Ambode and the Megacity Burden by Lekan Fatodu


Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown is an age-old saying no one dares question. But when the crown is that of the governor of such a state as Lagos, uneasy becomes grossly inadequate in describing the magnitude of the task. I’m sure Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, and now Akinwunmi Ambode can readily testify.

While Tinubu and Fashola have respectively lived through the pressure of being the number one man in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Ambode is still coming to terms with it. And it’s not been flattering at all.

Unlike his two predecessors, Ambode took office at a time when citizen interest in governance is at an all-time high. And no thanks to the social media, (almost) everybody now has a voice which they use as they deem fit. On that front, Ambode has been severally stricken; for performance (or a lack of it). He has been variously described with a wide range of adjectives; from the mild to the completely outrageous. The last few weeks must have been extremely grueling for the new governor of Lagos state. Why?

Things have not been at their best. The traffic situation within the state has degenerated seriously in recent times. Not a few roads across the state need serious repair, and the almost sudden return of robbers in traffic and other places have created an air of insecurity. Admittedly, these are sufficient grounds for people to grouse; most especially in Lagos where Fashola has shown, to a reasonable extent, that things can really work.

And Governor Ambode, who possesses alluring credentials in governance having worked in different capacities within the State secretariat and at strategic levels in some local governments in Lagos State, is also believed to hold the key to unlocking a better Lagos. So, to a lot of Lagosians, many of whom have recently had to endure the trauma of armed robbery and the tyranny of traffic snarls, five months are not too early to assess the governor.

At this juncture, I suppose Ambode should reconcile with the fact that the benchmarks for measuring his performance will be higher than those applied to his predecessors; and he must prove to those who believe in him, like my humble self, that he can indeed combine the labour of his political progenitors in achieving the real status of a megacity for Lagos state.

If Tinubu is regarded as the Pathfinder and Fashola, the Actualizer, Ambode must earnestly find a name for himself beyond the ones that were cleverly weaved during his campaign sloganeering. Now that he has come, he must work to rebuild Lagos, and reassure Lagosians that he’s determined to make life prosperous and secure for residents of the state. That way, he can also earn a moniker that is genuinely compatible with his achievements.

First impression, they say, matters, and the impression many Lagosians currently have of their governor is uninspiring. It is however not too late for Ambode to correct any impression that is incongruous with his ability and potential to deliver on good governance.

There is no doubt about the fact that apart from Nigeria as a whole, Lagos state is the most difficult place to govern within the federation. And this is much attested to by the immediate past governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola, during his ministerial screening at the senate a couple of weeks ago.

“My attitude as governor was to see criminals as competitor and in competition, I must win. My job was to ensure that nobody was robbed; for every citizen that was robbed, I had failed. So, I had to get it right and be ahead of the criminals,” Fashola said. ‎

Ambode would do well to employ Fashola’s perspective in viewing the present challenge and outrage by a section of the public. He should see the outcry especially as a wake-up call to improved, responsive and pragmatic governance in the state rather than as an orchestrated onslaught on his competence.

The criminals Fashola alluded to come in different forms with varying sinister intentions, and many of them are constantly lurking around for government to slip so they can have a field day and unleash terror on the society. For instance, the perennial traffic gridlock experienced recently has been attributed to a statement credited to the governor.

Governor Ambode was said to have directed the men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to engage the commuters, particularly the commercial bus drivers, with civility. That pronouncement was misinterpreted by the drivers as powerful immunity against arrest and license to recklessness on the road. Hence, the reactions trailing that pronouncement have been largely negative.

Though in his first quarter report, Ambode highlighted how his team had been working on reviewing the state of security, health, and education within the state amongst other critical areas of priority for his government, the current happening suggests that he must give wings to his policy blueprint.

As someone who keeps faith in Ambode’s dream to move the state from where his predecessor stopped and take it to greater heights, I will suggest that the governor be very cautious of his public pronouncements especially on issues that concern the section of the public that is not particularly lettered.