Lagos APC gov primary: Party leaders seal Ambode’s fate
Lanre Adewole – Lagos
CHANCES that the Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, will get his second term ticket dimmed further on Friday following reports that the leadership of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has resolved to see to his defeat in the direct primary, which will be held on September 25.
It was reliably gathered on Friday evening that all efforts by the presidency to wade into the feud between the national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu and Governor Ambode were not successful.
A source said both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo may have given up on the fate of the governor.
“As things stand now, if he [Ambode] goes ahead for the primary, he will lose. And if he goes to another party to contest the coming election, his impeachment will be activated. That is the stage everything is now,” the very reliable source told Saturday Tribune.
However, as s a decoy, it was learnt close associates of Senator Tinubu have tabled stringent conditions before the embattled governor which he must meet before they could consider shifting ground on his re-election bid.
Although Tinubu is said to have repeatedly denied having any issues with the governor seeking re-election, his associates are believed to be speaking his mind.
Two other aspirants with close ties to him, Femi Hamzat and Jide Sanwo-Olu, are also in the race to square up to Ambode in the party’s primary which Tinubu has ‘decreed’ must be of direct mode, in which all party members will vote to pick the party’s candidate.
While Hamzat, who is an aide to the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of the state, is reportedly being packaged by the political group loyal to the outgoing Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, Sanwo-Olu is said to have his mainstay in Tinubu’s wife, Senator Remi Tinubu.
Interestingly, Fashola and Aregbesola belong to different political leanings in Lagos and South-West despite being of the same political party.
Aregbesola worked against Hamzat when he ran against Ambode in 2014 APC primary, coming a close second, but the governor is believed to be at the forefront of the anti-Ambode elements this time.
Saturday Tribune gathered that Hamzat has been holding regular meetings with Aregbesola but has not kept his boss who he also served under as Commissioner for Works, in the dark.
Despite the political differences between Aregbesola and Fashola, the latter is said not to have objected to the sudden switch by Hamzat.
A neutral political heavyweight in Lagos State who has issues with both Tinubu and Ambode but is currently being wooed by the governor told Saturday Tribune that at a meeting with Ambode’s emissaries, he was told that the conditions put forward by Tinubu’s core political group, the Mandate Movement, would render the governor a lame duck if he signed off on them for re-election purpose.
Gov to ‘sign undated resignation letter’
Chief of the conditions, the source alleged, is an undated resignation letter the governor must sign and release to the opposition elements and elders within the party which would be used to get rid of him if “he starts misbehaving again.”
To further weaken him, allegedly, he is to hands-off the nomination process of all the candidates of the party for the House of Assembly, a condition which would make his impeachment easy if he tried to repudiate the agreement and reject the undated resignation letter as being signed under duress.
With the thinking on the other side that a re-elected Ambode may move against the political interests of those resisting him now, another condition being allegedly put forward is that the governor must seek Tinubu’s consent and approval before major policy decisions are taken, and funding for major projects must also go along that line.
“Who does this? Why are they trying to disrespect this man (Ambode)? Is the governor a good leader? I tell you, he isn’t. I have told you some of the things he did personally to me. But he should be allowed to complete his eight years so as not to set a bad precedent.
At least, nobody has accused him of not delivering on projects. I agree he has not done well with party leaders and members. The governor himself is surprised I could be sympathetic to his cause.
“All I ask is that we don’t set a bad precedent because you don’t know who will be caught in it tomorrow. It is Akin (Ambode) today. It can be anybody tomorrow. How can you think of making a full-grown man a lame duck for four years? Isn’t that wickedness?” the source lamented.
An aborted peace meeting
Contrary to reports that a meeting took place between Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where the former governor allegedly made a U-turn to back Ambode, Saturday Tribune can reveal that the meeting was aborted because planes could not land at the Abuja airport following a near-mishap involving an aircraft believed to be owned by Bunu Sheriff.
The meeting, which was expected to have Ambode in attendance, was rescheduled to hold Thursday night.
Saturday Tribune could not independently confirm if it held but can reveal that the governor’s associates were in Abuja prepping for the meeting Wednesday night.
The preparatory meeting held by Ambode’s men in Abuja with some stakeholders being wooed to the governor’s side reportedly achieved the sole aim of persuading the governor not to get desperate for Mandate Movement’s endorsement to the point of signing off on the alleged conditions put forward “to cage him and turn him to a lame-duck governor,” a source at the meeting disclosed.
The issue of endorsement was also said to have been reviewed at the meeting with a source saying that “we might just be overrating this endorsement stuff. Did [former President Goodluck] Jonathan not receive over 1,700 endorsements and still lose the election?”
It was reportedly discovered that despite the earlier 115 endorsements that the governor had received from different political groups and leanings, his camp was immediately empty of heavyweights once the pendulum appeared swinging away from him.
Old road not taken
Convinced that it is the people that should be the mainstay of the governor and not political deities, his team reportedly agreed that going forward, senior citizens of the state who are apolitical but carrying a lot of influence would be consulted more and kept as allies.
