Lagos Shall Be Free! (2)

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THIS REPUBLIC By Shaka Momodu, Email: shaka.momodu@thisdaylive.com, SMS Only: 0811 266 1654

To Bola Tinubu, Adams Oshiomhole and Clement Ebri, who won a pyrrhic victory in the Lagos State APC governorship primary, I say you have all murdered sleep and you will sleep no more. Let me refer the trio and all those who have tried to lend credibility to the sham governorship primary conducted in Lagos on Tuesday October 2nd to the immortal words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo because they are so apt at the moment: “Evil deeds can never go unpunished, even done to man by man shall be redressed if not by man, then by God, if not now certainly later. For the victory of evil over good can only be temporary.”

I am not an APC member, but that is beside the point. As residents of Lagos, whatever happens in the party affects me and my family. And I would have voted for incumbent Governor Akinwumni Ambode in next year’s election if the forces of evil had not prevailed against him. He is the only “dreamer” among his peers.

What happened in the Lagos (a supposed centre of excellence) APC governorship primary was a travesty of democracy and a disgrace to Lagosians. It was a tragedy that caused me to again begin to lose hope for Nigeria. What we witnessed was the display of grand hypocrisy and a dangerous standard-setting election malpractice pushed through with ferocious propaganda on a scale never thought possible by crooked loudmouth pretenders, whose claim of being progressive democrats has become a stale, facile stereotype.

Indeed, so brazen and audacious was the sinister plot and actions of Tinubu and his gang to rape democracy that they threw away all pretences and claims to participatory democracy and all the accompanying values and incidental niceties, in a shameful display of electoral fraud and daylight robbery to coronate their preferred candidate as the Lagos APC governorship standard-bearer. Any honest self-respecting resident of Lagos would attest to the fact that election did not hold. The video clips on social media were stage-managed by a desperate gang of election thieves to create the impression that voting took place. While many were waiting for the right thing to be done, going by what the chairman of the APC NWC had said at a press conference, Oshiomhole, instigated by the Lagos APC, pulled Ambode’s legs from behind, and endorsed the sham primary. Tinubu, Oshiomhole and Ebri presided over a mockery called a primary election. They must have celebrated and clinked champagne glasses for their pyrrhic victory. To them, I say, Lagos shall be free some day and they will give a full account of their ways.

Emboldened, Tinubu, the godfather, now walks about with a swagger, feeling unrestrained in his conscience. I know power corrupts while absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I never thought I would see a day like this in Lagos. But here we are, held hostage by merchants of greed and purveyors of falsehoods. I am particularly disappointed in Ebri who many had erroneously thought was an honourable man. When results started to tumble in from the contrived primary, Ebri told the whole world in a press conference on television watched across the country that election had not commenced and that materials for the election were yet to be distributed. He even urged the public to disregard any announcement purportedly made with regard to the outcome of a primary that had not even started. Of course this gave some of us hope, and we went to bed believing a man of honour and integrity who would take no nonsense was in charge. Alas! How wrong we were. Less than 24 hours after he gave Lagosians that assurance, Ebri ate his words, turned 360 degrees to announce the results of a primary he did not supervise; the results of a sham election he had urged the public to discountenance. Who does that?

This utterly dishonourable human being, a former governor, turned democracy on its head. So many people who yearned for the right thing to be done had thought he was a responsible man of integrity, strength of character and capacity to say no to the evil machinations of saboteurs and election riggers. But he was clearly overrated; a willing tool, a pliable character, a cheat, and a foolish man without a modicum honour or integrity. It is any wonder that Nigeria is where it is now?

Emperor Oshiomhole, as we have since read in newspaper reports, directed the Ebri-led Lagos Governorship Primary Committee to accept the results of a sham primary and the conscienceless man did as he was directed. As the party chairman, one of the sacred duties of Oshiomhole, was to ensure justice and fairness to all parties. But he now increasingly sees his position as an opportunity to advance his narrow self-interest. Oshiomhole openly endorsed fraud not just in Lagos but across the country. Impunity is the byword for his leadership. Even the First Lady, Aisha Buhari has said this much. It is a shame that a man who once spearheaded the one man, one vote campaign is now the chief endorser of election malpractice across the country. From Ekiti to Osun governorship elections to the primaries across the country, impunity has reigned supreme under Oshiomhole. Needless to say that the Taraba State government had once accused him of boasting that “the instruments of electoral manipulation in the state had shifted base and is now in the hands of the APC.”

I have said it before, and I say it here again, Oshiomhole, Tinubu and the APC pose a clear and present danger to our democracy. In the morning, he said there would be no automatic ticket for anyone, but by evening, he had started to hand out automatic tickets to his preferred candidates.

