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How Am­bode Un­der­de­vel­oped La­gos

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How Am­bode Un­der­de­vel­oped La­gos

How Am­bode Un­der­de­vel­oped La­gos
June 09
06:07 2019

The truth be told, La­gos has de­gen­er­ated greatly since the exit of La­teef Jakande as gov­er­nor. Un­der Am­bode, it de­gen­er­ated fur­ther. Lagosians yearn for the re­turn of the Jakande era; an era when devel­op­ment was in­clu­sive and peo­ple­ori­ented; an era when gov­ern­ment touched the lives of the masses of the peo­ple di­rectly with qual­ity health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, wa­ter sup­ply and pass­able inner roads.

The big­gest hin­drance to Nigeria’s quest for devel­op­ment is the ma­jor­ity of its peo­ple. Many are ig­no­rant of what con­sti­tutes de­vel­op­men­tal strides. They are obliv­i­ous of steps ca­pa­ble of mo­ti­vat­ing devel­op­ment, and so, are per­sis­tently ap­plaud­ing things in­ca­pable of pulling them out of the in­glo­ri­ous club of un­der-de­vel­oped coun­tries. I am per­sis­tently shocked to see even sup­pos­edly ed­u­cated Nige­ri­ans ap­plaud­ing medi­ocrity in gov­er­nance, ap­par­ently for self­ish rea­sons. In Nigeria, you will find gover­nors build­ing worth­less bridges while pub­lic hos­pi­tals and schools are in tat­ters. The cit­i­zens lack ac­cess to things as ba­sic as pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply and driv­able inner streets; yet, you will find so many peo­ple prais­ing th­ese gover­nors for build­ing stu­pen­dous fly overs, cin­e­mas, bus stops and hope­less multi-lane city roads.

Dur­ing a visit to Nigeria last year, philanthropist and founder of Mi­crosoft Cor­po­ra­tion, Bill Gates, tried to re­di­rect this coun­try to the path of progress by urging the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment to spend more on hu­man cap­i­tal devel­op­ment in­stead of splendor projects. For Gates, the present eco­nomic tem­plates be­ing used by the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion lacks the abil­ity to ad­dress the unique needs of Nige­ri­ans. This also ap­plies to our gov­ern­ments at all lev­els in this coun­try. Gates be­lieves Nigeria has the abil­ity to at­tain up­per mid­dle-in­come sta­tus like Brazil, China and Mex­ico, but says that achiev­ing this sta­tus de­pends on the choice Nige­rian lead­ers make.

Gates’ com­ments at the spe­cial and ex­panded Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil on in­vest­ing in peo­ple were pen­e­trat­ing. He de­clared: “The most im­por­tant choice Nige­rian lead­ers can make is to max­imise the coun­try’s great­est re­source, which is the peo­ple. Nigeria will thrive when ev­ery Nige­rian is able to thrive. If you in­vest in their health, ed­u­ca­tion, and op­por­tu­ni­ties – the hu­man cap­i­tal we are talk­ing about today – then they will lay the foundation for sus­tained pros­per­ity. If you don’t, how­ever, then it is very im­por­tant to recog­nise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the coun­try can grow.

“Nigeria is one of the most dan­ger­ous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Chad. One in three Nige­rian chil­dren is chron­i­cally mal­nour­ished. In up­per mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, the av­er­age life ex­pectancy is 75 years. In lower mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, it’s 68; in low-in­come coun­tries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years.”

Gates’ words are words of wis­dom. This is the spirit Nige­ri­ans must em­brace, if in­deed, we gen­uinely want progress in our dear Nigeria. We must be per­sis­tently blunt with our lead­ers at all lev­els and de­mand for peo­ple-ori­ented projects. Un­for­tu­nately, this is miss­ing in our coun­try. An av­er­age Nige­rian is al­ways eco­nom­i­cal with the truth. Even when it is ob­vi­ous that Nigeria is in a mess, we still find a le­gion of syco­phants around the Pres­i­dent and gover­nors. Even the op­pressed masses rally around them.

