Or should I have just titled this piece: ‘Unlike Ambode, Unlike Aregbesola’ or ‘Like Ambode, Unlike Aregbesola’? I decided to pick my title to avoid mischief and set the records straight. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is the governor of the State of Osun while Mr Akinwunmi Ambode is the governor of Lagos state. Both Osun and Lagos are part of what is politically referred to as south-west.
Before taking a further look at these two personalities, maybe we should quickly consider their differences. At least we know that their differences would aide us into knowing their similarities and why the title was chosen.
A closer, critical look at Aregbesola shows he is not dark (we can effectively call him fair). He is slim and has remained so (ever since the days of the struggle for a better Nigeria). Ogebni, even though has become a governor of a state, still has the ‘struggle’ running in his vein and as a result, calling him a comrade should not be out of place. He was a former commissioner in Lagos state. This governor became the first opposition to take over government in the state at a time Osun was still creeping in the dark. Maybe finally, Aregbesola seems to be enjoying a God-given, people-friendly second term.
On the other hand, Ambode could well be described as chubby (forgive me Your Excellency), ever smiling (I have never seen him frown even in the face of this daunting task of taking charge of the most sophisticated and most populated state in Nigeria). Though in his first term yet, he is not a ‘comrade’ as the rights activists would want to describe themselves, but this soft-spoken man from Epe sure fought the battle for the emancipation of Lagos especially from the draconian rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which was at the centre when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was the governor of Lagos state. He is in a state that has never tasted the PDP.
For those who may not have known it, Ambode was part of the team that helped to shore up the internally generated revenue of the state at a time President Olusegun Obasanjo placed a seal on federal allocations to Lagos. This happened for many months based on the simple fact that then Governor Tinubu decided to break the state into local council development areas. Today it is known that the Tinubu example is being replicated all over the country.
When Aregbesola took over power in the State of Osun from Olagunsoye Oyinlola after a legal tussle that seriously tested the integrity of the judiciary, the major task was that of rebuilding a state from the scratch. Nothing seemed to be working, there was a huge debt and the people of the state were disgruntled. It was a headache. But Ogbeni was resolute and determined. When Ambode took over Lagos from Babatunde Fashola, there was a challenge. Of course, Lagos earns big from internally generated revenue; that was not all that matters. There was the need to know what to do and when to do what to do.
Asiwaju Tinubu stressed the point recently: “I was worried hell when you (Ambode) took over, not about your credibility, character or capacity, but because however wise or smart a man is, if there is no resources to back the ideas, production would be zero, progress would be zero. When you (Ambode) took over, I know you inherited a burden of debt. The debt profile of Lagos was high, I was wondering how you will reengineer and face the challenges to make progress.”
Maybe we can now successfully say they both started from a point where the need to make things straight was paramount.
Immediately he hit the ground, Aregbesola declared a state of emergency on schools. His belief is that the growth and progress of any state is measured through the level of enlightenment and education of its residents. He started turning schools into gigantic structures to make learning a comfortable experience. The government under Aregbesola refurbished over 1,534 classrooms across the state and is still counting. On an occasion, the Senior Special Assistant on Education, Mr Niyi Idowu, said: “20 blocks of 522 elementary school classrooms, 22 blocks of 748 middle schools classrooms and 40 blocks of 264 high schools classrooms have been refurbished in the past 5 years.”
Remember the ‘opon imo’ revolution and how this rang across the world? The school feeding programme was introduced. This did not just benefit the children; it also did farmers in the state. Osun has gradually taken the toga of the ‘Food Basket of the Nation.’
Here is a confirmation: documents from Osun show that at least, 47,996 of the 80,000 farmers registered in the state benefitted from N2.6 billion agricultural facilities in the state coordinated by Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (OREAP). For those who criticized the school feeding programme back then, they now know that the O’Meals programme currently feeds over 254,000 school children, employs 3,007 caterers, and indirectly employs 7,057, gulps N12.7 million daily with N12 billion spent so far since 2012, benefited 900 cocoyam farmers, 700 small poultry farmers, 310 catfish farmers and 63 cow markets.
