(Response to Yemi Adebowale’s diatribe)
By Habib Aruna
Failed public service analysis is when public affairs commentators do not seem to understand the basic and constitutional functions of the three tiers of governments as we have it in Nigeria, but seek to tie the responsibilities of all tiers on one arm, especially when the analyst deliberately sweeps under the carpet the guiding principle and sound judgment that Nigeria is a federating nation and each State administration is guided by laws peculiar to her.
Negating these indexes to arrive at a predetermined agenda will not only expose the analyst as a misguided, wrongly inflamed or hired agent, but one who also purposely muddles up issues and conclusions by deliberately feeding the public with false narratives to whip up sentiments against serving or past public officials.
A case at hand is the opinion article by Yemi Adebowale in last Saturday’s ThisDay Newspaper strangely titled “How Ambode underdeveloped Lagos”.
Adebowale wrote as though previous governments before the Ambode-led administration had no achievements on which Ambode built on. And as such, he did a great disservice, albeit unwittingly, to the 16 years public service labours of both administrations of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN in Lagos State.
In what is apparently intended to be a serialised article to demonize the immediate past administration in Lagos State, the writer of the article passed a vote of failure on the 20-year cumulative administrations of three governors and, by extension, of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in Lagos State.
The said article of course is an inaccurate and biased submission looking for reasons at all cost to castigate the Ambode administration. Mr. Adebowale deserves to be corrected and educated so that readers of his column can be better informed.
In the area of public health, it is doubtful if the writer keenly followed the major developments recorded by the Ambode administration, a good number of which, if not all, This Day titles had dutifully reported to the public. 26 General Hospitals and One Teaching Hospital were in existence before the Ambode administration according to Adebowale’s piece. But the question to ask him is: Is there a need for more hospitals? Is there a need for more teaching hospitals? Former governor Fashola had once provided the apt answer to these enquiries in one of his responses to similar questions: “Lagos State administration is more concerned about putting in place measures that will not make residents visit the hospitals, through public health advocacy, immunisation, environment management, anti-malaria campaigns among others”.
And so building new General Hospitals cannot be the only priority health agenda of a pragmatic administration, though one was approved and is being built in Ojo to cater for the axis, upon request by the community during one of the pan-Lagos Town Hall Meetings that characterised the Ambode era. This shows that the immediate-past administration was a listening one.
Yet, there were several carefully executed interventions under the Ambode administration that underscored the axiom that health is wealth.
75 primary health care centres across the state were renovated by Ambode with state of the art medical equipment and furniture installed in all of them. These are verifiable facts.
All the 300 PHCs in the state were constantly supplied with drugs and materials, and it is hoped that Mr. Adebowale understands that PHCs complement the General Hospitals across the state.
In four years of Ambode, five brand new PHCs were built and equipped in Ajido (Badagry); Ijegun (Alimosho); OriOkuta (Ikorodu) apparently close to Mr. Adebowale; a Comprehensive PHC in Aboru (Alimosho) which was commissioned by AsiwajuTinubu and in Otumara in Lagos Mainland Local Government.
The Ambode administration did not stop at that. It also renovated and equipped 16 Secondary Health Care facilities across the state.
For three consecutive years (2016-2018), Lagos State came first in immunisation while the HIV prevalent rate, for the first time in the state, dropped from 4.6% to 1.3% at the same period under Ambode.
However, the paramount public health service delivery was perhaps the industrial harmony witnessed in the past four years in Lagos State. The fact that in the four years of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, FCA industrial harmony reigned supreme in public health services sector. There was no single threat to down tools not to talk of industrial action.
Yet, 20 state-of-the-art ambulances were procured and distributed statewide to compliment all the functional general and teaching hospitals where no single industrial action was recorded throughout. Also, an air ambulance was procured and an helipad constructed on the premises of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in Ikeja, the state capital, while a mobile cancer screening facility was procured.
