This certainly is not the best of time for the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, as he faces many battles to clear his name after an unceremonious exit from the Alausa Government House.
Observers say his greatest regret is his inability to secure a second term in office despite the power of incumbency. It was a battle he never thought he would lose, but the much coveted office was taken away from him with ease by his own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The gang-up was unprecedented and the huge resources he commanded as governor could not help him. More so, he was said to have been strangulated by an antagonistic legislature.
The humiliation notwithstanding, however, the former governor is said to have left with his head high, having accomplished some projects the people commended for their far-reaching impact on the people.
Many thought that denying Ambode a second term ticket would be sufficient punishment for him until allegations of corruption began to fly around him after he left office. The former governor is now in the trenches fighting many battles to clear his name and ward off further humiliation.
From all indications, it appears the forces that denied him a second term ticket are not done with him. In fact, it appears they have just started as they are bent on calling him to account for his four-year stewardship in Alausa.
It would be recalled that there was anxiety in the state following the emergence of Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu (who is now the governor) as the man chosen by the party to stand against Ambode. It was like a typical Nollywood blockbuster as Sanwo-Olu, who emerged out of the blue, became the protagonist of the gang-up against the former governor. The new governor was obviously the choice of the party as they all rallied round him to secure the party’s ticket and eventually win the governorship election.
Among other allegations, Ambode was accused of running a one-man show, thereby alienating many party leaders. The party leaders were also angered by the former governor’s waste management approach, which took away the system from the hands of the traditional PSP operators; majority of whom were owned by party leaders. He handed same to the Visionscope, an environmental utility company he brought for his Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI). In fact, one of the chieftains of the party was quoted as saying that Ambode bastardised the waste management system with his ‘Vision Nonsense.’
In the run-up to the 2019 elections, it was so glaring that Ambode had lost the support and goodwill of members of the party. In fact, during the direct primary election conducted in the state, most of his officials even voted publicly for Sanwo-Olu without any remorse. Eventually, the governor ate the proverbial humble pie and accepted the decision of the party in good faith by endorsing Sanwo-Olu for the governorship election.
But this did not placate the aggrieved party members. The twilight of Ambode’s administration was described as rather uninspiring. He was virtually deserted by the party people and every member was waiting anxiously for the administration to wind down for “a breath of fresh air.”
The refusal of the House of Assembly to pass the 2019 budget submitted to it by Ambode was seen as part of the grand plan to strangulate him and prevent him from spending a dime from it. And for the first time, the well-entrenched budget cycle of the state was disrupted on the altar of politics. The budget was not passed until Sanwo-Olu assumed office.
With Ambode out of office, little did Lagosians and observers of the unfolding intrigues in the state know that the gang-up, perfectly scripted and acted to deny the former governor a second term ticket, had just started.
It first started with the new governor allegedly reversing some of the actions taken by the previous administration, including the sack of some ad-hoc staff members of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), who were hired and trained to support emergency and disaster management in the state. There was also a mass shake-up in the civil service. Though described as routine, it was learnt from inside sources that some of the postings were targeted at removing the imprints of the former governor in the civil service.
Prior to the appointment of new ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari, it was reliably gathered that Ambode was favoured by the Presidency, but this was stoutly opposed by the APC leadership and the position eventually slipped away from him. As it appears, the former governor seems to have been left in the lurch, stripped of powers and influence; and he is likely to remain without any position for the next four years.
Amidst this battle, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came out with a report that it had secured a court order to freeze some bank accounts linked to the former governor over an alleged N9.9billion. According to the EFCC, the N9.9 b was paid from the state government’s accounts into the FCMB account opened on September 17, 2018 and operated by Adewale Adesanya, the permanent secretary in the office of the chief of staff to Ambode.
Ambode, however, denied links to the bank accounts, insisting he does not operate any bank account with as much as N9.9bn mentioned by the EFCC.
But this appears to be the beginning of his travails with the EFCC. In a follow-up to the alleged fraud, the anti-graft agency officials on August 20 raided the residences of Ambode in Epe and Parkview in Ikoyi for hours. Though the EFCC denied the raid, the former governor’s spokesman, Mr. Habib Aruna, confirmed that there were separate raids of the residences.
“These searches were carried out extensively, and at the end of the exercise, the operatives left without any incident.
“The former governor reiterates that the EFCC has, till date, not had any direct communication with him on any subject matter whatsoever, and if, or when it occurs, he is ready and willing to respond.
“The former governor wishes to assure his supporters and Lagosians to continue to remain calm and law-abiding as there is no cause for alarm,” Aruna said
Barely a week after the raid, the State House of Assembly went for the ex-governor’s jugular when it began a probe on the purchase of 820 buses by the administration out of the 5,000 proposed for the mass transit scheme in the state at the sum of N45bn.
The lawmakers said while there was actually a proposal to buy the buses, there was never a time the House approved the purchase.
In a motion, Gbolahan Yishawu, representing Eti Osa 2, explained that at an executive/legislative parley at Golden Tulip in FESTAC <http://festaconline.com.ng/> in September 2017, Ambode informed the lawmakers that 5,000 buses would be purchased by the state government.
The lawmaker stated that the executive proposed to spend N17 b to purchase the buses in the 2017 budget, but it was not approved by the Assembly.
He said, “In the 2018 and 2019 budgets, the state government proposed N24b and N7b respectively, but these were not approved. The state government still went ahead to import 820 buses at N7 b, and out of that, 520 are still awaiting clearance at the ports.”
At the end of the plenary, where most of the lawmakers berated the governor, a committee was set up to probe the purchase.
As part of the ongoing onslaught against the ex-governor, a group of young protesters, under the aegis of Lagos Youth Vanguard (LYV), also stormed the House of Assembly, demanding for his probe.
Some of the placards of the protesters read: “Ambode, submit yourself for probe,” “Ambode must be probed,” “EFCC do your job,” “Ambode awarded fake contracts,” among others.
The Lagos Youth Vanguard stated in their leaflet made available to journalists that Ambode “deliberately laid landmine through the obvious improper, inappropriate and insufficient content in his handover note that should serve as a guide to the incoming administration in the tradition of every civilised public officer.”
When contacted on the protest against him, the media aide to the former governor simply said, “No comment.” But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is accusing the state governor of being behind the protest against Ambode. The spokesman of the party, Taofik Gani, said the protest lacked “sincerity of purpose” and it was obviously calculated at embarrassing the immediate past governor. “Disturbing is the tendency of such protests to overheat the polity and increase the already created loss of confidence in the government,” the PDP spokesman said.
The PDP believes the seeming desperation to “disgrace” Ambode was taking a toll on governance, saying the internal dispute in the APC “has now exposed innocent Lagosians to worst governance ever; loss of lives and property and general insecurity.”
The chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Gboyega Akoshile did not respond to the allegation that his principal was behind the protest against his predecessor.
From all indications, the move to further emasculate the former governor is real and those who want his head are not ready to retreat despite being in the same party. Will Ambode survive the battles? Only time will tell.
But to many Lagosians, he remains one of the best the state has paraded. He might not have played his politics well, but analysts say he left a footprint in the state, which only posterity can judge.
A political analyst, Dr. Kayode Esuola, told our correspondent that Ambode was the architect of his travails within the party. According to him, “He did not obey one of the first laws of power. Never outshine the master. Ambode made an attempt to outshine the master and must go down for it.
“Realities are confronting Nigerians that the dream of democratisation is nose-diving daily. From the emergence of Fashola to Ambode, and now, Sanwo-Olu, Lagos politics has not been democratic though it has substantive governance.”