With enrollment increased from 155,318 pupils at inception to 252,739, 8,400 crates of eggs are consumed weekly, 336,000 crates are consumed annually and 1,344,000 crates of eggs have been consumed in four years, 10 metric tonnes of fish is consumed weekly; 400 tonnes of fish is consumed annually, while 1,600 metric tonnes of fish have been consumed by pupils in four years, 35 heads of cows are slaughtered for consumption per week, 1,400 heads of cows are slaughtered for consumption annually, while 5,600 heads of cows have been slaughtered for consumption in four years.
Do you now agree that Osun is working? Do you now agree that the governor of the state may not have tasted much sleep since emerging governor? Do you now agree that he is simply working for posterity? Do you now agree that he is not too different from Ambode in terms of successful implementation of policies and execution of projects?
In Lagos, it is definitely difficult to know where to start from. Have you been to Berger recently? No one would have dreamt that the area would compete with some parts of the western world so soon.
Being an accountant expert himself, Ambode sure knows how to attract major investments, but he does this silently putting infrastructure in place. Today, every part of the state tastes what it means to have the right person in office. An evidence? A day after commissioning the Berger project, Governor Ambode just commissioned the massive but unique Abule-Egba and Ajah flyovers not just to ease the perennial traffic that the area has become known for, but to open the place up for business.
While the Ajah Bridge is a 160 metres long dual carriageway with total length of 620 metres, the Abule Egba Bridge is 1.3 km with a water fountain. Both bridges were designed with traffic signalization, street lighting, walkways, service ducts, drainage infrastructure, among others. Freedom Road he also commissioned is 2.7 km, while Admiralty Way is 2.2 km.
Hear him: “We had to give this project priority because of its strategic importance to the economic growth of the Lekki Free Trade Zone and the Ibeju-Lekki-Epe axis. This axis will play a key role in the future prosperity of Lagos State as the home to many multi-billion naira private investments in the Lekki Free Trade Zone as well as the upcoming seaport and airport. “As a government, we are irrevocably committed to making Lagos State an investment haven and we have made it a duty to put in place top class infrastructure that will facilitate movement of people, goods and materials. We are confident that these initiatives will boost commercial activities in this axis, support economic growth and significantly reduce travel time as well as other costs associated with traffic challenges,” the Governor said.
Have you seen the different statues and beautification projects that now dot every part of the state? Less than a week ago, the governor spent time commissioning roads and bridges. Some of them included the Ijegun-Isheri-Osun-Isolo Road, Idimu-Ejigbo Road (Phase II), New Market Road, Camp Davies Road/Ishefun Road, all in Alimosho Local Government Area; Brown Road in Surulere; Adisa Ajibulu Road with Bridge and Kolawole Shonibare Street, Ajao Estate Road, both in Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area, Ibeju-Lekki, Epe, Eredo, Agbowa-Ikosi, Igbogbo-Bayeku, Ikorodu and Olorunda areas as well as Ojuloge Monument located opposite National Arts Theatre, Iganmu; Empowerment Monument at Sabo, Yaba; Drummer Monument at Ebute Ipakodo Roundabout, Ikorodu and Badagry Recreational Park, Topo, Idale.
When Governor Ambode said the other day that he was to ensure that the family of any police officer that dies in his state in active service gets N10 million while those who sustain injuries would have N5 million, many thought it was a mere political statement. Just recently, the governor dolled out N55 million to meet this promise. Would you say Lagos is not working? With such encouragement from a state government, why would you think security agents will not put in their very best to rid the state of criminalities? Apart from this, the Neighbourhood Watch created by a bill sponsored by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, has now become a reference point for other states after it was endorsed and implemented by Ambode.
It is no news that pensioners no longer have time for agitation in the state. A total of N16.9 billion was released as pension arrears between April 2016 and March 2017, while N2 billion was disbursed to young entrepreneurs and artisans under the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) scheme.
Like Tinubu has concluded, Ambode is one of the best thing that has happened to Lagos. Does Ambode and Aregbesola share similarities? Judge!
Egberongbe is the Special Adviser to Speaker Mudashiru Obasa on Political and Legislative Matters.