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Published On: Sun, Oct 7th, 2018

Ambode: End of the road for the god son 

  • How President Buhari betrayed him

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

The unexpected capitulation of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to the locomotive engine that was unleashed against him by the Lagos APC led by Asiwaju Tinubu was orchestrated by the betrayal by the Presidency which had earlier assured him of support.

We learnt reliably that the World press conference he addressed was part of the fight back strategy by the governor at the instigation of the Presidency to shake up the party and force them to sue for peace. But it was not to be as the cabal soon beat a retreat sensing that Tinubu was resolved to fight to the end.

If the rise of Akinwunmi Ambode from unaccustomed civil servant to governor of Nigeria’s most populous state, Lagos was improbable, his failed bid for re-electionin 2019 seem even more implausible.

He is perhaps the second sitting governor that will lose the support of his party for re-election and the first most acclaimed governor that will not be getting the support of his party for a second-term.

The All Progressives Congress (APC)Lagos Governorship Primary Committee had last Wednesday, after resolving some of the hiccups that plagued the primaries in the 245 wards in the 20 local government areas from the collating officers, announced Ambode’s only challenger, BabajideSanwo-Olu, as the winner with 970,851 votes. The governor was only able to get 72,901 votes, thus putting paid to his re-election bid on the platform of the APC.

He initially put up a fight, in what promised to be a royal rumble, only to capitulate and congratulate Sanwo-Olu and assured the APC leadership in the state of his loyalty.

Sanwo-Olu shot to prominence recently after it emerged that he had been endorsed to become the next Lagos governor by Tinubu, a former Lagos governor and political godfather in the state who also handpicked Ambode just four years ago.

Ambode’s rise

His ascent began in 2014, when Ambode was plucked from forced retirement to run as Lagos State governor. Business Hallmark reliably gathered the governor, then the Accountant General of Lagos State during the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola, was found guilty of an alleged contravention and had been penciled down for a sack. However, the intervention of powerful Lagosians saved his career from total ruin as his dismissal was converted to early retirement.

Like an Abiku that refuses to heed the call of death, Ambode, unknown to several people, and even him, will soon stage a major comeback. Series of events that happened later soon pushed him back to limelight.

A massive wave of campaigns for a Christian chief executive officer, championed by powerful and respected Yoruba Christian leaders,had ensnared the Lion of Bordillion, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The All Progressives Congress (APC) strongman buckled to pressure and Ambode was propelled up the ladder as the party’s candidate and eventually elected as governor of the richest state by the ruling party on May 29, 2015.

“He didn’t want to run. He was more interested in nurturing his budding accounting business, but he felt pressured when the calls came,” a close aide had told our correspondent back in 2014.

Why he lost – Power of one man

BH findings indicated that Governor Ambode’ loss to Sanwo-Olu did not come as a surprise to close watchers of events in the state as he had already lost the backing of the entire party structure weeks leading to the election due to several reasons.

It was gathered that relationship between Ambode and Tinubu reportedly soured over how he distanced himself from the party’s ideals and the people that ensured his emergence as governor.

Tinubu’s political structure in Lagos, Mandate Movement, as well as all 57 local councils in the state endorsed Sanwoolu ahead of the governorship primary election.

All efforts made by Ambode to get back in Tinubu’s good graces including a last-minute intervention by President Buhari proved abortive as it was clear there was no turning back.

Alleged sidelining of party elders

One of the many sins of Ambode is his alleged sidelining of party elders. Many party elders, particularly career politicians, felt slighted by Ambode’s alleged indifference to them by not carrying them along in the running of the state.

It was learnt that the embattled governor only carried along Tinubu and a few others in the running of the state to the anger of others. “Only sticking with Tinubu was wrong. He should have reached out to others too. But he thought that Tinubu will stop any possible onslaught against him.

“That was where he made a great mistake. Even Tinubu himself accommodated everybody. He will not say because he had settled the superiors, he will then overlook the side people. That is an invitation to disaster.

“If Tinubu enters an office, he will engage with everybody there, right from the security men and messengers to the overall head. That is Tinubu for you. His wife (Remi) still personally serves drivers, aides and security escorts of dignitaries to the residence in Ikoyi.

“So, everybody is happy with him and will protect his interest”, a close associate of Tinubu stated.

Ambode, it was learnt, had not met with local government chairmen in the last six months. He is also known to execute projects on their behalf and deduct the money straight from their accounts. He is in effect the client, contractor, supplier and supervisor, an action that did not go well with the council bosses.

