The art of selfless service By Segun Ayobolu

ambodeThe year was 2005. At that time he had absolutely no inkling he would be seeking elective office in future. Writing in the maiden edition of Fegocowosa, the official magazine of his Alma Mata’s alumni association, he rallied old students of the school to give back to the institution that had given them so much. In his words, “We must see to it that the Fegocowosa journal is adequately supported as an effective communication link that will not only bond us together but will become a useful tool in communicating the need to revisit the ideals of Unity Schools by the relevant authorities as well as serve as an inspiration to members to address the compelling subject of leadership challenges in the country”.

In year 2006, he had no notion that he would one day be at the very centre of partisan politics. In his column in that year’s edition of the journal, he wrote passionately: “Nigeria is in dire need of people who will appreciate its very abundant human and natural resources; people who will appreciate its strength in diversity, people to whom places of birth (a coincidence of which none of us actually had a choice) should be inconsequential in making national decisions; people, who as brothers and sisters, would naturally elect to aid weaker siblings to greater heights without any feelings or cries of being drawn back…Nigeria at this moment more than any other time needs leaders who love the country and whose utmost desire is to share this love among the children of Nigeria”.

His column in the 2007 edition of the magazine was even more soul stirring, patriotic and impassioned. His essay in that edition was titled ‘The Future Is Now’.  In his words, “It seems to me that we are on the threshold of another independence; this time not from a colonial master, but from a culture of decadence, corruption, mediocrity, dishonesty and tribalism. We are the new founding fathers of a nation of new hope; a Nigeria of honesty and unity; a Nigeria of brotherhood and progress. A Nigeria that is ready to make sacrifices to ensure that all those who previously bent their heads in shame can hold their heads up high, hand on heart and proclaim, “Yes, I am Nigerian and proud to be! I invite you to be part of the great and positive future, the time is now!”

In the 2008 edition of the journal, the subject under consideration posed several questions bothering his mind in his column.  In his words “why do we have such hopelessness on our streets? Why do we see such unpatriotic behaviour, such naked sabotage permeating every strata of society? Why have we let go of optimism? Why have we traded faith for greed? Why have we dropped the ball? Why have we jettisoned service for self service?…when we find ourselves in or  with less than perfect circumstances, what we are meant to do is to make the best of a bad job. Easier said than done but thank God for the storms of life, thank God for the floods, for the traffic, for the lack, all these things are designed for us to come into our own; to serve, to help our brothers and sisters get up, to rise, to step up to the plate and be counted”.

When he expressed these thoughts, Mr AkinwunmiAmbode, the leading candidate for next week’s governorship election in Lagos State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was not seeking for votes. He had no idea he would one day be running for the governorship of the most important state in Nigeria. We can thus see that long before his foray into the turbulent terrain of politics, Mr Ambode had imbibed and was a fervent advocate of such values as patriotism, love, commitment, loyalty, compassion and, above all, selfless service. He did not just wake up to propound these values in an opportunistic manner to achieve his electoral ambition.

By the way, the acronym Fegocowosa stands for Federal Government College Warri, where Ambode obtained his Ordinary and Advanced level certificates. Under Ambode’s leadership and guidance, the old students Association of FGC, Warri, has expanded to encompass alumni of other Unity Colleges both within and outside the country, including the U.K. and U.S. chapters. His efforts led to the incorporation in 2006 of the Unity Schools old Students Association (USOSA) made up of Alumni of 100 Unity Schools in Nigeria. Their main purpose is to revitalize and nourish back to health the concept of Unity Schools which had been allowed to fall to the lowest nadir along with the decay of the entire society.

To the best of my knowledge, Ambode is the first, or one of the very few aspirants in this dispensation who have taken time to methodically and meticulously document in book form, the story of his life from childhood to the present. His biography, ‘The Art of Selfless Service’ is the source of this column’s title today. I am unaware that Mr Akin Ambode’s main opponent, Mr Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has a comparable document apart from what can be gleaned from his website. OtherwiseI would have been duty bound to compare and contrast the two documents just like I did with their respective CVs a few weeks ago.

Next Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections in Lagos State will no doubt be the most important in the country after the presidential election. This is because of the position of Lagos as the economic, commercial and industrial hub of the nation. I have heard the argument that just as there has been change at the centre, there should be change in Lagos where the progressives have held sway since 1999. This kind of argument delinks the concepts of change and continuity from concrete existential realities. The necessity for change at the centre was predicated, not on the long duration of the PDP in power but its utter mediocrity, impunity and degeneracy that has set the country backward particularly in the Jonathan years. In contradistinction, Lagos has made visible and undeniable progress in virtually all sectors under the progressives making continuity imperative in the state for continued progress.

Now, what was responsible for the close margin of votes between the APC and PDP in the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Lagos State and what will be the implications for next week’s election? First, was the humongous amounts of money (dollars) poured into the state by the centre in the weeks preceding the election. The second reason was the active instigation of non-indigenes in Lagos against indigenes by the divisive Jonathan Presidency. Third, was the complacency of the APC, which took it for granted that massive victory was already in its hands given its popularity in the state and the appalling non-performance of the Jonathan administration.

The result of last week’s election will, no doubt, energise Jimi Agbaje’s fledgling and stuttering campaign that never really got off the ground. His performance this time around is a far cry from the creative, vigorous and vibrant campaign he ran in 2007. The outcome of the presidential election should now demonstrate to the good pharmacist that the PDP, on which he seems to have pinned all his hopes is a giant with feet of clay. On the other hand, the APC will most likely be jolted out of its complacency and fully mobilise its cadres to come out massively in the next election and demonstrate which party actually controls the electoral space in Lagos. It will be an interesting election. I wish the contestants best of luck.

NATION