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Ambode and participatory governance

“There is no way anyone can manage a megacity State such as Lagos, unless you have this atmosphere of peace and harmony. A State as…

“There is no way anyone can manage a megacity State such as Lagos, unless you have this atmosphere of peace and harmony. A State as vast as Lagos, with multiplicity of needs and complex interests of her huge and diverse population, requires much more than the gifts of intelligence and competence; it requires more than hard work, diligence and dedication, it requires special spiritual touching by God. I have always loved to touch lives; to me it is a spiritual thing and a devoution; the more I do this, the more I receive assurance and inspiration from the Lord God, that if I continue to touch humanity, He would provide a bigger space for me to advance humanity on a bigger scale. Here I am doing it with Governance, with you, for you, for me, for our dear Lagos” 

This quote from Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, to spiritual leaders at the Inter-Faith Parley in the State House, on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, shows that Democracy, ideally practised, could indeed be an instrument for adequately meeting the needs of the people, stem strife, promote peace and prosperity, address corruption, banish ignorance, increase literacy and generally advance human worth and bring much happiness to a vast number of citizens. Or is this not how democracy – as espoused by Governor Ambode – should be?  For experiences in our part of the World and even in advanced countries – recent and ancient – here and in many other climes, had and continue to convey unpalatable contrary impressions.  

Apart from periodic election and voting, other features of ideal democracy include independent judiciary, rule of law, unfettered exercise of fundamental rights (freedom of association, speech, access to basic amenities, etc.), adequate and proper representation, majority rule and minority right, multi-party system and free Press. Yet, in developing democracies, and even in most of the advanced ones, achieving the ideal seems elusive, but not because the solutions for the attainment of higher form of democracy has not been identified.

Participatory governance is a method where all channels of influence are explored, strengthened and engaged in a political process to achieve accelerated solutions to meet citizens’ needs and aspirations. It is a means where all citizens, affected by issues, are engaged, involved and benefit from the outcomes of collective efforts and jointly-arrived solutions.

Participatory governance, as simple as the phrase is and as noble and natural as the concept is, must have proven effectiveness and profitability. Only very few politicians would be brave enough to adopt it though, let alone, championing same the way Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is currently operating. The practice can be very laborious, physically demanding and mentally tasking. It requires that you give primacy to, and pursue pro-poor policies; it requires correct attitude of humility, transparency and accountability; it is a process of constant consultations and engagement of people affected by issues throughout the lives of the programmes designed as solution(s) to address the issues. It requires that you carry out (along with the people involved), analytical research and assessment of needs and problems, design appropriate programmes (solutions), form network of suitable technical partners and allies who will enrich the values of the process and outcomes, monitor each step in the implementation process, review, correct or reinforce measures, disseminate efforts (especially in mass and social media) and document best practices, so that legacies achieved will be enduring and sustainable.

All these best practices are features that are inclusive in governance – they are essential parts of Ambodeism. The concept of participatory governance permeates all developmental thrusts of Ambode’s Administration: health, security, roads and transportation, energy and power, education, housing, infrastructure, agriculture, employment generation, etc. Let’s take education for instance, you cannot run an all-inclusive government if the majority of your population is unlettered and ignorant on important issues. To prepare our future leaders for quality and universal participation in politics, he has achieved dramatic improvement in the education sector by employing no fewer than 1,300 qualified teachers for the Primary schools and by spending over N1billion to renovate and upgrade infrastructure in secondary schools. As a listening Governor, in order to address the protracted problem of Lagos State University (LASU), the governor came up with an Executive bill which gave 5-year single tenure to the Vice Chancellor, increased the retiring age of professors to 70 and made the University a residential one. Now there is peace in LASU and the institution is gradually reclaiming its lost glory.

To further strengthen the communication gap between His Administration and the people, improve the understanding of problems behind issues, explain challenges and solutions and rally the required support around his policies, programmes and activities for highly rewarding outcomes, Ambode has evolved a strategy of constant consultations and engagements of people in different fora of specific and general nature.  Much in tune with the people yearning for more roads and other public conveniences, Ambode is gradually addressing these needs including general infrastructural growth and renewal. He undertook massive rehabilitation, modernization and expansion of Federal roads and more than 500 roads have been rehabilitated, while about 190 have been earmarked for the next phase. To meet the modernization quest of Lagosians, the governor is implementing ambitious and game-changing projects at strategic locations, across the State.   Definitely a bright and beautiful future awaits Lagosians as they prepare to inherit their new and Greater Lagos.

Changes are occurring at a rapid and unprecedented rate, because the people have bought into Governor Ambode’s vision and have consequentially become part of the driving force. 

Dr Abdullateef is the Lagos State commissioner for Home Affairs

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