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OPINION

Ambode at 55: Lowers his voice, raises his logic, By Idowu Ajanaku

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Good leaders are trailblazers, making a path for others to follow” –Forbes.com

As global attention is riveted on the unfolding spectacle of the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup in Russia today, there are interesting parallels to draw with a goal-getting Nigerian, whose illustrious life trajectory clocks 55 years on this same day. Much like the world-acclaimed beautiful game, which few observers gave a chance to survive, talk less of exploding when it began back in England in 1863, Lagos State Governor Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was the little known aspirant when political pundits began to permutate on the likely successor to erstwhile Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola then in 2014.

But the leadership narrative has since changed, as Lagos state has become a reference point to Nigerians, nay Africans within the political power context. In a similar compelling, centripetal attraction that soccer enjoys amongst people of diverse races and religion, social strata  and even political persuasion, the question on virtually everyone’s lip is what magic wand has Ambode waved to turn Lagos into an emerging smart city? That is, within a short span of three years in the saddle of the world’s fastest growing city and Africa’s fifth largest economy. The questions persist.

However, to be on the good side of history and more significantly to become better by the day, let us attempt answers from Ambode’s life experiences. Especially, those that have stood him in good stead. Just like football, with its thrills and frills and its team- game format there are rules to obey. We can only win life’s daily matches if we, like Ambode have the focus, the desire, the determination to excel no matter who would tackle us when we eventually have the ball.

 For instance, the early death of his father was one of such challenges. However, instead of capitulating, he took it as a stepping stone to climb to greater heights by sacrificing his time and talents to concentrate on his studies. That he emerged the second-best student in the West African Examination Council(WAEC)   O\L examinations at the end of his secondary school days is a testament to such iron-will determination to succeed against the odds, as John Harold Johnson(now  late) of Ebony Magazine fame  once admonished.

Secondly, Ambode was one young man who was written off by his uncle, at the age of 11 years, especially when he expressed his desire to becoming an accountant. The older man thought he did not possess the DNA to ever qualify as one. But the story has since changed its tempo and tenor.  By 2015 when  Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode became  the APC flag-bearer of the state, he had already metamorphosed into a  thoroughbred, tested and trusted technocrat.  He was the former Accountant –General, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Auditor-General who has traversed several of the local government councils in the state.

Another salient, vital feature of successful leadership, as exemplified by Ambode is to be fully prepared for the onerous tasks at hand. Based on his wealth of experience he knew the needs and nuances of the state like the lines on his palms. So, he hit the ground running.

Little wonder that within six months in office his forward-looking administration, achieved all these and more.  Specifically, in the health sector, the governor commissioned 20 Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU) and 26 Transport Ambulances one for each of the 26 General hospitals.  He ensured that ambulances were bought for all the public hospitals in the state,  paid the aggrieved medical doctors their outstanding  salaries and the  long-suffering pensioners.

 Similarly, Ambode approved the recruitment of more paramedic staff and  special medical coordinators to guarantee 24 hours service.  Besides, he  upgraded the General Hospitals and constructed a Medical  Park fully equipped  with quality drugs and new mobile X-Ray machines. He similarly lent helping hand to victims of disasters including motor-accidents, fire outbreaks as well as mudslide in addition to diffusing governance to those at the lower rung of the Lagos  society.

 Making a wise choice, he began by beefing up security across the state. This he did by acquiring 10 armoured tanks, three helicopters for aerial surveillance and policing, two gun boats, 15 armoured personnel carriers and dozens of Isuzu trucks.  Still on security, he initiated the Light Up Lagos Project covering at least 365 streets across the state.

On the massive infrastructural development, Ambode has turned Lagos into a vast construction site, as people are currently awed by the 10-lane Airport Road and the Oshodi Interchange edifice. Indeed, Lagos now boasts of state-of-the art flyover bridges at Ajah and Abule-Egba with that of the popular Pen-Cinema in the works.

   Also, in less than one year in office some 282 inner roads received massive rehabilitation, as requested by the people during his tour of the LCDAs before  his election. In fact, his ‘114 Roads’ project where each of the 57 local councils in the state got two good roads was completed by May, 2016.

Economic empowerment was next. It received a boost in December of that year as he began the disbursement of the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund,(ETF) to carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, vulcanizers and other players in the informal sector in the state. The initiative will see the disbursement of N6.25 billion annually over the next four years. It was also one of the promises he made during his campaign in 2015.

The food security issue was kick started with the launch of the Lagos-Kebbi (LaKe Rice) in December 2016.  It came at the right time as thousands of residents trooped out to various centres across the three senatorial districts to buy the commodity which sold for N12,000 (50kg bag); N6,000 (25kg); and N2,500 (10kg). It was a much needed respite for a population that had been reeling under the impact of economic recession. The smiles widen as Lagos is getting ready to commission one of Africa’s largest rice mills months from now.

