Days back when Lagos’ Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode returned from the headquarters of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Abuja, armed with his Expression of Interest, as well as Nomination Form to contest for re-election in next year’s election, I thought his re-election was all but signed, sealed and delivered. This is because with the decamping of the state chairman of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP to the APC, it looked like what was left of the wreck that was PDP has now finally been eviscerated. Interestingly, one online newspaper had caused a stir when it stated that Governor Ambode in a meeting with members of his cabinet on one particular night, discussed the issue of what party he should decamp to; that news item was almost immediately debunked by the governor’s people, who insisted that there was no way the meeting could’ve held at the time the particular newspaper said it did, because the governor was away with President Buhari in China.
The first sign, obvious sign (considering that there’d been several that had been discounted and discountenanced over time), that all may not be well between Ambode and the ruling party organs in Lagos, firmly in the grip of former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was when rather than proceeding to the party’s headquarters in Lagos, after procuring his form in Abuja, Ambode went to the state house in Ikeja, to the waiting and jubilant supporters of his, which would’ve made it difficult for the undiscerning to tell whether they were just supporters or APC party faithfuls.
Of course, it would’ve been difficult to make such distinctions, considering that before Ambode formerly declared his intentions to run, and following it up with collecting his form, he’d been everywhere with his political godfather, Asiwaju Tinubu. Interestingly, he seemed to stand with Tinubu when the latter informed APC members in Lagos, that candidates for elective positions will be elected by DIRECT PRIMARIES, probably thinking he was safe under Tinubu’s umbrella, at a time no other APC governor nationwide agreed to align with the national body on that matter, choosing rather to stick with the INDIRECT PRIMARIES option which they can easily control and manipulate (Ogun State’s Governor Ibikunle Amosun even opted for CONSENSUS, where literally names were written and accepted by party members, and any disgruntled member was advised to test his/her popularity if they wish to, against a state’s party organ firmly in the pocket of the governor). It was not until Jide Sanwo-Olu, who had been special adviser to former Deputy- Governor Femi Pedro, while Tinubu was governor, and had gone on to hold other positions in the Lagos State government afterwards (including in Ambode’s government), also picked his form, and news began to trickle in that he was the anointed candidate of the de facto ruler of Lagos State.
To give bite to the rumour, a group known to usually speak the mind of Tinubu threw it’s weight behind Mr. Sanwo-Olu, stating that as their custom was, they’d decided to support him because he’s been anointed by Asiwaju to be the APC’s gubernatorial aspirant in next year’s General Elections and they can’t have contrary opinions seeing as their principal was always right. According to them, Mr. Sanwo-Olu is God’s choice for governor in Lagos State. This was followed by the endorsement of the same man by all
Fifty-Seven chairmen of the Local Governments, LGs and Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs in Lagos. This appeared to be the last nail in the coffin of Ambode’s guber ambition under the APC in Lagos.
I have tried to understand what could’ve been behind the current seeming misunderstanding between Ambode and his godfather. I doubt it is related to the fact that he abandoned all the on going projects, left behind by his predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, which looked then like punishment for the latter for falling out with the same Asiwaju. None of his projects, from the Ilubirin Housing Estates, to the New Falomo Shopping Complex, to the Light Rail Project, to the expansion of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, amongst others, received any attention from Ambode, since coming to power more than three years ago.
Sadly, also grievously affected was Fashola’s beautification efforts which was clearly abandoned, and the clearing of refuse which was under a Public-Private Partnership, PPP arrangement under Tinubu and Fashola was jettisoned for a monopoly controlled by what was said then to be a foreign investor in Visionscape Group , which till date has found humongously overwhelming, the task of clearing Lagos environs of dirt. Many of those in the private sector involved in the former arrangement, who had gotten their contracts owing to the politics of patronage that we play in Nigeria, also voiced their displeasure at the way they were treated by Ambode to Asiwaju, who must’ve been frustrated nay infuriated by the refusal of Ambode to yield ground on the issue.
Ambode on his own, had gone on to initiate projects of his own, attempting to create a legacy for which he intended to be remembered by. He started by doing what his immediate predecessors never contemplated by paving inner city roads, and opening up streets onto state and federal roads, to the joy and appreciation of the masses. Unfortunately, most of those ended up been washed away by the early showers of the notorious Lagos deluge. Then he started on the modernization of bus parks across the state, with the crowning of his efforts focused on Oshodi, with the intention of eventually bringing in buses of several ranges to use the parks, and possibly bring an end to Lagos’ iconic YELLOW BUSES, and by extension private transportation business, which not only feeds a large part of the Lagos populace directly from the drivers, conductors and petty traders of the parks and roads, but also those who feed off the drivers by “extortion”, like the traffic police (who deliver certain percentages to their bosses in the office), the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA officials (who supplement their salaries with such proceeds of extortion, allowing them to live way above their means), officials of the Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC (formerly known for not taking bribes or having extortionate tendencies, before they also joined in the fray), other governmental and non-governmental organisations like the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW (whose importance to politicians, especially in Lagos cannot be overemphasized), amongst others.
