NIGERIA: Ambode the Quintessential Public Servant

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Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of the Centre of Excellence describes him as “ an uncommon civil servant” in whom he discovered an embodiment of the sterling attributes of a  great accountant. The acclaimed political strategist with a knack for discovering great talents surely knows his onions. His successor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola(SAN) in his letter of commendation poured encomiums on him for “the high sense of dedication, selflessness, loyalty and integrity” which he brought to bear  during his glorious day as a public servant.
 
And during the recent public presentation of his biography, The Art of Selfless Service written by Marina Osoba, deafening applause greeted the enviable life trajectory from a cross section of those who have known him closely for the past five decades. So, who is this illustrious son of Lagos state, nay Nigeria?
 
Our subject is none other than Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Managing Consultant/CEO of Brandsmiths Consulting Limited, a public finance and management-consulting firm with deep knowledge of the Nigerian public sector. Born in Epe, Lagos on June 14,1964 his educational journey traversed St. Jude’s primary school Ebute Metta, Federal Government College, Warri and the University of Lagos.
What is more significant to this writer are the moral lessons and traits of a sound professional that Nigerian youths should drink  and digest from the flowing fountain of his wealth of experience, within a short span of 27 years.
 
One of the lessons has to do with his vision to excel in whatever situation he finds himself. This, combined with an inner strength to conquer the hurdles that fate may place along his path marks him out as a unique Nigerian. Ordinarily, he would have capitulated and turn himself into an area boy when his father died at the age of 18.But he didn’t.
 
Instead, he chose to focus his energy fully on his academics which paid off handsomely. From recording the second best result in the entire West Africa in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 1981 to graduating with honours in Accounting from the University of Lagos at 21 and a Masters’ degree in Accounting combined with being a Chartered Accountant all at 24, the stage was set for a brilliant career in Accounting. One could therefore re-write his biography with the title: Ambode and the Power of Focus.
 
That brings us to his choice of where to ply his trade. Many in his shoes would have opted for a private practice for quick monetary gains. Instead, Ambode chose the civil service, with its bureaucratic bottleneck and slow-grinding rise to self actualisation. Why did he do so? The answer, as exhibited  by the landmark achievements he recorded at the various places of work is to leave an enduring mark on the sands of his Accounting profession. Only a man with the passion for selfless service would do that. And truth be told, there are few of them, not only here in Lagos but the entire Nigerian nation.
 
Rising from the humble position of a junior Accountant, he moved rapidly up the ladder of success to becoming the youngest Auditor General for Local Governments in Lagos State in 2001. Subsequently, he was made the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance in January 2005, before being combined with the additional responsibility as  the Accountant General in February, 2006. As one determined to make his mark the genius in him restructured the financial transactions that resulted in the state budget’s performance of over 80 per cent. But of a remarkable achievement was how he assisted to keep the state running during the embattled period when the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration unilaterally stopped allocation to Local Governments in the state. A more critical look at his book: Public Sector Financing may shed more light on the strategies used to keep the state afloat in those dark days. The book simplifies government accounting system  from the local government through the state  to the federal level.Or, he may have to write another book specifically focused on how states and even individuals could survive the hard times.
Furthermore, Nigerian youths would have to learn from Ambode what it takes to fuel one’s passion for quality education. If they do, they would agree with Malcolm X’s assertion that “education is our children’s passport to the future.”From the award of the US Fulbright Scholarship for the Hubert Humphries Fellowship Programme in Boston, Massachusetts, Ambode  has traversed the  Whartton Business School, for Advanced Management Programme.In his insatiable quest for quality knowledge, he has also had stints at reputable  institutions, including Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, England, the Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland, INSEAD Singapore and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Boston,U.S.A. Now, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
 
Little wonder that he gained recognition for outstanding excellence by the Joint Tax Board  (JTB)/FIRS on the successful organisation of the 1st National Tax Retreat in Nigeria in 2005. All these, no doubt have fully equipped him with leadership capabilities that the good people of Lagos State, being a microcosm of Nigeria could gain from.
 
Perhaps, this explains why the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu 1, and the leaders of the Lagos State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress(APC) could not hide their tacit support for Ambode, urging him to throw his hat into the ring of the gubernatorial contest in preparation for 2015.Declared the respected Oba Akiolu, “ Myself, other traditional rulers and some notable elders have met and decided that Ambode should be the next governor of Lagos.” 
 
Though this open endorsement has since stirred the hornet’s nest, from both the PDP and the Pan-Lagos Development Advocacy, (LDAG) who are rooting for Mr. Babatunde William -Fowler, one thing is certain. Ambode certainly has the leadership qualities to build on the great works the amiable incumbent Governor Babatunde Fashola has achieved. As an over comer of daunting obstacles, many are watching how Ambode would surmount the hurdles ahead.
 
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