I had to prop­erly sit­u­ate what con­sti­tutes devel­op­ment – with the Bill gate epis­tle – to elu­ci­date the fail­ings of Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode as Gov­er­nor of La­gos State. With cash of al­most N3 tril­lion in four years, Am­bode focused on grandiose projects, while crit­i­cal sec­tors like pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply, health­care, ed­u­ca­tion and roads suf­fered. He plunged pub­lic fund into projects that, or­di­nar­ily, should be pri­vate sec­tor driven. A for­ward-look­ing gov­ern­ment has no busi­ness buy­ing hun­dreds of com­mer­cial buses and erect­ing $70 mil­lion trans­port in­ter­change. He even plunged La­gos funds into a need­less Air­port Road project (road be­longs to the

fed­eral gov­ern­ment) while mil­lions of Lagosians struggle to get to their homes, dom­i­nated by shabby inner roads beg­ging for at­ten­tion. At the end of his four years, Am­bode took La­gos State 20 years back, with de­gen­er­at­ing slums, tat­tered roads, wrecked pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply, de­cay­ing health and ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties, worn-out waste col­lec­tion sys­tem, and all the neg­a­tiv­i­ties you can think of. The de­te­ri­o­rat­ing tat­tered com­mu­ni­ties in Iko­rodu West, Iko­rodu North, Ig­bogbo-Bayeku, Ay­obo, Ipaja, Abule Egba, Okoko­maiko, Ojo, Ijo­raBadiya, Alimosho and sev­eral others, tes­tify to this.

I al­ways use com­mu­ni­ties in Iko­rodu West and Iko­rodu North to il­lus­trate the tragic rot in Am­bode’s La­gos. Th­ese ar­eas are worse than war zones with very lit­tle gov­ern­ment pres­ence. For ex­am­ple, in the en­tire Iko­rodu West, there are only three roads with as­phalt. Over 500 other inner roads are ragged. Many in th­ese ar­eas have re­lo­cated and aban­doned their build­ings. Then, Am­bode came with a bogus plan to con­struct a six-lane road through Iko­rodu West i.e. AgricI­sawo road. He ended up de­stroy­ing lives of thou­sands of peo­ple in this area. How did this hap­pen? His con­trac­tor came in, ex­ca­vated vir­tu­ally all ex­ist­ing as­phalt and drainages on the road and dis­ap­peared, leaving the com­mu­nity in pain. I have never seen this kind of wicked­ness in all my life. When it rains, this road be­comes one big hell. Am­bode repli­cated this wicked­ness in Ig­bog­boBayeku and Oshodi-Isolo, where his con­trac­tors also de­stroyed good roads for imag­i­nary mega-roads.

Am­bode spent huge amount on the con­struc­tion of the­atre houses in a state where over 99% of homes have no ac­cess to pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply. His ab­surd 2017 bud­get made pro­vi­sion for the con­struc­tion of five cul­tural the­atres in parts of the state. The bud­get also made pro­vi­sion for the con­struc­tion of five mini sta­dia. I could not un­der­stand why the bud­get that came with a heavy N170 bil­lion deficit would in­clude tri­fling things like the­atres and sta­dia. It is a shame that Am­bode is un­aware that th­ese should be pri­vate sec­tor-driven projects.

The La­gos State Wa­ter Cor­po­ra­tion was one big mess un­der him. It strug­gled to get funds for com­mon wa­ter treat­ment chem­i­cals. Many com­mu­ni­ties that en­joyed pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply, prior to his emer­gence, no longer did dur­ing his ten­ure. Many homes re­sorted to dig­ging bore holes. The pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply fail­ure in Su­rulere typ­i­fies the cri­sis in the en­tire state.

