On June 14, 1964, at the Epe General Hospital, Lagos, the cry of a new life pierced the anxious maternity ward. It was that of a boy child. A deeply grateful and pious father, Pa Festus Akinwale Ambode and mother Christianah Oluleye Ambode, welcomed a new bawling clan member.
Today, at a vigorous 58 years of age, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of Lagos State is no less a child of providence. He wielded power and is still deploying his influence with alluring humility and exemplary focus. With his life’s trajectory, he has demonstrated that faith, public finance management, administration and politics fundamentally address transformation of the human condition for good
He still unabashedly maintains this unique philosophy and footing. Little wonder, the famous American poet and essayist Maya Angelou observed that, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” Angelou’s captivating insight into the existential challenges that confront great men in-the-making fundamentally captures the life story of Ambode, who notched 58, on June 14.
The enthralling odyssey of ex-Governor Ambode further goes to validate the enduring wisdom that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. An unwavering sense of loyalty and duty, rigorous professionalism, stern discipline, demonstrable integrity and almost a child-like faith in his beloved God had activated and enlisted those mysterious principles that guide progress.
In the academia, professions, faith arena, politics and even romance, these deep traits have meshed to win over the needed fundamental forces, which interfaced to leverage Ambode’s life journey.
Ambode has demonstrated that he is a personality and leader not swayed by extraneous emotionalism and parochial cant. This footing may have put him on a collision course with the political godfather of his realm. But he remains driven by principle.
It could be recalled that after dispatching the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s mettlesome Chief Jimi Agbaje in the keenly contested April 12, 2015 governorship election, Ambode hit the ground running. As governor of Nigeria’s commercial and industrial capital faced with the challenge of satisfying the yearnings of the over 15 million residents of Lagos, it couldn’t have been otherwise.
Drawing from his rich professional background as an accountant, administrator and public finance management expert and leaning on a vision to make Lagos a clean, secure, more prosperous state with a robust economy built on service, equity and justice, the Epe-born dynamite left few in doubt that he is indeed the man the city needed.
One of Ambode’s major achievements was the massive inner roads (re)construction his government embarked upon at the outset. In his ‘114 Roads’ project, each of the 57 local councils in the state got two good roads completed. The accounting guru’s philosophy that a well-lit Lagos will reduce crime also saw him light up over 360 streets across the state.
Some key projects executed under the single term tenure of ex-Governor Ambode include the Ikeja Bus Terminal; Oshodi Transport Interchange; Oshodi-Airport Road Expansion; Ojodu Berger Bus Terminal; Institute of Maternal and Child Health (Ayinke House); Abule Egba Jubilee Flyover; Ajah Jubilee Flyover; Aba-Oru Flyover; Yaba Bus Terminal and Oyingbo Bus Terminal.
Others include – Freedom Road, Lekki; Bus Reform Initiatives (820 buses purchased out of 5,000 originally planned); Four Lagos Theatres – located in Alimosho, Badagry, Epe and Ikeja) and Construction of 21 roads in Alimosho amongst others.
On the security, artisanal and entrepreneurial empowerment, agricultural, tax generation fronts and more, Ambode indisputably made remarkable progress in Lagos State.
Not many would have forgotten that early in his tenure, Ambode launched the game-changing Lagos-Kebbi (LAKE Rice) project. Thousands of residents trooped out to various centres across the three senatorial districts in the state 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 recession then in 2016 notwithstanding, Lagos State under his watch generated a figure which ranked among its highest ever internal revenue. As at the preceding December, the state had raked in N287 billion in IGR, a whopping N19 billion more than was generated the year before. Except in 2013 when the state generated N384 billion, the year was the highest the state had made since its creation. A rejig of the state’s revenue generation agency played a major role in this feat. But Ambode also acknowledged faithful tax-paying citizens in the state for the revenue landmark.
His words: “The tax payers are the ones giving us the little energy that we have and even though when they say Nigeria is in recession, somehow Lagos has been able to do it and it is because people are paying their taxes.” The governor also dealt expeditiously with backlog payment of N11billion as arrears to retirees of Lagos State Government and much more.
Lagosians certainly will not forget in a hurry the transformative leadership he brought in his phenomenal four-year tenure. During this challenging period, he never borrowed money to fund development. He rather worked hard to generate revenue.
Against unproven allegations of being impetuous and adversarial, the emergence of Chief Ambode as Lagos State chief executive evokes memories of other progressive eras of the state. Clearly, Ambode is not a saint and has never been heard to claim that arcane status. But the parameters for electing the governor of a Nigerian state do not specify sainthood as a key requirement.
His choice, simply acknowledged the capacity of focused individuals to change their society for the better. For decades, both as an accountant, administrator and public finance management expert, he has provided clear, pragmatic leadership.
Even after, the untidy truncation of his governorship trajectory, like the true gentleman he is, he unstintingly supported his party and political successor. He has since then remarkably carried himself with exemplary dignity, an unusual footing for contemporary politicians.
Perhaps these consistent qualities have kept him on the radar of the ruling party’s top hierarchs. Just three months ago, Ambode was appointed by APC into its Contact/Strategy Committee.
Chief Ambode attended St. Jude’s Primary School, Ebute Metta, Lagos State, from 1969-1974, where he sat for the National Common Entrance Examinations. From 1974-1981, he attended Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State and from 1981-1984, attended University of Lagos, where he studied Accounting, graduating at the age of 21. He also has a Master’s degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos and is also qualified as a chartered accountant.
Ambode was awarded the Fulbright Program scholarship for the Hubert Humphries Fellowship Programme in Boston, Massachusetts. He also attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for Advanced Management Programme. Other institutions he attended for courses and programmes include – Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, England, the Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland, INSEAD, Singapore. He also, he attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.
His civil service career was remarkable. From 1988-91, he was the Assistant Treasurer, Badagry local government, Lagos State, Nigeria. In 1991, he was posted to Somolu Local Government, Lagos State, as an auditor. He has also held the position of Council Treasurer in Shomolu Local Government in later years.
He also previously served as Council Treasurer at Alimosho Local Government, Lagos State. In 2001, he became acting Auditor General for Local Government, Lagos State, Nigeria. This position was confirmed by the State House of Assembly. In January 2005, Ambode was appointed the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Finance.
From 2006-2012, he was the Accountant General for Lagos State, in charge of all the financial activities of the state and directly responsible for over 1400 accountants in the state service. Under his watch, the State Treasury Office (STO) revolutionized the way Lagos State finances were raised, budgeted, managed and planned. In his six years as the Lagos State accountant general, the state’s financial performance improved visibly with the budget performing at an average of 85% annually.
After 27 years in the civil service, he voluntarily retired in August 2012. He subsequently founded Brandsmiths Consulting Limited to provide Public Finance and Management Consulting services to government at all levels, its parastatals and agencies. In 2013, he founded the non-profit La Roche Leadership Foundation. Its recent goal is to install Nigerian and Lagos State flags in all government owned schools in Lagos State.
He is an active member of the Federal Government College Lagos, Warri Old Students Association (FEGOCOWOSA) and is credited with revitalizing the Lagos branch of the Association. He was a two-time Chairman of the Lagos State Branch, and, until recently, was the National President of the Association, a position he held for three years.
In 1991, Ambode married the love of his life – Bolanle Patience Odukomaiya. They are blessed with lovely twin children.
In all his life’s challenges, a calm philosophical Ambode has taken things in his stride as he focuses on the next phase of his life. Such is the measure of the teacher’s son as he notched 58. Happy birthday Chief.