The government of Canada donated an epidemic containment centre to the State due to healthy relationship the Ambode administration cultivated with the sovereign state. Also, a DNA centre was established by the Ambode administration for forensic medical and security examinations, a first in this part of the world by a state government.
Thus it is sheer mischief and hate mongering for anyone to score Ambode low in the area of public health care services. Hundreds of thousands of Lagosians and citizens from other states who are beneficiaries of the public health facilities in Lagos will disagree with Mr. Adebowale’s ill-informed summation. And it is important to highlight that Ambode had foresight for many of the projects he initiated to outlive him. His administration in its bid to earn a percentage of the global medical tourism market share allocated a prime land to an international health services provider in upscale Victoria Island to build an international health facility and construction is underway. What more, the out of court settlement of the case that stalled the Ayinke House Maternal and Child Specialist Hospital reconstruction and reequipping was achieved by the Ambode administration and the hospital has since been commissioned and opened for use by President Muhammadu Buhari. We should not also forget that Ambode also launched the Lagos State Medical Insurance Scheme, a project that his successor, Mr. BabajideSanwoolu has promised to take to the next level. So the writer of last Saturday’s disingenuous piece and those he holds brief for cannot erase these facts in 10 life times. One administration builds on what is on ground in the spirit of continuity.
In the area of education, the submission of Prof. Lanre Fagbohun SAN, the Vice- Chancellor of the Lagos State University, (LASU), is the best testimonial one can offer as a response to Mr. Adebowale’s apparent need for knowledge. It goes thus: “Our amiable visitor, Governor Ambode, came at a time LASU was going through many crises, which slowed down its operations and academic development. It is instructive to note that the free hand given to the management by the Governor led to the resolution of the crises and the school has come out stronger. The World Bank has designated LASU as one of the centres of excellence among African universities”.
A system is judged by the products of the system. Obviously, the writer and his ilk must have read of how a student of Lagos State public school led in the last Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) university entrance examination. They must be familiar with the exploits and performance indexes of the pupils of Lagos State public schools in certified examinations. In the area of public school infrastructure, the records of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) put a lie to the concoctions in the contentious article. Close to half a million pupils enjoyed free education under the Ambode administration and no longer were pupils ferrying furniture to Lagos State public schools. Local council administrations in the state, in line with the directive from SUBEB, provided toilets and running water in Lagos public schools in their domains. Remuneration of teachers was top notch, their salaries paid as at when due and employment of over 2000 teachers was done by the Lagos State Teaching Service Commission to complement the State teaching force in the life of the administration.
How come the piece failed to talk about the “Millennium Schools” project of the Asiwaju Tinubu administration or the EKO project of Governor Fashola? The improvement on these laudable projects were evident in the time span of the Ambode administration with “Code Lagos”, “Ready Set, Work” and E-library initiatives giving Lagos an obvious edge in school enrolment and public education. The Code Lagos project exposed Lagos pupils to highly valued computing development abilities at an early age. The Ready Set Work initiative ploughed hundreds of our youths to LASU graduates to become entrepreneurs; while the e-library project availed recommended text books to Lagos pupils on trending electronic platforms in partnership with GTBank.
Can one government deliver what is needed in four or even eight years? Impossible! It would therefore be uncharitable to insinuate underdevelopment in a state that built on its progressive mojo in the last four years.
In the area of security, Lagos remained the safest State in Nigeria during the Ambode administration. This was the submission of a former AIG in charge of Zone two (Lagos and Ogun States) Mamman Tsaf. His Excellency Akinwunmi Ambode intelligently made use of the pooled funds, made available under the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, by providing the State counterpart funding to provide over N8bn worth of security hardwares, arms, ammunitions, patrol vehicle, patrol SUVs, armoured personnel carriers and communication gadgets. He reinvigorated the State Rapid Response (RRS) Unit and established the 5,700 man Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Corp, which is an excellent pointer to the viability of community policing.
