OP-ED| The Economist and the Leaky Bowl of Ambode’s Response By Jonah Ayodele Obajeun
Just before we move on, there is something inherently wrong in the way the political class in Nigeria thinks that things can be done and undone unchallenged. Criticism as it is enshrined in the genetic structure of democracy, has a way of providing alternatives, better approaches and reconstruction of leadership strategies to drive touch-down economic policies and engagement.
The Economist has appraised Amobode, concluding with some debatable judgments, but there are glaringly far more truths in the judgment than biases. But Ambode’s unfiltered rebuttal of the appraisal has made a bold declaration of his favouritism towards praise singing opposition, turning Lagos into that Wole Soyinka’s Republic of Liars where lies are traded by barter with genuine criticisms. Unfortunately, our governor is happily trudging on delusional red carpet.
In a recent appraisal on Ambode, I wrote that he is perpetually cheated by Fashola’s shoes. And that he is not just dragging the shoes in the murky terrain of his directionless agenda, he has also made an attempt to thrash those golden shoes. This was short lived though, as the former wearer of the shoes made it to governance stardom in a dramatic public display of affection from Buhari to Fashola, breaking traditional barriers of political appointment.
Ambode’s reaction and description of The Economist’s judgments as ‘slanderous’ which is thematically faulty and put questions on the editorial quality of his team, depicts the soul of an administration in a forcible quest to win public trust and earn respect through press conferences.
On vehicular gridlock, The Economist wrote that: “Akinwunmi Ambode is full of excuses, but few solutions, for the worsening gridlock.” Through Steven Ayorinde, his Commissioner for Information, Ambode contested: “If we were to conclude hastily, like the article did, we would have described the magazine’s effort in the same words it once famously used as ‘an unpleasant nose-to-stranger’s-armpit experience’.” What Ambode failed to acknowledge is that the magazine credited him with ‘few solutions’. Nothing could be more objective than this. That The Economist refuses to pretend that all is well in Lagos and latch unto praise singing of a wobbling administration doesn’t make the magazine less objective. Laying claim to a traffic reform policy that was never in place is to a limit, an unholy claim that deserves nothing but hisses.
On traffic strategy of the past governor of Lagos, the magazine wrote that: “The state’s former governor, Babatunde Fashola, who left office after elections in March, was lauded for improving traffic and security. He curbed dangerous motorbike taxis and brought local “area boys” (street children), under control. Cars were terrified into order by a state traffic agency, LASTMA, whose bribe-hungry officers flagged down offending drivers.” Ambode once again, queried this assertion. He failed to do a soul search of the magazine’s corruption allegation against LASTMA officers.
Yes Fashola might have started with forceful approach, transitioning this requires more than press conference to read out instructions to LASTMA officers. More importantly is the policy approach to it and systematic transition strategy. Instructing officers to relax punishment for traffic offenders without providing enablers for alternatives makes mockery of his understanding of human behaviour in sociological parlance and smacks the little gains Fashola recorded. A saner strategy would be to provide these alternatives, purge LASTMA of bribery tendencies (like what is going on in Nigeria Customs) and transition this ‘terrific orderliness’ into ‘behavioural orderliness.’ Instead, Ambode failed to take responsibility for this traffic mess and has since made recourse to editorial banters and needless defence of nothingness.
Lauding his Principal, Ayorinde wrote that: “Ambode has shown his capacity to improve on the fortunes of the state and has mapped out workable strategies in the area of security, transportation and economic sustainability in the face of harsh national economic realities.” Whatever strategy has been mapped out, whatever model of governance has been designed, until we begin to see genuine drive, leadership readiness and policy framework materializing, Ambode has not given anyone a reason to believe that which Ayorinde has written.
It is up to us, up to The Economist, not up to spokespersons, to assess Ambode versus expectations. But so far, it is a total breakdown in Lagos.
Jonah Ayodele Obajeun blogs @www.obajeun.com. Reach him on twitter via @Obajeun.
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