While his reign lasted, Am­bode spent bil­lions of naira on gigs and car­ni­vals in a state where pub­lic hos­pi­tals, roads and schools are in tat­ters. Drains across the state con­stantly emit stench, while hum­drum things guz­zle the state’s money. End of the year party, Christ­mas party, Ed-el-Fitri party, Ed-el-Kabir party, Easter party and all man­ner of non­sense dom­i­nated Am­bode’s ten­ure. He was al­ways par­ty­ing.

It was also heart-wrench­ing see­ing pub­lic funds be­ing wasted by his aides and com­mis­sion­ers at­tend­ing car­ni­vals abroad in the name of search­ing for tourists for La­gos State. The truth is that tourists will come look­ing for La­gos State if we put our house in or­der in terms of se­cu­rity and qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture.

In­fra­struc­ture in pub­lic health in­sti­tu­tions across La­gos State nose­dived in four years of Am­bode ad­min­is­tra­tion. The 26 gen­eral hos­pi­tals and one Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal in the state strug­gled for sur­vival while pub­lic funds went into mun­dane things. Th­ese hos­pi­tals be­came even more over-crowded, with di­lap­i­dated struc­tures and un­mo­ti­vated staff. Pa­tients now spend more hours wait­ing to see doc­tors and pay for vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing. At LASUTH, pa­tients of­ten queue for weeks wait­ing for surgery be­cause of inad­e­quate op­er­at­ing the­atres. Many will not for­get in a hurry how foot­baller, Ray­mond King, died in one of the the­atres af­ter a power fail­ure.

In La­gos, classes in most pub­lic schools are over­crowded with di­lap­i­dated struc­tures. They be­came shod­dier un­der Am­bode. Many will be shocked to know that pupils in some La­gos schools still sit on bare floor in class­rooms. You will shed tears for La­gos when you visit schools like Orile-Agege Com­mu­nity Ju­nior Sec­ondary School; Ife­sowapo/ Aboru Ju­nior Sec­ondary School; Dis­trict Se­nior Col­lege, Meiran; Ije­gun Com­pre­hen­sive Se­nior Sec­ondary School; Ake­san Com­mu­nity Ju­nior Sec­ondary School and To­mia Com­mu­nity Ju­nior Sec­ondary School, Mos­alashi, Alag­bado. The list is end­less. You will find di­lap­i­dated Jakande school build­ings even in places like Apapa and Ikeja. Again, vir­tu­ally all pub­lic schools in La­gos lack run­ning wa­ter be­fore Am­bode as­sumed of­fice. The story re­mained al­most the same while his reign lasted.

Un­der Am­bode, La­gos State be­came an even more dan­ger­ous place to live, with higher crime rate. Ab­duc­tions, vi­o­lent rob­beries and killings as­sumed fright­en­ing level. Cult groups, armed rob­bers and kid­nap­pers con­stantly ter­rorised the pop­u­lace, even at day time. Lagosians per­sis­tently lived in fear. This ex-gov­er­nor spent bil­lions of Naira pro­vid­ing equip­ment for se­cu­rity agen­cies with­out lay­ing out proac­tive strat­egy for com­bat­ing crime, as done dur­ing the Buba Marwa era in La­gos. Am­bode did not reckon with the fact that the se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture of the state needed to be redesigned. He un­so­phis­ti­cat­edly thought it was just about spend­ing on equip­ment for the se­cu­rity agen­cies.

Within four years, this former gov­er­nor de­stroyed the waste col­lec­tion sys­tem in La­gos, turn­ing the state into the garbage cap­i­tal of the world. I have never seen this quan­tity of waste on the streets of La­gos in all my life. There is hardly any­where you turn to in La­gos today with­out be­ing as­saulted by un­prece­dented heaps of refuse. Res­i­dents, who can no longer bear liv­ing with refuse in their houses, sim­ply push them into the streets. Waste dis­posal in La­gos ev­i­dently col­lapsed. Am­bode de­stroyed the sta­te­owned waste man­agers, LAWMA, and brought in a lethar­gic firm called Vi­sion­scape. The “vi­sion­less” firm was sad­dled with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of clear­ing res­i­den­tial waste in 20 lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas and 37 LCDAs. Vi­sion­scape wob­bled and fum­bled, leaving frustrated Lagosians heap­ing waste on the streets in tons.

