- Let’s forgive and forget, governor tells cabinet
- Collapses campaign structure into Sanwo-olu’s
Olawale Olaleye and Gboyega Akinsanmi
It appears there is no relief yet for Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, despite losing his re-election bid in the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the leadership of the party in the state has, allegedly, concluded plans to remove him from office to guarantee its victory in next year’s governorship election. This indication emerged at the weekend, and it corroborated the information exclusively obtained by THISDAY that the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had not only initiated the idea of Ambode’s removal, but had also given a direct order to the relevant quarters to that effect.
THISDAY gathered that although the impeachment plot had always been in the cooler as an alternative plan in the run up to the last primaries, it was played down as the leadership explored other options open to them.
However, multiple sources from Ambode’s camp noted that the reports of an impeachment plan “are unfounded, baseless and without substance,” stressing that the governor has been working to ensure the victory of the APC and its candidate since the governorship primaries on September 29. One of the sources noted that there was no evidence to back the allegations of the hawks at Bourdillon, who were bent on throwing the state into another round of crisis, which he said, might be the strategy of the opposition parties to destabilise the APC.
With the first assignment, which was denying Ambode his re-election ticket, successfully prosecuted, stakeholders in the Lagos APC had allegedly put pressure on Tinubu to activate Plan B in their bid to finally get rid of the governor and whatever threat he might pose to the elections in the state next year.
Sources in the party hinted that with the kind of money at his disposal and the control of the security architecture of the state, it would not be strategic to leave Ambode in office, when it was obvious that he was still unhappy with the humiliation he suffered during the primaries.
This move was activated a few days ago, when Tinubu was said to have told a northern colleague of Ambode that there was no going back on his impeachment.
Returning from the inauguration of the Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in Ado Ekiti recently, Tinubu was said to have beckoned on a North-west governor, whose state has had dealings with Lagos lately to join him on his plane, in the course of which he hinted at the latest development in the state.
He was said to have told the northern governor that certain stakeholders in the state were no longer comfortable with Ambode’s demeanor and that the governor’s recent moves showed that he would be unkind to the party during the coming elections, and therefore, their best bet would be to get rid of him as fast as possible.
The impeachment move was further given credence to when at the weekend, the House of Assembly, without recourse to extant legal implications, ordered the 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state to call the Private Sector Partnership (PSP) operators in their areas back to work for refuse clearing immediately, effectively displacing Visionscape, a company brought in by Ambode to clean refuse in the state.
While the impeachment move against him has not been properly angled or anchored on anything tangible, there have been several side-talks on the many other reasons why his impeachment had become inevitable.
Generally, there have been insinuations that Ambode might have some ulterior motives and might be thinking of playing the spoiler against his party, the APC, in the state for denying him a second term ticket, a suspicion the APC leadership claim to have on good authority.
One reason the APC leaders are said to be moving against Ambode is that after promising to help fund the election of his successor-to-be, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, he made a U-turn and dismissed any such thing during a recent conversation with one of the contractors through whom the funding would have been made possible. This conversation with the said contractor was said to have been leaked to the APC leadership and other stakeholders, who then immediately related it to other suspicions they had since gathered about the governor.
Besides, Ambode is said to have failed to show remorse to the party leadership and the political class over some of the grouses they had against his re-election. So the stakeholders are believed to be eager to activate the impeachment plot so that he would leave office without any entitlements.
The next few weeks are expected to witness intense political intrigues, as the move to remove Ambode from office begins to crystalise.
Ambode’s Camp: Impeachment Story Unfounded
But, according to a source, Ambode has been working with the APC leaders at different levels to ensure that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not take advantage of what happened during the primaries to take over the state. Just after the process that threw up Sanwo-Olu, Ambode had been taking different steps to reunite party chieftains, principal officers of the House of Assembly and members of the State Executive Council (SEC), among others.
At the first EXCO meeting after he lost the return ticket, a cabinet member told THISDAY that Ambode devoted quality time to preaching a message of forgiveness and unity, asking all the council members to work in support of the governorship candidate.
The cabinet member, who preferred anonymity, quoted Ambode as saying, “The primaries have been concluded at all levels. We must forgive one another irrespective of what happened before the primaries. As a Christian, I will never be vindictive to any person for opposing my re-election.”
The commissioner disclosed that Ambode equally told the cabinet members that the State Executive Council “has taken off fully and that we should focus more on governance and issues of public concern rather than engaging in another round of political conflict that can undermine governance and public administration.”
He explained that Ambode encouraged every council member “to double their efforts to make Lagos a true centre of excellence. All of us must forget what has happened. We must forgive and forget so that we can face the business of government with renewed spirit and approach the next election in unity.”
After Ambode’s address at the EXCO meeting, the cabinet member disclosed that all council members applauded him, even though they were surprised that he gave in so easily. With the development, he said, a task force has been set in motion to rehabilitate failed roads across the state.
Apart from Ambode’s message of forgiveness and rededication at the SEC meeting, an APC chieftain disclosed that Ambode had already collapsed the Ambode Mandate Support Group (AMSG) into the Sanwo-Olu Campaign Council.
Specifically, the APC source disclosed that Ambode appointed a five-man contact team under the leader of the Coordinator of AMSG, Hakeem Sulaimon, to hold a meeting with the Director-General of the Sanwo-Olu Campaign Council, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, on how to work together now that the primaries had been concluded.
In addition to Ambode’s decision to set up the contact team that met with the Sanwo-Olu Campaign Council, the APC source explained that the governor had directed his supporters across the 20 local government areas and 37 LCDAs to begin grassroots campaign for the APC governorship candidate.
Immediately after the primaries, according to the source, Ambode sent the message to all his supporters and support groups to ensure that the PDP did not win the state, for the sake of continuity and President Muhammadu Buhari. All over the state, Ambode’s supporters are now working for Sanwo-Olu.
To demonstrate the commitment he made in his concession speech, the APC source revealed that Ambode also held a meeting with principal officers of the House of Assembly also with a message of forgiveness and peace. He noted that all the principal officers attended the meeting during which the governor pleaded with them “to work for the peace and progress of Lagos State. Irrespective of what happened before and during the primaries, Ambode told them that he had forgotten and forgiven all those who opposed his re-election.”
The source further stated that Ambode had made it clear that he was going to do everything to win the state for the APC, including giving financial support to Sanwo-olu and even campaigning for him. The governor, he further stated has consistently praised Tinubu who he said remained his mentor. “He harbours no ill feelings towards anybody, as a matter of fact, he has repeatedly thanked the National Leader for choosing him from millions of able and capable people, eligible to be the governor in 2015. So I see no reason for the impeachment,” he added.