Ambode and associates after picking his nominations forms recently
By Ayo Kehinde
In the next two weeks prior to the primaries of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the election of its governorship candidate in the 2019 polls, a lot of horse trading, negotiations and lobbying would have to take place between incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the powers that be to enable him secure a second term in office.
Indications have emerged that all is not well between him and stakeholders of the party, between him and the civil servants and the general run of membership in the party. What appears to be the root of his challenges actually began with the high expectations attached to his emergence as governor in 2015.
Then, some captains of industry and ‘powerful church leaders’, according to a top source, urged him to “work independently of any direction from a particular godfather or else they would cease to support him and his government in time to come”. Whether the governor heeded them and worked according to their advise is not certain, but emerging trends and reactions appears to confirm the obvious.
Three major critical areas appear to be involved: There is grumbling among civil servants, who, according to investigation, feel “tense with uncertainty arising from redeployment and reposting”. Though seen as a management strategy to put the proverbial round pegs in round holes, particularly by the governor who had excelled as a top civil servant during his time as Accountant-General of the state, the action does not settle well with many affected civil servants. The fear is that many so targeted are said to be loyal to former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing. How this come about is hard to see for a bureaucrat, whose employment is pensionable.
Added to this is the reported attempt by him to appoint or what is seen by his enemies as his attempt to “impose” chairman of over ten local councils in one of the largest Local Government Area in the state, Alimoso. This is the power house of governor Rauf Aregbesola, government of Osun State, an ally of APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The move, whatever it was intended to achieve is said to rankle in the mind of some top leaders of the party, who read political motive into it.
Then only recently, the governor gave out N500 million to 274 communities in the state. The first of its kind, the gesture was reportedly meant by him to include the generality of the people in governance, but for his traducers it is all part of the calculated moves to consolidate his hold on the populace independently.
The move by the party to adopt direct primaries for many states in the conduct of its primaries for positions in the 2019 elections, which is to build the party from bottom up, is also meant to whip some governors into line.
Reactions from party leaders and other stakeholders to these developments in the Lagos chapter show the extent to which much water has gone under the bridge in connection with Governor Ambode’s ambition.
Mr James Odumbaku, the immediate past Vice-Chairman of the party in the state and an ally of Chief Bola Tinubu, was reported quoted by NAN to have claimed in a video on Tuesday that the party has adopted Mr Jide Sanwo-Olu as its incoming governorship candidate. Sanwo-Olu is a former Commissioner in the state and currently the Managing Director of Lagos State Property Development Corporation,
Odumbaku, was quoted as saying all the 57 council chairmen had endorsed the Sanwo-Olu as their candidate, claiming the adoption was supported by Asiwaju Tinubu.
To compound matters, a former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, had also declared his aspiration to contest the governorship on the platform of the APC in the state. He is said to be have the support of a former governor of the state, according to a source. But Hamzat reportedly claims he has Asiwaju Tinubu’s support.
In reaction, the Lagos State Chapter of All Progressives Congress on Wednesday denied that it had not adopted any governorship aspirant as its candidate for the 2019 elections.
The Chairman of the chapter’s Elders’ Forum, Alhaji Tajudeen Olusi, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
He said: “All these things are speculations. They are not true, How can we plan to hold a primary to elect our candidates and then adopt somebody?
“If we are still going to hold our primary, why then should we adopt, or does the adoption cancels the primary? No.
“This is the political season, all interesting things happen, but I can tell you most of the things that have been reported on the matter are mere speculations and not facts. Nobody has directed any adoption,” he said.
How is Governor Ambode taking all these? The governor who had on Monday, picked his nomination forms from the party secretariat to signal his intention to run form a second term, dismisses the development as a storm in a tea cup
He said: “Reports indicating a fight between me and Asiwaju Tinubu are out of place; there was no fight anywhere.”
“The best is yet to come and the best will be what Lagos State deserves. I want you to 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 to Epe will come to pass.
“I want to reiterate once again that our party, the All Progressives Congress remains the party to beat; we are the party at the national level and we are going to remain the party in the state.”
The man in the picture, Sanwo-Olu, who addressed a press conference on Wednesday, at the APC national secretariat, shortly after he returned his nomination and expression of interest forms, played down the reported support from Tinubu, declaring himself to be his own man, strong enough to swing the political tide in the state.
He said: “ I am 53 years myself. There is no doubt that things would be said here and there. The man who is standing in front of you, a fully grown-man with several years of experience, like I said, it is about the Lagos of our dream, it is about the Lagos we want to take to the next level.
“I think it has nothing to do with our leader and there is no denial that he is our national leader and he takes the back position not only in the State but at the national and you know he has interest in the well-being and improvement of Nigeria’s dream. “So, by extension, Lagos is a dream that he is pertinent about and we will continue to refer to him as our leader but most important thing is, I am in front of you, this is who I am, this is what I have come to express to you and Lagos, certainly will be a better place to live for all us.”
Stakeholders are to have waded in and obtain agreement from Tinubu and Ambode. According ti the source, Ambode may be made to sign an undertaken, part of which is to leave the political structure he mat untouched.