Trust as a Coefficient of Leadership: Celebrating Akinwunmi Ambode at 55

By Ade Bodunrin Mohammed

I am going to break protocol and dispense with the titles and formalities of addressing my Governor only this once.

Akinwunmi Ambode is celebrating his 55th birthday on earth on 14th June 2018. Is it a remarkable age? probably not , but it appears like a watershed in the life of this dogged and committed reformer. For those who know him well he shys away from celebrating birthdays and will probably “disappear” on that day preferring others to celebrate in his absence. Perhaps this final year of his first term as Governor of this great State he will accept to be part of it.

The trajectory of person’s life is often dependent on several factors both seen and unseen but a persons personal drive and passion is an extremely critical success factor.

How do you deconstruct this driven man of deep intellect who reluctantly mounted the saddle of governance of this State, breaking the jinx that a civil servant is only fit for direction and not action. His rise to leadership of this State is the stuff movies are made of and perhaps his inspirational story will be made into a movie some day but we must be content to tell a little bit of what we know makes him tick .

Akinwunmi Ambode’s style and persona has been defined by his background and upbringing. He will freely tell you that he has street credibility having grown up in various less than affluent areas of the State but yet it is safe to say his schooling especially his time in FGC Warri and UNILAG have moulded him into a man of panache and style. A man who could easily pass for an entertainment mogul in the night and a hardcore private sector entrepreneur/consultant in daytime.

Governing Lagos State is probably one of the greatest challenges he has faced in his life time. His casual mien definitely belies the complexity and difficulties he faces on a daily basis in ruling the mega city state called Lagos. Ambode is typically a kind hearted person and his generosity, loyalty and kindness are legendary but in the last three years he probably has had to discover “teeth” that he never knew he had. Governing people of diverse backgrounds and problems forces you to be firm and you make enemies in loads when have to take tough decisions for the greater good.

Great thinkers and innovators can sometime be quirky and non-conformist but that’s where Akinwunmi Ambode’s strength lies. As they say in the Star Trek franchise, he often chooses to go “where no man has gone before”. An ideas man par-excellence who is so passionate about the welfare of the people that it often triggers him to wake up at odd hours of the night to dry-run ideas that can help governance and welfare of the people of the State.

Is he infallible ? Of course not, and he already has his fair share of traducers who accuse him of not being social enough, being spontaneous etc. His reply would be that who is perfect except God, but his drivers are governance and the interest of the people, and with that in mind you can’t always have time to socialize. Nonetheless and paradoxically he is a fiercely loyal and passionate people’s person who loves having people around him all the time.

I believe trust is one of the strongest attributes of leadership and any successful politician must strive to acquire the confidence of his people that he will not betray the trust reposed in him by them. Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office as an astute financial manager in a time of recession and whether you hate him or like him he has been able to keep this State going with prompt payment of salaries, regular pensions, innovative and balanced infrastructure development, security of lives and property , employment opportunities etc in the face of bleak prospects and dodgy performance in other parts of the Nation. I strongly believe he has not betrayed the trust of the people that voted him into power. In his quiet moments he would tell you that he has traversed the entire fabric of this State for over 30 years both as a civil servant and now as Governor and he is simply content in knowing that he can improve the quality of the lives of Lagosians with the special knowledge he has developed over time.

Sadly most citizens don’t trust politicians as they believe they are full of promises and short on delivery. Posterity will surely judge whether Akinwunmi Ambode has fully delivered on his promises across the State. One thing that is however certain is that no one that has come across the man called Akinwunmi Ambode can doubt his passion and honesty to deliver the dividends to the people of the State. His virtuoso presentation from the heart at the recent 2018 “Lagos means business”Forum clearly demonstrated his passion for the development of this State despite any odds.

On his 52nd birthday in 2015 after his assumption of office I sent him a message and it read thus:

“…Indeed by that collective will together with God’s grace you have become the 14th Governor of Lagos State. It appears surreal but it is real and we are relishing the fact that many are going to be shocked to find how successful your Government is going to be.

But enough of that. I know things will never be the same again because you now belong to the over 20 million people in Lagos State. They are your constituency and children. They will be greedy, naughty ,supportive and sometimes disloyal but you must never lose your patience because they are your greatest path to immortality.

When you succeed with Lagosians you don’t need the books or films to record your legacy because it is the people that will record your legacies in their hearts and minds, it is them that will exalt you to high heavens and it is them that will build monuments in your honour.

You have fought for us and loved us in so many ways you can imagine. You have also been a great leader to many of us and that is why we must particularly ensure you succeed in this new quest you have embarked on. I therefore join all your supporters, friends and well wishers to wish you one of the best birthday’s you will ever have on this planet. I wish you continued God’s protection, love of family and friends and the continued admiration of your friends and foes alike…”

Three years after, my thoughts of and trust in this great leader have remained unchanged, and as he marks his 55th birthday he has shown that he is still a mere mortal but he is certainly heading for immortality .

Happy birthday and my very best wishes to my dear Governor and leader .

Dr. Mohammed writes from Lagos.

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