Published On: Tue, Jun 19th, 2018

2019: Ambode’s re-election bid in jeopardy

By OBINNA EZUGWU

The political future of Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode is said to hang in the balance as his political godfather, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is allegedly plotting his replacement in 2019 over certain unresolved issues.

Business Hallmark learnt from sources that Tinubu is under increasing pressure from people around him, notably Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, to drop Ambode in favour of a core politician who has worked for their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

It was gathered that those against Ambode’s second term bid are upset that for 16 years running, Tinubu has snubbed politicians who work tirelessly for the party’s interests in favour of core technocrats as represented by former governor of the state, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who until he was picked by Tinubu, was his Chief of Staff and Commissioner in the Governor’s Office, and the current governor, Akinwumi Ambode, a civil servant who served as the state’s Accountant General from 2006 to 2012.

It is understood that the relationship between Tinubu and Ambode had deteriorated over the past few months and that the governor has not paid Tinubu a visit since November last year. Tinubu, it was learnt, has so far remained silent over Ambode’s political future, and has refused to commit himself to the governor’s second term bid, a situation said to be generating tension in Alausa, the seat of power.

Although Governor Ambode continues to receive endorsements from different groups in the state, he is said to be marking time in wait for signals from Bourdillon, one that doesn’t seem likely to come soon enough. It was learnt that one of the cases against the governor is that he is not projecting the state politically, having focused mainly on governance since he became governor in 2015.

It would be recalled that similar scenario had also played out with Fashola in the lead up to 2011 election.

Tinubu was said to have initially refused to endorse Fashola for second term, opting to give the ticket of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to another candidate, but was compelled to allow the minister to return in the eleventh hour fearing that a confrontation with him could prove too costly.

Interestingly, the relationship between the duo remained frosty throughout Fashola’s second term, but they managed to keep up appearances even on the campaign trail to 2015 election. But things burst open shortly after the 2015 polls with the Tinubu camp raising several allegations of corruption against Fashola with the possible intention of preventing him from being appointed into President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.

But as if intent on rubbing it on Tinubu’s face, Buhari not only appointed Fashola as a minister, but also handed him three powerful portfolios.

While the issues could constitute a challenge for the APC going into into 2019, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says it is not leaving anything to chance and that indeed, what is interpreted to be a misunderstanding between the two actors might be a ploy to distract opposition.

“The APC here is so organized politically that they have different political gimmick,” said PDP spokesman in Lagos, Mr. Taofic Gani.  “They can make you look the other way in so many ways. I’m not going to be distracted by any infighting amongst them. As far as we are concerned, we are going to roll out our campaign strategy in a different way when the campaign starts proper.

“However, it’s obvious that the acrimony in the APC has snowballed into a situation where they will not be able to get it right anymore. But as far as we are concerned, we are going to work with what we have, not relying on their own mistakes,” he concluded.

Nonetheless, when contacted, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, spokesperson for the APC in the state denied the report as a lie from the pit of hell, noting that there is no rift between the former governor and the incumbent.

“It’s a lie; it’s a lie from the pit of hell,” Igbokwe said. “Anybody who is telling you that is a liar. Don’t listen to that person.”

Also responding, a civil servant who works in the governor’s office told our reporters that she could not confirm the rift and that as far as she was concerned, it is false.

“I don’t think there is any rift between Tinubu and Ambode. The fact that Ambode does not go to his house doesn’t mean they are having issues. They might be talking on phone,” said the civil servant who said she doesn’t want her name in print.

“He must not go there and visit him every day. You can’t use that to conclude that they are fighting. They are not fighting, that I can tell you.

“Like I said, he doesn’t have to show face in Tinubu’s house all the time. If he does, people will still say he is a puppet.”

 

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