Akinwunmi Ambode that I knew way back in the 90s, was an easy going, focussed and dutiful young man whose main passion was minding the book of accounts in the local governments where he served and spreading compassion like manure.
By the time he stepped up from “locogey”, (that was the fond name given to local governments back then) to the state government level, he had honed his skills sufficiently enough to let it be known that he possessed the potential to rise to the zenith of his civil service career.
All that period, those who encountered him could attest to his kind disposal to people. He was as devoted to his accounting job, as he was compassionate to anyone in need or he perceived to be in need.
His generosity was legendary. They say if he met any cleaner on the stairway on his way to his office, who looked somewhat unhappy or dejected, he would invite such person to his office and put a smile on his or her face with some wads of naira.
Many male civil servants at the Alausa seat of government bore witness to his humanity and kind disposition. I’m told he would bring suitcases containing quality neck-ties into his office and ask any visiting subordinate officials to dip their hands in the box and select ties that suited their fancy. Be sure that he would provide better things for female officials and his superior officers, if he could be that kind to his juniors. To be sure, he didn’t set out to be politically enthusiastic; he was just naturally endearing.
He was as good to outsiders and friends as he was to his fellow civil servants. I’m not given to talking platitudes or praising people who are undeserving of it because I want to curry favours. My faith teaches me to believe that favours you don’t just get, except from God and His assigned divine helpers. I once experienced Ambode’s kind or large heartedness at a time he had his tour of duty as accountant general (AG) at Alausa. I was pounding the corridor of an office on my way to collect a cheque at the State Treasury Office (STO) for an executed contract when my personal assistant with whom we had worked when I was the chair of Mushin local government, drew my attention to the fact that I was about passing by Ambode’s office, a fact of I was hitherto oblivious. I decided to stop by and you could see the glow on his face when he sighted me, having lost contact with ourselves for some decade before that fortuitous chance meeting. I was with him for a few minutes, exchanging some banter and the kindness in him came to the fore when he pulled one of his drawers and handed me a wad of fifty thousand naira (N50,000). That was the quintessential easy going, shy and kind person that goes by the name Akin Ambode!
This particular trait of humaneness and kindness endeared him to the rank and file of the civil service, such that majority of them threw themselves at his service when he decided to run for the governorship of Lagos State. Their enthusiasm for his bid was swashbuckling and total, offering a clear indication to pollsters that he had gotten a vital segment of the electorate in his kitty. They rooted for him like never before!
The disdain and contempt many civil servants today have for him at Alausa and it’s satellite offices you could touch and feel with bare hands. And that is inescapably puzzling. But, is it surprising? No, he earned the disdain by his doing, just as he earned their acclaim when he was one of them. If he is now so despised, it isn’t because he plugged any loophole but more because for diverse reasons, he has become a thoroughly changed person. Why? Whodunnit to Akin, of all people? What the hell was racing through his mind when he coined the words “Mo ti be l’orun”, (I have chopped off his neck) to gloat before his circle of friends and courtiers anytime an official is sacked, redeployed or sent to Siberia or barren land ! The fact that this coinage used in the confines of his office and homes, among his ‘friends’ and which eventually filtered out to the hearing of a number of civil servants, should suggest to our governor that there is nothing hidden under the sun and that it was not for nothing God in the early part of Genesis declared that He looked at the people He created and He grieved badly.
If he could lose his principal constituency so soon, who would be surprised if he has visited worse fate on his political constituency? I once visited some holy sites in Israel including the source of River Jordan. That river evolved from a small source and spread big to the Jordan. If that source is blocked, River Jordan will cease to exist; and that explains the Yoruba saying that “Odo t’oba gbagbe orisun e, a gbe”. Whoever or whatever did this to Akin, to make him go down this way in public esteem has done him incalculable damage; and that’s a big pity.
In the treatment of gangrene in the leg, it is futile to be looking for its cause in the mid riff. For anyone to be ascribing Ambode’s current woes to Tinubu or the Mandate Movement is to ignore leprosy and be treating eczema. It goes deeper than that and only psychologists could decipher where and why things got awry for the once likeable Akin Ambode.
People no longer talk of potholes on the road. A young but knowledgeable politician captured all street gossips the other day and summed them up that most are now agreed that we now have boreholes, not potholes, on our roads, to describe how deep the craters evident on most roads in Lagos are. Some others say the shortage of circulation of money in Lagos is not due to any recession in the national economy but in the drastic reduction of contractors – micro, mini, major and mega – working for the Ambode government.
I want to believe it is uncharitable to say, as I have heard, that contractors now working for Lagos have been downsized from several before Ambode’s advent, to a handful, at the present time.
Is Governor accessible as he should, even to major party leaders and members? Is his inaccessibility his own design or the grand handiwork of courtiers and sycophants? The bad guys who railroad successful people to their doom? If the ‘recluse’ style is the governor’s, what’s the big deal in being governor? The position once held by Tinubu or Jakande before him? And, for which they still remain relevant, many years after they had climbed down from the governorship throne ?
Phillipians Chapter 4: 6-8 says: “Whatever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” That injunction we must all reflect on.
Trust that philosopher after my heart, Haruna Ishola, the apala musician. He must have conceptualised this situation when he sang many years ago, in Yoruba: “Ki no fe gbe tan fi wire (copper wire) su osuka ka’ri ? Se ile aiye, ni won fe gbe kari?”. What’s the big deal in governance that can make a man lose his essence and become a strange and enstranged ‘homo sapien’ ? Or, is it forgotten that no matter the duration and glamour of a high office, it has an expiry date; and as it is said in my language, “ise a tan omoluabi lo ma ku”. I join Sunny Ade in praying that ” ma fi kan gbakan lowo, ma ma fikan gbakan lowo, mo n be o, Baba”
Instead of Ambode to be led into the error of believing that his travails came from a source, he should pick up his spiritual church activities from where he left them, when he did, and turn to his God, the Author and Finisher of our faith, for answers to his predicament. God of second chance is still alive, to give him the enablement to right the wrongs of this governorship era in his future undertakings. If anyone asks me about a second term, I will say there’s no ghost of a chance for ice in hell!
Written by Bayo Osiyemi