Without a leader, black ants are confused. ~Ugandan proverb
Several years ago I was in a plane with a senior colleague going into South Africa. As the plane started descending, my senior colleague started to talk about how so much advanced South Africa was in contrast to Nigeria. He said as you descended into the country, the difference could be seen from the sky. The street lights lining the road were so orderly and welcoming that it gave up a sense of law, order and direction. It was such a contrast to Lagos or Nigerian cities where you were greeted by darkness on either take off or landing.
I took that in my heart and as went into one advanced country after the other, I took time to notice the phenomenon of street lights.
One of the things that has always baffled me till date is the blindness of Nigerian politicians and leaders. These are people that own expensive homes in Dubai and several other countries. People who have visited several countries in the world and yet can’t lift their states beyond the level they see. It is shocking that some of the most travelled of our leaders preside over the dirtiest of states, preferring to use the money to pursue one reckless venture after the other.
So I was pleasantly surprised one night as I came into Lagos from South Africa on an early Arik air flight to see the city transformed. The night view was so different that I just had to take a look. “How did he manage it?” I asked myself. Nigeria was in the midst of its worst electricity crisis in several ages. The areas around looked dark and forlorn but the street lights were shinning. Hmmmm I thought, let’s give it some time. Several months later as my Arik flight descended again, I noticed that even more areas were lit. I was so impressed that I had to take pictures and do this write up.
Now, I must admit that at the time of elections, I voted Jimi Agbaje over Ambode. In the course of the election, I believed Ambode to have a more riveting campaign but Jimi Agbaje to have a clearer course of action. I danced to the sounds of Ambo, Ambo … But voted to the wisdom of the Agbaje manifesto. After 16 years, I felt that AD/APC could have done better with Lagos than we had seen. Since change was sweeping through the country, we might as well have change.
Well, the initial days of Ambode were filled with guffaws and snags. Terrible traffic, several issues and at one point, it looked as if the government would suffer a melt down. It just seemed that the shoes he came to fill were too huge for him.
But a couple of things caught my attention about Ambode that slowly made me accept his leadership. First of all, he was visible. We could see him at the forefront of things happening. The roads were bad, Ambode was there paying attention, visiting the matter and letting us know he was doing something. The traffic was bad, we saw him on social media stopping his car and accosting offenders. We saw his efforts in buying vehicles for the police, equipping traffic enforcement officers, holding briefings with traffic police and generally just doing something.
When the kids were kidnapped from a school, Ambode was on air personally leading the crusade to get the kids back. He promised us that the kids would be back and he delivered. When there was a fracas in mile 12 market, Ambode was there. He visited the place, took proactive action and stopped the fracas before it went out of hand.
I don’t quite agree with all of the Lagos governor’s actions. For example his new law on street hawkers amongst others but, I must admit that generally, he has been a great leader.
Did Lagos have problems? Yes, it had huge ones. Huge public debt from a previous administration, reduction in revenue and several other problems leading from the larger issues all of Nigeria was facing. But what caught my eye was the way Ambode dealt with them. Just like the federal government, Ambode was preceded by a predecessor tainted with charges of corruption. I am sure we can all remember #boreholegate, #600Mcarparkgate amongst others. Ambode took over from a Fashola government that literally went to sleep in the last 3 years of its 8-year sojourn.
But unlike the federal government, the governor of Lagos State recognized that this was just one of the myriad of problems facing his administration. After the initial few months of seeming rifts between him and the past governor, we saw a moving on and surging forward. Not since then have we heard him complain about how he can’t move on because of the sins of the past government.
We are aware his administration also had huge problems with bills and unresolved issues coming from the past administration but he didn’t let this deter his set course and plans. One key campaign promise of his centered around security. He promised to make Lagos safe and we have seen his efforts around that. Everything in government starts with safety. Investors feel good to invest when there is assurance of safety. That is why we see the roads lit by streetlights, why we see the vehicles, helicopters and safety apparatus bought and deployed by the government. Why we all that live in Lagos have a sense of safety.
Above all, the governor is visible. There is single communication coming from him and his camp. We have a full sense of direction and where he is going. There is no ambiguity about his government and his agenda is very clear. It is no doubt that in spite of severe revenue drain, Lagos is seen as the hope of Nigeria and the governor is receiving accolades left, right and center.
Well done Governor Ambode. I truly wish the rest of the APC government and leadership would look at what you are doing, take a leaf from it and move this our great country forward.