Influential community leaders who control the levers of politics in their domain are also to be vigorously courted by the governor’s camp.
One of the main accusations against the governor is his alleged aloofness and poor relational communication with the people at the grassroots, which is said to have robbed him of vital political support in various communities across the state.
A source in his camp pointed out that the reality of the governor’s alleged detachment from the grassroots became more pronounced when his ambition began floundering immediately sitting council chairmen in the 57 local government and local council development areas shifted loyalty to Sanwo-Olu allegedly on Tinubu’s orders.
The governor was said to have struggled to get the requisite number of political bigwigs to sign his nomination form unlike Sanwo-Olu who allegedly got his expression of interest form signed by all the council chairmen.
Old order, shifting allegiances
Interestingly, Sanwo-Olu still reports to Ambode, the appointing authority who got him his current job as the Managing Director, Lagos State Development Property Corporation (LSDPC).
He is yet to give a hint of resignation from his current job.
The governor’s camp also confirmed to Saturday Tribune that a couple of commissioners in his cabinet have shifted allegiance to Sanwo-Olu and like the wave-making aspirant, they have refused to quit the governor’s cabinet.
“How can people be so heartless, without conscience? How do they (defecting commissioners) get to look him (Governor Ambode) in the face despite the fact that they know he knows where they stand now? Our people are funny. It is because of Asiwaju they are behaving so arrogantly.
“How can you be fighting a man and be eating his food? If you no longer believe in his leadership, quitting is the most honourable thing to do. It happened in Osun. [Moshood] Adeoti [Action Democratic Party (ADP) governorship candidate] left Aregbesola’s cabinet to face his governorship project. Here (Lagos cabinet), they are saying the governor cannot touch them because their removal will exacerbate his crisis. Can you imagine the so-called progressives we say we are?” the source fighting on the side of the governor disclosed.
Three governors who reportedly referred to Ambode as “pompous for nothing” when their intervention was sought are said to have agreed to get involved mainly for the sake of his emissaries, particularly a prominent one (name withheld).
They are also said to be adversaries of Tinubu and reportedly persuaded to support the governor against his estranged godfather as a way of further clipping the wings of the party’s national leader as 2023 politics evolves.
Tinubu is believed to be interested in running for president after Muhammadu Buhari.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, recently alluded to the suspicion and a lawyer-associate of the Lagos strongman also confirmed to Saturday Tribune that “we, his boys, encouraged him to run and he will run.”
Hamzat, who allegedly won the 2014 primary but had his votes credited to Ambode, is also bent on running against the governor whose corner confirmed to Saturday Tribune has also agreed to the direct primary called by Tinubu.
Old foe, newfound love
There are, however, fears among Hamzat’s supporters that Aregbesola might be using his endorsement of the former commissioner to break the bond between Fashola and his protege.
Many are wondering the decision of Tinubu and Aregbesola’s camps to have two anointed aspirants when the two camps are known to always work together.
For agreeing to meet with Aregbesola and romancing Tinubu again after the 2014 bitter primary, Hamzat is believed to have boxed himself to a tight corner, considering that both Fashola and Tinubu camps may not completely trust him again.
Fashola’s camp was believed to be packaging him for the Adeoti kind-of-project in Lagos before he started romancing Tinubu’s camp.
The ADP platform in Lagos was reportedly being prepared for him before his new move.
He is thought to have been used in reducing Fashola’s influence in the ongoing political chess-game and likely to have lost out in getting Abuja solidly behind him again either on APC or ADP platform.
Before Sanwo-Olu’s anointing, the man leading his campaign as the Director General, Tayo Ayinde, was the initial consideration, Saturday Tribune has learnt.
The former Chief Detail of Tinubu, Ayinde, who has been his close associate since he exited the intelligence world, was said to have lost to last-minute horse-trading as associates of the leader feared another strong anointed candidate after the Ambode saga.
Ayinde is reportedly pencilled in as the incoming Secretary to the State Government (SSG) if Sanwo-Olu made it as governor.
Turning the tables
Grassroots support for Ambode is still a worry for his handlers, considering that nine out of the 20 main campaign coordinators of Sanwo-Olu are sitting chairmen of local government areas and LCDAs.
His hold on the party structure in the state is also very shaky as top state executive council members like the party’s Organising Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi Enilolobo, are directly involved in Sanwo-Olu’s campaign. Enilolobo is the director of mobilisation.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Wasiu Eshinlokun, is Sanwo-Olu’s research and intelligence director.
“Things aren’t in our favour right now but watch out, we are turning them around soon,” an ally of the governor said in response to an enquiry about the partisanship of the party leadership in the state.
A media gag
Meanwhile, media minders of the governor have been temporarily barred from engaging the public on the nomination crisis.
They are not to issue statements or make comments as their interventions were believed by the governor’s associates to be hurting their principal.