•What LAGOS Governor, AKINWUNMI AMBODE Told City People
In the next few weeks, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode will be leaving office. And a successor has emerged. He is Gov. elect-Babajide Sanwo Olu. Despite all the controversies Gov. Ambode has been through over the last few months, leading to the elections, the verdict is that for a first time Governor, Ambode has done phenomenally well, in terms of projects and infrastructural developments. Suddenly, what should have been a long distance race of 4-years was taken as a 100-metres dash, running with aplomb, at a dizzying pace, to the applause of Lagosians.
So, in the last 4 years, he has turned around all the vital sectors, from Road, Security, Health, Education, Sports, Tourism, Culture, Entertainment to Infrastructural facilities, et al. He has also delivered on all the promises he made to the electorate and with the passing of each day, he is ticking items on his list of campaign promises.
That was why City People approached him a few months back for a special interview and he granted it. Initially, we were a bit skeptical he might not grant the interview because, by nature, he seldom grants interviews, except it is absolutely necessary. That is why you can count on your fingertips the number of interviews he has granted in the last 4 years in office. He is one of those leaders who believe that you should let your work speak for you. His philosophy is: “Less talk, more work”. We made a formal request to him and behold, His Excellency agreed to talk to City People about his other sides many don’t know.
We were not going to talk about how many roads he has done. Or how much he has spent on tackling Security Issues. No. It was not going to be about figures and statistics. No. But it was going to be essentially about what drives the man who runs Lagos State? What kind of a man is he? What motivates him? Why is he running at full throttle? Why doesn’t he sleep before 1am everyday? Why is he at his desk by 7.30a.m? Why does he drive his team so hard? How does this Epe-born Governor run the 5th largest economy in Africa?
These were the questions that ran through our minds as we went to the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, the office and official residence of the No 1 man in Lagos State that afternoon to pick his mind on various issues.
Before the interview, he went for an official assignment nearby.
Once the task event was over Gov. Ambode headed back to work. He changed from the sky blue Agbada he wore to the event, into a simple blue Buba and Sokoto. And he looked very relaxed, sitting behind his big desk. His table was bare of files. It wasn’t littered with papers. The Governor is IT compliant. All he had beside him, to his right side was his IPAD and his phone, which didn’t ring at all, throughout the duration of the interview.
Gov. Ambode cut the picture of a modern-day CEO. He does not allow files to spend more than a few minutes on his table before treating it. He is a workaholic and a deep thinker and he has created for himself an ambience that allows him work smoothly. He doesn’t keep friends who could disturb him with calls. All his chums are old friends he grew up with, and they’ve come to know the kind of person he is.
Despite his tight schedule, he has the zeal that enables him to accomplish his task on a daily basis. He has a time for meetings and for sober reflections. He has a time for events and a time for socials. He has a time for recreation, which explains his trim physique. And he creates time to visit all his on-going projects across the 3 senatorial zones, daily.
He admits that he is a workaholic. “I work hard and I play hard”, he told City People. That was how the interview began and what was meant to be a very short interview took close to 2 hours. Before the interview began, His Excellency chatted for about 40 minutes on why he seldom grants interview. He explained that he prefers to listen and hear other people out, than to keep doing the talking. He believes there is much he could learn from the next person to him, no matter how lowly he or she is to him. That was how the interview started and His Excellency went deep into the philosophical underpinnings of the man called Akinwunmi Ambode. For the very first time, Gov. Ambode revealed many things that he has never said before about his life. Not only that. His interview was a lecture on the essentials of leadership and why his real mission was to make a difference in the life of every Lagosian.
Many Lagosians often think they know the Lagos Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode inside out. Whenever you ask them what sort of a person is he, you get varied answers. People see his different sides. Some see him as tough. Others see him as a soft man, going by the gentle way he delivers his lines when he talks and reads his speeches.
But we can tell you that Gov. Ambode is a mixture of the two. He can be soft when the occasion demands it. And he can be tough or hard as some will put it. But we can reveal to you that the No 1 citizen of Lagos State is a no-nonsense person with a zero tolerance level for mediocrity. He is a deep thinker, a hardworker and a very calculating leader who understands the nuances of government.
