By Sule Ahmed Oyofo, editor-in-chief
The name Akinwunmi Ambode is a household name in Nigeria and needs little or no introduction. But as the consummate technocrat clocks the diamond age of 60, as expected, he would be in the spotlight—for many reasons. One, as former governor of the coastal State of Lagos, and two, for what transpired in his days as governor—and the aftermath. Until the last four years, his life has been one of easygoing and service to humanity. One would have thought that the rare occurrence of what transpired in his last days in office was enough to reset his humanity and thought process; happily, he has remained his jolly good self. His striking features—good-looking, bulky frame, bright eyes, broad shoulders have all been much of an asset that endeared people to him.
But the things that ooze from his heart are arguably the clincher: compassion and readiness to help. In this department, hardly anyone who crossed his part left unsatisfied. Ambode won the heart of many because of his legendary and extraordinary hospitality. A cross-section of people interviewed confessed that they are not sure if there is anyone like him. They are also not sure if he has enemies too! Truly, Ambode doesn’t cut the picture of someone who bears grudges. The interesting issue here is that no one has seen him grimace or wear a sad visage—except maybe in his closet; but that is doubtful. Always ordinary and smiling, he carries himself as though he has nothing to offer. But inside his huge sensitive brain that works round the clock, Ambode is ready to work like an efficient and ruthless machine to get the right things done.
One of his aides revealed that the last thing he would do is to carry an assignment overnight. This knack for excellence was to be his permanent trademark as he rose through the ranks and maintained his high visibility in social and political circles. Always calm and focused, no task is ever too big for him to undertake. Those that came in contact with him understood immediately that this was no ordinary human being! If at any time you are looking for someone reliable and who could deliver with certainty, you don’t need to go further. Ambode is the go-to man. He handles big tasks as though they are nothing. In one instance, he was asked to solve a difficult mathematics which his lecturer had failed to solve. Reports say he took one look at the problem and in a jiffy, worked out the solution. But that’s no big deal to the man popularly known as “Ambodes” or “Ambo” for short. Well, as you all know, life, they say, is not a bed of roses.
Even those who tried to dodge the vicissitudes of life and became Reverend fathers, trouble still crawled to them. The Bible reminds us about this aberration in life. And so after a brilliant career in the civil service, Ambode who rose to the rank of Accountant-General voluntarily retired and tried to enrich his academic qualifications overseas. But some petty family issues still dogged his path and like the bold man he is, decided to confront the challenge headlong. Somehow, in the midst of all these, fate and destiny caught up with him and he found himself as the number one citizen of Lagos State. He did so well until a whirling drama emerged from nowhere to rock his boat of progress. He didn’t quite understand it, and neither did his friends, but amid the furor, he did his best, but somehow, the accidental politician as he was then known was seeing ‘real politics’ the way it is played!
The grim outlook wouldn’t have been enough to dissuade him from claiming his right, but then, he couldn’t understand why the tumultuous agitations. That’s part of life anyway. Suddenly, those who could have helped found one reason or the other to keep away; thus, an otherwise ordinary situation had become as grainy as it was amusing! When the gravity of the political impasse sunk, Ambode read the writing very well and quickly encouraged himself. Since there was no time for lamentation, he quietly withdrew from the battle scene for peace to rain. This development sent shockwaves around the globe as those who were following the imbroglio in Lagos at the time thought it strange. They could not fathom why such a performing politician was being ‘harassed’, by members of his party, who claim to be stakeholders.
They are not familiar with our style of what we call “homegrown” politics. Since Ambode had climbed through the civil service without mingling with politicians it was understandable why he did not know their game. If he knew, somehow, he would have managed the slippery terrain doggedly—rub my back and I rub your back! Well, that’s an old story now. Some people are of the view that you could even rub somebody’s back and he will refuse to reciprocate! Ambode moved on and was to spend the next four years working quietly. The good news about him is that he saw the ugly spectacle as an act of God—who knows the beginning from the end. He could have chosen to be embittered, but as testified by those close to him, he waved the whole sordid affair off with a shrug. To say he learned nothing from that saga is to deny the obvious.
But his genial nature took over and he regained his composure and tried to work in close harmony with the same political party; he refused to look elsewhere when persuaded to do so. Ambode couldn’t be fooled a second time because he was now familiar with the peculiar style of politics, which everyone knows does not give room for over indulgence. You needed something you can grab when the chips are down. While trying to rebuild his rapport with the party, he took part in not a few party affairs such as the revalidation of members and ward and state congresses. In the process, one ambiguous title was handed to him by the name deputy chairman of the Contact and Strategy Committee in charge of Southwest! Of course, there was nothing to contact and strategize because the people who named him as such never meant it; it was similar to giving someone a big title, a big table, but no job!
He studiously avoided the seat of government for obvious reasons; one was that he wouldn’t want to be misquoted; you know, what you did not say cannot be used against you! That way, he kept to himself, only venturing to his office to improve on what he knows best—practical accounting. That didn’t stop people from being dramatic, obliquely spreading the word—in other to ‘scheme’ him permanently out—that he was now a member of another party! This uncharacteristic approach is considered ‘normal’ in politics—the pull him down syndrome. It was the late Adedibu that let it be known that you can look at someone in his face and lie against him—even secure a witness to corroborate the lie! Not many people can do that anyway. There is still what is called decency. Ambode has that in abundance–conscience; this much is clear. He has lived with it all these years and now as he clocks 60, it is too late to change. Have they not said before that you cannot be left-handed at an old age? He has done well for himself and his generation. As he marks this milestone in life, it will not be a surprise to see friends, family, associates and well-wishers roll out the drums to celebrate his outstanding qualities, a rare gem, and a valuable politician; may God continue to oil his wheel of progress and propel him to greater heights. May God continue to protect and guide him. Welcome to the diamond age, Your Excellency, Akinwunmi Ambode. Congratulations sir.