Everyone has the legitimate right to aspire to serve in any political office or position in a democracy provided he has not been convicted in a court of law. This is the standard although, in some spurious and uncourt decisions by some political gangsters some convicted criminals emerged right from prisons, contested and won elections in to some political offices in the land. It is no secret that these uncivilized actions impact negatively on all stakeholders, including the country.
In others words merits which include adequate preparation in terms of education, experience and inherent leadership qualities in the person play significant role in the type of leadership a nation or state gets. Paraphrasing the Holy Bible, “a nation begets the type of leaders it deserves”. This indicates the electioneering process and decision by the electorate will culminate in the emergence of a particular type of candidate. It could either be ugly, good or bad. However, at all times, conscious efforts must be made to ensure the emergence of the best candidate for the polity to enjoy the benefit of a good leader. This indicates that the onus rests on the voters to actually elect a worthy leader for the state or nation.
Currently, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress and Mr Jimi Agbaje are busy selling themselves to electorates across the length and breadth of the Lagos State with a view to getting the approval of the voter to become the governor of the State of Excellence at the general elections slated for February 2015.
While Jimi Agbaje’s ambition to rule Lagos State, just like his counterpart, Musiliu Obanikoro also of the PDP is recognised. It is to be noted that Mr Agbaje’s timely switch to the PDP is seen by many as part of the party’s desperation to capture Lagos, saw the man being handed the Lagos PDP ticket at the party’s primaries in Lagos in controversial circumstances. This makes him look luckier than Obanikoro, who deserves to be commended for agreeing to queue behind the party’s flag bearer although not before initial furor.
Beyond emerging as the parties’ flag bearers and endorsements, each passing day, Nigerians in general and Lagosians in particular, are striving to see what these men bring to table to lead the commercial capital of the nation in terms of experience and competencies beyond the stoic desire to lead Lagos for the next four years.
Agbaje, 57 has been at the political treadmill since 2005 and has contested for the position of the Lagos State governor two times, going for his third while his archrival, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode is just going for his first attempt. Mr Agbaje is a 1978 graduate of pharmacy from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). He was a practising pharmacist with over three decades before he veered into politics. “I started my pharmacy on the shopping floor, which is about the community- people, customers, and patients. Therefore, you find that you are dealing with your environment. So, going into politics is just an extension”, he says indicating how close he has been in touch with the grassroots.
However, Mr Ambode seems to have a more robust career, focus and landmark accomplishments. Born on June 14, 1963, Mr Ambode is an accomplished Accountant, an administrator and a public finance management expert. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Brandsmiths Consulting Limited – a firm with specialisation in public sector finance management.
He had a sterling career in the civil service where herose to become the Accountant-General and held many sensitive financial positions in the Lagos State government in a 27-year career in the Lagos State Civil Service.
He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and a Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management. His desire to give back to the society is expressed in his founding the La Roche Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on developing the next generation of leaders.
Mr Ambode began his education at St. Jude’s Primary School, Ebutte Meta, Lagos, Nigeria in 1969. Always brilliant, in 1974, while still in Primary 5, he sat for the National Common Entrance Examinations and excelled and was admitted to Federal Government College, Warri in the same year. He spent 7 years in Warri, where he completed his Ordinary and Advanced Levels and had the distinction of achieving the second best result in all of West Africa in the Higher School Certificate Examinations in 1981.
He then proceeded to the University of Lagos where he studied Accounting, graduating at the age of 21 in 1984. He completed his mandatory National Youth Service Corps year serving with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sokoto, Sokoto State, where he started his relationship with the Public Service.
After his NYSC year, he commenced his career at the Lagos State Waste Disposal Board (now LAWMA) as Accountant Grade II. He enrolled for Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) examinations and at the same time was awarded a Federal Government Scholarship to pursue a Masters Degree in Accounting at the University of Lagos. By the time he turned 24, Mr Ambode had qualified as a Chartered Accountant and had completed his Masters Degree programme in Accounting, specialising in Financial Management.
His career was fast-tracked and in 1988, when he was appointed the Assistant Treasurer, Badagry Local Government. In 1991, he was posted to Shomolu Local Government as Auditor. He was later deployed to Alimosho Local Government as Council Treasurer. Mr Ambode was posted back to Shomolu as Council Treasurer and later on to Mushin Local Government as Council Treasurer. He crisscrossed many Local Government Councils in different roles in a 10-year period, which has equipped him with a first-hand experience of the direct impact of governance on the citizenry across the State.
In 1998, Mr Ambode was awarded the US Fulbright Scholarship for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program, in Boston University, Massachusetts, USA. His Fellowship Year was spent studying Public Leadership with emphasis on Finance and Accounting. During this programme, he had professional internships at The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Cabinet Office of Administration and Finance (Governor’s Office), City of Boston Treasury Office as well as with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
On his return from the programme, Mr Ambode became acting the Auditor-General for the Local Governments of Lagos State. This position was confirmed by the State House of Assembly in 2001.
In January 2005, Mr Ambode was redeployed to mainstream public service as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. By February 2006, he was given the added responsibility of Accountant General for Lagos State, in charge of all the financial activities of the state and directly responsible for over 1400 accountants in the state service. Under his watch, the State Treasury Office (STO) revolutionised the way Lagos State finances were raised, budgeted, managed and planned. In his six-year tenure as the Accountant General of Lagos State, the state's financial performance improved visibly with the budget performing at a remarkable average of 85% annually.
This high rate of performance stems from Mr Ambode’s personal belief that "public financial management is about ensuring that public money is well spent and it is made to stretch as far as possible. It provides leaders and public-sector managers with information to make decisions and to know if they are using resources effectively”.
He voluntarily retired in August 2012 after 27 years of service and founded Brandsmiths Consulting Limited, a public finance consultancy group.
As a stickler for high performance whose decisions are never based on race, gender or religion, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress [APC} in Lagos State in his manifesto promised, to set up a four-year N25 billion trust fund to cater for unemployed people in the state under the Lagos Employment Trust Fund (LETF). The fund would provide a minimum of N1 billion naira annually for entrepreneurial ventures across the state’s five divisions of Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos and Epe.
As a financial management expert, he also plans protect the growth of small and medium scale enterprises by providing tax incentives,“we will implement government policies that will encourage the private sector to employ more citizens and foster economic development”
Also of critical importance in his plans are the issues of health, education and housing. For education, Mr. Ambode’s administration if elected says, “It would provide free education up to senior secondary level, as well as provide one meal per day for students while bursary and scholarship initiatives for tertiary institutions will executed in partnership with the private sector as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.”
His housing plans is a bit more revolutionary as plans to improve the state’s current policy of home ownership through Lagos HOMS and provide ownership options, such as Rent-to-Own-Program (R.O.P).
“We will encourage the creation of a Corporate Social Responsibility Trust Fund (CSR-TF) by the Private Sector, to be managed by a Board of Trustees charged with the responsibility of identifying growth opportunities yearly and financing such opportunities to further boost economic development across sectors and communities in the State.”
Good luck is opportunity that meets with preparedness therefore determining where the pendulum swings should not be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. It is obvious in this situation that one is more prepared than the other. Mr Ambode’s career trajectory, work and life experiences, revolutionary vision and open mindedness make him the better choice of the two for the job of leading Lagos in the nest political dispensation.