Barely over two years in office the state had raked in N287 billion in IGR, a whopping N19 billion more than was generated the year before. A revamp of the state’s revenue generation agency played a major role in this feat, but Mr. Ambode also gave credit to tax-paying citizens in the state.

It is a similar swan song from education through agriculture, to transportation and tourism. One great lesson for millions to learn from the governor’s success story  therefore, is for one to be blessed with a strong God-fearing  family. Both he and Bolanle, his woman of virtue have their lives firmly rooted in God. She is there as a pillar of support and as one who has stood by him through thick and thin. Besides, is their humility and tracing every success to the throne of God.

 Said he, at a recent Sunday Service to mark his three years in office: “No matter how much strategy that you have read in school or how much work you have done in the public service, …if it is working back- to -back and consistently, there has to be some other source that is making it work because you are just one out of several others. Why it works for Lagos is the more reason why one has to be very sober and humble, to actually know that there is something that is making that to happen and that has to be God”.

If, for the first time in the history of Lagos state and indeed Nigeria no other politician has come forward to challenge Gov. Ambode, nine  good  months to the 2019 gubernatorial election , it must be God. That explains why he is being celebrated nationally and globally, like a World Cup winning goal!

Many happy returns, my dear, iconic boss.

-Ajanaku is the Special Adviser, Information and Strategy to the governor.

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OPINION

Atiku’s US Trip: So much ado about nothing, By Tunde Ajose

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For good watchers of the Nigerian politics, one thing has come to stay in our political experiment at getting it right in this country and that is the ability for smart politicians to easily sway the electorates with mundane issues.

The campaigns are no longer issue based but media sensationalism.

Latest of such was the sudden appearance of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the United States of America! Then one begins to wonder why the opposition would think such is the needed magic wand to win the election.

And the euphoria may not be unconnected with the report that Atiku was barred from entering the States because of his fraudulent nature but the question is, why would any serious opposition believes such action would immediately translate into winning the Aso Rock.

One would have wondered why Atiku has chosen to travel with the current senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki? Could it be that he actually traveled under the diplomatic immunity of Saraki’s official delegation?

Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s laws, but they can still be expelled.

We need to be circumspect as we move forward as a nation and be more discerning. The current government of Nigeria is focused more than before in ensuring that Nigerians, regardless of the class or status has a befitting country they could fall back to and call a home.

It is quite obvious that while the opposition are playing to the gallery, the presidential campaign organisation of president Mohammad Buhari is busy rolling up its sleeves and getting down to fields where the real electorates are and connecting with them.

This past week especially has been full of activities for the president despite his age. Within a spate of two weeks, Buhari had sat down to two interviews in-between journeying from the length and breadth of the country in getting the message of hope down to the people.

The president does not rely on his privilege as an incumbent, but insisted on talking to his people and ensuring that Nigerians are united as they go to polls come February.

No one is in doubt that his message also resonates well with the citizens as they troop out en masse to welcome and listen to what he has to say. With the multitude of crowd recorded today as he presented the gubernatorial flagbearer of the party to the good people of Delta State and the ovation that greeted it, there is no doubt that Buhari is truly loved.

As we count down to the elections, Nigerians need to bear it in mind that the 2019 election is about building on a new foundation which the present government has been able to achieve in the first four years and giving the solid foundation out to the marauders to destroy along with the better forgotten 16years in power.

If Atiku is in the United States today, there is no way the intelligence agencies of the federal government of Nigeria would not know about it.

 

Tunde Ajose, a political commentator, writes from Lagos.

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OPINION

Red alert on Kogi 2019 elections, By Omahi Umar

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2019 Kogi elections may end up being the bloodiest and the most rigged election in the history of Nigeria. This is not a question of being an alarmist. It is rather because the incumbent governor, having failed woefully in governance has principally resorted to the use of security agents to rig and manipulate the outcome of the elections in favour of the ruling government.

A taste of what to expect in the elections in Kogi has started manifesting. In the Kogi Central Senatorial District where the governor hails from, members of the opposition are now harassed, harangued, maimed, killed and kidnapped on regular basis. The latest victim is one Enesi who was recently killed by armed men while several others went missing in recent night raids and hunts for men of the opposition parties in the Kogi Central.

In the same central, it is an open secret that the houses of Commissioner for Water Resources, the Commissioner for  Local Government and many of the local government administrators have now turned armouries where a huge number of sophisticated guns and ammunitions are off-loaded at nights purportedly by “men in uniform” unchallenged. It was being speculated that over 3000 assorted automatic weapons have been acquired by the governor and hidden in different locations across the state. The state local tabloids and social media have the news of the governor vowing that he was ready to kill anyone who stands on his way in the coming elections.

