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What Change Means – Manifesto of Akinwumi Ambode

 Many questions come to mind as I set about reviewing the Manifesto of the APC Candidate for the Governorship of Lagos State; for example how does he do better and build on the generally acclaimed performance of the current incumbent and fellow party member? Further how does he at the same time, distinguish himself without rubbishing the record of the current administration in any way? The challenge of translating the party’s slogan “Change” into something meaningful in Lagos is also a rather iconic one. Lagos is the glowing Diamond in the Nigerian crown. It is the place the entire country, if not the sub region of West Africa, relates to as business capital. It is the financial hub, as well as home to the most populated, and one of the fastest growing cities on the African Continent. It has one of the most diverse mix of people, with many opportunities and challenges. Aside from having a very savvy voter pool, its government is unique in Nigeria as the only one funded largely by tax revenue from its citizens.

Simply being Governor of Lagos State is a big deal in Nigeria, Africa and, arguably, the world. It has to be able to address the breadth of issues and have a depth of content. It must set out policies that speak to the concerns that Lagosians want addressed, supported by objective information of the profile of the needs. It must be clear what difference such policies will have on the lives of the people and be credible as sustainable development. The policies should also be possible to implement and one should be able to see or imagine what kind of Lagos State will emerge at end of the administration in 2019.
At first glance the Ambode’s Manifesto is a conventional one designed to address the diverse concerns of Lagos voters, and that signals a very important thing, even though it is a long list. It highlights the fact that even though all Lagos State Governors have been from the same political family, this candidate is not complacent about the people or the election itself. There is a genuine and clear effort to establish a policy framework that is Needs Based. From the start of the document the values of the candidate are clearly set out – ‘Courage, Forthrightness, Clarity of Purpose, Integrity and dedication’; it is obvious the Candidate is walking the fine line between distinguishing his political agenda as well as being consistent with the Legacy he hopes to build upon. His nod to his predecessors ably affirms this. His vision of making ’Lagos a clean, secure and more prosperous state ‘needs no further clarification in its elegant simplicity, so the addition of latter part of the sentence is read that this will be achieved through ‘A robust economy built on service, equity and justice’. Also the campaign message using the Acronym LAGOS to cover Leadership, Accountability, Governance, Opportunity and Services is neat and memorable. The Manifesto has a sound narrative and theme. This theme should be made explicit i.e., It is committed to Investing in the People of Lagos, the sustainability of their communities and their socio economic progress.

The best way to view the Manifesto is to imagine what a successful implementation of the Manifesto of a Governor Akinwunmi Ambode would have on Lagos about January 2019. This scenario is easily drawn from the document. Lagos will be uniquely the first 24-hour metropolis in the African continent with services, shops and offices open at all hours. Aside from providing a unique branding experience and expanding the economy, it will mean far more people in employment, not only to secure the night hours but also lead to staggered working hours that will greatly reduce congestion and rush hour traffic. This will also combine well with the vision that Lagos becomes the place where Africa does business. It results in a boost in visitors’ numbers expanding the number of businesses, and tourists framing this unique combination into a value offering in itself. The children of the Metropolis (approximately 4.5 million of school age (in 2014) will be enjoying free education up till senior secondary school, reducing the 60 per cent Private schooling (in 2014 numbers). School children will have at least one meal under the Ibile meal scheme provided by the government, ensuring that no matter what hardship parents face, their wards will have at least one sure meal daily. This will impact school results by increasing attention in classes, attracting more to schooling and improving cognitive capacity. As these students leave senior school, the lottery of tertiary education will be reduced with established quality technical and vocational education, along with university education supported by bursary awards and scholarship schemes. Career options would be increased by the THESE programme, which will pursue excellence in Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment/ Arts and Sports.
Lagos Communities are self -sustainable clusters with every locality having their own core amenities and services, reducing distance travel to work and services. This significantly reduces travel demands that put everyone on the road at most times. It delivers local centres and markets, increasing organised commerce and reducing impromptu trade. It improves access to services and the quality of life of the citizens. The Rent to Own Programme funded througha public-private partnership will greatly reduce the Lagos housing deficit of about 1.2 million units, creating a substantial amount of new home owners within the same communities as well as substantially increasing units from the 1092 built under the HOMS programme in 2013. The network of new Primary Health Centres would reduce the demand on General hospitals and provide improved access and free care to all the elderly in the State. This complements the free medical care for children from birth to age six. Healthcare will also be free for pregnant women, including both pre-natal and ante-natal provision.

The Lagos metropolis will have its monorail that carries over 700,000 people a day, which is a substantial and critical reduction on the millions travelling between the Island and Mainland daily. Building on current efforts, then both the Blue and Red Lines will be in operation. The efforts of government would be strongly underpinned by Private sector investments, not just of inward investors but also the different Trust funds like the Employment and security Trust funds that are based on the Government’s drive to support Corporate Social Responsibility, as well as the Lagos Finance and Development Corporation to fill funding gaps. Along with plans for infrastructure, such as the Water and Independent Power Project, as well as the Integrated transport management system, Lagos by 2019 as planned by Ambode will be a dramatically distinctive place.
There are more details in the manifesto along with pledges to be a participatory government and ensure social mobility especially into the middle classes, small business loan guarantee schemes, amongst others. It is a decidedly progressive manifesto with social support and economic redistribution at its heart. It is consistent with the needs of Lagos – for example the free Health care for children under six and Pregnant women. Malaria is responsible for 70 per cent of outpatient attendance at secondary health facilities and the most vulnerable to the disease are the target groups of free health care. Similarly, there are 256 Primary Health Care centres compared to 803 Private clinics and 903 Private Hospitals, so a real boost in the number and network of these centres are truly needed. Another example is transportation, with about 1.59 million people crossing the bridges between Mainland and Island daily as far back as 2001, and 77 per cent of these commuters use a mixture of public transports. The framework of a 24-hour Lagos, self-sustained communities and Integrated Transport Management System directly addresses this challenge.
The Ambode Manifesto is a credible and exciting plan for the state that strongly throws the gauntlet down for other contenders to share their own competing vision and plan for Lagos, if such is possible. If there are any improvements to recommend for this manifesto it is to include indicators of success. If the candidate Ambode wants to totally blow us away then the manifesto would have milestones setting out desired progress and timelines as well as the most difficult– some semblance of costing. The latter suggestion is rarely practiced by our politicians. The excuse is that it ties their hands before they have a detailed review of the finances. Of course many critics will raise questions in the face of expected austerity budgets, of how this ambitious plan will be financed without raising additional tax burden on the citizens and in spite of the plan for partnership with the Private Sector. This is a credible question that Mr. Ambode should be ready to answer.

For me, individually this manifesto commends itself especially in the proposal of the 24/7 Lagos. I had a similar recommendation in my book Omoluwabi 2.0, I am delighted to see that the Candidate is of like mind. I also love the concept of self-sustainable communities. It is quite similar to the proposal in the same book for clusters of excellence based on tradition fractal organisation. There is no doubt that this candidate shares many of the disciplines of the outgoing incumbent but what is truly distinctive is the strongly stated people-first policy– a luxury that would have been difficult with obvious gaps in infrastructure at the first term of the current administration. It is clear this candidate intends to make it a virtue.

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