If he wins, as he is being projected, after this Saturday’s keen contest in the Lagos governorship election, Akinwunmi Ambode’s story is bound to impress and inspire.
His trajectory is similar to that of an average Nigerian who desires and strives for greatness from a humble background. He is the son of a school teacher; reached the peak of his career in the civil service and now desires to govern a state that is acknowledged as the economic nerve-centre of Nigeria.
If he proves pundits right on Saturday that his victory is somewhat assured as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the role of the cane from his disciplinarian father, Festus, should not be obliterated from his success story. The elder Ambode was a notable school teacher at St. Jude’s Primary School in Ebutte Metta where the son also had his formative years.
It was the chairman of Ikeja District Society of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Mr. Seyi Ogunjobi that succinctly described how ‘Baba Teacher’, as the late Ambode was fondly called, never spared the rod.
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If other students could still recall how they endured the regular lashes of cane, Ogunjobi said last Friday when Ambode was endorsed by ICAN at the Sheraton hotel in Lagos, he could only imagine how many lashes the teacher’s son himself would have endured from his strict but loving father. What is not in doubt, according to Ogunjobi, is the fact that Ambode’s father’s cane has produced great men.
One of such people is the former President of ICAN, Mr. Doyin Owolabi, who also attended St. Jude’s Primary School. The cane at that famous school, which recently got a facelift courtesy of Akinwunmi Ambode’s La Roache Leadership Foundation, is about to make a great man greater. It is about to produce a governor for Lagos State who would have scored a couple of firsts: the first alumnus of St. Jude’s school and the University of Lagos as well as the first career civil servant to govern Lagos State.
Yet, the qualities that stand Ambode out, giving him an edge over his competitors are indeed the factors that would most likely determine the outcome of Saturday’s election in his favour. The twin factors of experience and competence play the first crucial roles in swaying public opinion, and without a doubt, Ambode stands head and shoulders higher than any other competitor as the most qualified to assume leadership after 16 years of remarkable growth in Lagos State.
His bio-data reads like an ideal manual for successful career path. Secondary education was at Government College, Warri after which he earned the second-best result in the whole of West Africa for his Higher School Certificate. At 21, he had already graduated from the University of Lagos as an Accountant and by age 24, he has completed his Master’s degree and qualified as a Chartered Accountant. He became a Fulbright Scholar, with emphasis on leadership and Public Finance by age 35.
Cognate experience will certainly be an advantage in making a success of running a state like Lagos. And this is where Ambode has an obvious edge. He devoted his entire 27-year career to Lagos state, from Local Government treasurer traversing various LGs, to becoming the Auditor General for Local Governments and eventually rising to the peak as Accountant General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance. Hitting the ground running, certainly, won’t be an issue for a governor like Ambode.
But his experience even counts for more.
As the Accountant General, he was the brain-box in the financial engine room when the allocation for Local Governments in Lagos State was seized by the Federal Government. If he could function as the nucleus that grew the finances of the state from N600m to more than N20bn a month at that time, he deserves respect now in stepping forward with assurance that he is best qualified to lead Lagos State at this period when revenue from the federal purse is drying up as a result of dwindling global oil prices.
Still, there is a unique compliment in the choice of his running mate. Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule, who brings to the table the discipline of being a tested academic and valuable experience as the erstwhile Secretary to the State Government, sure compliments Ambode. A former Accountant General and SSG symbolize a winning team for continuity. When analysts then say that the Ambode-Adebule combination is not just intellectually fortified, but also understands governance in practical terms, they are in effect submitting that it will be a costly gamble to hand over the affairs of such an important state to any other candidate without the requisite experience and working knowledge of government in Lagos State.
The excellence that the Ambode-Adebule team portends, therefore, helps the argument for continuity that APC preaches. It is only commonsensical, unlike the illogicality of advocating change in Lagos State when the sole reason for which the ‘change revolution’ has effected a change at the federal level is because the government at the centre was adjudged to have failed, both by Nigerians who voted on March 28 and the international community who were convinced that the ship of the nation required the steady hands of a new captain.
While Abuja needed to be re-fixed, Lagos is celebrated as the best-run state in Nigeria, whose budget performs at an average of 79% as against federal government’s at 21%. It must be a deflated and disillusioned opposition that would now advocate change in Lagos at a time that the state is about to enjoy the support of a friendly government at the centre. The reward for excellence of the last 16 years in Lagos cannot be stagnation in the opposition pool, especially in the hands of a party that has just been ejected from the centre. If Lagos has functioned well on its own as the opposition admits, then it can only do better with a friendly federal government from the same party.
Thankfully, Ambode is not entering Saturday’s contest with any popularity deficit. His effective communications strategy has proven that he could beat his main opponent, Jimi Agbaje, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the game he (Agbaje) made a relative success of when he first ran in 2007. With more opinion polls and endorsements affirming his superior visibility, Ambode’s consistent edge over his opponent, in terms of followership on every social media platform in the past six months, has also established that not only does this Epe-born technocrat have better acceptance but that the contest might not be as close as some people imagine.
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