The Kogi East will definitely be a battleground of sorts too. It is the home of the all powerful Chief of Staff who has vowed to deliver his constituency to the governor at all costs. Recently in Idah, many vehicles belonging to Atai Idoko were destroyed by APC members while on campaign rallies. Pockets of violence from Kogi East are reported on daily basis and will be on the increase as we approach elections. The most troubling aspects of this violence is that they are often committed in the glaring eyes of security agents who choose to look the other way while these crimes are being perpetrated.

It has been rumoured that the Ogohi of Anyigba’s palace is the armoury for Eastern Kogi with brother, the administrator of Dekina Local Government, Alhaji Isiaka and Alhaji Ahmed, the Kogi East Zonal chairman of the APC as field commanders.

The Western Senatorial District appears calm as of today but we believe it is an uneasy and heavily pregnant calm.  This Senatorial District is the home place of Dino. The governor is betting it everywhere with his life that he would rather die than allow free and fair elections  that would produce Dino. Since Dino enjoys cult followership in these areas, the modus operandi here will be to scare away many people from voting units so as to allow for heavily falsified results against Dino and Atiku.

The number of militants in training in Kogi is becoming very scary, worrisome, alarming and really frightening. The men of the Vigilante Service are now being secretly trained on the use of sophisticated weapons. The first batch of about 1000 men and women have passed out. Currently at the Lokoja Stadium, there are over 700 vigilante men/women in camp undergoing military training for the elections. Police and military uniforms are smuggled into the state for use in the elections.

Apart from this number being trained in the state, reliable information is that over 1000 militants are currently undergoing training in Yobe State for Kogi elections. The whole stories are really very worrisome.

The intention is to kill and harass opposition members as much as possible. It is also intended that many strong opposition members would be kidnapped prior to the elections. Information is that many should be scared away from voting, especially in the opposition strongholds.

By and large, the elections in Kogi may witness tales of anguish and failures except urgent steps are taken to counter the devilish plans of the state governor. The goings on in Kogi State must be exposed to the whole world by all means possible. This is a situation where a stitch in time will save nine.

 

  • Umar wrote in from Lokoja, Kogi State
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OPINION

Wait! Before you vote Atiku, By Musa Mohammed

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While the clamour for change in government from president Mohammodu Buhari to Atiku Abubakar may have been something that has taken over the national discuss and rightly so as the elections draw near, it may be noteworthy to pause and reflect on the character of the prospected replacement.

The big question on our mind should be can we trust Atiku? What really is the new thing he is coming to offer bearing in mind he was once the number two citizen of this great nation for 8years? If we insist the position of a vice president is not as powerful as the president, haven’t the achievements of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo knocked out such narrative?

The Nigerian vice president has proven times without number that he is as useful as the president of Nigeria and records are there to show for it. Where are the achievements of Mr. Atiku?

If you ask Nigerians, most of what they would remember about his days in office would be the national assets he sold to his colleagues and the long running battle he had with his principal, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Aside from the fact that there should be no vacancy in Aso Rock, Osinbajo is more presidential than Atiku. Don’t take my words for it, below were some of the things his then boss said and wrote about him chronologically.

2003 “I regret picking Atiku Abubakar as my vice”.

2004 “I can no longer work with Atiku, his integrity is in question “.

2005 “Atiku cannot be trusted “.

2006 “Atiku cannot escape justice over corruption cases ”

2007 “Do not vote Atiku he is corrupt”.

2008 “Atiku is a corrupt leader”.

2009 “Nigerians can never forgive Atiku”.

2010 “Atiku is not an option to leadership in Nigeria “.

2011 “I have never seen a leader as greedy as Atiku “.

2012 “Nigerians should pray for leaders imbued with integrity not Atiku “.

2013 “Atiku should apologize to Nigerians over his political sins”.

2014 No political party with the aspiration to assume leadership should think of Atiku”.

2015 “Nigeria has grown beyond a corrupt leader like Atiku”.

2016 “I will never reconcile with Atiku “.

2017 “I never knew Atiku was this corrupt ” “I can never be on the same page with Atiku. God forbid!”.

2018 January to August “God will not forgive me if I support Atiku “.

2018 August “Atiku has the capacity to save Nigeria’s economy from collapse”.

If such verdicts could come from Obasanjo who was his direct boss, what doubts should Nigerians have in rejecting such bad market and move on to the next level with the present administration bearing mind that Obasanjo once said, “As an engineer, I know a point I can use tractor to hit and a storey building would come down within few minutes, but it would take years to erect such.”

Nigeria is undergoing transformation. The administration of president Mohammodu Buhari has used his first term to lay a good foundation for him to start building on in 2019 and it only make sense to key in.

God bless Nigeria.

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