2019: As Ambode Throws Weight Behind Buhari, Osibanjo, Sanwo-Olu

David Oyekanmi

Ever since the events culminating in the thwarting of his deserved second term in office, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has privately and publicly demonstrated very rare courage and character and truly moved on by accepting the outcome of the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which threw up Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the gubernatorial candidate of the party for next year’s governorship election in the state.
In the build-up to the governorship primaries, there were political tension in the state but immediately after the primaries and the twists that followed, Ambode in a statewide broadcast congratulated Sanwo-Olu, and pledged to work for the victory of the party; a move that drastically doused the tension.

“Fellow Lagosians, the last few days have witnessed intense political activities that have gripped the attention of the nation and created palpable tension in the polity. I strongly believe that the time has now come for the state to move forward in order that the gains of the last three and half years are not lost.

“APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group. It is in this regard that I wholeheartedly congratulate the winner of the Lagos State APC Primaries, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and urge all Lagosians to immediately support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections and work for the success of our dear party,” the governor said in the broadcast.

After that, Ambode commenced another move to galvanize all the critical stakeholders in the party to ensure that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will not take advantage of the fallout in the primaries to clinch power in the state.

During the first weekly Exco meeting after the primaries, Ambode had specifically told his cabinet members to forgive and forget the past, and team up with the candidate of the party to ensure victory, which would in turn, according to him, foster the consolidation of the massive gains recorded in the last three and half years.
To authenticate the development, a cabinet member had quoted the governor 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 who opposed my reelection.

“The State Executive Council has taken off fully and 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.

“We must all double our 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.”

Ambode immediately ordered that his campaign structure, Ambode Mandate Support Group (AMSG), be collapsed into the Sanwo-Olu Campaign Council which later transformed into Independent Support Group (ICG) to work for the victory of all APC candidates in the state, as well as the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in 2019. From the political front, several other moves were initiated and are being implemented by Ambode to ensure APC’s victory across board, including directing his supporters across the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas (LCDAs) to begin grassroots campaign for the APC governorship candidate, while preaching message of forgiveness and unity.

Speaking to journalists at the presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport shortly after he accompanied President Buhari to perform the official commissioning of the new Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Border Posts at Seme-Krake joint border post in Badagry, the governor publicly assured all that he would lead a strong campaign to ensure victory for the President and Sanwo-Olu.

“I want again use this opportunity to let Lagosians know that we are heavily committed to the re-election of Mr. President and you can see that his continuous visit to Lagos reiterates the fact that he is actually a lover of Lagos State and I am committed to ensuring his reelection.

“We are going to campaign strongly for him. I am also committed to ensuring that the APC wins the governorship election come 2019. We support the candidacy of Babajide Sanwo-Olu and we would make sure that APC retains Lagos State and the centre,” Ambode said.

At another recent event during the unveiling of an ultra-modern lecture theatre donated to the Lagos State University (LASU) by businessman and philanthropist, Chief Remi Makanjuola, on November 22, Ambode gave assurance, that Sanwo-Olu would not abandon ongoing projects in the state but would rather complete and build on the enduring legacies already put in place by his administration.

“I am so excited about the fact that Mr. Sanwo-Olu has actually come out here and he has issued a promissory note and what that meant is that we are going to have a government of continuity. “For whatever structures that we have in LASU right now, and I’m going to also convince our chief negotiator, Dr. Wale Babalakin, we are already doing Senate Building here, we are doing Students Arcade and we are also doing the Library. I hope I will be able to complete them. But if I am unable to complete them, I speak on behalf of Mr. Sanwo-Olu that he will finish and also do the Staff School.

“We are not campaigning yet but truly that is the spirit of the kind of governance that we bring to Lagos; that is the spirit that we really want to see and then we should be able to show leadership in all spheres of life that we find ourselves,” the governor said.

Aside hosting Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, on a number of occasions at Lagos House together with members of the Governors Advisory Council (GAC), and visiting some markets in Lagos with the Vice President to launch the TraderMoni initiative, the governor has also continued with his message of assurance to Lagosians that the APC government remains the best option in 2019.

This assurance was restated by at the presentation of cheques to over 2,000 beneficiaries of the loan programme of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) held at LTV Blue Roof, Agidingbi, Ikeja, on November 26; and during the 12th Annual Town Hall on Security organised by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund on November 28, this year at Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Yet, on December 4, in Abuja during the National Consultative Forum of the National Committee of Buhari Support Groups, a coordinating body of all the groups campaigning for the reelection of Buhari and Osinbajo, Ambode vigorously rooted for the party’s presidential and governorship candidates. Speaking at the event held at Nicon Luxury, Abuja, Ambode stunned the participants drawn from across the country when he said that Lagos State had not benefited anything from the PDP’s reign at the centre in the last 16 years.

“Sixteen years of PDP, I can say it clearly that Lagos State never enjoyed anything from them. Three and half years of APC, I can clearly attest here that whatever it is that we have achieved in Lagos in the last three and half years, the present Federal Government has largely contributed to the things that we have achieved be it in terms of right of way, be it in terms of approval for waivers for import duties and other things that have actually made Lagos to be on the progressive trajectory that it had been in the last twenty years.

