The Knack for an ‘Unfamiliar’ Governor

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Segun James examine the possibility of an upset in governorship election in Lagos State

Until a few days ago, it was taken for granted that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was going to have an easy to a second term in office, on the basis of his assumed spectacular performance in delivering the gains of good governance to Lagosians. When his colleagues in other states were struggling, he appeared to be relaxed. Rumours that his second term was challenged filtered out early last year, but it was quickly dismissed. Unconfirmed reports then had it that the powers that be in Lagos were not happy that the governor was trying to be his own man. The story was quickly debunked, but like a stubborn horn it refused to buried or covered with niceties or smooth overs. Today, there is no denying the fact that Ambode’s bid for a second term now hangs in the balance the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu has reportedly withdrawn his support for the second term aspiration of the governor.

Tinubu is alleged to have thrown up a challenger to Ambode’s throne, a relatively unknown political quantity, Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu. This method of promoting an unfamililar face has become Tinubu’s ace. Such was the stock of Ambode himself when he was forced on the political elites of Lagos as the anointed.

The struggle for power in Lagos became more interesting last week when the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) threw up its own joker as billionaire oil mogul, Mr. Femi Otedola was revealed as the party’s candidate for the governorship election. It is yet to be seen if Otedola can provide the kind of strong campaign that Mr. Jimi Agbaje’s candidacy delivered to the PDP in 2015. Since the current birth of democracy in Nigeria in1999, the Agbaje challenge has been the stiffest to the ruling party in Lagos.

The entry of Otedola in the governorship race in Lagos may have altered the calculation of Tinubu and the APC in Lagos where it is taken for granted that whoever Tinubu presents is acceptable to the people of Lagos. Both Otedola and Ambode are from Epe division of Lagos State. However, many informed persons believe that Otedola will not contest against Ambode. He is believed to have showed his interest in order to hold the down the PDP ticket for Ambode, in case the APC makes good its threat to deny him the chance of contesting for a second term. The next few weeks will determine if Tinubu still holds the ace in Lagos. The outcome of the February 2019 election will determine the continued political hegemony and sagacity of Tinubu, the rise of Sanwo-Olu, the luck of Femi Otedola and the eclipsing of the political sun of Ambode.

Akinwunmi Ambode

Before he was drafted in to contest the governorship of Lagos, Ambode was a career civil servant who had warmed his way in to Tinubu’s heart as a result of his loyalty. As Lagos state Accountant-General, he was instrumental in keeping the leader in the know about the financial activities of the state; a situation which forced Governor Babatunde Fashola to forcibly retire him for disloyalty.

This was the situation when to the chagrin of notable political leaders in the state that he was anointed and eventually elected the governor of Lagos state.

Soon after he became the governor, Ambode began to incur the anger of the Lagos political elites. He took over their contracts and sacked most of them from positions they occupied.

The situation came to a head when he and Tinubu had confrontation over his refusal to reverse these decisions which are affecting the continued political hold of Tinubu over Lagos. This was the situation until the political leaders made it clear to Tinubu that he had two choices – Ambode or the leaders of the APC. He choose the leaders.

Jide Sanwo-Olu

Hardly had his name was pushed forward as the possible governorship candidate of the APC in Lagos state, Jide Sanwo-Olu pushed out a list of his campaign coordinators, announcing that he would hold a rally shortly to formally announce his aspiration.

There have been controversy over the political future of Ambode after Sanwo-Olu and former Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Hamzat obtained nomination form to challenge Ambode in the APC primaries scheduled to hold on September 19.

Just after obtaining the nomination form, the Mandate Movement, a political group loyal to the APC national leader, promptly endorsed Sanwo-Olu, a former Commissioner for Establishment, Training & Pensions in the state to contest the 2019 governorship poll.

Subsequently, all chairmen of 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) as well as 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state signed Sanwo-Olu’s governorship nomination form, claiming that they were acting on the instruction of the APC leader.

Some APC chieftains in the state, including former Deputy Chairman of Lagos APC, Cardinal James Odumbaku and former Commissioner for Agriculture & Cooperatives, Mr. Kaoli Olusanya, allegedly directed Ambode to return his nomination form or face impeachment after a meeting.

To a lot of people, the emergence of Sanwo-Olu was a joke taken too far. But when Sanwo-Olu showed up at the national headquarters of the APC to pick up his governorship nomination form, he said he “is a fully grown man with loads of experience.” It was then that it dawned on a lot of people that the fate of Ambode has been sealed.

It has been rumoured that Sanwo-Olu is the preferred candidate of the powers that be in Lagos and that he is only months away from being crowned Governor of Lagos.

Although not much is known about himBabajide Sanwo-Olu is 53 years of age a banker before joining politics. Between 1994 and 1997, he served as Treasurer at former Lead Merchant Bank Plc.

In 2003, then Deputy Governor, Femi Pedro appointed Sanwo-olu his Special Adviser on Corporate Matters from where he later become acting Commissioner, Economic Planning and Budget.

In 2007, as the Tinubu era wound to a close, Sanwo-Olu was appointed Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. Between 2007 and 2015, he was Governor Babatunde Fashola’s Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions.

 Femi Otedola

When Femi Otedola took a ride in a Lagos bus, it was not just the first of such rides for him, it was an indication of things yet unfolding. When the news was released on the social media, it immediately generated reactions and the news hit the airwaves that Otedola may have some aces up his sleeves. But he was fast to deny any political ambition.

At the presentation of three books, PENdulum 1&2 and Fighting Lions written by the publisher of Ovation International magazine and THISDAY columnist, Chief Dele Momodu, Otedola was very political in his speech. He said he was motivated to seek the intervention for the release of Chief Moshood Abiola.

He then said he is not interested in any elective position; but today he has gone back on his word.

But the time that Otedola is venturing into politics is reminiscent of that of his father who became Governor of the state following confusion in the fold of the progressives.

Reminding Nigerians of this, Dele Momodu in his PENdulum column in THISDAY on Saturday wrote: “It was Femi, who is credited with dragging his father into politics. According to available information, Femi had a brainwave one day and suggested to his dad to go into politics and contest for the seat of Governor of Lagos State because he saw an opportunity for him given the state of affairs at the time.

“Sir Michael Otedola, who was a revered elder of the National Republican Convention (NRC), however, did not seem to have any chance of winning.

 “In the other party was Sir Michael Otedola who had won the NRC ticket.  As noted earlier, the bitterness and lack of cohesion in SDP was so bad that those who lost out in the party decided to join forces with the NRC candidate against their own man, Yomi Edu. As to be expected, a house divided against itself would naturally collapse. The underdog, Sir Michael Otedola thus gathered strength and momentum and the unthinkable soon happened. Sir Michael won the race to the shock of most onlookers. Sir Michael reigned from January 1992 to November 1993 when General Sani Abacha struck and truncated that democratic government.”

History seems to have a knack of repeating itself; and if this is so, Femi Otedola is on the threshold of history

QUICK FACTS

  • Ambode’s bid for a second term now hangs in the balance the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu has reportedly withdrawn his support for the second term aspiration
  • opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) threw up its own joker as billionaire oil mogul, Mr. Femi Otedola
  • Since the current birth of democracy in Nigeria in1999, the Agbaje challenge has been the stiffest to the ruling party in Lagos.
  • Both Otedola and Ambode are from Epe division of Lagos State
  • It was Femi, who is credited with dragging his father, Sir Michael Otedola who was Governor of Lagos State between 1992 and 1993, into politics
  • All the local government and Local Council Development Area chieftains in Lagos have rejected Ambode and endorsed Sanwo-Olu