From all indications, the return of the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, to office for a second term in 2019, remains a herculean task, as his once cordial relationhip with his political godfather, former governor of the Centre of Excellence and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has continued on a downward slope, writes OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU.
The forthcoming 2019 general election has continued to throw up more intrigues than previous elections, as the nation gradually inches towards the all-important poll. Lagos State, which prides itself as the Centre of Excellence is not left behind in the intrigues playing out across the country, as the chance of the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, for a second tenure continues to precariously hang in the balance.
Few weeks back, the rumour gained ground that former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has refused to endorse the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, for a second tenure in office.
What initially started as a bad joke soon turned out to be real as the rumour refused to abate, rather it continued to gain more ground and tenacity.
Many reasons were adduced for this development, which has come to many Lagosians, political analysts and observers as, surprising and astonishing, especially against the generally held belief that Lagos State had never had it so good under the Ambode administration.
While the rumour continued to gain ground, another one came up that Governor Ambode had perfected plans to defect to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) to realise his second term ambition, since it was getting clearer by the day that his party, the APC, and his political godfather, Tinubu, would not consider him to run for a second term on the platform of the party.
Although, the governor has come out to deny any such plan, his recent reaction to the development, following the emergence of a dark horse, Jide Sanwoolu, a former commissioner in the state, who had also not only gone ahead to purchase his expression of interest, and nomination forms, shortly after Ambode did same in Abuja on Monday, but is also said to have enjoyed the support of almost all the 57 chairmen of local government councils and local council development areas (LCDAs) and the Tinubu political machinery, the Mandate Group, put a lie to the governor’s denial.
While reacting to the plan to deny him a second term, Ambode reportedly told his inner caucus members that with or without the APC, his second term ambition is a done deal.
Ambode said that only Lagos electorate will decide his fate and not the APC or any godfather, adding that he is unmoved by the news that he will not get a second term ticket under the APC because of a gang up by some certain interests to field Sanwoolu against him.
The governor averred that his performance will decide his political fortune in 2019, saying that he is confident that he will emerge as the next governor of Lagos State, with or without his party, the APC.
On the threat of impeachment from the State House of Assembly, he added that he has not committed any offence to warrant such move, even as he urged Lagosians to remain steadfast and stand together at this time, noting that it is normal for those who want to subdue the overall interest of all Lagosians for personal and selfish gain to try to undo government, adding that “no matter the machinations, they will fail.”
Many people had read meanings to the decision by Tinubu that the APC in Lagos will pick candidates through the direct primary model, which many analysts interpreted to mean a way of not only denying Ambode the ticket, but humiliating him.
An analyst in the Centre of Excellence who preferred anonymity told LEADERSHIP Sunday that “with the adoption of direct primaries, Ambode should just bid the office of the governor of Lagos State goodbye. He honestly stands no chance.”
He opined that majority of the political class in Lagos APC are bitterly agonising and have continued to openly show their resentment to the governor, to the extent that they are even ready to “look Asiwaju Tinubu in the face and dare him if he forces Ambode on them.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday also gathered that with the choice of primary election already decided on in Lagos APC, Lagos would never go the way of delegate election; and this is a gimmick to allegedly exonerate Asiwaju Tinubu from any backlash that could take place in the aftermath of the primary election, whichever way it goes, as it would be put forward to be the decision of party members, over 80 per cent of which cannot stand the governor any longer.
The analysts also advised Ambode to perish the thought of defecting from the APC, as he would further be messed up beyond comprehension. He reminded the governor that four years ago, he was also the beneficiary of the Tinubu political dynasty’s benevolence.
He said, “Someone showed him political magnanimity at the expense of many others, who had paid their dues in the politics of the state. He should take whatever it is in his stride and move on.
