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Who is the real Ambode

by easyclick
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It is said that power changes people and personalities. Was that the case with the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode?  The portrait of Ambode painted by the immediate past Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Tunji Bello, as the administration exited in May, contradicted the picture of him in The Art of Selfless Service – A Biographical Account of the Public Service Career of Mr Akinwunmi D. Ambode. The book, by Marina Osoba, was launched in May 2014, a year before Ambode became governor.

Bello, in a message titled ‘Time to say goodbye to colleagues on this platform,’ had said: “Our main drawback is our government’s inability to apply enough emotional intelligence in the administration of the state. Emotional intelligence includes interpersonal skills, interpersonal relationship, humility, respect for the well-established mores of governance, disregard for the accomplishments of others. The belief that our way is the best without considering other options in a democratic setting, absence of wider consultations, distance from the governed, lack of effective communication skill or amateurish display of government acts and political immaturity. Deliberate and open alienation of others. We undertook gigantic projects without the soul. We were too self-opinionated and narrow in our approach to governance.”

Bello’s message was meant for an “internal platform,” but somehow it reached the public domain.  He added: “In leadership, emotional intelligence is 70 per cent of application while individual brilliance is only 30 percent…Besides, and apart from lack of enough camaraderie compared to previous administrations, our cabinet has been less rigorous, less fulfilled, less engaged and less accomplished. And for the first time since the time of Governor Lateef Jakande, this cabinet departs unappreciated and disenchanted.”

Bello’s assessment of the administration in which he was the third most powerful person, after the governor and the deputy governor, gave a thought-provoking insight into the personality and leadership style of the head of the government. This appraisal also suggested why Ambode failed to get the endorsement of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for a second term.  He became the first Lagos State governor to serve one term since 1999.

Ambode, a trained accountant, was probably the most experienced individual, in terms of familiarity with the state’s civil service operations, who had governed Lagos State since its creation in May 1967. In a 27-year career in the civil service, he was Auditor General for Local Government, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, and Accountant General of Lagos State from 2006 to 2012. He is credited with revolutionising “the way Lagos State finances were raised, budgeted, managed and planned” through his management of the State Treasury Office.

In The Art of Selfless Service, the author says “it became necessary to speak with staff of the State Treasury Office (STO), his very last assignment.” Some of those who had worked with Ambode at the STO said complimentary things about him.

Mrs Yemisi Adams: “I am a Grade level 12 Officer with the State Treasury Office in Operations Department… To me, he is a role model; he is a leader not a boss. A boss wants you to do things the way he says, there is no input coming from anyone, but for a leader, he will table the problem and some solutions, he will ask for opinions and feedback before taking decisions … He leads by example; he is a real leader… He doesn’t like bragging about what he does, he does things very quietly.”

Miss Oluwakemi Toso-Gbangba:  ”I had the opportunity to work with Mr Ambode for ten years…  He is a great team player; he listens to one about anything. I feel he is a workaholic; he believes in getting the job done. He is prim, proper and believes in perfection… He is a good person; he has a good heart…He taught me to believe in myself; to not see problems, but search for solutions.”

Mr Hakeem Alimi:  ”I have worked with Mr Ambode for over six years now and his style is not the usual civil service style, it is a good mix of public/private sector style… He is an equal opportunity person, he doesn’t believe in favouring women over men or men over women…It is my opinion that one of the secrets to his success is his charity; his compassion and love for people. God has given him a huge capacity for empathy, to put himself in other peoples’ shoes; he is a great helper and forgives wrongs so easily.”

Mrs Olumuyiwa Ojelabi: “One thing that amazed me so much was this; there was a morning I was walking behind him on the corridor, he saw an empty bottle of coke lying around, he didn’t call the cleaner and shout like some people might. Instead, he picked it up and took it to the pantry himself and continued to his office. He is a humble person; imagine the most senior officer here not thinking he is too good to do something so simple. He is an example to all.”

Mr Osinubi Taofeek Olalekan : “I am a Grade level 12 Principal Administrative Officer with twelve years’ experience in the Public Service, of which I have spent two years here at the State Treasury Office, working under Mr Ambode. He is not like others, he is not your typical civil servant, he does not work like a typical civil servant, but like someone in the private sector…Personally, since I started here, I love coming to work, this surprises me; because when you work in a place like this, your best comes to the fore, you feel you have made a difference and you are making an impact.”

Mr Taiwo Wakeel:  ”I am a Principal Administrative Officer of twelve years with the Public Service. I have worked for just over a year with Mr Ambode… If you work with Mr Ambode you can be assured of two things: one, you will work very hard and two, you will close late… He doesn’t look at religion or sex or age or tribe, all he wants is for everyone to become excellent… Around the STO, we call him ‘Baba Laanu’; he has great goodwill with all staff.”

Bello spoke about Ambode as governor, while the treasury office staff spoke about Ambode before his years of gubernatorial power. As he left office, 55-year-old Ambode himself observed: “The fact remains that I came in as a technocrat so I call myself a techno-politician, but I think I am wiser now. I am more of a politician than a technocrat.” Was it an admission that power changed him?

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