce the cost of running government; ideas that make life simpler and happier for our people.

“I, therefore, invite you all, to join hands with me, to offer new ideas that will pull more resources to cater for the poor and needy amongst us. This will be a compassionate government.”

That maiden speech was a testament to the fact that he knew where Lagos was and had a clear vision of the direction he was taking the state.

In the last two plus years, infrastructural renewal and rural development has formed the core of his interventions. He has touched many aspect of people’s lives from education to transportation, security to agriculture, Lagos has not been the same. Change has truly come!

Ambode is silently achieving, meticulously planning, religiously executing and brilliantly giving results to Lagosians.

Ambode shares Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s deep knowledge of history, his strategic vision, his appreciation of both the interest and values of Lagosians, his tough-mindedness about policies and the ability to be unfazed by challenges.

It is this synergy of ideas that probably informed the open endorsement by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the way and manner Ambode has been running Lagos.

According to the man fondly called Jagaban “Experience is a great teacher and I am experienced. I am on the spot and I have watched things in Lagos since my tenure ended.

“I was worried hell when you (Ambode) took over, not about your credibility, character or capacity, but because however wise or smart a man is, if there is no resources to back the ideas, production would be zero, progress would be zero.

“When you (Ambode) took over, I know you inherited a burden of debt. The debt profile of Lagos was high, I was wondering how you will reengineer and face the challenges to make progress.

“Today, I can see your report card, you have scored well, and you have shown prudency especially in the judicious use of resources of the State. You didn’t disappoint us.

“All over Lagos, we are seeing the results. At Oshodi, on our way down here, you can see what is happening there, that place is a construction site. It used to be a den of robbers but what is going on there now is developmental activities for the benefit of the entire country.

“Ambode is very quiet, very peaceful, not a noise maker, but he is delivering on the job.

“Today, you (Ambode) have given me a good birthday present.

This is a great opportunity for me to be very proud again. Therefore, if we can continue in this direction of infrastructural development in the manner Governor Ambode is moving, Lagos will soon match international states or country anywhere in the world”. What an accolade!

This praise from no less a person than the man fondly referred to as the Architect of Modern Lagos has not slowed down at all, he knows full well that the reward for success means more hard work.

As if that was not enough, Nigeria’s number 1 citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari also spoke glowingly of this latest Action Governor “I have already seen so much attention being paid to security and just earlier on we were at the LASEMA rescue operation unit which we just commissioned. Also here, we are about to commission several security equipment donated to the police and security agencies. In fact virtually all the security agencies including immigrations and Customs including NDLEA are to benefit from this latest gift of the Lagos State Government.

“I must also say that I am impressed with the fact that the whole effort at security is an integrated one and so we have the Light Up Lagos being an important component of that whole effort. I want to say that the Governor of this State deserves our commendation and all of the praise and support that he is getting”

He assured that the Federal Government would continue to support the State Government to actualise several of its projects.

In addition, Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also showered encomium on the Governor of Lagos State for his administration’s programmes and policies at improving the lives of the people of the State.

According to the man fondly called OBJ “I can see the things you are doing here and there to make life worth living for the people of Lagos. Keep it up.” Nothing more to add, the elders haven spoken!

Yes, the task has been challenging, but with the deep theoretical grounding obtained as a dye-in-the wool Accountant, he has brought his expertise to bare in using the scarce resources of the state judiciously despite the recession.

If there is one thing Ambode has in abundance it is the will to innovate, to do things differently. He seems to have taken to heart the words of the late Businessman and Politician, Bashorun MKO who said at a speech delivered on August 21, 1989 in Detroit, USA at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence that “What we need is a technological leapfrog as well as a leap in imagination”.

A good example of his administration’s imaginative thinking is the creative restructuring and layby constructed at the Oworonsoki and Ketu ends of Third Mainland Bridge. Also worthy of note is the dismantling of roundabouts on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. These actions have drastically reduced rush-hour traffic in these areas. In fact one commentator described the feat as a brilliant and bold assault on the Almighty Lagos traffic.

Self-effacing, polite and humble to a fault, a Governor who exudes charisma and determination, Ambode burns with the zest of youth, at 54, he does not show any signs of weariness in the discharge of his duties.

After hectic engagements, some stretching till late into the night, stories abound that he is usually the first on his desk the very next morning.

This was confirmed by his Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna in a birthday tribute titled: Ambode: Celebrating The Product of  “Coconut at 54“

“ Ambode moves about most nights to certain parts of Lagos and whatever black spot he discovers is addressed almost immediately. So once everybody knows that the Governor will personally monitor, they do their bits as diligently as practicable. All the projects he has executed so far are products of a well thought out idea though he invites others to make inputs.

“ His day starts at as early as 6am when he usually wakes having stayed up working till about 3am and sometimes, he may have just returned from inspection of projects around the city. He usually flips through online editions of the newspapers and then the print editions, before setting out to act on matters concerning citizens of the state.

“One day, the Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde and I left the governor at around 1:00a.m. and we agreed to meet him by 9:30a.m. later same day so that he will go through his speech which was scheduled for state wide broadcast at 11:00a.m. To our surprise, the Governor was in the office as early as 6:30a.m. to prepare his speech himself; he only gave it to us to proof read when we got there at 9:30a.m.! Such is the nature of Governor Ambode who has an uncommon passion for the job”

This is the evidence of a man who is disciplined and committed to the cause of taking Lagos to greater heights.

Governor Ambode is the kind of person who strives to get things done, even when they seem impossible. Growing up in the middle-class neighbourhood of Ebute-Metta in Lagos Mainland has ingrained in him a never-say-die, Can-do spirit that propels him to seek for success.

He is passionate, driven and certainly a model of the kind of leaders that Africa desires at this time if it truly wants to move from the nadir, to the zenith of development.

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