Back to the central thrust of this piece: Fellow Nigerians, Lagos is in the chains of Tinubu’s suffocating grip. Every Lagosian is paying a ransom to Tinubu and his Mandate Movement. Of course, there is another illegal shadowy body called the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) which was recently thrust into the limelight due to the crisis in the Lagos APC. The council I suspect was created by Tinubu to arm-twist, weaken and cajole an elected governor into doing his bidding. If one may ask, who appointed members to this council and what were the criteria to qualify for its membership? How come Lagosians only knew about its existence just prior to the primary? Why should an advisory council determine whether a sitting governor should seek a re-election or not? Who gave the council such powers? How many former governors of Lagos State are members of the council? Why is Tinubu the only known former governor of the body? How is the chairman of the council chosen? How often does the council meet? We want minutes of their meetings. The council to me, looked like an elaborate power-grabbing scheme designed to undermine the incumbent governor by Tinubu. It is an unlawful body that exercised powers that it does not legitimately have and must be challenged by all Lagosians.

Now let’s interrogate Tinubu’s reasons for dumping Ambode. It is instructive they had nothing to do with a lack of performance. Rather, it was about a purported deviation from a blueprint for Lagos and not taking care of the party leadership. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to help put things in proper context. Speaking while inaugurating a network of roads, a link bridge and a health centre in the Alimosho area of the state on the occasion of his 65th birthday in March 2017, the self-proclaimed national leader of the APC, testified to the goodness of his godson and the governor of Lagos State, Ambode. He poured encomiums on him in a show of appreciation and satisfaction over his sterling performance in the twenty-two months he had been in office as at the time, saying that the governor had made him proud.

Tinubu had publicly declared that the achievements of the governor in office were a reflection of a man who was not only a thinker but a doer. This was how he said it: “Akinwunmi Ambode has reflected that clearly here today. I want to say thank you because experience is a great teacher and I am experienced. I am on the spot and I have watched things in Lagos since my tenure ended. I was worried hell when you (Ambode) took over, not about your credibility, character or capacity, but because however wise or smart a man is, if there are no resources to back the ideas, production would be zero, progress would be zero.

“When you (Ambode) took over, I know you inherited a burden of debt. The debt profile of Lagos was high, I was wondering how you will reengineer and face the challenges to make progress. Today, I can see your report card, you have scored well, and you have shown prudency especially in the judicious use of resources of the state. You didn’t disappoint us. Ambode is silently achieving, meticulously planning, religiously executing and brilliantly giving results for Lagos State.”Tinubu went further to say that all over Lagos, the results of good governance were being felt by the people, and wished Ambode sound health and wisdom to continue to lead the state.

In March this year, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the Jagaban showered praises on Ambode for his sterling performance during a visit to the governor by elected representatives of the National Assembly from Lagos. This was what she said:”Your Excellency, we’re proud of the work you have done for Lagos and that we’re proud to identify with you. We can only wish you divine help together with the First Lady of the state. As you continue to steer the ship of our noble state, you’ve done very credibly well. Even on our way here just seeing the masses having somewhere to go to is a testimony of how you really want to improve the lives of the common man. And not only that, we see that there’s nowhere you go to that you’ll not find development. Anyone that will say ‘they haven’t come to me’, all I can say is that they should be patient. It (development) is going to go round. I want to congratulate you and pray that your next term in office will be better than this because they said the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former. So we pray that you’ll continue to take this state from glory to glory. God will strengthen you with good health, joy and peace in your home and bless your family.” That was Jagaban’s wife in her own words. Truth be told, she did not try to massage Ambode’s performance. Her allusion to “your next term in office” (now deferred) was as a result of concrete verifiable evidence of performance.

It is important to point out in that Jagaban’s own full-scale endorsement of Ambode’s performance earlier referenced, he even threw a jab at Fashola for leaving the state in heavy debt and even wondered how Ambode “would reengineer and face the challenges to make progress”. I am convinced that he said those words not because he was under the influence of any substance. He said what he said because he saw concrete verifiable projects on the ground. Except words no longer have any meaning shall we discountenance all that.

Now fast forward just a few days ago, September 30, 2018 to be exact. From the very same mouth that showered encomiums on Ambode came a new song that Ambode must go because he deviated from the blueprint drawn up for Lagos. He even gave another ridiculous excuse for opposing Ambode, noting: “He is not a good party man.” Well, some have interpreted that as a euphemism to say Ambode did not give party leaders money.

Here are excerpts from what Tinubu stated on the eve of the primary as reasons for opposing Ambode’s second term bid. It was the rambling of a conceited fellow suffering from a god complex: “Roughly 20 years ago, a corps of dedicated and patriotic Lagosians put aside personal interests and rivalries, to put their minds and best ideas together for the good of the state. Out of this collaborative effort, was born a master plan for economic development that would improve the daily lives of our people.

Bestowed on me was the honour of a lifetime when I was elected to be your governor in 1999. My administration faithfully implemented that plan. The government of my immediate successor, Tunde Fashola, also honoured this enlightened plan.

“Where the state government remained true to that blueprint, positive things happened. During my tenure and Governor Fashola’s, Lagos State recorded improvements in all aspects of our collective existence, from public health to public sanitation, from education to social services, from the administration of justice to the cleaning of storm and sewage drains. Businesses, large and small, invested, hired millions of workers and thrived. I make no pretence that the master plan is perfect. It can always be fine-tuned. However, whenever a government departed from this plan without a compelling reason, the state and its people have borne the painful consequence of the improper departure.

