Making Of Leaders: The Akinwunmi Ambode Journey
THEY call him here. They call him there. They call him everywhere. “Ambode” is a name being mentioned with increasing regularity at all corners of the city of Lagos. From the burrough of Ikoyi to the sprawl of Oshodi, people are talking about the man who would be king – the next governor of Lagos state.
But what about the man Ambode? The flavour of the month; a month before the election or a flash in the very hot pan of Nigerian politics? Or is there really more to Akinwunmi Ambode than meets the average ear – ear because while many are yet to encounter the bearer of the name in flesh, there is no doubt a greater majority are getting earfuls about the facts and fiction on the man.
It would help if we stick to the facts. For instance, it is on record that on June 14, 1963, Christianah Oluleye Ambode, an entrepreneur in the Epe community of Lagos, was delivered of a baby boy, her sixth child, at the local General Hospital.
She and Festus, her teacher husband, christened the new bundle of joy, Akinwunmi (“valour is pleasing to me”) and some 50-odd years later, it is a decision that has proved prescient.
As the child grew, it soon became evident he had schooling in his genes. Akinwunmi breezed through Primary School at St. Jude’s, Ebutte Meta, Lagos and passed his National Common Entrance Exams with panache.
Next stop was the Federal Government College, Warri, a seven-year sojourn that culminated with young Ambode emerging from the Higher School Certificate Examinations with the second best results in West Africa.
Meanwhile, young Ambode was developing a formidable sporting streak to match his burgeoning brilliance in academics. He would become a key member of his school’s hockey and cricket teams, even going as far as making the then Bendel state’s cricket team
His Secondary school learning done, it was onto the University of Lagos in pursuit of a degree in Accountancy – one he attained with distinction at the age of 21.
By the time he was 24, he had joined the ranks of Chartered Accountants and obtained a Master’s degree. He also formally embarked on his career of service to the Public. The Lagos public, to be specific.
The records speak for the man: Mr. Ambode’s commitment to a Lagos state that works has taken him on a 27-year odyssey that have seen him work as Accountant at the Lagos State Waste Management Board (now LAWMA) to acting as Council Treasurer in, in quick succession, the Badagry, Shomolu, Alimosho and Mushin Local Governments.
This tour gave the rising professional great firsthand experience in governance and its impact on the citizenry. But he loved to serve.
And it was this love for public service that led the sterling Accountant to abandon what seemed like a cushy arrangement in 1998 to pursue a further course of learning – this time on the prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study Public Leadership at Boston University, Massachussets, USA with an emphasis on Finance and Accounting.
It would seem destiny was beckoning to him to prepare for a higher call to service that lay in his future, a calling that began to quickly manifest on his return home to the role of acting Auditor-General of Local Governments in Lagos state. He was confirmed by the State House of Assembly in 2001.
In January 2005, Ambode was redeployed to mainstream public service as the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance. By February 2006, Ambode was given the added responsibility of 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 a remarkable average of 85% annually.
Ambode believes that “public financial management is about ensuring that public money is well spent and it is made to stretch as far as possible. It provides leaders and public-sector managers with information to make decisions and to know if they are using resources effectively.
It has been said that persons named Akinwunmi have a deep-seated desire to express their power in a concrete manner and thus achieve something great for humanity.
As the polls draw close, the name Ambode seems to be on everyone’s lips and maybe, rightly so. After almost 30 years of meritorious service to the Government and People of Lagos state, his expected ascension to the Seat of Governor would seem a natural fit.
But perhaps better than any words this writer can muster is the man Ambode’s own words on why he wants the crown
“I have toiled all my life and spent my entire career in the Lagos State public service. I toiled in it for 27 years, I stood for Lagos State and I am standing for Lagos State. I am passionate about people and their issues; how do I help them? That is all I am about, I am here for people and people will choose us”.
They call him here. They call him there. They call him everywhere. After the polls have come and gone, they who call him just may begin to refer to Akinwunmi Ambode as Your Excellency.
Alade, a lawyer and public affairs analyst, lives in Lagos.