The Badoo Cult menace, the Babington Macaulay school kidnap, the Ikorodu kidnaps, the menace of land grabbers, the Lagos water way crime route, the Ajegunle oil bunkering cartel and other emergent security challenges were successful curtailed by the Ambode administration. So how in the name of fair speech and balanced reportage could the Adebowale article have drawn the skewed conclusion on security in this golden era of the State? Even “Evans the billionaire kidnapper” was apprehended with the active support of the administration. The emergency lines 767 and 121 were given verve by the Ambode administration. On top of this, the “Light Up Lagos” initiative had twin deliverables: public illumination and security. This is a fact that the writer cannot deny, which interestingly his newspaper corroborates on a weekly basis of Lagos being the most pragmatic state as far as safety and security are concerned.
On Lagos pensioners, the last public group interface that Mr. Ambode had as a sitting Governor was with the executives and members of Lagos pensioners, and what they offered him were prayers and praises for the much he did for them during his tenure. During the Ambode administration, pensioners in Lagos received a total of N45bn of accrued rights paid out in four years. 4,600 pensioners of the Teaching Service Commission were the first set to be paid by the administration. And it’s not likely that any other person would know more than Mrs. Folasade Onanuga, the DG of Lagos State Pensions Commissions, in an interview published just on June 4 in The PUNCH. The fact remains that Ambode inherited outstanding pension arrears from his predecessors. He duly settled them since government is a continuum. The same logic will still prevail in the present government propelled by continuity.
On the environment, the writer employs frivolous and alarming language to garnish his submission. It’s an unnecessary sensationalism given that waste management of 21million residents of Lagos can only be managed progressively since open dumping of waste portends a great danger to both Lagos flora (Plant), fauna (Water Bodies), karst topography (Underground Water System) will harm the climate.
The “Cleaner Lagos Initiative” of the past administration passed through the State House of Assembly; the bill sought to create waste to wealth businesses, create value chain in the waste management process, procure waste management hardware such as engineered landfill sites, waste processing, sorting and recycling plants and the appointment of a professional integrated private waste service provider was as a result of an open and competitive bid process. It is instructive to add that there was no net reduction in employment and employees under the “Cleaner Lagos Initiative,” they in fact had their monthly wages increased by 50 percent. Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) was transmuting to Lagos State Waste Regulatory Agency, while Support Service Providers were transited to Resident Ward Contractors. The apparent shying away from open and determinable service delivery and right service pricing by hitherto Support Service Providers led to sabotage and revisionism. Despite its convictions, the Ambode administration did not shy away from recalling those private sector waste evacuators after constructive engagement and interventions.
While Adebowale condemned the establishment of Lagos Theaters, Foreign Tourism Fairs, Oshodi Transport Interchange and the Onikan Stadium Arena, claiming the funds expended on them should have been ploughed into inner city roads and public water provision, one doubts if the writer truly resides in Lagos State or understands the social capital role of a forward-looking government in a megacity else he would have known that each of the 57 councils in Lagos State had six inner city roads repairs and reconstructions carried out in each of them by the administration.
The writer would equally have read about the 40 kilometers of inner city roads and bridges constructed by the administration in Alimosho LGA alone. I guess he also must have taken note of the ongoing 21 kilometers of inner city roads construction in IfakoIjaiye LCDA. Definitely the writer must have heard of the Epe LGA network of roads. I bet he must have read that Ikorodu LGA reconstruction was stalled by litigations from house owners, the same type of litigation that stalled Ago Palace Way reconstruction. He must have read about the payments paid to house owners whose buildings had to be demolished for all these roads and bridge construction. That he marvels at why millions of residents applauded Ambode’s massive road infrastructure points to only one thing – that the residents, the obvious majority who are the beneficiaries of the life changing projects are right and that the writer’s fabled and uncharitable distortion of recent history is wrong. Curious indeed is the sort of thinking that would question the rationale behind Ambode turning the 40-year-old Airport Road in Lagos to a world-class 10-lane wonder boulevard. It cannot be sheer criticism for criticism sake that would breed such anti-people opinion. There must be something sinister behind this diatribe. Will Mr. Adebowale employ such curious logic on what the state government is about to resume on the Badagry Express Road?
