The denial of Ambode of a second term ticket only confirms that in the power game called politics, there are principalities.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State is one of the golden boys of the current generation of governors. A man of great vision, depth and managerial acuity. A great administrator who just wants to get the job done. He may not be a good politician by Nigerian standard of gauging political sagacity. But he is a good leader; a listening leader.
Before the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial primary in Lagos State in which he lost his ticket for a second term bid, Ambode was on the fly. Lagos was one huge workshop. From roads to schools to medicare, Ambode was deeply inclined on delivering a mega and modern Lagos through massive infrastructural development. It was a most promising ambition in urban renewal.
He delivered ‘Light up Lagos’ project which brought illumination to many streets and byways and forced criminals to beat a retreat. He delivered diverse types of roads. He improved on the strategic Lagos rice project; he did so much more.
But Ambode currently seems to have switched off. This became noticeable since the potentate in the state decreed he would be a one-term governor. The denial of Ambode of a second term ticket only confirms that in the power game called politics, there are principalities. There are gods that must be eternally appeased. This is where Ambode erred. He was the good guy doing good works; striving to build the society. He sought after the common good without factoring the place of the principalities and the potentates. Many great administrators suffer this. The jump into the political space with the same administrative template they used in ideal administrative ecosystems. They come with grand idealistic ideas and recipes. But politics, especially Nigerian politics, is neither the ideal nor the archetype of what is normal. It is a turf for the most absurd, a hatchery for the most aberrant.
That singular decree by the Lion of Bourdillon took the wind off Ambode’s sail. In one moment of statewide dormancy, Lagos relapsed into the inactive mode. Road construction across the state suffered multiple degrees of attenuation; zeal took flight; ‘slow down: men at work’ signs gave way to go-slow; uncompleted road projects littered the landscape of this enchanting littoral state. Traffic gridlock, the types never before seen, set in. Lagos is on lockdown. Forget the relative ease on Lagos roads this part of the Yuletide. When the travelled hordes return Lagosians will be back to the deadly traffic that has in recent months traumatized the state.
I am an admirer of Ambode. I believe he was on the right path to delivering a better Lagos until that fateful day when the potentate stretched out his signet to annul his second-term ambition. Unfortunately, Ambode has allowed the event of the primary to douse and dim his enthusiasm. Sadly, too, as things now stand, if Ambode exits the stage today, he would be leaving on a low tide. He would be leaving as the man who came, saw but could not conquer. He would be remembered as a good guy who failed Lagosians when they needed him most.
Lest we forget, we are talking about Ambode, the man who in the eyes of most Lagosians was a five-star performer; a prudent manager and a man of foresight. Though like all mortals, he erred on certain fronts but his good deeds far outnumbered the errors that dogged his path. It is in this context that Ambode must return to Lagos. He must come back to his turf where he earned himself plaudits from the people. Lagos is notorious for bad roads and Ambode was at a time working night and day to fix them. He must come back to these roads. He must bring back the contractors who, it is now obvious, have left site. The pain is much these days on Lagos roads because work on their rehabilitation has either slowed down or completely stopped. This is not the style of pre-APC guber primary Ambode. He must never leave Lagos in this state of infrastructural stasis otherwise he quits a villain not a hero. A colleague was still stuck in Lagos traffic on the Lekki axis two weeks ago by 2.30am. It was utter madness. There is ease now on these roads but that’s all thanks to the Yuletide. From tomorrow, full commercial activities will return to Lagos and with that will also return full traffic distress.
Ambode does not have the luxury of time. By May 29, he is out of the scene. So, how does he want to be remembered? As the man who created the worst traffic scenarios in Lagos? As the man who started so well but ended so badly? God forbid. Nobody expects him to deliver all the projects but he must prioritise them to mitigate the pain of the people. He must give the Airport Road project top priority. Even if everything else fails, Ambode should strive to deliver this legacy. Airport Road is a long-overdue project; a fitting legacy to sign off with by any leader.
Then, he must offer a short term remedy for Lagosians caught off in the Satellite Town-Badagry axis. Whereas no one expects Ambode to bring a closure to this all-important Mile Two-Badagry transport artery, the governor should, meantime, get his hand on the pie by creating a temporary relief for commuters along this axis. He should explore the pos- sibility of completing other projects that are already at the cusp of completion.
Ambode must quit the stage on a high. Never should he allow the misfortune of his party’s primary rob him of his place in history. Again, I am talking about Ambode, the man who at a time in the life of his administration handed over to the state security authorities 100 four-door Salon cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Up vans, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, three Helicopters, two Gun Boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers, revolving lights, siren and public address systems, vehicular radio communicators, security gadgets including bullet proof vests, helmets, handcuffs, etc, uniforms, kits and improved insurance and death benefit schemes for officers. The cost of acquiring the equipment was placed at N4.765bn. Any leader who could do this must love his people.
Ambode loves Lagosians. He fought on the side of the people. When the people cried insecurity, he gave to the police more verve and vibe to contain insecurity. He dreamt of building good roads and opening even the remotest parts of the state to the world but politics threw spanner in the works.
He has barely four months to redeem himself from the inglorious toga of a man that started well but ended badly. He must worry about his place in history. He must worry about where he met Lagosians and where he is leaving them. I trust he will prioritise these projects and deliver the low hanging ones. If he does, he would be signing off on May 29 as a poor politician but a damn good administrator. That’s a better profile than to be branded a good politician but a bad administrator. That way, history will judge him fairly.