Sunday, 1st October 2023

Ahead 2023:  Where is Ambode?

By Douglas Akhibi
13 December 2021   |   3:40 am
A Roman General once boasted that he would stamp his foot on the ground and soldiers would spring up—and people believed him! This is the case with Nigerians: they believe anything.


A Roman General once boasted that he would stamp his foot on the ground and soldiers would spring up—and people believed him! This is the case with Nigerians: they believe anything. That’s why is difficult to get the leadership question right. People who claim to be leaders are more like leeches preying on the collective sensibilities of Nigerians—taking advantage at every turn. You often hear comments like “they cannot do anything…let’s use money to deceive them!” This has always been their mindset and why it has been difficult to get the right set of leaders at all levels.

That’s why today, anyone can be right to say Nigeria is an interesting conundrum, a giant dwarfed by its many problems, mostly self-inflicted. With food inflation, no viable economy policy, and lack of strong political will to pull itself out of the doldrums of the different kinds of woes that inflict it, Nigeria has a need for strong leadership, and if the early feelers are right,
2023 might end up being a repeat and a scramble to save the soul of this ailing country.

Nowhere are these ailments more prevalent than in the political class where office holders rake in billions, leave the populace short-changed. They have done more damage to the system than expected.  Now they can’t be trusted anymore, and this has become a problem. Today, as the nation approaches the bend to 2023, the talk is expectedly who best fit the system and can raise the hope of Nigerians and actually turn it to reality. For now, cynicism is everywhere and this has eaten so deep leaving a chasm between the followers and the leaders. It is bad enough when people express these negative feelings; it is worse when no one cares.

At the moment, less than 18 months to 2023, the same set of discredited political class are the same people running around trying to present themselves again for selection. Age is not on their side, so also are other indices such as would make good leadership. They lack foresight and creativity; they are also parochial in their views. But so far as they control huge war chest, they pride themselves in being able to override whatever public opinion there is; the electorate. This is not the way Nigeria should go; it is time to get serious, do away with visionless leaders.

Amongst the front liners today jostling to situate themselves for the 2023 federal elections are personalities recycled many times over. They have no track record. They are not trustworthy and have no discernible programme in view save their mighty financial power. Nevertheless, beyond all ethnic sentiments, myths created (which we will examine in a bit) and other factors that make politics in Nigeria a primeval struggle for survival of the fittest among our political gladiators, there are still some reliable personalities that can be counted on.

Names such as Kingsley Moghalu, Peter Obi, Kayode Fayemi are good examples. Former governor Akinwunmi Ambode also fits into this bill.  It’s time to put the men with rhetoric that don’t cut it anymore, those irrelevant who just want the high that absolute power brings. We need those even if not saints are ready to show us the way to our promised land. Nigeria is falling apart and we need those who will look at the challenges with relish and tap into the well of abundance called Nigeria and turn things around.

But in Ambode, for instance, there are some myths previously woven to do him, that instead of demystifying him, makes him stand out like sore thumb among the crowd. Myth one; Ambode is a great administrator and not a good politician. Is this really a bad label for someone who has dedicated his life to public service and has milestone and antecedents to prove his worth and legacy to a teeming public? What does Nigeria need right now? Someone capable of turning this giant turned dwarf by the weight of his problems around. What Ambode achieved in four years in Lagos as governor is unprecedented. Those that came before and after him do not hold a candle to his achievements. The facts speak for themselves.

Myth two; Ambode is not easy to work with and not a team player. Ambode has served selflessly from grassroots in Lagos State, choosing to make his fortunes here instead of taking his considerable skills as an accountant out of these shores like his contemporaries. He rose from serving in various capacities in the Lagos State local government set up to being the governor also along the way serving and playing key roles in various previous administrations. How come he is now suddenly so difficult to work with? The answer is accountability and fiscal responsibility, Ambode abhorred waste, and he paid the price for not feeding the multi-headed hydra called corruption that fuels our daily lives in Nigeria.

Myth three; you need time to turn around the fortunes for a dynamic country like Nigeria. Ambode disproved this a myth with his achievements in Lagos for four years he was governor. That Ambode’s tenure is still looked back on with fondness and nostalgia by Lagosians is a testament to the principle that what we need is the political will to turn the country around.

That Ambode was rejected by the people was a machination of a Godfather who feared for his political base he fed with the proverbial Adebibu Amala politics. He was a victim of a system built on give and take irrespective of the damage done to the country.

Myth Four; Nigeria is irredeemable. Ambode attended a unity school, Federal Government College, Warri deep in the South-South region of Nigeria, and as any alumnae of such schools will tell you, they believe in the Nigeria Project, Ambode is not different. As governor of a cosmopolitan state like Lagos, there was never a time any of its residents felt marginalised. There was no area of life of the average Lagosian that Ambode didn’t touch. Ambode busted the myth of slow service delivery when it involves government meeting the needs of the people of the state. He was entrusted to govern and lead. Apply this to Nigeria, a deeply divided nation struggling for survival, taking blows from all sides and not leveraging on its diversity, Ambode will fit like glove. We need someone who sees beyond basic sentiments and the answer stares us in the face.

The youths of the country need to wake up, and wake up to the fact that direct confrontation with the system will not work; instead infiltrating the system and changing it within is the best route towards progressive nationhood, and in Ambode they have a trojan horse already buried in the system. That a progressive like Ambode is in the wilderness is an indictment on the current system. Ambode is not just a politician, he is actually a cut above the rest. Sentiments aside which governor in the current class achieved more?

In a case of need, Nigeria needs the likes of Ambode; whether Ambode needs Nigeria is another case entirely but 2023 fast approaches and we need a change, not just any change but a paradigm shift, a mindset makeover. We do not want leaders who come preying on our differences, but those ready to roll up their sleeves and go down the trenches and pull our country from the abyss which we are sinking into…. Ambode: a case of need.

Akhibi wrote in from Ogba, Lagos State.