“To ignore this blueprint for progress in order to replace it with ad-hoc schemes of a materially inferior quality contravenes the spirit of progressive governance and of our party. Such narrowness of perspective does not bring us closer to our appointed destination; it takes us farther from that destiny. For reasons unknown to me and most Lagosians, we have experienced such deviations from enlightened governance recently. This trend is that which most concerns me as the primary nears. We must arrest this trend before irreparable harm is committed against the people and their future.”

That was Tinubu making a U-turn after praising Ambode last year for his sterling performance on projects conception and execution. My immediate observation was the haughty, pomposity and self-righteousness of the tone of the statement.

Now, can anyone ask Tinubu why he showered praises on Ambode last year, saying the governor had made him proud by his impressive performance? How well did Tinubu stick to the Alliance for Democracy’s blueprint between 1999 and 2007? When did Tinubu realise that Ambode had started to deviate from the (Tinubu’s) blueprint? Was it after he had showered praises on the governor? If that was the case, which I doubt, he still praised his performance even on the day of the fake primary.

Tinubu as at March last year told us “Ambode is very quiet, very peaceful, not a noise maker, but he is delivering on the job.” Those were Tinubu’s words not mine. A lot of people cheered when he made those remarks. When did Ambode stop delivering on the job? Finding no plausible reason to justify his opposition to the man he praised to the high heavens for his performance not so long ago, Tinubu resorted to the most improbable of reasons, claiming that Ambode deviated from a blueprint. Those who went to school for nothing fell over themselves believing and even defending the nonsense Tinubu had dished out just to impress him.

Tinubu should know that we are not fools, neither are we robots. We are reasonable, discerning human beings who can read between the lines and see through a façade of lies. Perhaps, sensing that his argument against Ambode’s second term bid was not watertight enough, Tinubu a few days after, rambled again that Ambode’s failure as a party man was responsible for the withdrawal of support for his re-election bid by the leadership of the party in the state: “Ambode is doing well, yes; he hasn’t been a good party man; not only the glamour, not only about bricks and mortar. A talent is determined by character.” Tinubu reportedly said. I hardly knew what to make of his latest excuse for dumping Ambode. What really did he mean by “a talent is determined by character”? Was he implying that, that Ambode had no character or what?

Remember he had said last year that he was worried hell not about Ambode’s character but about the huge debt left by Fashola. You see, the Jagaban was merely looking for a reason to nail his godson to the wall, nothing more, nothing less. And contrary to Tinubu’s claim that Ambode deviated from a blueprint for Lagos, which is neither here nor there, I can bet my bottom kobo, Tinubu was probably angry because Ambode deviated from a blueprint that had enriched his pocket, and that of his cronies and lackeys, not the blueprint that would elevate Lagos and serve its people. What Tinubu and his Mandate Movement along with that illegal Governor’s Advisory Council have now told us by ousting Ambode, is that performance doesn’t matter in evaluating the success or failure of leaders, and that the key consideration is how well party leaders are taken care of, or made happy. So much for progressivism!

I was further scandalised beyond words to see how Tinubu tried to praise Ambode’s predecessor, Babatunde Fashola. It was obviously a cheap and desperate attempt to present a unified front with Fashola’s camp against the governor. He wanted Nigerians to believe that Fashola kept to the master plan that he handed him while Ambode deviated. Hell no, Chief Jagaban! Let us ask this man who approbates and reprobates at the same time this simple question: Since Fashola kept to the plan, why was he(Tinubu) opposed to Fashola’s second term bid? The truth is that Tinubu does not want any governor to do two terms in office and grow too strong to challenge his strangulating hold on Lagos; that way he keeps everyone in line. Ambode’s achievements in three and a half years had simply dwarfed that of the last two administrations. Accordingly, he needed to be cut to size because another four years would have elevated him far above his predecessors. That does not mean Ambode’s government was perfect. No, far from it. There are many areas he needed to refocus, such as health system, environmental sanitation, waste management, education, improving inner roads, etc. Despite those challenges, Ambode’s achievements have been impressive to say the least.

The governor was a victim of a scheming, out-of-control godfather who is desperate to keep Lagos in the chains of bondage (don’t be fooled into believing those trivial excuses made by some Tinubu apologists). Every self-respecting individual should be appalled by their “search and destroy” tactic against Ambode who just a few weeks ago was the apple of their eyes. Why should we just allow Tinubu to be changing governors just because they did not take care of some greedy party leaders? What about the people? How can one man continue to force his will on Lagosians? The who’s who in Nigeria begged Tinubu to let Ambode be, he hardened his heart and refused. Well some of us still remember what befell Pharaoh in the Bible when he behaved this same way. So my takeaway from Ambode’s fightback, even though feeble, was that the end is nigh for the godfather and Lagos shall be free!