Ambode: A testimonial, by Yemi Ajayi

Lagos governor Akinwunmi Ambode

Before the advent of the Babatunde Fashola administration, driving through Oshodi, which I had to do to get to my office then at Fatai Atere Way, was one of the most harrowing experiences I had to go through five days a week.

The two alternative routes to my office, passing through Ikorodu Road to connect Ilupeju By-pass or through the Airport Road to link up Ladipo via Five Star, were to say the least equally unattractive. The traffic on those alternative routes was as hellish as that of Oshodi.

Then, one Sunday after the first New Year of having Fashola as governor, I drove through Oshodi on my way to work and my “flabber was gasted.”

The orderly chaos that was the defining persona of Oshodi was totally absent. I was confronted with a new Oshodi devoid of its characteristic heavy human and vehicular traffic. There were phalanxes of policemen here and there to prevent a breach of the peace after a dawn demolition of illegal structures that also provided habitats for criminals who tormented motorists and passers-by.

That singular act marked the beginning of my romance with Fashola. I became his implacable supporter. He had by restoring order to Oshodi not only reduced my commuting time from home to work, my daily fuel consumption dropped by as much as 55%.

In a nation devoid of a standard metric for measuring the performance of public office holders, it also set for me a template in assessing leaders.

It is in that light I’m viewing the ongoing crisis of succession in Lagos State being championed by those trying to deny Fashola’s successor, Akinwunmi Ambode, the conventional right of first refusal.

Many reasons have been pushed into the public space on why Ambode must give way to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the favourite pick of Tinubu’s political machinery, the Mandate Group, and they range from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Unfortunately, none of the reasons I’ve come across so far has much to do with majority of Lagosians on whose votes Ambode is in office.

As someone who has lived in Lagos for almost 40 years, I can say that Ambode has added to the building blocks of the foundation laid by his predecessors. Lagos to me is better now in terms of infrastructure and service delivery in some areas than it was before.

The governor has wormed his ways into my heart, and those of millions of others, with the construction of inner road network, especially within the Ifako-Ijaiye Alimosho corridor.

Within my Alakuko neighbourhood, there are at least nine ongoing inner road projects. Some of them are in areas where the residents had lost hope of ever feeling government’s presence.

He has made interventions in other areas such as tackling Lagos perennial traffic congestion through the construction of laybys, flyovers and pedestrian bridges.

I can’t forget my first day of driving through Ojodu-Berger in a bid to access the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. It was a detour I had to grudgingly make as that route is one I avoid like a plague for its notorious traffic.

But on this day, I had to take my chances as all alternative routes to access the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway through Agidingbi to connect Otedola Underpass were choked with traffic.

Surprisingly, the Ojodu-Berger axis was not only uncharacteristically free from traffic, I could have missed my way due to the changed landscape that followed the reconstruction of the area. The reconstruction had not only led to the removal of all traffic impediments but saw to the expansion of the road.

There is no doubt that while Ambode had done well in the area of infrastructure, his performance has been average in other areas, especially in refuse disposal. Many residents are also not happy with his administration with the hike in Land Use charges.

However, as a property owner, I can say that the hike in the Land Use charges isn’t as hurtful as it was made to be, especially after the governor bowed to public outcry and ordered a review.

Although what I paid as Land Use charges is now far higher than what I had been paying in the last eight years, I don’t need to rob a bank or take a loan to pay up.

But his performance notwithstanding, there has been an intense campaign to ensure he doesn’t return in an election that is his to lose.

The governor has been accused of not deserving a second term for not servicing the greed of APC leaders in the state, among others.

But in all this, where stands the interest of the electorate who put in Ambode in office and whose welfare is the purpose of governance?

Unfortunately, the electorate is being railroaded to rally behind his main challenger for the post, Sanwo-Olu.

Certainly, the APC leaders are pursuing a selfish agenda which they’re deceitfully dressing as a push for better life for Lagosians.

For what it’s worth, Ambode might not have done well in all areas of governance, but he has performed well enough to earn a second term in office.

Those who’re pushing the argument that he should go and test his popularity at the party’s direct primary are being disingenuous in their advocacy. The direct primary, abinitio, has been rigged for him to lose.

That argument would have had any veneer of credibility if all other elective posts had been thrown open for contest.

So far, I’m not aware that Senators Remi Tinubu and Adeola (Yayi) have any serious challengers for their tickets. That is so because the party establishment has decreed it be.

If it’s sauce for the senators and others, it should be sauce for Ambode.

There is no doubt that the political fortune of Ambode and President Muhammadu Buhari are tied together, which is the more reason why good reasoning should prevail in this matter. More worrisome to me is the economic impact of this needless impasse when all of us know that instability in Lagos would have spiral effects on the national economy.

It’s therefore morally and politically expedient to allow the governor finish the good work he has been doing.

  • Ajayi, a journalist, writes from Lagos