“He should not allow political jobbers make fortunes from his predicament. He should push this in the best way possible by seeing as many people that can intervene. He should personally engage Asiwaju, perhaps, for some more possible times to talk things over. But if all these fail, he should not dare fight it. He should just pack his luggage and peacefully walk away.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday reliably gathered that as things stand, Ambode’s chances of a second tenure are very slim, as many Lagos politics influencers, most of who sold him to Asiwaju four years ago, had since abandoned him and wouldn’t be really glad to see his back.
One of the decision makers of Lagos politics, who also does not want his name in print, was quoted to have said this of Ambode, “Do you know him? If you do, please, be kind enough to prevail on him not to waste his money. This has been settled. In fact, you must advise him not to run. He is not a good person. He is an ingrate!
“The interesting thing is that we have not even begun with him. By the time we do, it would be game over. Tell him I said nothing under this heaven will bring him back.”
Although two names were touted before Monday’s events unfolded as possible replacements for Ambode, Mr. Tayo Ayinde and Gbolahan Lawal, both prominent members of the Tinubu political dynasty, with all eyes on Ayinde, who like Ambode, is a Christian and from Lagos East, the game changed with the emergence of Sanwoolu, who was accompanied by Ayinde, Lawal and James Odunmbaku accompanying Sanwoolu to pick the nomination form in Abuja.
The end to the shenanigan trailing Ambode’s second term bid refused to abate as on Tuesday, members of the state House of Assembly allegedly told the governor to bury his second term bid or face impeachment.
Although the state House of Assembly is said to be on recess, a credible source, who is in the know, informed LEADERSHIP Sunday that the House met at caucus level and allegedly told the governor to perish his second term ambition or face impeachment.
Governor Ambode, however, dared the lawmakers by also purchasing his expression of interest and nomination forms as well, telling them that he has not done anything illegal to warrant impeachment.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reliably gathered that APC members of the state Assembly have thrown their weight behind new comer Sanwoolu, a former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Budget and Planning, Establishment and Training, in the state, who purchased his nomination and expression of interest forms for the governorship on Monday from the state APC national secretariat on Abuja, few hours after Ambode picked his. It was gathered that over 50 out of the 57 local government areas, LGAs, and local council development areas, LCDAs, chairmen in Lagos, who are loyal to the APC National Leader and former governor of the state, Asiwaju Tinubu, have also endorsed and thrown their weight behind Sanwoolu, who is managing director of Lagos State Property Development Corporation, for governor.
A reliable source, who is privy to all the undercurrents going on about Ambode’s second term bid, but pleaded anonymity, confided in LEADERSHIP Sunday recently that he can “authoritatively confirm that Ambode is not returning to office for a second term.”
Meanwhile, a support group within the Lagos APC, the Mandate Group, has also thrown its weight behind Sanwoolu.
A video that went viral, shared by veteran journalist, showed James Odunmbaku, leader of the Mandate Group, pledging the support of the group for the former commissioner declaring him as the “incoming governor of Lagos State.”
Recall that rumour of a soured relationship between Ambode and his godfather, Tinubu, had been making the rounds for quite some time in Lagos, leading to speculations that Tinubu may not endorse Ambode for a second term; but only last week, it was gathered that Tinubu had mellowed down following the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Oba of Lagos in the face off.
There were also rumours of an impending Ambode’s defection to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) to realise his second term ambition, a rumour which the governor had, however, vehemently denied.
Meanwhile, in fulfilment of one of the requirements for nomination for the office of governor, five party leaders of the party from each of the 20 local government areas recognized by the 1999 Constitution in Lagos State have endorsed Sanwoolu’s nomination form on Tuesday at the WaterCrest Hotel, Ikeja, which belonged to Ayinde.
All the chairmen of the APC in the 20 local councils and 37 LCDAs have signed Sanwoolu’s nomination form.
As all these were playing out, Governor Ambode has been in very clear terms by the messengers of his estranged godfather that he won’t get APC’s ticket for second term.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also gathered that the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, in a letter to Ambode on Tuesday, advised the governor not to submit his nomination form. He warned the governor that he would face impeachment proceedings if he dared throw away his advice into the dustbin.
