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Lateef Raji: Tinubu, Fashola Ambode And The Baton Of Excellence

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For us in Lagos State, the last fifteen years of civil administration had been an epic. Lagos has been able to live up to its alias as the “Center of Excellence” as the successive administration continues to build upon the foundation laid by the enigmatic pathfinder, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who became Governor when the democratic ship berthed on our shores’ way back in 1999.

With a professional background steeped in highly efficient private sector audit, Tinubu was quick to realize the need to depend less on federal allocation by shoring up the revenue profile of the state. This feat was achieved through a systematic re-engineering of the internally generated revenue regimes by plugging loop holes and leakages, keeping within existing financial guidelines in a way that does not impose an additional burden on the people.

In addition, he initiated far-reaching policies in all sectors of the socio-economic spectrum such as Transportation, Education, Judiciary, Health, Environment, Commerce and Industry as symbolized by the Lekki Free Trade Zone and other initiatives. The Enron initiative still remained unbeaten in the power sector in terms of constancy and quantity. Many a time during the history of our power supply, it has remained the only source of supply.

His reform in the judicial sector was quite legendary as governments, state and federal and some other African nations were falling on themselves to adopt the Lagos model in a bid to enhance their justice system.

To ensure that these policies endure beyond the lifetime of his administration, he created institutions that will not only sustain the initial gains but to ensure that the policies and programs continue to evolve to meet up with time dynamics.

An astute statesman, and strategist that he was and still his, the Asiwaju of Lagos played safe with his choice of Babatunde Raji Fashola as his successor. A capable hand he styled as the “The Best Man for The Job” to steer the ship of the state after him. Ever since, Lagos State and its people have been the better for it as the state continues to move from one level of advancement to the next. Tinubu has become the powerhouse of grooming successful leaders in Nigeria. A feat, yet unequalled in the history of the country.

The Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) administration has redefined the art of governance in the country through its numerous innovative and creative programmes and projects. He strongly demonstrated that with a focused, visionary leadership, and hard work, the Nigerian of our dream is not unattainable.
From the outset, Fashola set out to do government business in an unusual fashion; completely different from what we are used to. That is why he always affirms an Albert Einstein’s maxim that: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Hence, Fashola set out to place Lagos among the prime investment hubs, not only in Africa, but in the whole world. His vision is to build a Lagos that is similar to reputable international cities like London, Mumbai, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Delhi, Dubai, Bangkok, and Cairo among others. With the relative success of the State Security Trust Fund in taming crimes in the state, Lagos has become the preferred point for investors as the business atmosphere has become predictable and stabilized.

Lagos is safer today by any standard throughout the world. The state government’s intervention in the work environment in the areas of training, equipment, logistics and motivation and other crime management measures continues to yield results.

Many have been trying to analyze the Fashola phenomenon in Lagos. Some analysts are of the view that the governor succeeded because he has a passionate commitment to connecting with the people, particularly the ordinary man on the street, and building their trust in the sincerity and noble intentions of his government. Others, however, ascribe Fashola’s success to his rugged determination to leave an indelible footprint in the sands of time. This, according to pundits, has really made him to focus totally on governance. Quite a few also attribute the success of the administration to the assemblage of a crack team of committed individuals, an intricate blend of professionals, administrators, scholars and politicians.

It’s only a few months before the end of the Fashola administration, yet there are indications that the progressive train of governance in Lagos is not, in any way, ready to berth. The emergence of Akinwunmi Ambode as the gubernatorial candidate of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressive Congress, APC, is another indication that the party is not in short supply of capable hands to keep the state on the path of growth and progress.

With the intimidating credentials of this candidate, it is indicative that the tradition of excellence in the state is about to soar to higher heights. It is difficult to fault this line of reasoning for many reasons. For one, everything about Ambode sparks of brilliance and excellence. At 21, he graduated in style in Accounting from the University of Lagos, Akoka. At the age of 24, when many of his contemporaries were yet to find their bearings in life, Ambode had earned a Master’s degree in Accounting and had also become a Chartered Accountant.

It is, however, the selfless and committed stance of Ambode to the service of the government and people of Lagos that actually marks him out as a diligent and conscientious public administrator. An astute public servant, Ambode has had a highly illustrious and consummate career as a public sector accountant and administrator in Lagos State. In a most distinguished public service career spanning almost three decades, Ambode rose to become the Auditor General for Local Governments in the state, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Accountant General of Lagos State, a position he held until his voluntary resignation from the public service in 2012.

A resourceful and ingenious administrator, part of Ambode’s enduring legacies as Accountant General of the state was the establishment of the State Treasury Office (STO), which transformed public sector financial budgeting, management, planning and expenditure in Lagos State. In his six years as Accountant-General, the financial position of the state recorded a great boost while budget performance averaged 85% per annum. A prudent and shrewd manager of public resources, Ambode strongly holds the view that public funds should be judiciously expended for the good of the people, whom it is primarily meant for.

Indeed, Ambode’s meticulous process of re-engineering the state’s financial status was partly responsible for the development and sustenance of the Lagos mega city. The ingenuity of the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu administration in overcoming difficulties and frustrations occasioned by the seized allocation of local government councils throughout the state by the Obasanjo administration has been traced to the amazing financial wizardry of Ambode. How the Tinubu administration could stay afloat in those trying eras remains a major talking point to this date.Of course, there is no way that the political-economy of Lagos state during the period would be discussed without giving him a prime of place.

With Ambode poised to take over from the incumbent, Fashola, as the state governor, Lagos would, indeed, be the better for it. The direction of things to come in the next few years became clearer recently when Fashola publicly presented the Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025. The Governor who publicly presented the document at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Ikeja, with Ambode in attendance, added that infrastructure is being built to redress the infrastructure deficit that the state has suffered. He added that the Development Plan document is about the vision for the future and how it would affect the Lagos Mega City. The import of this development is that Ambode, when he eventually takes over from Fashola, already has a master plan with which he could realize his dream to take the state to a new level.

The deep experience Ambode has in the public service of Lagos State will definitely serve him in good stead with extra mileage as the state’s helmsman ahead of his rivals. He was involved at the two most critical periods in the history of the state. First was the period of a malicious financial onslaught on Lagos, and the other and more significant was the period of the dramatic financial reengineering that gave rise to the ambitious accomplishments we are witnessing today.

Because of our passion for greatness, sixteen years on we continue to aspire for more. We need a capable hand at the driver seat. Akinwunmi Ambode has all his life worked and fraternized with the people to have sufficient knowledge of what the next directions are. His dream of a greater Lagos will take root from the impressive substructure left behind by his predecessors both of whom will always be there to offer advice and share experiences.

The lesson to be learnt in the current development in Lagos is that continuity in governance, especially from one visionary leadership to the other is quite critical, for the social, economic and political stability of the polity. However, continuity must just not be embraced just for the sake of it. It must be laced with the attendant tradition of exemplary performance. Not the type of crude clueless jamboree we have been witnessing at the centre in recent times. Nigeria might have been a better place if the rudder of the ship is being steered by a person who has defined passion for the country and not a conscripted and unwilling individual. This is where Lagos differs. This is why Lagos continues to excel.

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Raji is the Special Adviser to the Lagos Sate Governor on Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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