Ambode: Fresh Path To Lagos Progress By Qasim Akinreti, PhD
The 2019 election campaigns are under way. In most States people are already getting familiar with likely aspirants from different political parties and for various offices. We are experiencing shift in political gear and defections across party lines.
Astoundingly, impression of likely political wrestling in the months ahead in Lagos State is not yet visible. There are only signs there would be contest for the House of Assembly and not the number one post. This is happening for the first time since 1998. An honest examination of apathy from the side of oppositions at this period can better be explained from the general consensus that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode hasn’t just done a good job so far, he has done a great job.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode took over the mantle of leadership of the most populous State in Africa- Lagos, in May 2015.  He inherited the governance structure of a predecessor who though credited with a number of achievements largely viewed as an elitist. Ambode rightly interpreted his environment, and early in his campaign reflected his devotion to inclusive growth and development and the need to connect with the grassroots, as well as the nooks and crannies in the state.  It is no coincidence, therefore, that his administration has focused on securing a better life for Lagosians while building a more enduring Lagos.
As expected, several questions have been asked on intent and content of public policies and project execution under the Ambode government. In the context of an economy that is seriously challenged, most Lagosians have no hesitation in acknowledging Ambode’s passionate approach to governance which has convinced all that he has all it takes to take Lagos to the Promise Land.
At this juncture, the question is why are people currently expressing their desire to have the Ambode’s tenure extended? Perhaps, the answer lies in Ambode’s fresh path to Lagos progress. No doubt, his public service background really aided his understanding of the state’s development plan. This gives him a firm grasp of the various issues involved in the state’s transformation agenda. Surely, the talk in town now is that Lagosians did not make a mistake in electing him governor. Good enough, the governor’s approval rating is essentially anchored on concrete evidences of performance.
On the index of economic growth and development, Lagos is relatively doing better. A key secret of Lagos’ economic growth as contained in account of stewardship recently reeled out during Ministerial Press briefing by the Commissioner for Finance; Mr. Akinyemi Ashade is revenue enhancement reforms. The aim of the reform is to achieve higher Internally Generated Revenue (“IGR”) levels to provide a sustainable financial base for bridging the huge infrastructure deficit estimated at over US$50bn. This has necessitated implementation of financial policy such as widening of the State tax net, expansion of tax base, updating/upgrading of databases, improvement of administrative processes and operational efficiencies, among others.
Lagos, no doubt, is performing at position similar to how cities such as Chennai and Hyderabad in India and Medellin in Columbia had in the past outperformed and outshone their national government in promoting growth and poverty reduction. The current administration has not only prioritized researching into it infrastructure deficit but has made infrastructure deficit financing a key segment of its financial policy.
Again, Lagos not only means business, it is reforming its processes digitally and humanly setting up shop as the most desirable destination for commerce, industry and tourism. The emerging landscape of the 10-lane Murtala Muhammed Airport Road, Oshodi Transportation Interchange, the JK Randle Cultural Centre, the development of waterways and rail infrastructures, Oshodi-Abule-Egba Bus Rapid Transport route and first DNA centre in West Africa gradually rises into view.
In any society, education is the forerunner of growth and viable development. Logically, therefore, the Ambode Administration places greater prominence on education as demonstrated in the diverse infrastructure and human capacity development that have taken place in the sector in the last three years. The driving factor of the Administration in all its investments in education is access of all to qualitative education regardless of social status.
The health sector has also witnessed numerous revolutionary initiatives such as the inauguration of helipad at LASUTH, commissioning of ambulances, mobile clinics among others. These accomplishments in turn testified to the Governor’s clarity of vision, firmness of purpose and above all, his unequalled passion for Lagos’ progress.
A crucial sector that has been very germane to the viability of the State’s economy and its strides in the State’s infrastructural renewal drive is the justice sector; this is because most of our lives and interactions with each other are regulated by law.
Only few appreciates the critical role of this sector that has been very vital to the State’s race to actualize its optimal potential because the yardstick for measuring government’s achievements in our clime is still largely based on the numbers of physical projects that people can see and identify with.
Ambode administration has maintained the tradition of keeping the ‘Centre of Excellence’ at the vanguard of good governance through sound reforms in the justice sector. To combat criminal tendencies, the state government now has a Crime Data Register (CDR). CDR is an electronic repository of information about suspects and offenders who pass through any of the prisons in Lagos State. Similarly, the State’s Anti-Land Grabbing Law reflects the thinking of the state government in using the instrumentality of the law to reduce the stress that Lagos residents pass through in the hand of land speculators. Interestingly, the state government is poised to enforce the anti-land grabbing law against anyone found wanting, no matter how highly placed in the society. This, no doubt, is good for the society.
Similarly, in an effort to eliminate cases where criminals escape justice due to non-availability of facilities to conduct forensic tests and keep records, the state government now has a DNA Forensic Centre. The centre, which is to address the urbane nature of crimes in the state is equally meant to fulfill an unmet need for DNA profiling, a forensic technique that is now used worldwide. It is also expected to gear towards enabling proper investigation, prosecution of crimes, adjudication and the administration of justice in the State.
While many people have heard about Employability Support Project of the State, everyone may not yet know that the loan application process was much smoother than might be expected. But that is the fact. In fact, a lot less was required than a bank would ask you to provide. With the level of jobs created so far and number of Lagosians being added into the tax net, other States could learn a lot even if they won’t establish a Ministry of Wealth Creation like Lagos, the idea of embarking on human capital empowerment by introducing free skills training and retraining and provision of soft loans to enable youths establish their own businesses is worthy of understudying and replicating.
It is of note to observe that come 2019 when the framework of LSETF would be due for revision, the target would be to have disbursed loans to at least a 100,000 businesses with the overall target of creating at least one million jobs within same period.
However, as much as many subscribes to Ernest Agyemang Yeboah’s maxim that: “If you want to feel the sunshine, change position!” the Ambode administration need to still do more on its Cleaner Lagos Initiative. The policy is understood but Lagosians would love it translated in operation to more cleaner and condusive environment.
Be that as it may, the doggedness and passion of Akinwunmi Ambode for advancing the progress of Lagos is not in doubt. Without a doubt, if Vision 2025 of the State is pursued with the same vigour that gave rise to current development predisposition in the state, Lagos and Lagosians would be the better for it.
Dr. Akinreti is the Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council
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