Why The Bubble Burst
Many residents of Lagos and analysts of political events in the Centre of Excellence have continued to wonder where and how the bubble burst between godson and godfather.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Sunday have revealed that the first faux pas of Ambode was trying to build a political structure for himself, immediately he assumed office. Although he allegedly began this move clandestinely, but the people he put in charge gave his game away from the onset.
This is something his predecessor, now Minister of Power, Work and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, never did until the wee hours of his second tenure when he tried to install a successor.
Again, those in the know also confided in our correspondent that he had also been grooming a possible successor that will take over from him in 2023, in disregard of the structure that paved way for his emergence in 2015.
Another alleged offence of the Lagos governor was his incessant complaints about what he called the “overbearing attitude” of his godfather, Tinubu. He was even alleged to have complained to a former governor from the South South that the former governor of Lagos is “too demanding, greedy and self-centred.”
He also complained that all contracts awarded by his government always had the input and approval of Tinubu before they could see the light of the day.
Unfortunately for Ambode, all his complaints get back to Tinubu through the same sources he complained to.
It was learned that the agency in charge of the collection of the Lagos Land Use Charge, which had recently been subject of discussion in Lagos is allegedly owned by the younger brother to the governor’s wife.
Perhaps, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the procurement of an Outside Broadcasting Van worth N1.5 billion and cameras worth N900 million for the state-owned Lagos Television, LTV, aimed at improving the services and coverage of the television station, without recourse to the Jagaban of Borgu.
Tinubu was said to have become privy to the procurement through a director in the television station and subsequently called Ambode to suspend the contract, pending further instruction from him, but the governor, backed by a cabal led by one of his commissioners (names withheld), advised the governor to ignore Tinubu, a decision which he took and proceeded to award the contract against the instruction of his godfather.
Tinubu felt slighted by Ambode’s effrontery in rebuffing his instruction and overlooked the infraction. But two years after the award of the contract, the OB Van is yet to be delivered, in accordance with the terms of the contract, while the cameras allegedly supplied fell below expectation and failed due process and quality and assurance control integrity test.
It was also gathered that the Lebanese hired for the job, Delkash Farez, had already collected N2.2 billion, 50 per cent of the contract sum, for him to procure the equipment from a British firm, Excellence Transmission Inc Limited, based in Manchester, United Kingdom, has since disappeared.
Two directors of the station, who had refused to sign the due process paper, as the existing cameras in the station were said to be of higher quality than the ones supplied from England, were allegedly transferred out of the station by Ambode, while new directors who would do the bidding of the governor were brought in.
Another set of senior staff were set to have jointly wrote a memo to a former commissioner, asking for the remaining cameras and when the OB Van would arrive, were also transferred out of the station for their effrontery to ask such questions.
Tinubu was said to have, acting on a petition by some staff of the TV station, queried Ambode over the botched contract, where N2.2 billion of taxpayers’ money had gone down the drain.
Another sin of Ambode was the termination of the refuse collection contract that had been over the years managed by party chieftains across the state, and his engagement of VisionScape Concept to clear refuse in the state. And to make matters worse, VisionScape has not fared better than the PSP refuse arrangement, as the city has continued to reel under heavy refuse bondage.
LEADERSHIP also learned reliably that Ambode allegedly told Fashola recently that his fight against him early in his administration was instigated by Tinubu, a development which was also reported to Tinubu.
LEADERSHIP learnt that in anger, Tinubu reeled out Ambode’s infractions and the many ways he had undermined his (Tinubu) authority. The governor’s explanation that the contractor for the OB Van had disappeared and could not be traced was said to not have moved Tinubu and in a move to push Tinubu to the defensive and based on the advice of his inner caucus, the governor was alleged to have caused a recent petition to be written by a former ally of Tinubu, Mr. Tunji Apara, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over the activities of a tax consulting firm, Alpha Beta, said to be owned by the former governor of Lagos State in the state since 2003.
