•Negotiations continue in Osogbo today
As it becomes more obvious that the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, will not change his mind on his decision not to support Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s second term of office ambition, the embattled governor is weighing his options and will soon make his next move public, THISDAY learnt last night.
Although Tinubu has not spoken publicly about his reported opposition to Ambode’s ambition, his political foot soldiers, massed in the Mandate Movement, the same group that facilitated the governor’s ride to power in 2015, have publicly declared their support for the Managing Director of Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Sanwo-Olu formally launched his intention to take over Ambode’s job on Sunday at a huge gathering at the Lagos City Hall with the major stakeholders of the Lagos APC, including local government and development councils’ chairmen in attendance, signifying the breakdown of negotiations with Tinubu by peace makers, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to save the governor’s job.
Even as his aides kept hope alive last night, saying further discussions were on in Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, where the party’s regional and national leaders have assembled to hold a final rally for APC’s governorship candidate in next Saturday’s election, Chief Gboyega Oyetola, Ambode is said to be weighing the options available to him.
The options, according to his close aides, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday on condition of anonymity, are, step down because without Tinubu’s support, he has no other structure with which to fight; join another party as proposed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and fight at the state nomination congress slated for Monday and go down like a man.
In the event that Tinubu remains adamant and withholds support, the aides said, the most viable option for Ambode is to step down and go home.
“Ambode did not prepare for the prevailing circumstances,” said an aide, “therefore, he does not have alternative plan to respond to his dilemma.”
Brought in from political obscurity by Tinubu and helped into office through the massive political machine, called Mandate Movement, headed by Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola, Ambode was not in a position to attempt creating his own structure.
The initial attempts he made, said his aides, were stoutly resisted by the political establishment.
“The few policy changes and appointments he made were seen as a move by him to stand alone and assert his authority. This is what has brought him to the current sorry state,” said another aide.
Without a structure of his own, his close associates, according to THISDAY sources, are advising him to step down and let go. “After all, he was in his quiet corner before he was asked to come and be governor. If they don’t want him again, why would he fight them? How will he do it anyway?” said a source.
The thinking, said another source, is that a soft landing could be arranged for Ambode, whereby he would be allowed to serve out his term and go home in peace without any further molestation, which could include removal from office since his traducers have control of the House of Assembly.
The other two options, said a close associate, could not be contemplated without serious complications and consequences.
According to him, “Yes, he could join another party, as being proposed by the PDP but that could be grievous as the APC dominated House of Assembly could move against him before the general election.”
However, some other associates argue that a removal from office move might be difficult to carry out since the Chief Judge of the state, who is expected to constitute the investigation panel might not cooperate being a wife of a traditional ruler in the state that is sympathetic to the embattled governor.
The third option of going into the congress, knowing full well that he would be beaten, is also being advised against by his associates and aides who think that would undermine his political legacy and record and bring him in full conflict with the national leader and his political machine.
“Once he takes that route and he is defeated, and he sure would be, the political establishment would not spare him. If they can’t remove him from office, he would spend the rest of his term fighting battles he is not likely to win. Is that what he wants?” said an associate.
But not a few of his associates still hope that a miracle could still happen even when the signs are clear that Tinubu risks internal revolt if he decides to back down and support Ambode.
An APC source told THISDAY yesterday that series of meetings were held last night and might continue in Osogbo either before or after the final political rally for the APC candidate.
According to the source, President Muhammadu Buhari, Osinbajo, former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, and the APC governors will attend the political gathering.
The source disclosed that Ambode would equally depart “to Osogbo, not only because of the political rally, but also due to the extended peace meeting that will likely hold in the state today before or after the political gathering. He will join other APC leaders in the state.
He said, “Do not forget all the key actors in the Ambode-Tinubu friction will also be in Osogbo. Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, who is the arrowhead of the Mandate Movement, will host them. Allegedly, also, Aregbesola is a major factor in Ambode’s ordeal.
“As a matter of fact, some of these leaders have even gone ahead. Most likely, the APC leaders will revisit the Ambode-Tinubu crisis. The party leaders will take advantage of the Osun rally to end the impasse between Tinubu and his political godson.”
Apart from the peace meeting scheduled to hold in Osogbo today, another source claimed that he spoke with Ambode Sunday night, which according to him, his re-election bid on the platform of the APC had not been foreclosed against the social media reports.
He said, “I spoke with His Excellency Sunday night. From all indications, his re-election has not been foreclosed. All the party leaders are still talking. The party leaders will be going to Osogbo for the final campaign rally of the APC governorship candidate.”
If all peace efforts eventually fail, the source claimed that Ambode would not fight the APC leader even though he had resources “to prosecute such political battle. His Excellency is not thinking of fighting his political godfather because he wants to seek re-election.”
Contrary to some social media reports, the source noted that the governor might not defect to another political platform in pursuit of re-election.
However, according to him, “We are hopeful that the peace meetings will eventually yield meaningful outcome.”
In a related development yesterday, Ambode sent the audience laughing while acknowledging Tinubu at the public presentation of ‘Africa Rise and Shine’, a book by Chairman of Zenith Bank, Chief Jim Ovia.
At the book presentation held at the Convention Centre, Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Ambode was invited to speak immediately after the APC leader.
As he mounted the podium, the governor acknowledged virtually all the dignitaries, noting that he was not prepared to give a speech.
“Actually, I did not prepare to come and say anything here. Aside, who am I to speak after the Jagaban has spoken?” he said.
Ambode’s statement elicited uniform reaction from the audience and himself, compelling them to laugh for a brief period before making some remarks on Ovia.
Ambode political future has been uncertain immediately after the Sanwo-Olu and former Lagos State Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, obtained the nomination forms to contest the APC primary scheduled to hold on September 25.
Just after obtaining the nomination form, the Mandate Movement, a political group loyal to the APC national leader, promptly endorsed Sanwo-Olu, the state’s Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions under the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) to contest the 2019 governorship poll.
Subsequently, Conference 57, a forum of 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 including former Deputy Chairman of Lagos APC, Cardinal James Odumbaku and former Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mr. Kaoli Olusanya allegedly directed Ambode to return his nomination form or face impeachment at a meeting held at Watercress Hotel, Ikeja Monday night.
With these political dynamics that redefined the state’s governorship race, Buhari, Osinbajo, Oshiomhole, Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi have at different times intervened in the Ambode-Tinubu standoff without meaningful outcome.