He is a figures man. He likes you to be precise, to be meticulous and to be deep seated in your analysis. If he sees all these traits in you, he can engage you for the next 3 hours talking about ideas, creative ideas. He is always solutions driven. He likes to play with ideas. That is why most of those who are close to him are men of great depth. 24/7 he is always with a pen and notepad to take down notes when ideas come. He likes to engage his aides in brainstorming sessions. All his aides know that once you bring a problem to H.E. you must also be armed with a solution, because the next question that will pop up from him is: What’s the way out? He is a good listener. He expects you to lead the discussion.
But the same man plays hard. He creates time for recreation and sports. He walks. He likes to be trim. And he likes to let down his hair by listening to good music. He does not have too many new friends. He has managed to keep all his old friends. They don’t disturb him. They don’t call him for frivolous things. They wait till weekends to see him or when he calls them to come around for a few hours in his Epe country home. It is when he goes to his Epe country home that he really unwinds. So, he has been able to manage his 2 sides. He listens to his wife a lot. She is his prayer warrior. We asked him to tell us the kind of person that he is. And how he unwinds?
“Let me shock you. I unwind. But the people that know me will tell you, that I am a hardworker and I am a hard player. One thing I want to send out in this interview is this: Your Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, had a life before May 29, 2015. He had a lifestyle. So, if I want to keep my sanity, I have to live my life.
Yes, I know it has become difficult to continue that my lifestyle, now that I am a Governor, but I don’t pretend to be what I am not. I know it is difficult to say a lot in public discourse or do a lot in the public space, as a Governor, people expect you to comport yourself in a particular manner. They should bear with me. I am a real person. I am not a fake Lagosian. I don’t know how to pretend”. I am sorry about that. I am real, I am a real Lagosian. So, they should not be shocked if they see me mingling with people, or dancing somewhere, or they see me playing football somewhere, or watching football with the boys. Thats me. That is Akin Ambode for you. That is who I am. When I leave after 4 years or after 8 years, I want to go back to my normal life. I don’t want to live a fake life. So, when they see me eating outside at a restaurant or at a food place they should not be surprised. They should not be shocked if they see me in a nightclub dancing. That is Akin Ambode for you. I am real. I am not a robot. What is important for me is to do my work, to deliver on my promises. I don’t play with my job. I work hard and I play hard. I don’t compromise on that at all. People can attest to it that I don’t joke with my work. I have been in the Civil Service for years. What I need to do, I do. That is leadership. That is the whole essence of true leadership. True leadership is about being genuine and not being fake. And that is what I do here at Lagos House.
Many don’t know that before he became Governor, he has always had a very intimidating profile. He is an Accountant. He has held vital positions in Lagos State as Accountant General, Auditor General and he has attended practically all the major leadership courses across the world. How did he accomplish this?
“I have a philosophical outlook to what I am today I am the son of a teacher, a disciplinarian. And my mum, a complete housewife, and seamstress. But she was also an Entrepreneur. So obviously for me, I have had youthful encounters in instances where I had actually been scolded that I can never be a successful Accountant.
So, that resonated with me and it has stayed with me since. When I was age 12 or 13, I promised myself that whatever level it will take to attain the pinnacle of the Accountancy profession, I will do it for myself. I also never wanted to go through the route of living an unworthy life. Those were the 2 things that were always pushing me. And then I lost my father at the age of 18 and my mother was a housewife. So obviously within the context of my beliefs and my age, I needed to do something crazy and extraordinary.
So, I decided to go on doing all the available courses. So at the same time, I was in the University, I was doing professional exams, I was working. I was a multi-tasker at the age of 20. I graduated at the age of 21. By 24, I had my Masters degree, ICAN qualification”.
Since he came into office, he hardly grant interviews. One can count the few he has granted on our fingertips. Why is this so?
“As a politician, you are supposed to be an extrovert. Me, I am a combination of the 2. So I switch. I am introverted and I am also an extrovert sometimes. But the truth is this: if you are a thinker, you don’t talk too much. But the strong sense of leadership is the ability to listen more. When you listen, you digest, and you process, and you think. And then create solutions for people. Anybody who wants to be a successful leader must be a deep listener. It is one of the basic ingredients of anything you learn in any leadership school.
When you are managing a state as complex as Lagos, who are you to be talking too much if you are not thinking? You don’t need to talk, you listen to what the people want. You listen to what the people are saying. You listen to your own inner thoughts. You put the 3 together and then you plan it and act it. That is the result you have seen in over the last 40 months or thereabout. That is the way to go.
That is what I also recommend to other people who want to be successful leaders. You listen more to people and then you process what they are saying. You sift off the ones that are negative. And then, you think