What possibly can an Editor of an urbane newspaper like This Day on Saturday have against sports, creative arts and social inclusion? He argued in the article that the arts and sports projects are better left for the corporate sector. Perhaps, he does not know but the information is in public domain that Lagos State under Ambode mainly provided the seed money as expected of government, while corporate sector provided the bulk of the funding for the things that irk Mr. Adebowale, from Lagos@50 celebrations to One Lagos Fiesta and charity football matches and sporting events.
What sort of thinking will preach all work and no play in a megacity where youths are in the clear majority? If a private establishment like ThisDay Newspapers could be working with corporate players in staging world class concerts and fashion shows in Lagos without thinking it’s counterpart funding into such projects should go into salaries and newsprint alone, then more education and open mind are required in appreciating why Lagos is now celebrated, more than ever before, as the creative and sporting hub of West Africa thanks to a governor who saw the need to tap into the creative economy.
So at the risk of making a fanfare of this obvious progress, it must be stated clearly that the redevelopment of the Onikan Stadium complex (Onikan Arena) has given the state her first CAF certified stadium that is camera friendly and which can host CAF organised matches. Football, like entertaintainment, is a money spinning business and image builder. You can’t quantify such gains from anti-social prisms. Already, the Agege Stadium touched up by the Ambode administration is being used by three Lagos-based clubs for their league matches. The business of soccer has started in Lagos. Onikan Arena is designed to raise the bar of sports development even higher.
The Lagos theatres in four areas of the state are centres of training, exhibitions, crafts and indigenous plays. Please what do you think a tourist wants to see in Lagos? “Hollywood Productions”? Hell no! It is doubtful if the writer reckons with the likes of Terra Culture, Nike Art Gallery, Yemisi Shyllon Museum, Lekki Conservation Centre among others which represent what visitors want to see in Lagos and her culture. Certainly, the informed mind knows that Lagos has a rich culture and the Lagos State Art Council had long proposed these theaters to be established in Lagos administrative divisions and the state capital. This demand is what Ambode gave life to for which the art community is pleased.
Oshodi Transport Interchange remains the first of its kind in West Africa. It will process 300,000 passengers daily, away from the confusion and discomfort of old, in safety and comfort. This is the new Lagos! The future is here! Doesn’t Mr. Adebowale see it? This project will no doubt pay for itself in due course. Transportation systems in this age cannot continue in the “Bolekaja” style of years gone by. Lagos is a city state that must not be left behind in the comity of other city states. Lagos tax payers are global citizens widely travelled. Who would want them to abandon their vehicles and use “Bolekaja” buses instead of the air-conditioned, internet-enabled and smart buses provided by the Ambode administration?
The writer was being economical with the truth by not talking about the proposed establishment of Assembly Plant in Epe and the establishment of Maintenance & Parking Yards in Oshodi, Yaba and Anthony Village that will service the 5,000 buses. He refused to acknowledge the redevelopment and construction of the Oyingbo, Yaba, Ikeja, Berger, Ketu, Ojota and Marina modern terminals, conveniently forgetting that another four- year term, akin to Alhaji Lateef Jakande’s golden era, is what Lagosians have just savoured and no revisionist agenda can change it. The indelible landmarks and memories will certainly endure.
“Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it” is the famous quote by Uthman Dan Fodio.
I suggest the writer properly searches for the truth in order to heal his apparently wounded conscience. History will be the ultimate evaluator. The true relief is that majority of the people and residents of Lagos can attest to the undeniable public services of the Ambode administration and the positive impact on their lives. Time will tell!
* Aruna is a media aide to former Governor Ambode