He is not also in bed with market women. BH reliably gathered from market leaders in Ifako-Ijaiye that Ambode often shun them anytime they go to him or come out to welcome him.

“You know that market women used to dance to music and sing praises of government officials at events. But Ambode will just breeze past our members, without even acknowledging us.

“It is not really about the gift, but the insults. You know we used to make our clothes with politicians’ pictures on it by over selves. Tinubu, God bless him, after seeing the beautiful clothes on us will normally ask us how much it cost us to print it. If we tell him it is N10million, he may give us N50million.

“When he goes to events or comes to the market and see us dancing, he will come down from his vehicle and dance with us. He will even give us money like N500,000 or N1million. By the time we share it, each person may not get more than N300 or N500. The money is small, but we normally appreciate his attentions.

“He honours our invitation to programmes, even if not in person, which is very rare, unlike Ambode that told us to our faces that we used to hold up his movements. That is an insult we can never forget”, said one of the market leaders of Jankara Market, Alhaja Idiat Olanipekun.

Like the market women who alleged sidelining of their members, operators of the PSP waste management initiative are also not happy with the scrapping of the scheme and the sacking of highway managers. They accused him of awarding waste collection to his company, Visionscape.

Many party members also accuse the governor of awarding contracts to only his cronies, ignoring advice from party leaders and public officers. A bitter official in the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment alleged that the governor had taken away their jobs by getting involved in the awards of contracts.

“Did you know that a permanent secretary in the state cannot approve any project above N50,000. That is really bad. Apart from the core civil servants who seems to be happy with him, those in charge of supplies, contracts and the rest are very bitter and also worked against him. That was why he even lost the primaries conducted inside the secretariat”,

His abandonment by the Presidency

To make matters worse for the governor, he spoke at a world press conference on Sunday, September 30, 2018, alleging that Sanwo-Olu was unfit for office because he’d allegedly been previously arrested for forgery in the United States. He also alleged that he had been to the Gbagada General Hospital in Lagos for rehabilitation for an unspecified problem.

Unknown to many, Ambode, it was reliably gathered, was assured of support by the Presidency and was buoyed up to challenge the APC coup in Lagos. This, according to an aide to the governor, who did not want his identity disclosed, gave his principal the courage to call the world press conference.

“Oga (Ambode) was encouraged to fight the injustice but was abandoned by cowards in the presidency. I can tell you that we got assurances from Abuja of their backing. They were the ones who even drew out the counter plan. But what did we get? Absolute betrayal!

“We gathered that President Buhari was advised by the cabal close to him not to show his hands in the fight. They were convinced that he could not win the battle when Tinubu and his supporters stood their grounds that election held in Lagos with the chairman, Adams Oshiomhole on their side.

“Even before that, Oga would have succumbed to pressures on him not to contest the primary, if not from the backing and assurances he got from Abuja. They (presidency) tried initially by standing by him, but they abandoned him after encouraging him to publicly take on his mentors.

“How will he now face Lagosians and tell them to vote for Sanwo-Olu who he had accused of being corrupt and not mentally fit,” the aide lamented.

Our correspondent also gathered that the Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, played a vital role in the Buhari’s alleged abandonment of Ambode at the last minute. Oshiomhole, it was learnt, was able to convince the president of Tinubu’s invisibility in Lagos and the foolishness in angering him by not supporting his candidate.

“While some Hausa/Fulani hawks in the presidency wanted a fight with Tinubu, Oshiomhole, with his native intelligence, understands that any slight on the Lagos strongman may spell doom for the party in the coming elections.

“He is also aware of array of arsenals in Tinubu’s camp that could be used in propagating the election, like the media for example. As a willy politician, he knew that Tinubu is a better asset for the APC that Ambode and was able to convince the president to back down from the move to demystify him. ‘Sir, this is not the time to fight him (Tinubu)”, Oshiomhole was said to have told the president.

His next action

Though, it was thought that the governor will not go down without a fight, the amiable Ambode eat the humble pie by publicly accepting defeat and pledging to be loyal to the party, thus putting an end to the implosion theory of doomsday prophets of the party.

The governor, it was learnt, is planning to go back to his accounting business at the end of his term on May 29, 2018 and is not harbouring any plan of early retirement to his Epe hometown.

“He is still a very young man, actually in his fifties. What will he be going to do in Epe? To fish or plant coconuts?”, said a close ally, Mr. Dapo Odemesi.

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