By Casmir Igbokwe
Prior to the 2015 elections, the jingle that rent the air in Lagos was, Amboo oh, Ambo..! The picture of a man with folded long-sleeve shirt smiling at residents at strategic corners of the state complemented the song. Not even a strong fight from Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could stop Akinwunmi Ambode from winning the Lagos State governorship contest then.
Today, the lyrics have changed. It is now Ambode Lekan si (Ambode for one more term). Different groups in Lagos are struggling to be the number one producer of this we-have-endorsed-Ambode song. It is such that one wonders if there should even be any governorship election in Lagos at all next year.
The Lagos Youth Initiative (LYI) is one of the groups that have endorsed the Governor for a second term in office. Chairman of the group, Sofuwam Ogungbo, said the endorsement was borne out of the unprecedented achievements of the governor since he took over power in 2015.
The LYI claimed the governor had employed over one million people, majorly youths, as teachers, neighbourhood corps, traffic officers and cleaners across the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas in the state. It promised to organise a one-million-man march in support of the governor’s second term bid in Lagos.
In their own unanimous endorsement, the Chairmen of the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of Lagos State said their support for Ambode was to allow him continue with what they called the massive infrastructural renewal and transformation of all parts of the State. The Chairman of Conference of LGs and LCDAs in the State, Hon Omolola Essien, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said the achievements of the Governor in office so far were visible to all.
Inside this endorsement train also are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House of Representatives from Lagos State and the three senators representing Lagos East, West and Central Senatorial Districts. Their reasons for endorsing the governor for a second term in office are his reported massive infrastructural development and giant strides in all sectors.
The Senators – Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East); Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central) and Solomon Olamilekan (Lagos West) – were particularly proud of Ambode’s achievements and the renewed vigour he had brought to bear on governance since he assumed office. They also commended him for what they called his smart solutions in tackling the traffic and security challenges that initially faced his administration; his strategic partnerships with Kebbi and Kano States and prompt payment of workers’ salaries.
Last month, members of the Association of Nigerian Market Women and Men of Ajah Ultra Modern Market, Ajah, Lagos State, added their voice to this endorsement galore. The Babaoja of the market, Alhaji Rasaki T. Odunlami, said the decision to endorse the governor was taken as a result of his great achievements which were in all parts of the state.
Endorsements notwithstanding, Ambode had endeared himself to the hearts of Lagosians when he reviewed the activities of many of the agencies of the state based on complaints by people. The governor, for instance, permanently banned Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) from Lagos roads and asked the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to restrict their activities in Lagos to the federal highways. He also warned the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to be polite when dealing with motorists.
At the first quarter Town Hall Meeting in 2018, the 10th in the series since his assumption of office, the governor further reeled out his achievements since the inception of his administration. Some of them include a disbursement of a total of N4.5 billion to 5,500 beneficiaries of the Employment Trust Fund (ETF) as at December 2017; presentation of keys to beneficiaries of the first set of allottees of Lagos State Rent-To-Own Housing Scheme; creation of Neighbourhood Safety Corps and beautification of the state with the erection of monuments, parks and gardens.
The governor also boasted of commissioning the first state-owned DNA Forensic Centre in Nigeria and West Africa; disbursement of a total sum of N635.5 million to 8,419 students across the state tertiary institutions; and acquisition of health care equipment worth N2.5 billion.
He listed some of the key projects delivered last year to include the new Tafawa Balewa Square Bus Terminal, new Ojota Pedestrian Bridge, Aboru-Abesan link Bridge and adjoining inner roads, Ojodu Berger Slip Road and Pedestrian Bridge, Jubilee Bridges in Ajah and Abule Egba, Freedom and Admiralty Roads in Lekki, new Lands Registry, and newly upgraded Jubilee Chalet in Epe.
Some projects still under construction are Agege Pen Cinema flyover, the Oshodi transport interchange, which comprises pedestrian bridges, shopping malls, CCTVs, and Oshodi International Airport Road.
Ambode enthused that the newly commissioned Ikeja Bus Terminal was one of his administration’s flagship transport infrastructure under the State Bus Reform Initiative. According to him, the first phase of this programme will see 13 new Bus terminals introduced including major terminals at Oshodi, Yaba, Ojota, Agege and the already completed Tafawa Balewa Bus Terminal.
Late last month, President Muhammadu Buhari visited Lagos State to unveil this ultra-modern Ikeja Bus Terminal. He particularly commended Governor Ambode for his developmental strides in the last three years, saying the projects were indeed laudable. He also commended Lagos State for also developing rail infrastructure to cater for movement of its growing population.
However, not all Lagosians are happy with Ambode. The Presidential visit provided the platform for his critics to table some of their grievances. A civil society organisation, the Save Lagos Group, lamented that the State Government allegedly lost the sum of N1.28b to the visit of the President. It also pegged the total cost of the visit, which it called a jamboree, at N4.7bn.
Convener of the group, Comrade Adeniyi A. Sulaiman, wondered why “the Akinwunmi Ambode-led government would seek to advertise its non-performance by dragging the president of the country to Lagos to commission a motor park.”
He decried the untold hardship the visit subjected Lagosians to, as many people had to walk long distances to their various destinations. There were reports that some citizens were even brutalized by security operatives. This is why Sulaiman expressed the fear that “an emerging fascist style is gradually becoming the order of the day in Lagos.”
Ambode had promised to make Lagos work for everybody, irrespective of age, sex, or tribe. But he touched the raw nerves of some people when his administration recently repealed the 16-year-old Land Use Charge law. The state government enacted a new one which hiked the rates to the discomfort of many residents.
Although the governor was forced to slash the rates, the Save Lagos Group called on the state House of Assembly to commence the processes that would lead to the repeal of this law and some others. Failure to do this, the group warned, it would begin a two-month occupation of the Lagos State Secretariat in Alausa, Ikeja. Ambode should watch it because a number of people are already thinking of moving their investments to some other states, especially Ogun State, which is close to Lagos.
There are some other potholes the governor needs to fill to make his second term bid a smooth sail. One of such is cleanliness of the state. All his efforts in this area, including the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, appear not to be working. Many roads and streets are so littered with refuse that you begin to wonder what has gone wrong with the waste disposal system of the state.
Besides, while the governor has concentrated in reconstructing major roads and bridges, the inner streets are begging for attention. A lot of them are riddled with potholes and need some form of redemption. Some portions of Okota, Lawanson/Ijesha roads are typical examples. In fact, a combination of potholes and refuse heaps has made Lawanson in Surulere an eyesore. Lagos public works agency should do well to identify some of these bad portions and fix them.
His drawbacks notwithstanding, Ambode is as good as coming back to Alausa to complete his tenure. Though the endorsement singsongs are typical way of politicians, the governor appears not to have any serious opposition in the state.
The PDP that should have provided an alternative is sleeping. I don’t see the party doing much in the coming election in Lagos. This is notwithstanding the boast by the spokesman of the party in the state, Toafik Gani, that the PDP would defeat Governor Ambode in the 2019 poll. What the major opposition party has done so far is to call for the disqualification of Ambode for allowing his supporters to organize solidarity rallies which the party sees as violation of the Electoral Act.
One message I have for Ambode is that when he gets to his second term paradise, he should remember not to kill his people with high taxes and rates.
First published in The Sun of Monday, 09 April 2018