Ambode: The challenge of Lagos dream
In spite of his civil service background, Akinwumi Ambode’s mien cast a picture of typical Nigerian politician, who at best would be contented with putting in the average in his or her duty.
The perception of his personality generally was that of a flip who might not be able to take the baton from the predecessor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) that has given the larger than life image in Lagos, and cruise through the laps to the finishing line.
Fashola’s shoes were definitely deemed to be too big for him to give a try and this public perception problem was compounded by the controversy that surrounded his emergence as the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate.
Ambode, presumably the choice of the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu (1) allegedly did not get the support of Fashola and the public.
But one year after taking the oath of office as governor, Ambode appears to have shaken off the controversy of his emergence and the image scums hanging on him.
Not contented with a shadowy figure and an underdog status, the governor may have stepped up with the two recent mega projects that would definitely etch his name among the greats that have ruled Lagos, if seen to conclusion.
In one breadth, the governor rolled out an audacious $70 million regeneration project for the notorious Oshodi Bus Terminal. The project is intended to transform Oshodi into a world-class transport interchange hub.
The objective is not just aimed at urban renewal but deliberately designed to check the security challenges and social menace of miscreants and criminals whom in the early days of the administration, re-established their supremacy in Oshodi.
A situation where over 200,000 passengers board per day with about one million pedestrians and 76 per cent of the area dedicated to transport and related activities, resulting in illegal markets, high human and vehicular traffic, environmental and sanitation issues, serious security challenges and chaos was certainly not acceptable.
Ambode told a gathering of stakeholders that the current state of Oshodi, regarded as the most active transport interchange in West Africa, with over 5,600 buses spread over 13 different motor parks loading daily, did not fit into the dream Lagos – a globally competitive, clean, safe and prosperous city.
The solution to the Oshodi nuisances, according to the Governor, lay in the regeneration project that would put in place an iconic, world-class transportation and commercial hub. “This is in keeping with the vision of this government to transform the key city centres of the state to reflect the mega city status of Lagos … our effort to redevelop Oshodi is aimed at improving the physical structure, security, and more importantly, creating the 24-hour economy, which we promised,” he stated.
The ultra-modern bus interchange terminal would be made up of three terminals with standard facilities including waiting area, loading bays, ticketing stands, drivers’ lounge, parking areas, rest rooms, among others.
The developments, which also include a shopping mall covering over two hectares, would be delivered through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The Managing Director of Translink Capital Development Limited, developer of the project, Mr. Abiodun Otuola, confirmed their readiness for the project, assuring that it would be completed within 13 months.
Ambode hinted that his government would ensure that the road from Oshodi to the Murtala International Airport meets international standard to make the regeneration project meaningful and complete.
Mr. Tajudeen Agbede, Lagos State chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) applauded the project, which has commenced this week pledging to mobilise its members to support and ensure the successful completion.
In another bold and daring move the Ambode’s administration has an N844bn Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge.
The 38-kilometre bridge would be a major milestone achievement in the 50 years of the state’s existence and about 30 years after the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge.
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, which involves four partners, is expected to be delivered, in three years and upon completion would be the longest bridge/expressway in the country.
Predictably, it would at completion bring a 14-year dream of Lagos to reality.
According to the governor of the state, the bridge had become essential and a necessity because of the phenomenal growth of the state with a population of over 21 million people that has in turn increased commercial activities and terrible traffic gridlock.
“I am delighted that this project which has been on the drawing board for quite some time is now set to become a reality. This again, is the continuity with improvement which we promised Lagosians,” he said.
The Chairman of Visible Assets Limited, Mr. Idowu Iluyomade, was optimistic that the project would go a long way to reduce traffic gridlock in the State as well as provide job opportunities for the populace.
Besides, he believe that aside improving the quality of life of the people, the bridge would also be a big asset that would be handed to the Lagos State Government at the end of the period of concession.
Among other plans, according to the Governor, is the provision of about 800 modern buses, which would run 24/7 and would convey commuters to all parts of the State in a more comfortable arrangement.
The imperative for a safe and secured state for businesses to thrive, and to check the increasing spate of crime, Ambode rebranded the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Nigerian Police, and donated equipment worth N4.765bn to the police.
The items include 100 4-Door Salon Cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, 3 Helicopters, 2 Gun Boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers, Revolving Lights, Siren and Public Address System, Vehicular Radio Communicators, Security Gadgets including Bullet Proof Vests, Drones Helmets, Handcuffs, etc., Uniforms, Kits and Improved Insurance and Death Benefit Schemes for officers.
The governor also donated 48 Patrol Vans, 385 Walkie Talkies, 11 Base and Repeater Stations, 1,150 uniforms, 570 handcuffs, 1,150 belts, berets and boots to boost the operation of the Neighbourhood Watchers, to keep the entire communities safe.
The equipment has gone a long way to reducing the spate of traffic robberies, aided in recovering of vehicles stolen at gunpoint and securing lives and property of residents in the state.
This development according to the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd.) was unprecedented in the history of Nigeria and a sign of seriousness and the premium the State Government place on security of lives and property of residents.
With the ‘Light Up Lagos’ project, major highways in the state have been lit up, improving driving experience for motorists at night as well as helped to reduce criminal activities at night, which was rampant before the project kicked off.
Also within this period, the government launched the N25bn Employment Trust Fund (ETF) designed to radically transform employment creation in the state, especially by providing soft loans with very little interest to entrepreneurs. Ambode has since signed the Bill giving it legal backing into law and the board inaugurated.
One of the first challenges that confronted the Ambode led government was the deplorable state of road across the state, which of course attracted sharp criticisms of his administration. As if the situation would never be contained, the governor and his team rose to the challenge.
At the last count, not less than 500 roads including federal roads have been rehabilitated while another 189 have been earmarked for the next phase.
While assessing the performance of Ambode in the last one year, the immediate past Speaker of the State Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji said, “Ambode’s commitment to the wellbeing of the state’s retirees Civil Servants was commendable.”
In August 2015, the governor approved N11billion to offset arrears owed since 2010, not only for Lagos State Government mainstream retirees but also retirees in Local Governments and parastatals.
According to Ikuforiji, “I personally did not foresee Governor Ambode doing as much as he has done. He has really surprised me positively. He is going into the nooks and cranny of this state to bring development closer to the people and he is tackling issues headlong like a true leader should do.”
He added that the governor has performed creditably well to the admiration of Lagosians and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).