While Am­bode’s reign lasted, pen­sion­ers of the La­gos gov­ern­ment wal­lowed in pain. Am­bode pum­meled them. Some died wait­ing for their pen­sions. Many are bed-rid­den with no money for med­i­cals. Sev­eral others be­came beg­gars. Re­tirees of the La­gos State Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion were the most bashed. Many of them are still wait­ing for their pen­sions over three years af­ter re­tire­ment. The Am­bode ad­min­is­tra­tion failed to faith­fully re­mit pen­sions to the Pen­sion Fund Ad­min­is­tra­tors. The Chair­man of the La­gos State As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­tirees and PFA Pen­sion­ers, Michael Omisande, re­marked: “Those who re­tired from 2016 till date are yet to re­ceive a kobo. You know quite well that the PFAs will not pay un­til gov­ern­ment cred­its re­tirees’ ac­counts.”

Many of th­ese re­tirees spent the last 35 years of their lives serv­ing La­gos State. What they got in ap­pre­ci­a­tion from Am­bode was hu­mil­i­a­tion. This has never hap­pened in the his­tory of this State. A gov­er­nor that spent a ter­ri­fy­ing $70 mil­lion on an op­u­lent trans­port in­ter­change failed to pay re­tirees their dues. What a gov­er­nor!

The truth be told, La­gos has de­gen­er­ated greatly since the exit of La­teef Jakande as gov­er­nor. Un­der Am­bode, it de­gen­er­ated fur­ther. Lagosians yearn for the re­turn of the Jakande era; an era when devel­op­ment was in­clu­sive and peo­ple-ori­ented; an era when gov­ern­ment touched the lives of the masses of the peo­ple di­rectly with qual­ity health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, wa­ter sup­ply and pass­able inner roads. There is an ur­gent need to con­struct hun­dreds of inner roads with drainages in or­der to re­gen­er­ate th­ese blighted com­mu­ni­ties. That was what Jakande did to open up many parts of La­gos like Mile 12, Ketu, Ojota, Agege, Mende, Onig­bongbo, Palm Grove, Oni­panu. Em­pha­sis must be placed on inner roads to mo­ti­vate devel­op­ment and en­hance the value of prop­erty in th­ese shat­tered com­mu­ni­ties. Any gov­er­nor in La­gos State, long­ing for devel­op­ment, should work on giv­ing more peo­ple ac­cess to qual­ity pub­lic health­care, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion in pub­lic schools, good inner roads and pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply; not spend­ing on the­atres, for­eign tourism fairs, trans­port in­ter­change, sta­dia, and all sorts of things that should be pri­vate­sec­tor driven. This is the only way for­ward for my beloved La­gos State.

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Mojeeb

Mojeeb

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1 Comment

  1. GBzogy
    GBzogy June 10, 09:49

    This article us outright standing the truth in its head as much as Ambode failed in some areas, let us give him credit where it is due, the author of this article is just too biased, Ambode did well with the airport road, Oshodi Interchange and 114 roads in his 1st year though the promised 181 roads after the 1st 114 roads were not delivered, he opened up areas, I don’t know if this writer is conversant with Command area of Ipaja, Ambode opened up
    hitherto neglected places, his undoing was the Waste collection issue which pitted him against his party’s chieftains since they were the greatest beneficiary of the old system with their rickety waste collection trucks, I believe he could have helped them modernize their fleet of waste collection trucks instead of doing away with them outrightly,the transport buses purchase is a good idea, how many private individuals would sink their fund & face the menace of NURTW touts as we have in Lagos, we have to give credit where necessary and castigate where necessary, on a scale of 1 to 10, I will give Ambode 6. We keep our fingers crossed on what Sanwo-Olu has to offer.

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