Opinion: Ambode: Celebrating A “Product of the Coconut” at 54

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Governor Ambode Akinwunmi

Ambode: Celebrating A “Product of the Coconut” at 54 – Habib Aruna

It is always a Herculean task to write tributes to one’s boss on his birthday, not for want of what to write, but for the possible misconception of readers who may accuse one of being too patronising.

As a matter of fact, there is no way a leader, mentor and boss like Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will not be celebrated on his natal day to let people know the humane side of him hidden from the public.

Many have read and watched events marking Lagos at 50 and two years of Governor Ambode in the saddle, so they are aware of what he has done in the area of social development and security, infrastructure, economic development and a sustainable environment.

I, however, owe it a duty to let the public know certain qualities which make him thick and propel him into changing the face of Lagos from a mega city to a smart city in just two years. Ambode is not a run-of-the-mill politician, but a thoroughbred professional who has an undying passion for the job. His daily itinerary shows he is usually more than prepared for the job, and the results are what we are witnessing in Lagos today.

As James Allen More noted, “work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results”. This is an apt description of Ambode, a workaholic. I wonder many times where he gets the strength to keep going on without a slowing down of his pace.

He hardly sleeps and neither do his aides, who he can call up at any time of the day and night on an urgent assignment, especially when he embarks on the inspection of projects, ensuring security agents are alive to their duties or/and ensuring the streetlights, one of his signature achievements, are on.

Ambode moves about most nights to different parts of Lagos and whatever black spot he discovers is addressed almost immediately. So, once everyone knows that the governor would personally monitor projects, they do their bits as diligently as practicable. All the projects he has executed so far are products of well thought out ideas, though he invites others to make inputs into them.

His day starts at as early as 6 a.m., when he usually wakes up having stayed up working till about 3 a.m., and sometimes he may have just returned from the inspection of projects around the city. He usually browses and flips through the online editions of newspapers and then the print ones, before setting out to act on matters concerning citizens of the State.

What worried the governor most in his early days in office was the traffic gridlocks, especially on Third Mainland Bridge (inwards Lagos in the morning), and Apapa road. This regularly took him out to personally assess the situation and he might not be back to the office until as late as 6 p.m. in the evening. He discovered that the Apapa gridlock was caused by the arbitrary parking of trucks on both sides on the road and the abandoned pedestrian bridge.

As this product of the ‘coconut’, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s protégé, celebrates his birthday today, I join other teeming Lagosians to wish him a very happy birthday and pray that God grants him more strength and wisdom in his service to the state and our country.
The road, which belongs to the federal government, has been neglected for a long time; but just like the way he is addressing other bad spots in the city, the governor had to order the State Public Works to move in to do a quick fix of the road last year. And due to his persistent request, approval was recently given by the federal government for the state to reconstruct the heavy use Oshodi expressway to the International Airport.

One day, the Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde, and I left the governor at around 1:00 a.m. and we agreed to meet him by 9:30 a.m. later the same day to go through the speech he was scheduled to address to the state by 11:00 a.m. To our surprise, the governor had been in the office as early as 6:30 a.m. to prepare the speech himself. He only gave it to us to proof read when we got there at 9:30 a.m.! Such is the nature of Governor Ambode, who has an uncommon passion for his job.

Another hidden side of Governor Ambode is the human kindness running through his blood. He is generous to a fault. You cannot be his staff or that of his wife and be sad, except the issue is not brought to their notice! He is one who has so demystified governance to the point that things that were hitherto insurmountable are so easy for him. You need to drive through the Third Mainland Bridge to Ketu/Alapere axis during rush hours to understand the marvel in the way that he thinks. Or should one consider the hundreds of roads that have been fixed? The two flyovers that were completed in record time and the palpable feeling around town that the state is moving in the right direction?

In truth, his kindness stretches to those in need of assistance, either brought to his notice or which he comes across in newspapers. He would immediately intervene, putting smiles on the faces of such beneficiaries of his goodwill, but with a stern warning that his identity must not be revealed. I have always been in a difficult position to keep hiding the source of benefaction to those keen on showing their gratitude for the assistance rendered them.

For sure, what has helped Ambode in his current job as governor is his wealth of experience, having served in the state civil service for 27 years. A first class material who rose through the ranks and retired as the Accountant General of the state, Ambode has mostly lived in the so described slummy areas of the city, including Ajegunle, and he knows most interior parts of Lagos like the back of his hand. This much knowledge he harnessed during his campaign in 2015, when he told Lagosians that his experience would work for them. He stunned the people of Ajegunle during an event recently when he mentioned all the roads in the area and how they interlinked, and the ones which needed to be fixed more urgently, to which they agreed with him.

And what has shaped his personality and made him so unassuming is his very humble background, which enabled him to know the true meaning of suffering. Though many successful people today were also from humble backgrounds but unfortunately are indifferent to the plights of the needy, Ambode usually says, “the only way I can continue to show gratitude to God for his mercy and favour over me is to assist as many people as possible, not as governor alone but in my personal capacity”. He, indeed, keeps fulfiling that promise.

Growing up in the Ebute-Metta part of Lagos, like any other young lad of that time in the 60s, he imbibed the culture of hard work, diligence and perseverance from his parents. A brilliant and well behaved child, Ambode discovered early in life that a man’s destiny is in his hands, and as such set goals for himself, which he has largely achieved. Today, he is a success story in every way on can look at it.

An astute administrator and a team leader, Governor Ambode is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management. As this product of the ‘coconut’, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s protégé, celebrates his birthday today, I join other teeming Lagosians to wish him a very happy birthday and pray that God grants him more strength and wisdom in his service to the state and our country.

Habib Aruna is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ambode.