Ambode: Inclusion as solution
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Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode made history when he delivered the Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on May 8. His words: “True, I stand before you as the first UNILAG graduate to become Governor of Lagos. I am humbled by this distinction and elated to be the first to walk this path.” The title of his lecture was “Inclusion: Path to a new nation.”
He told the 2017 graduands: ”In 1984, I attended a convocation much like today’s. On that day, I sat where you, now sit. I was an eager yet apprehensive young man set to graduate at 21. Although ready to tackle the world and make my mark, I was also a bit uncertain about what that world and life would bring.”
How Ambode rose to his current position illustrates the power of performance. Between 1988 and 1991, he was assistant treasurer, Badagry Local Government, Lagos State. Ten years later, he became auditor general for Local Government in Lagos State. In 2005, Ambode was appointed permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance.
As accountant general for Lagos State from 2006 – 2012, Ambode was “in charge of all the financial activities of the state and directly responsible for over 1400 accountants in the state service.” It is to his credit that “under his watch, the State Treasury Office (STO) revolutionised the way Lagos State finances were raised, budgeted, managed and planned.” Also to his credit: ”In his six years as the Lagos State accountant general, the state’s financial performance improved visibly with the budget performing at a remarkable average of 85% annually.”
These features of Ambode’s profile demonstrate that he is probably the most experienced individual in terms of familiarity with the state civil service operations to attain the position of governor since Lagos State was created in 1967. After a 27-year civil service career, Ambode voluntarily retired in 2012 and started a consulting career. Then politics came up. It is interesting that he was governor when Lagos celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017.
In three years as the governor of Nigeria’s most developed state, Ambode has shown that the pursuit of development requires politics of development. Through his concept of “One Lagos,” Ambode has promoted inclusive governance as key to inclusive growth. It is commendable that his administration’s inclusive governance and inclusive development efforts continue to drive development at the grassroots.
A winning governor will attract endorsements that are justifiable. So, it is logical and predictable that Ambode is enjoying an abundance of justifiable endorsements. He is qualified to seek reelection and his endorsers are backing him for a second term in office. The beauty of the endorsements is that they are based on what he has to show for his time in office so far. In other words, he has attracted powerful endorsements through the power of his performance.
The point is that Ambode represents forward-looking governance, which Lagos needs to develop. Listed 12th among the world’s largest 35 cities in 2015 when Ambode became governor, the former federal capital is work in progress, and the development-related results of Ambode’s progressive efforts are unmistakable and applaudable.
The range of Ambode’s vision leaves no room for underdevelopment in any area, whether it is lighting up the city, keeping the city clean, building homes, rebuilding roads, providing security, tackling transportation, building theatres and so on.
It is noteworthy that Ambode, in his lecture, modestly acknowledged the work of specific previous governors. “First, the administration of Asiwaju Tinubu and then that of Babatunde Raji Fashola, moved the master plan from concept to concrete reality,” he noted, adding, “My administration is both a beneficiary of their work as well as a continuance of that work. We strive to go further because we have the opportunity to build upon what they have done.” Now the state has developed to the point where the Ambode administration is talking about turning Lagos into a Smart City.
It was appropriate that he mentioned some of his achievements as governor. He observed: “In every way, our infrastructure is improved. Our roads are better, our mass transportation has expanded, hospitals give better care to the sick and afflicted, education is improving and more affordable housing is being constructed before our very eyes.”
Remarkably, Ambode focused on the subject of inclusion in his convocation lecture. He said: “Here, I offer Lagos State as an example of what is possible for all Nigeria and Nigerians when we practice the governance of inclusion instead of the old, malign ways of exclusion… You see, the inclusion I talk about is more than a pretty word to say; so that I sound like some type of enlightened politician.” He added: ”Inclusion is a principle by which we put to constructive use the full industry and skills of the people; Rich and Poor, Old and Young, Men and Women, Boys and Girls. This results in greater individual and collective productivity…Inclusion is not only the moral thing to do, it is the smart thing as well.”
It is testimony to Ambode’s quality governance that the country’s other states cannot resist applauding his governance model. He has shown that well-rounded governance is an expression of well-rounded thinking, and has demonstrated the possibilities of political governance in a country that needs models of creative thinking in high political office.
Ambode’s convocation lecture also focused on the connection between inclusion and federalism. He argued: ”It is my unyielding belief that the principle of inclusion which has served Lagos so well can be employed in other states with similar effect…However, for states to give optimal service to their citizens the principle of inclusion first needs to be applied to the division of power between the Federal and State governments.”
His solution is based on his concept of inclusion: “There is widespread consensus that too much power sits in the centre. We can correct this imbalance by reallocating power and responsibilities between the States and Federal government by amending the list of exclusive and concurrent powers and duties of these governments to reflect current realities in the nation.” Hopefully, more political players will pay more attention to inclusion.