Lagos 2019: Ambode walks a tight rope
By Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos
Recent developments in the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the conduct of parallel state congress have caused unease in the political firmament as the 2019 elections draw nearer. There is currently an uneasy calm over an alleged plot to stop Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Can the plot see the light of the day? Daily Trust on Sunday reports
Although the governor has not declared for second term, all indications point to his interest in that respect. His predecessors – Babatunde Raji Fashola and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the party, spent eight years in office respectively. Sources confirmed to our correspondent that he would soon make a formal declaration.
“The declaration may come formally after the Ramadan fast. This is no longer news; the governor is running for a second term,” a government official confirmed to our correspondent.
But there are odds currently against him though they might not be potent enough to stop his second term ambition as some would believe. At the moment, no member of the APC has come out openly to show interest in the seat. However, recent horse-trading and politicking have combined to fuel fears of some surreptitious moves to deny him the second term ticket. But analysts are of the opinion that it would be a smooth sail for him if the national leader of the party and the state’s political leader, Asiwaju, endorses him for a second term.
Ambode’s ascendancy to the exalted seat in a state regarded as the richest in the country, in terms of internally generated revenue, has all the trappings of political loyalty, which is the hallmark of party politics in Nigeria. He became the choice of the national leader, having proved his loyalty when he worked with Tinubu from 1999 to 2007.
Although there were other aspirants with more exposures and considerable loyalty to the leader, Ambode, a former accountant-general of the state, emerged the choice of Tinubu. His choice over aspirants like the former commissioner for works, Obafemi Hamza and that of health, Dr. Leke Pitan, caused rift within the camp of the APC in 2014 as former Governor Fashola was said to be disposed to another candidate. Specifically, Fashola was said to be rooting for Hamza to pick the ticket.
The current national legal adviser of the party, Dr. Muiz Banire, was also said to be rooting for another aspirant. But at the end of the primaries, Ambode emerged the party’s candidate. The other aspirants grumbled and whined, but the choice of Tinubu prevailed and the governor went ahead to win the election.
Feelers within the party indicate that the grievances that trailed the outcome of the election did not entirely fizzle out, even after Ambode had taken over as the governor of the state. This was reflected in the cold war between him and his predecessor, Fashola, who is now the minister of works, power and housing. Although the crisis is not well pronounced, it was indeed an issue within the party.
It was learnt that the cold war between the governor and his predecessor prompted the release of some documents, allegedly to implicate the former governor. One of such damning reports about the activities of Fashola was released on the website of the state procurement department, alleging that Fashola approved a whooping N78million to design the state website. This revelation emerged in August 2015 after the administration had barely taken off.
In 2017, Ambode and Fashola engaged in open altercation, with the latter accusing his predecessor of frustrating efforts to rehabilitate some federal roads in the state. Responding, the former governor said that Ambode only called him once after leaving office. After the altercation, the duo still came back to the drawing table in the same March 2017 after Fashola, alongside officials from the ministry, paid a courtesy call to the governor at Alausa Government House. At the meeting, Ambode acknowledged that Fashola was more vast than him.
Despite what appeared to be a temporary ceasefire, the relationship between the duo is far from cordial. Fashola and Muiz Banire are tagged “Abuja politicians” for holding dissenting views within the state APC. But sources within the camp confirmed to our correspondent that the division within the party was aggravated by “politics of exclusion” being played among officials of the Ambode administration.
“Some people feel that this government belongs to them. They do not realise the role played by other people in ensuring the victory of the party in the 2015 elections” a member of the party said.
The division became more deep-seated as the party conducted the ward, local government and state congresses recently, with parallel executives formed.
After the state congresses of the party held on May 19, two executives emerged. While the congress held at the party secretariat along Acme road produced Tunde Balogun, Mr. Fouad Oki, who was the founder of Broom United, a pressure group within the party, emerged as the factional chairman.
A member of the party who attended the parallel congress told our correspondent that it was organised to stop the attempt to exclude some of them in the scheme of things in the state. “You can imagine, they did the ward congress and the former governor was not given a single slot. That is not fair and just,” the member who sought anonymity said.
Many watchers of the unfolding political developments in the state were convinced that Oki’s faction was emboldened by the support they received from the so-called Abuja-based politicians who seem to have the support of the national leadership of the party. They picked hole in the congress conducted at Acme Road while endorsing the one conducted by Oki’s faction. However, the party said it endorsed the parallel congress because it was conducted on the basis of the constitutionally recognised 20 local governments. But this, according to the national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, does not imply that the faction has been recognised.
The developments over congresses are said to be fueled largely by 2019 politicking as aspirants to various offices try to whip delegates in line to secure the tickets.
The biggest fight is in the governorship, where there is said to be a grand plot to stop Ambode’s re-election even though different segments of the stakeholders in the state have endorsed him for second term. His second term posters have been circulating as far back as 2017. Many political officeholders in the state are already canvassing support for him to continue in 2019.
But expectedly, as the political godfather of the state, Tinubu would still play a great role in his re-election. Although Tinubu has kept mum over the governorship race in the state come 2019, he is said to be in a dilemma over Ambode’s second term bid. Sources informed Daily Trust on Sunday that Tinubu’s recent reservation on Ambode’s style of governance was an indication of a crack in the wall. The governor is said to be building political empires across the state. But beyond this, he is said to be boxed in a corner already over Ambode, whose credentials have risen recently as one of the most performing governors in the state.
For many, performance remains Ambode’s unique selling point as he has many projects to flaunt. He is seen to have performed creditably.
At a forum in 2017, Tinubu also said that Ambode had not disappointed him.
“You didn’t disappoint us. Ambode is silently achieving, meticulously planning, religiously executing and brilliantly giving results for Lagos State,” the former governor said.
Notwithstanding the seeming endorsement, he still faces some gang-up as the faction within his party has reportedly vowed to stop his re-election.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamgbetan, however, said the plot to stop the governor would not succeed.
In a chat with our correspondent, Bamgbetan said, “We are aware of the plot. But we are confident that it will blow up in their faces. The revolution in the capital and social development of Lagos State under the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has generated the groundswell of grassroots support, which is evident in the waves of endorsement by all classes and segments of the state and society.
“Supporters of the government, within and outside the party, are ready to ensure that he wins.’’
The spokesman of the APC in Lagos, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, also said the planned gang-up would not stop Ambode’s re-election because of his performance in the first term, especially the massive infrastructural projects that are ongoing across the state.
Source: Daily Trust