“So, for me it is very easy and it is just common sense that we have to uphold the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket to allow that economic progress and the growth in the GDP that we want for Nigeria rather than allowing it to get dismantled and then make us to go back to Egypt after crossing the Red Sea, and we are not going back to Egypt,” the governor said.

He said since assuming office in 2015, the Buhari administration had worked tirelessly to bring about fundamental paradigm shift and retracing the steps of the country for sustained progressive chart, adding that the onus was now on the entire country to give the APC a chance to consolidate on the massive development already embarked upon.

“I just want Nigerians to understand and also to encourage all our members here that what we have started as a support group coordinating everything that is happening is not necessarily for you, but it is a selfless service to put Nigeria on that trajectory that grows prosperity and also conveniently in another four years, we would make all Nigerians proud and I am very proud to be part of this.

“So, I just want to congratulate Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, and also the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and assure them that when they look at their back, they have true Nigerians who believe that yes, we want to build a skyscraper, but we need solid foundation to be able to enjoy that skyscraper and then the next level we are thinking is to be able to put the proper aesthetics and lay the proper foundation to allow Nigeria to make progress and that is what the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket speaks about,” he said.

At another meeting in Epe few days ago, held at the instance of the governor with APC leaders from the division comprising Epe Local Government, Eredo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Ikosi-Ejirin LCDA and the entire Lagos East Senatorial District, the governor continued his message of unity and specifically urged voters in the division to vote massively for the APC at all levels.

“All of us are brothers and sisters because this is a close-knit community. It is now time for us to work together for the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari and election of Mr Sanwo-Olu because Epe cannot be left behind.
“I know that in view of what happened, some people are still aggrieved but what I want you to know is that there is no way PDP will work for the development of our division like APC. We are also all aware that for the past 16 years of PDP, they did not do anything in Epe division and it is only the APC that has been doing something for Lagos and for the country,” he said.

Also, as a member of the National Peace and Reconciliation Committee set up by the APC to pacify aspirants and members aggrieved with the outcome of the primaries conducted by the party to elect candidates for next year’s general elections, Ambode has visibly been involved in pacifying aggrieved members of the party in the South-west region to queue behind Buhari and Osinbajo.

At one of the peace meetings held in Lagos, Ambode stated unequivocally: that “I can declare here that we do not have any issue in Lagos State and that we are one family. But again that is not to say that there is no platform for reconciliation; we do not know whether there are some aspirants who are aggrieved but we can say affirmatively as a party that we are one family in Lagos State.”

Also, at a stakeholders’ meeting of APC held at the state secretariat of the party on Acme Road, Ogba on December 17, Ambode further demonstrated his acceptance of the party’s position with regards to the emergence of Sanwo-Olu when he officially endorsed him and Hamzat by raising their hands before scores of party leaders and faithful and wished them well in the March 2, 2019 election.

However, the governor’s sacrifice and efforts to unite the party had not gone unnoticed. In fact, he has earned accolades from within and outside the state.

Speaking, Chairman, APC National Peace and Reconciliation Committee for South-west, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, described Ambode as the politician of the year for displaying uncommon courage and spirit after the party’s primaries in Lagos.

He said, “Governor Ambode is my own politician of the year and the ultimate peacemaker. We are here essentially to build bridges of understanding, to reconcile with our aggrieved members and seek ways to make appropriate recommendation to the NWC of the party for us to make progress as a family and to make amends where necessary.

“We have a lot to learn from Governor Ambode; he demonstrated courage, he demonstrated an unparalleled generosity of spirit that has never been shown by any Nigerian politician. Many people were spoiling for a fight. I believe that power is from God and believe me, the kind of respect that his actions have generated for him across the nation is much more than spending 18 years in power.”

Another member of the committee, Senator Sa’ida Sa’ad Bugaje, said Ambode’s actions after the primaries had resonated beyond the state as a learning curve in leadership and sportsmanship for future leaders.
“I was at a youth forum recently where young people were dissecting Governor Ambode’s leadership story as a perfect example. They said they had never seen such in the history of Nigeria since 1999. They said they look up to Governor Ambode as a role model in terms of peace and good leadership,” she said.

Also, deputy governorship candidate of APC in Lagos State, Hamzat, said Ambode deserved commendations for displaying unusual maturity and character which eloquently confirmed him as a man with a large heart.
“I want to thank Governor Ambode for being a man with a large and great heart. What you are doing is unusual and I want to assure you that you have a future and that future will be very soon. We will do everything to protect your interest and that of Epe division,” he said.

Even the presidency noticed the sacrifice made by the governor for the unity of the party as Buhari commended Ambode for his rare loyalty to the party.

“In every competition, someone has to win and someone has to lose, but those who lost should not abandon the party or lose their enthusiasm for the advancement of the party,” Buhari said, urging other Nigerian politicians to learn from the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, “who despite his loss didn’t abandon the APC for another party because he was angry over the outcome of the governorship primaries,” said Buhari.

No doubt, Ambode has demonstrated an unusual courage, character and commitment that is unheard of in this part of the world with the way he managed the fallouts of the party primaries in the state. The governor placed the unity of the party and the development of the state and the country as a whole beyond his personal interest. Nigerian politics and the democratic process would be on a solid trajectory if politicians can emulate the governor.
–––Oyekanmi, a veteran journalist lives in Surulere.

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