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Ambode’s peculiar humility

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Kolade Bamitale

I have read some articles about the Akinwunmi Ambode administration since he mounted the saddle two years ago. I read about apprehension of Lagosians concerning whether he can perform like his predecessor in his early days in office when everything was going wrong.

I read about when he started getting his bearing right in his first 100 days in office and when after one year in office, he has erased my doubts and those of other Lagosians about his ability to take Lagos to the next level. That Ambode will out-perform his predecessor, which is how it should be in any sane society, is not in doubt but that’s not the purpose of this piece.

I rarely write about politicians but this is different. What baffles me is the rare humility of this performing governor. I live in Surulere and work on the Island, so I hardly go to satellite towns of Lagos and outskirts. I didn’t know the rate of transformation that has taken place until a friend of mine who has not visited Lagos in two years, visited via Ibadan -Lagos Expressway recently entering through Berger, called me and shouted on the phone, “whaooo!! This is beautiful! Is this the same Berger”? He was talking to himself and at the same time asking me too many questions but he was very excited.

When I finally answered him, I said I haven’t visited Berger in the last two years because I had no business to take me to that side of Lagos. He then shouted at me, “What do you mean? Please. you must visit  Berger!” I then asked in exasperation because I was dozing off on the couch when his call woke me, “what’s so special about this your Berger? He answered immediately, “so many things boy.’’

I have never seen something like this in this part of the world! It is marvellous! This is how governance should be. This is a big deal.  This must be the longest pedestrian bridge I have seen in Africa. I know my friend who is a critic of every government is not frivolous

He does not appreciate anything except it meets his standard which is almost utopian and I was jolted from my sleep and started wondering what could be so special about this Berger. He visited me the following day in the evening and we both took off for Berger. My complaint about the traffic problem in that part of Lagos fell on deaf ears though I also wanted to see for myself what impressed my friend who is so fastidious.

Lo and Behold, when we got to Berger, my mouth was agape, I was transfixed and I asked the same question, “Is this Berger”? I felt I was in Singapore. All the traffic bottlenecks caused by indiscriminate parking, activities of miscreants and touts were gone. The pedestrian bridge, which criss-crossed the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, is world class. The pedestrian bridge is long and well lit, though I wouldn’t know if it is the longest in Africa as he claimed.

To say I was impressed is an understatement. I was carried away and started thinking if this kind of infrastructure was possible all along. What baffles me most was that Ambode hardly speaks about these things and when I complained to my friend in the course of our discussion on why Ambode was quiet about something like this, he simply told me that, Ambode believes his work should speak for him and that he is not frivolous like some of his colleagues who will execute a project of N10m and will spend N100m to broadcast and advertise it.

My friend further told me he knew Ambode’s Chief Press Secretary who complains that the governor usually disagrees with his proposals to broadcast his achievements. He said the governor usually tells his CPS and Information Commissioner, “let my work speak for me. We don’t need to blow our own trumpet. Let the people see and form their opinion.”

We left Berger and instead of my friend taking me back home as agreed, he had another surprise waiting for me. He suddenly told me, we are not going home yet!

I asked him why and he asked? “Have you been to Aboru of recent”? I said no. He smiled and said with a tone of finality, “we are going to Aboru now.”  I was getting angry because it was getting dark! He only told me, “you will thank me for taking you to Aboru this evening. I want you to see another wonder there.”

I gave up like a prisoner of war. We got to Aboru around 9pm driving through Obafemi Awolowo way, Ikeja, Agege Motor Road, Iyana-Ipaja, areas I have not visited in the last two years and I saw everywhere glowing with streetlights, roads have been rehabilitated and I saw that night life has picked up once again with security personnel at every dark spot and they were very polite.

By the time we got to the Aboru-Abesan Link Bridge, I was lost for words. The bridge is solid and everywhere was bright because of the streetlights. People were moving freely and I could see they were happy. The history of that bridge was not palatable as it has caused many residents of the area to relocate because it was in a terrible state where miscreants robbed those who used the dilapidated bridge.

All that was no more. Again, Ambode did not make any noise about this.

My friend also told me that Ambode is building another flyover bridge at Abule-Egba which is nearing completion.

He has executed projects in all 20 Local Government Areas of the state and 37 Local Council Development Areas in the state apart from other projects, especially the over 600 kilometers of road he has either rehabilitated or reconstructed while two new roads per each Local Council Development Area are ongoing. He has built some mini-water works to improve water supply, built blocks of classrooms in primary and secondary schools, renovated and equipped hospitals across the state and has brought crime rate down to the barest level.

Apart from these physical developmental strides, he has empowered many less privileged groups and associations in the state yet, kept quiet and will not let his media aides talk about these except if journalists cover the event.

Ambode has assisted many individuals that we don’t get to know about. What the people need from their leaders is performance and not big grammar while they do nothing. The people must see a difference in their lives and where this is easily felt is when they enjoy good infrastructure like roads, and pedestrian bridges, medicare, quality but affordable education and security of lives and property.

There is the argument that Lagos is rich, therefore, what Ambode is doing is no big deal. Yes, it may be so, but without sincerity of purpose and the commitment to the welfare of citizens, such wealth of the state, will either be frittered on inanities, white elephant projects or end up in private pockets. We have seen examples of other governors having billions of state funds in their personal bank accounts in the name of security votes and other uncompleted or ‘white elephant’ projects.

Ambode is very kind, a cheerful giver, yet, he doesn’t make a noise. A man of few words but full of action. Be that as it may, Governor Ambode should be praised for what he has been able to do in just two years in the saddle. Indeed, his work is speaking for him already!

  • Bamitale, an investment banker, sent in this piece from Lagos

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