Governor Akinwunmi Ambode3

Tomorrow, 29 May, 2019, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos will hand over power to his successor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu. He narrates the story of his life this medium. The history of Lagos cannot be written without mentioning him. He was born on 14 June 1963. After a 27-year stint at the Lagos civil service after which he was a financial consultant, he ran for public office as Governor in April 2015 and won. Since he was sworn in on 29 May 2015, he hit the ground running. Ambode spoke with Ademola Adegbamigbe, David Odey, Lanre Babalola, Funsho Balogun and Kazeem Ugbodaga on his life and plans for Lagos State. Photos: Idowu Ogunleye

You attended the Federal Government College, Warri. How did that impact on your life directly?

I actually started my primary education at St. Judes Primary School, Ebute Metta between 1969 and 1974, and I went from there at the age of 11 to the Federal Government College, FGC, Warri. I left my parents at that tender age to go to the then Bendel State and I had a very good opportunity of meeting with other students from every part of Nigeria. You know the way the Unity Schools are set up, with students coming in from every state of the country. We had at least 10 people from each state across the nation. I had the opportunity of meeting Igbos, Hausas, Efik, Edos, Yorubas and the rest at that tender age of 11 and I spent seven years in that school. I did my O’ Levels and A’ Levels in Federal Government College, FGC Warri and came back to Lagos in 1981 to gain admission into the University of Lagos. But whatever it is that I am today, had been shaped in those formative years. You actually form the totality of your being in your teen years. I grew up knowing that I was a true Nigerian, and that there was no difference between me and a Hausa man for instance. We lived together. Concerning my nationalist outlook, I will say it was borne out of the fact that I spent several years at the Federal Government College, Warri. That has influenced me till today because I see myself as a Nigerian first by birth and a Yoruba man by tribe.

Can you tell us about your parents?

I was born into the family of the late Festus Akinwale Ambode who was a teacher and to Mrs Christiana Ambode, Nee Oresanya. I was born in Epe and my parents were also from Epe. My father died at the age of 57 in Ebute Metta in Lagos State and was buried at Atan Cemetery in 1981. My mother is still alive and she is 81 years old. She comes from the stock of the Ijebu Epes. I am the sixth of 10 children. I have five brothers and four sisters.

Can you tell us the influence your teacher, Philip Davies had on you while you were at the Government College, Warri?

I was fortunate to have met Pa Philip Davies who was then the Principal of the school. He was a retired military officer in the British army before coming to Nigeria as a teacher and principal. He began his career at Kings College, Lagos before being transferred to FGC Warri. So, the whole lot of us at FGC Warri between the years of 1970 and 1981 had the singular honour of meeting a disciplinarian; you know what it means for a man to be a military officer and at the same time an educationist. He had a particular influence on school children. My character and that of majority of the people who went to the school at that time was shaped by Pa. Davies of blessed memory. I can attest to the fact that the majority of the students who passed through Philip Davies became well rounded personalities.

It is being rumoured that you are not an indigene of Lagos State, how do you react to this?

I am a full blooded Lagosian, born in Epe some 51 years ago. As I told you earlier, I started my primary education at St. Judes Primary School Ebute-Metta, before I left for Federal Government College, Warri, then returned to the University of Lagos, Unilag for my first and second degrees.

I started my career with the Waste Management Board before I got transferred to the Local Government where I spent thirteen years. I was later transferred to the mainstream where I worked for another fourteen years, making a total of twenty-seven years of meritorious service.

My father was a teacher at Ebute-Meta where prominent people like Chief Lanre Razaq and many other notable individuals passed through his tutelage.

Don’t forget that the Lagos State House of Assembly cleared me as an indigene when I was nominated as Auditor General of the State.

So this rumour is not only false, it is also a political gimmick.

Beyond that, the constitution of Nigeria is clear on how to stand for election in the country. One must be a citizen, be above 18, not indicted and must belong to a political party. In all, I am well qualified.

In 1981, you had the second best WAEC result in West Africa, how were you able to achieve this?

In 1981, we did Higher School Certificate, HSC, examination and like every other student I sat for three papers. I did History, Economics and Geography. And I happened to have been the person with the second best result of ‘A’ in Economics, ‘B’ in History and ‘B’ in Geography, which is ABB. The best result then was AAB, scored by one of the students from the same FGC, Warri, Fidelis Odita, now a Professor. We both went ahead to the Universiy of Lagos. And he was actually made a Queen’s Counsel before the age of 40. I think God just gave me natural talents. I may not be the best of students that you would like to have as a teacher, but somehow, I strive to do my best, and that happened to be one of those things I achieved.

How were you able to cope when you lost your dad at a tender age?

If there is any singular event that actually shaped my life more than anything else, I think it was the death of my father. It was a turning point in my life. It was supposed to have deprived me of my future, but it brought out that leadership instinct in me and that personality we are all sharing today. I lost my father two weeks after I finished my examination, and it was quite a hard time becaue my mother was a housewife and I had other siblings. The ones who were my senior were in school and I just finished HSC. So, I had to choose between searching for work or struggling to go to school. God helped me, and I made the right choice. I decided that I was not going to live the life of my father and that I was going to challenge myself and be as hardworking as possible to be successful in life. That was how I decided that I would do everything possible to succeed as an accountant. At the age of 11, I had an encounter with one of my father’s friends and he challenged me and said ‘you, can you ever be an accountant?’ He was an accountant in one company. That hit me real hard. That was when I decided that when in secondary school, I would take the subject, Principles of Accounts. And I did that in form 3. That was why I also went ahead and got the points I scored in my HSC. I remained focused and told myself that I wanted to succeed in life and to be an outstanding accountant and I went ahead at the age 21 to be a graduate of accounting, had a masters in accounting at the age of 23, and became chartered at the age of 24. But all that journey was a culmination of that event that happened at the age of 11 when my father died.

When you are in a very hard or bad situation and you remain focused and hardworking, you will achieve the unusual. I became a leader to my other siblings, and also played the role of a leader in the house to my mother because my other siblings were outside Lagos and I happened to be in Lagos. In short, I became a father figure as a young man at the age of 19. So, the whole idea of the drive to excel was inculcated in me at a very early age and I had a combination of good friends around me that were also supportive.

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