All these and many more were said to have been what caused the breakdown of the relationship between godfather and godson.
Meanwhile, Lagos State civil servants are already celebrating discreetly the exit of Governor Ambode in their various offices. LEADERSHIP Sunday learned authoritatively that due to Ambode’s autocratic way of running the government, over 4,233 civil servants had applied for voluntary study leave in Ambode’s less than four year-tenure, as against the 2,414 that applied for same, from the regime of Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson to Fashola’s eight-year tenure.
The reasons, according to some civil servants, who would not want to be mentioned, is that the governor has made things difficult for them, adding that sacking, suspension and queries are the order of the day.
Interestingly, the civil servants know that Ambode also knows that they hate him with a passion and thus, his return for a second term would spell doom for them, as they are sure that he would be more than hard on them if he returns.
They disclosed that many of them are already looking for avenue to take their concern to Tinubu and therefore, the ongoing game play is a welcome development to them.
It is therefore of great importance and concern that if politicians and civil servants are all ganged up against Governor Ambode, who would then vote for him, as Lagosians too are complaining of the hardship they go through every day as a result of some of his policies.
It is already a concluded game plan that Ambode would face impeachment if he defects to any other party. The only saving grace would be if the so called ‘Abuja cabal’ comes to his aid by using the police and civil unrest to seal off the state House of Assembly complex and stop the House from sitting.
An APC chieftain, who pleaded anonymity, but who confirmed to LEADERSHIP that he is in the know of happenings surrounding the development told LEADERSHIP, “Let him continue to rant. Inasmuch as second term is constitutionally allowed, which makes him qualify under the law to seek reelection, this does not take away the right of other interested party members to contest against him, seeking to occupy same office he currently occupies.
“Other people’s rights start where his own ends. He is naked without the party. Let us see if his achievements will give him second term or not. When we talk about his achievements, this is where our debate should begin to actually determine the feasibility of his second term bid.
“How has he handled his office as governor? How has he handled the party’s affairs? How has he treated his co travellers? How has he treated his predecessors? How about the structures as laid by his predecessors, the political machineries, his benefactors, etc?
Generally speaking, how is Lagos now compared to when he was taking over? Are residents of Lagos having commensurate value for their votes?
“The recent rain in Lagos has further exposed our dear governor with blocked drainages everywhere, thereby exposing the electorate to danger. Our too ambitious governor has gotten it wrong. This is the man that leaned on the structure of the party to get to power.
“He didn’t only start building his structure immediately he became governor; he also started his successive plan, thereby having someone working towards taking over from him in 2023. Fashola never committed any of these political blunders and this made the party leaders and notable Lagosians to stand by him when the roads seemed to be rough.
“How many leaders can stand by Ambode now? Most of his cabinet members are smiling and suffering. His deputy cannot give a N5 million approval while his commissioners need his consent for a N500,000 worth of project. Why were some of his commissioners and special advisers not at the marathon meetings he held with his loyalists on Tuesday? I can go on and on.”
The source concluded by quoting Fashola’s famous quote, ‘May our loyalty not be tested,’ adding that Governor Ambode’s loyalty has been tested already.
“Your conclusion on this is as good as mine. Let the game continue. As for me, I will support whoever gets the ticket of our great party, but undoubtedly, it is not going to be our dear current governor,’ he concluded.
LEADERSHIP also gathered that the Abuja cabal is already considering the Ikedi Ohakim option of 2007, where former President Olusegun Obasanjo backed former governor of Imo State, Ohakim, to run under the Progressive Peoples Alliance, by considering backing Ambode to run under the Action Democratic Party, ADP.
But as it is, the prospect of Ambode serving his first tenure in full, according to sources, hangs in the balance, based on alleged claims that he would be removed from office if he does not drop his second term aspiration, or per adventure, he defects to another party.
