The chief executive of CPA Australia , Alex Malley, once observed that what is needed from strategic leaders with an accounting qualification is a confidence that their ability and relevance is nearly impossible to compete with, not only in business, but in politics as well.
It is Malley’s conviction that accountants could make a big impact in providing creative and purposeful political leadership. Yet, seldom do accountants step out to be the public voice, to seize the mantle of ultimate decision making responsibility, all of which perpetuates the common misconception that accountants merely balance the books.
Presently, in Lagos State, a chartered accountant, Akinwumi Ambode, has stepped out into the public space to accede to Malley’s clarion call for accountants to move over into the political sphere. Six months after his assumption in office as the Governor of the State, a lot has happened to authenticate Malley’s perspective that accountants have much to offer in the political arena. Various leaders make lasting impression on their admirers through diverse means. Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King etch themselves in the minds of their followers through their oratory prowess. Other leaders earn public respect through the strength and depth of their principles and convictions.
In his first six months in office, one item that has become quite steady in Ambode’s governing style is his penchant for keeping his word. In this clime, a good number of political leaders make promises they cannot keep. During electioneering season, the typical Nigerian politician would make a thousand and one pledges to the electorate. Upon assumption of office, the story changes dramatically. Several years of vague and empty promises have, thus, made Nigerians not to expect much from their leaders.
It is, however, in keeping faith with his electoral promises that Ambode has become quite different from most contemporary Nigerian politicians. To Ambode, a leader’s word should remain his bond. In his inaugural speech, he pledged his total commitment to run a government that will leave no one behind; a government that will implement programmes that make life simpler, easier and happier for the people.
In fulfilment of that promise, the governor has ensured even allocation of infrastructure development in the State. Till date, in a bid to ensure effective human and vehicular movement, the Ambode administration has rehabilitated over 240 roads across the State. It is, however, imperative to emphasize that the exercise covers and favours every Division, Senatorial district as well as Local Government Council Area in the State. This is essential because it underscores Ambode’s pledge to run an all inclusive government.
In the area of youth empowerment, Ambode promised to create a favourable atmosphere for the empowerment of the youth. Presently, his administration has put in place a fund which youths with creative ideas and talents could access to make possible the realisation of their dreams. Similarly, in fulfilment of his promise to make Lagos a sure and first destination of choice for investors in Africa, Ambode made the establishment of the Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment, famously known as Lagos Global, one of his earliest tasks. The Office, which was set up by the governor on his inauguration day, is to help achieve the vision of Lagos State as Africa’s Model Megacity and Global Economic and Financial Hub that is safe, secure, functional and productive.
Ambode is equally making good his promise of ensuring prompt payment of the salary of public servants in the State. Since he assumed office, workers in the state’s public service receive their salary by the 23rd of every month. To the civil servants, it is a welcome development. But to the governor, it is a way of fulfilling one his campaign promises of creating a conducive atmosphere for workers in the employment of the State government to thrive in the discharge of their statutory responsibilities. In our climes, there is, indeed, no better way to motivate workers than ensuring their wages are paid as at when due since it makes them avoid distractions that emanate from financial worries.
Ambode’s gesture, which is the basic practice in most multinational firms, originates from his firm belief that the workers are the ones that determine the pace of development in the State and as such must not be denied their wages which is, indeed, one of their core entitlements.
It is, however, not only serving public servants that are benefitting from Ambode’s promise of improving workers’ welfare, the retired ones are also not being left out.
For instance, in order to reduce the economic and emotional burdens of State pensioners, the sum of N11bn has been released to pay off pension liabilities owed the mainstream retirees and the retirees in Local Government Areas since 2010.
The development is part of Ambode’s promise to find a holistic solution to the issue of payment of pension entitlements to retirees under the pay-as-you-go pension scheme which was discontinued in April 2007, as well as outstanding accrued pension rights due to retirees under the contributory pension scheme. Without a doubt, this intervention will go a long way in ameliorating the sufferings of retirees in the state.
Aside keeping faith with his electoral pledges, since he assumed office, Ambode has in the course of his public outings made several promises that he has demonstrated unflinching commitment to fulfilling.
The first few weeks of his administration saw the governor embark on a tour of several areas of the state. Some of the areas he toured include Ipaja, Mosan-Okunola, Oshodi- Isolo, Ikotun-Ejigbo and Somolu areas. Significantly, the Ejigbo-Ikotun road which used to be a nightmare for motorists is currently under rehabilitation as the governor, during his visit on July 14, announced that work will commence on the road within seven days. Few days after, rehabilitation work began in earnest on the road.
One other very clear instance is the two petrol tanker fire accidents that occurred at Iyana-Ipaja and Idimu within the governor’s first one month in office. While sympathizing with victims of the occurrence, Ambode publicly made a pledge to assist them with some amount of money in order to mitigate their losses. To some of the victims, this might just be another empty promise. But, being a man of his word, soccour came the way of the victims two weeks after the governor made the pledge to assist them.
Similarly, in the story of Mrs. Ruth Uche and her twins, who were abandoned by her husband, Mr. Benjamin Uche, after giving birth to another set of twins, Ambode carried out his promise of providing respite to the hurting woman and her children. In furtherance of his electoral promise of reaching out to every member of the society irrespective of religion, ethnic and social divides, Ambode fulfilled his promise of rehabilitating Mrs. Uche. Mrs. Uche and her triple twins were not only hosted by the State government, they were equally provided with financial assistance that would help her to start a business. She was equally helped by the state government to get a decent accommodation.
In contrast to Napoleon Bonaparte, who once said that “the best way to keep one’s word is not to give it”, in his first six months in office, Ambode has not only given his word, but he has kept same. Without a doubt, Lagos is in safe hands!
Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa, Ikeja