Ambode, May Your Will Be Done…
Every megapolis comes with its peculiar strength, threat and weakness. Think New York, think Paris, London, Johannesburg in South Africa, Bangkok in Thailand, Jakarta in Indonesia and others. They all swarm with humanity from different parts of the world. They all have to deal with vehicular traffic. At a point in time, they all had to deal with environmental matters especially filth. London, for instance, was once described by the great poet Behramji Malabari, as a “dirty little pool of life”. Jakarta and Bangkok, aside issues of the environment, today are hotbeds of vehicular traffic; and that is in spite of their buzzing subway life. Traffic in Bangkok is so legendary that it has no respect for time. You are likely to run into traffic snarl at day as much you would at night. While attending a conference in Bangkok about two years ago, traffic advice was the first lecture we received every morning from our hotel staff. We were told to leave for the conference venue, a journey of 10 minutes one or two clear hours ahead because of traffic. It was unpredictable, we were told, just like English weather. And we found it to be true.
Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, is the Nigerian equivalent of these cities. We love Lagos; we also hate Lagos. But love it or hate it, Lagos remains the heartbeat of Nigeria. It represents the heart and soul of the nation. If Lagos succeeds, Nigeria succeeds; if Lagos flattens out, the nation convulses. The economics of private sector being the driver of a national economy is made more profound in Lagos. The often anti-Nigeria international magazine, The Economist, once described Lagos as a mega slum. This got some folks offended. They called The Economist names and described its ranking of Lagos as a little over board. I don’t really care what foreigners think of Lagos; but I care about what Nigerians think of Lagos.
I worry about the worries of Lagosians. The chief worry of Lagosians at the moment is the sense of insecurity that bestrides the air. Not that the other parts of the country are immune in any way. Indeed, the larger Nigeria is currently scared stiff of insecurity. On the highways and byways, armed bandits appear to have gone into overdrive. Boko Haram has seized the North East and drained the entire zone of investment and development. Kidnapping and sundry acts of criminality have gripped the rest of the country. The same mob of criminals has severally attempted to build a nest in Lagos. Brazen daylight robbery of banks, house-to-house late night robberies, kidnappings have all punctuated the life of Lagos; but Lagos must not fall; the city of over 20 million people must not be allowed to go to ruins in the hands of criminals.
This is the context in which the action taken recently by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos deserves not just commendation but also a page in the expanding chronicle of Lagos State. The Governor handed over 100 four-door Salon Cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Up vans, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, three Helicopters, two Gun Boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers, Revolving Lights, Siren and Public Address Systems, Vehicular Radio Communicators, security gadgets including bullet proof vests, helmets, handcuffs, etc, uniforms, kits and Improved Insurance and Death Benefit Schemes for officers. The cost of acquiring the equipment was placed at N4.765bn.
The buzz that heralded the hand-over of the equipment was loud and for good reason. Lagosians , nay Nigerians needed the assurance that the government of the state was not in deep slumber. On the heels of that event, Lagos was gripped by its jugular. In-traffic robberies were on the ascendancy. Bank robberies were becoming the norm. It was such a worrisome trend and Ambode as the Chief Security Officer of the state had no choice but to rise to the occasion, and he did. This is the most any responsible leader of a state can do. He has done his bit; it is now left for the state security apparatchik to response to the gesture with commensurate action.
The ball now rests in the court of the state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni. He and his men have no reason whatsoever to fail. The gesture of the state government covers land, water and aerial surveillance. The police personnel have, before now, been exposed to training befitting of 21st century policing. Add to this, is the insurance package which is the norm in all advanced societies. Since the donation of the anti-crime equipment, in-traffic robberies which at a time became commonplace have reduced considerably. This writer was a victim of in-traffic robbery sometime last year in Apapa area of Lagos. It is not an experience worth re-living. But for divine intervention, it could have been worse as my assailant was both hungry and angry. I could sense his rage against humanity in his blood-shot eyes as he demanded for my phones and cash and all. My assailant was a young man in his twenties. He was armed and he wore a calm, cold visage; a dangerous expression of a deadly wayfarer. Strangely, that night and at that moment, there was no security personnel in sight, no security patrol van within reach. My only companions were the horde of armless commuters in other vehicles who watched the drama and waited helplessly for their turn to be robbed. It was scary. Such was the nightmarish experience of being caught in Lagos traffic. But the horror of in-traffic robbery is gradually fading away.
But Ambode should not stop at donation to the police. He has demanded efficiency from the force but he must adopt the principle of he who pays the piper, calls the tune. He must independently monitor how the anti-crime paraphernalia are being used. The Nigeria Police is notorious for turning their weapons against the people they were paid to protect. This must not be the case in the Lagos Ambode is striving to build. Lagos represents the last hope for the transformation of Nigeria. Even with their cynicism, both The Economist and The New York Times have ticked Lagos as an exemplum of how a state should transform. Nigeria must not therefore lose Lagos to criminals the way she has lost the North East to terrorists. Ambode’s gesture is exemplary. If crime and criminality persist in Lagos, it would not be for want of effort by the Governor; it would be that the police have failed to show good faith. Ambode desires a safe Lagos more than anything else; may his will be done.
Author: KEN UGBECHIE