I have always wondered, commuting through Oshodi, how Ambode was going to pull a stunt, that will end the business of the “Agbero” (the henchmen of the NURTW) and their bosses in Lagos, without hurting his godfather, Tinubu. This group of Road Transport Owners and Workers, who were instrumental even to his emergence as governor in Lagos, so powerful that their leaders even have police escorts, and move about in convoys of the latest bullet- proof SUVs, with houses in highbrow areas of Lagos, to just be cut off their means of livelihood just like that? A group so powerful that the BBC produced a documentary about the activity of one of its strongmen. Who could shut down Lagos and nothing will happen whether or not there was bloodletting or not. Something was definitely going to give, unless they were going to be incorporated in the way the new transportation scheme will be run.
Ambode kept faith with Tinubu’s dream for the Eko Atlantic City though, therefore if there’s going to be any ought in that angle, it will probably be due to delays, which because of the opaque nature of developments there, laymen like me could never be privy to such information, enough to know if a challenge in that sphere of operations could’ve engendered bad blood. Sadly, unlike Fashola who was able to garner public support to force Tinubu’s hand to support his second term bid, Ambode had invoked public anger, not only in failing to effectively handle the public health embarrassment that the dirty environment that Lagos have become under his supervision, but also in going ahead to arbitrarily increase exponentially, the rates of the Land Use Charge without consulting the people, who’ve seen their earnings battered by the plunging value of the Naira, by one of the worst levels in recent times. His eviction of poor riverside settlers of Otodo Gbame (including an attempt to repeat same in Makoko, which met with opposition both locally and internationally) which left many of the inhabitants helplessly floating on the Lagos Lagoon till they were able to find alternative emergency abode also remains fresh in the memories of not only the affected Lagosians, but those who now see him as inconsiderate to the plights of the poorest of our society. Not like he’d be the first to do so in Lagos (seeing as almost all his predecessors had their “Otodo Gbames” – of which Raji Rasaki’s Maroko easily comes to mind- in their bid to create the metropolitan Lagos of their dreams). These, coupled with the fact that some Lagosians are beginning to toy with the idea of a Lagos without the omnipresent figure of a godfather overseeing the affairs of the one they democratically elected to have rule over them, hence removing Ambode from office to be replaced either by a Sanwo-Olu, or a Hamzat still of the APC hardly satiates their thirst. Simply removing Tinubu from the equation, as with the Fuoad Oki-led splinter group of the APC in Lagos wouldn’t do for this growing group of Lagosians.
Hence, when Billionaire Femi Otedola started trending on Nigeria’s Twittersphere yesterday, and with all that was going on, my mind went only to one thing, and I was right in thinking that it couldn’t be any other thing but politics. Twitter therefore was agog at the news that the opposition PDP in Lagos had offered the billionaire (whose late father had governed Lagos, under similar circumstances), it’s gubernatorial candidate position if he’d only agree to take up the position. Though no official statement from him indicates he’d accepted to take the offer, but the clamour for change by Lagosians online may just encourage him to, even though his body language recently, from setting up a Twitter account, to riding in Lagos’ notorious “Molue”
without other passengers aware of his person and presence, suggests that what is currently going on, may just be an act in the play he personally authored. This also is another headache for Ambode if truly Otedola decides to run.
So, just like that, in a matter of days. Something that was all but a given and no brainer as regards the Lagos guber elections, unravelled to reveal a 2019 guber environment that may be the most interesting in recent times, at least since that of Bola Tinubu vs Funso Williams before the elections in 2003 when the latter fell to assassins in his home, and the former coasted to an easy victory. If things remain and continue on this trajectory, the 2015 guber race between Ambode and PDP’s Jimi Agbaje would be child’s play. However, this may just be Tinubu reminding Ambode to humble himself, that he could as well unmake the latter, in the same breath with which he made him, but in doing that he would be failing to learn the lessons from those before him who thought to make themselves gods before men. Only time will tell.
AMBODE'S HEADACHE https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/ambodes-headache/
Published by m'khail madukovich