And again, the prospect of defecting to another party is becoming a mirage by the day, as the PDP has allegedly offered its ticket to oil billionaire, Femi Otedola, who LEADERSHIP learned has vowed not to contest against his kinsman, Ambode.
The Action Democratic Party, ADP, seems to have already settled for B.O Gbadamosi as its candidate, thus foreclosing a possible movement to the party by the governor.
But the governor’s spokesperson, Habib Haruna, has debunked the impeachment story, describing it as false, simply saying, “It is not true.”
This is just as LEADERSHIP also learned that emissaries sent by Ambode to Tinubu for a possible settlement of the rift were shut out of the Bourdillion residence of the National Leader, thus foreclosing any prospect of a possible reconciliation.
But LEADERSHIP also learned that sizeable members of the state Assembly actually met at the party secretariat on Acme Road, to deliberate on the development.
Another competent source also confided in LEADERSHIP that they have resolved to commence impeachment moves against Ambode as soon as they resume from the recess.
What was said to have worsened reconciliatory efforts was Ambode’s purchase of the nomination form on Monday and his declaration for a second term outside of the party secretariat, at Old Task Force Ground, Alausa, Ikeja. Conspicuously absent were party chieftains and leaders.Most of the local council and LCDAs chairmen boycotted the declaration and those who attended left earlier than necessary.
Although, in all of these, Tinubu is yet to make any pronouncement, but his body language is reflected in his trusted aides gravitating towards Sanwoolu, who was said would not have collected the nomination form if he didn’t have Asiwaju Tinubu’s blessing.
The fact that the declaration was not done at the party headquarters at Acme Road, Ogba, in Lagos sent negative signals as to the possibility of his estrangement from the Tinubu mainstream political family in his re-election bid, a source said.
But on Wednesday, Ambode debunked the rumour of any rift between him and his godfather. He said this in Epe, where the three delegates to the national convention of the APC were elected.
While totally playing down speculation of any rift with Tinubu, Ambode said that such reports were nothing but the imagination of the peddlers of such rumours.
He said, “I want you to know that there is no fight anywhere. The National Leader, Asiwaju Tinubu and my good self are not in any fight, we are not in any controversy.
“We are praying to God that the best is yet to come and the best will be what Lagos State deserves and I want you to just continue with your prayers that at this time, God will show His hand and make sure that everything that is of blessing to Lagos State and also blessing of Epe will come to pass.
“We have just concluded our delegates’ election in Epe Local Government and by consensus, we have picked our three delegates who will be going to the National Convention come October 6 for the presidential direct primaries and the convention for all other people.”
The party leaders and faithful in the division took turn to affirm their undiluted support for governor’s second term aspiration.
However, what took shine off the denial of any tiff between Ambode and his godfather was a protest by youths from the Epe division of Lagos State at the event the second term bid of the Governor. The youths, in what they tagged a peaceful protest, displayed placards of various inscriptions to affirm their support for Ambode’s second term bid.
Whichever way the development turns or whatever step Governor Ambode takes, it seems a no-win situation for him, and like an analyst have opined, it is in his best interest to just take everything in his stride and not push anything.
As it is, the next few weeks in Lagos will be very interesting, as events unfold. In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. But it is yet to be seen how Ambode will come out of this battle victorious.
As all these intrigues are playing out, a group within the opposition PDP, which tagged itself as PDP New Youth Circuit, has called on the PDP leadership to give Ambode automatic ticket for governorship.
Speaking in Abuja through its spokesman, Williams Oladipo, the group made exception to the PDP offering automatic ticket to oil magnate, Otedola, alleging that Otedola is Tinubu’s bait who he is using to lure the cash-strapped PDP in Lagos State.
Oladipo said, “Ambode should be embraced by the PDP. Having the governor of Nigeria’s most important state would bolster our party’s chances in the 2019 general elections as we seek to remove the failed government of Muhammadu Buhari.
“The party must not throw away this chance to consolidate its efforts to take back power in 2019.
“Ambode will bring people and a government machinery behind him, that is what we need now.”
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