Tumultuous crowd, enthusiastic reception and a genuine interest to identify with the man who has come to embody the concept of continuity in the governance of Lagos State characterize the renewed tour of the local governments by Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Candidates (APC) in Lagos State.
The central message from the Epe-born candidate in the last two weeks that his campaign has regained momentum after the postponement of the election is clear and unequivocal: it is the need to use the next four years to consolidate on the remarkableprogress being witnessed in Lagos State by retaining the state for APC in the governorship poll slated for Saturday April 11.
Wednesday and Thursday were particularly impressive in his busy calendar. Those were the days when the campaign train reached Seme border/Badagry and Ibeju-Lekki respectively. Wednesday’s road-show, which mesmerized the whole stretch of the Mile 2–Badagry expressway, was perhaps the first by any candidate to reach the border town of Seme.
And what a spectacle it was!
From Topa road and its environs, people – young, old and the physically challenged -trooped out to welcome Ambode, who had worked for three years in the late 1980s at the Badagry Local Government. Chants of “Sai Buhari, Sai Ambode” rented the air. And the APC standard-bearer did not disappoint them, promising that not only will his administration complete the multi-billion naira Mile 2-Badagry expressway and the light rail project, but will also ensure that the Badagry division, which is one of the five divisions that make up the Lagos State, will be empowered to witness rapid development, especially in the areas of infrastructural development and job creation. “The future of tourism in Lagos State is here. This is also an important base for agro-economic development. Our administration will place a lot of attention in these areas to ensure that Badagry Local Government and every area around here experience a new layer in the type of developments they are already witnessing,” Ambode told the crowd.
And with people like Chief Sunny Ajose, a former Head of Service in the state, leading other party stalwarts to welcome and take Ambode’s train, which included his running mate, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule, on a door-to-door campaign through every nook and cranny of the local government, it was not in doubt that this former Accountant General is the preferred candidate of the people.
As if the Badagry/Seme border crowd was not enough, several thousands more welcomed the APC candidate the next day, Thursday, at Ibeju-Lekki where he had yet another opportunity to urge the people of Lagos State to allow the “progressive governance that APC is known for” to continue in Lagos.
For Ambode, who had a 27-year meritorious career as a civil servant in Lagos state before venturing into the private sector as an entrepreneur and management consultant, the reason why continuity is sought for the ruling party in Lagos State and change at the federal level is simple: “while the whole world acknowledges the giant strides of the last 16 years in Lagos, due to the people-oriented programmes and creating management of resources, which are succeeding in making Lagos a true mega city-state, the international community, like most Nigerians at home and abroad, are unanimous in rejecting the current maladministration that is going on in Abuja.” To this Fulbright scholar, therefore, while Lagos is working and deserves continuity, the government at the centre needs the type of change that a Buhari-Osinbajo ticket promises, in order to redirect the affairs of the nation that is rapidly falling apart.
According to Ambode, with the freefall that the Nigerian economy is witnessing, Nigeria would be said to have failed, if it were a company. Lagos State, he stated, could not afford to let a candidate of the party that has failed Nigerians at the centre to inflict the state with the same type of incompetence and inexperience. His good news for the people of Ibeju-Lekki was that his administration will provide a new airport and seaport in Epe, in order to bring development and prosperity to more people in the state.
But unlike the Badagry-Seme border road-show, the Ibeju-Lekki event was a mega rally, where the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, simply asked the citizens to allow Ambode’s impeccable profile and rich experience to work for them as the next governor of the state.
Earlier on Monday and Tuesday, it was Surulere that welcomed the University of Lagos-trained accountant, first with a town hall meeting at Aguda, where Ambode reiterated his promise to establish an Office of Civic Engagement when elected. Born out of the conviction that artisans and people in the lower middle class constitute the majority in the state, the office, heexplained, would serve as an effective liaison between the governor’s office and the people. He added that just the wayindigent student are rewarded with scholarships when they display excellence, skillful artisans should also be able to benefit from the state government in the area of honing their skills, either at home or abroad, in addition to having access to the proposed N25bn Employment Trust Fund.
The previous week had seen Ambode’s campaign train stopping at Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Apapa, Ifako-Ijaye and Epe. Each town-hall meeting entertained more than 20 questions because Ambode believes that it is the people’s needs that will shape his programmes and policies, when elected, hence the need to give as many people as possible the opportunity to air their views. And at each local government and towns visited, there were royal blessings in abundance for the Ambode-Adebule team that has demonstrated its firm belief in consultations and government of inclusion.
Rather than slow down, Ambode’s campaign has regained momentum, totally refusing to lose steam, in spite of the six-week postponement of the general elections from the original February 14 and 28 to Larch 28 and April 11 for the Presidential and gubernatorial elections. “It is about the message and the method,” says Steve Ayorinde, the Director of Media and Communications for the Ambode campaign. According to him, 24 hours is sometimes not enough to further push out the message of continuity and Ambode’s though-out plans that aim at empowering the 20million citizens of the state in the next four years. The busy campaign schedule, he says, simply shows the strength and popularity of the APC and the candidate and the team’s position not to take anything for granted.
The renewed campaign, he explains, is an everyday affair that is broken down to mega rallies, town hall meetings, road-shows and door-to-door campaigns and strategic consultations. “Mr. Ambode is on a familiar ground, he was the only aspirant that toured every local government in the run-up to the primary election last year. And his promise then was that he would knock on every door and campaign on every street. This is why the party’s rallies took him round all the five divisions and local governments before the elections were postponed.
“With these additional six weeks due to the postponement, he is back on the road getting acquainted with the people all over again and the massive turn-out and acceptance confirm the obvious that this is the man of the people who is destined to serve,” Ayorinde said.
He added that the rallies and town hall meetings, which will run till April 9th, perfectly compliment the world-class communications campaign by the APC candidate that is widely acknowledged as arguably the most impactful among in this electioneering process.