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Led by the People

It was the fourth Town Hall meeting since he became the governor and the first in the second  term of his administration, yet, the mammoth crowd that besieged the entrance of the Muslim Praying Ground, Badagry gave the impression that he was still on the campaign trail.

This was going to be a different ball game, afterall; instead of addressing the general assembly of the people from the constituents in the Lagos West senatorial district, the largest and most populous  of the three in the state, Governor Akinwumi Ambode would take them in segments. Youth and people living with disabilities, workers unions and non-governmental organisations and community elders and political stalwarts.

His words: “Today’s town hall meeting, the fourth in the series, gives us the opportunity to meet with the people of Lagos State to hear directly from you about your needs and suggestions on how we can serve you better.”

This drive for closer civic engagement reflects the passion of the governor to bond with the people and bring empathy into public service. For a naturally reticent high performer, this interactive research into popular thinking is indeed a grab for the details of the yearnings of the common man on the street and a doggedness to bring change into their lives.

Such antecedents were recorded during the third town hall meeting in Ikorodu when a welder requested and got a welding machine and generator. A community seeking the rehabilitation of Ibeh road, got what it asked for. Getting to know the human beings behind the statistics in the reports on his table is an emotive feature of Governor Ambode’s charisma. He comes across as a sincere, honest and decent gentleman lending a helping hand to the needy.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (right), exchanging pleasantries with Alara of Ilara Epe, Oba Akeem Adesanya (left) while the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Adewale Sotobi (middle), watches in admiration during the Y2016 First Quarter Town Hall meeting, at the Ikorodu Town Hall, Ikorodu, Lagos

Some say he was born with these attributes; others believe that 27 years of managing the accounts of local governments and funding the needs of the poor and the underpriviledged have nurtured a soft heart for those on the fringes of life.

Whichever. His decision to invest in communities as the closest tier to the citizenry has begun a revolution and changed the calculus of power. In October, 2015, he established the Office of Communities & Communications with the mandate to encourage the communities to take ownership of government. This clarion call has woken up the 3, 241 community development associations, the 57 community development committees and myriad of residents’ associations across the state. The litmus test is the monitoring of the 114 road projects being built across the 57 council areas in the state by the concerned CDAs.

Recognising the right to information as the fundamental right of citizens and intelligence as valuable tool for communal development and peace, Governor Ambode has sponsored workshops and seminars for the community media to play greater role in ensuring an informed citizenry and responsible local governance.

Civic engagement, in line with international best practices, is the irreducible minimum for public conduct in the administration. Projects begin with stakeholders’ meetings and end with popular endorsement. Various segments of the society, including unions, associations, groups, non-governmental organisations, religious bodies, voluntary uniformed organiations and political parties and tendencies collaborate freely with the administration to address their challenges with governance.

If in doubt, watch his body language. On the occasion of his first anniversary, he held a great reception for people with disabilities and appreciated the contributions of persons who have excelled in their chosen professions undeterred by the physical limitations of birth or circumstance. It is now state policy to give room to persons living with disabilities on public transportation. It is a cardinal rule of employment to accommodate persons with disabilities in the civil service. A 500m fund to empower the disabled has been launched.

As the curtains drew over the Fourth Town Hall meeting with resolutions to boost tourism and decentralize development, the participants returned home. But the governor and his team of commissioners, special advisers and permanent secretaries stayed behind to continue the conversation with the grassroots.

Similarly, ministries, departments and parastatals continue the conversation with the people in their respective areas, putting the people first and allowing their policies to be led by the needs  of the populace. Every month, the CDAS assemble to listen to the progress that the administration they have put in place is making and tell the government how it is performing in their neighbourhood.

Gradually, the vision of Governor Ambode is taking roots in the mind of the people. According to His Excellency in a speech to civil servants: “ We have brought openness and inclusiveness to governance to increase involvement, enhance wider citizen participation and thereby contribute to the emergence of useful innovations. The impact of social media on good governance is instructive here..It is no longer acceptable for the provision of public services to be marred by bureaucracy or red tape. At every point in the execution of a public servant’s duties, the paramount consideration must be the need of the general public to enjoy better services.” Do you disagree?



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