On that Tinubu/Ambode Spat

by Peter Claver Oparah
Bola Tinubu

Whichever way the reported faceoff between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos and one of his predecessors and National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu eventually pans out, there is no doubt that the agitated development will eventually help party politics in Lagos and concretize solidarity between the party and the government it forms. I cannot claim to know the root cause of the disagreement between Asiwaju and his godson Ambode. I believe that most of the people expending heavy doses of adrenalin over the issue do not know the main issues as well. From what we have been told, it is alleged that Asiwaju has chosen someone else to back in 2019 governorship election in Lagos and that person is not the incumbent governor, Ambode who owes his visibility in politics, as well as his emergence as governor to Tinubu. There is nothing strange to Asiwaju backing someone else. In fact, most governors would have celebrated such development and seen it as a call for them to employ the huge powers and immense resources of the position to stamp their feet, cut out their image and shake off the shadows of a godfather that breathes down on them

We have seen many governors fight off the stranglehold of their godfathers and we have seen that the eventual benefits have often worked out to the favour of the governors and the sorrow of their godfathers. Orji Kalu versus Theodore Orji, Chimaroke Nnamani versus Sullivan Chime, George Akume versus Samuel Ortom, Peter Obi versus Willie Obiano, Godswill Akpabio versus Udom Emmanuel, among many other such altercations that re-arrange relationships between the political godfathers and their godsons. In every of these cases, the godsons have been favoured to emerge victorious against their godsons because they control the levers and fringes of power.

But the current alleged spat between Ambode and Asiwaju has enlivened the Nigerian political space like a thousand-watts current. The issue has become the main menu in Nigerian political discussions since it started and as the coming election fast approaches. It has been a sauce for both friends and foes of the duo and even the apolitical amongst us. It is not confined to Lagos but is a topical issue all over Nigeria; both with the literati and the uneducated. So far, so many tales, so many conjectures, so many permutations, so many speculations and so many scenarios have been fangled of this topic that you wonder why people who do not even have any interest in Lagos are so engrossed with what happens between Ambode and Tinubu. It is so engaging that you wonder why many have decided to break their heads over an issue that should be of interests only to registered voters and indigents of Lagos.

An effort to find out why the issue is so dominant drives us back to the important critical role and position of Lagos in Nigerian political space. Lagos is the former capital of Nigeria. It is Nigeria’s richest, most populous and most important state. It is Nigeria’s commercial capital, its hub and soul of the county, with an economy that is rated the fifth largest economy in Africa. Lagos harbors the greatest mix of Nigerians; either in tribe, tongue, class, empowerment, etc. and remains the sole mega city in Nigeria with an expansive capacity to influence life in the entire country. Lagos politics is a mirror of Nigerian politics and in Lagos exists the hugest collection of Nigerian elite, its intellectuals, its glitterati, its industrial power as well as the hub of its energy. So Lagos is not an ordinary Nigerian state!

Again, the question remains why it should be a major issue that Asiwaju decides to back any candidate of his choice. Why should that be an issue when it is engrained in his fundamental rights to freely chose whosoever to back? Why do some deign it a crime that Tinubu makes his choice of who to back or not to back when he is just an individual amongst over 20 million other Lagosians? Why can’t others make their own choices, be contended with it and move on instead of making an issue of whom he backs? The answer in that is that Tinubu is not called a Leader for nothing. He is not just any other politician. He is not just any other political godfather. He has shown leadership and clout. He has the followership. He has the grassroots clutch that his words mean a lot to millions of not just Lagosians but Nigerians. His antagonists know this fact which is why they run temperatures over his political acts, decisions and moves. He didn’t just pick these attributes from the roadsides. He didn’t happen on them by a stroke of fortune. He had worked and cultivated it especially since the dawn of this democracy in 1999 and he is presently at the zenith of his influence when the party he painstakingly built and the political tendency he cultivated has attained power in Nigeria.

On the other hand, Ambode draws zealous passion from his stellar performance in Lagos for the past three years. This was a man that was hewn and paneled in the political laboratory of Asiwaju and who no one except Asiwaju gave any chance of being a successful governor as at the time he was being packaged for the position. What more, Ambode was only months in office when the London-based Economist magazine scathingly wrote him off and predicted he would flunk at the job his last two predecessors made very great impact on. Perhaps, these doubts and skepticisms were what was needed to trudge Ambode to become the huge success he has become today. He had impacted on every sector of governance in Lagos in such defining way that many Lagosians can sink and swim with him.

So what should be the tiff between these two eminent successful figures? If we are to answer this question, we will revert back to the rumour mill where diverse stories and tales have been concocted about this issue. Curiously the two gladiators who can conveniently be described as father and son have not advanced any reasons publicly as the cause of the friction that led to Asiwaju withdrawing from supporting Ambode for an additional term. From the array of tittle-tattles heard so far, the most believable is the story that Asiwaju feels irked by the complaints of party leaders and faithful who allege they have been sidelined by the actions of the Ambode government in many areas and that such snubbing has engendered a feeling of exclusivity from party members. I believe this story because if Ambode has done the needful in this regard, the withdrawing of support from Asiwaju would have been seen as a good riddance because other party members would have easily flocked around him at his moment of trial.

However, Ambode is practically an orphan in his battle with Asiwaju despite his huge success story. The party rank and file have switched camps against him which makes the Asiwaju threat of withdrawing support very portent. This shouldn’t be so if he had carried his party along. There is no question that the party owns the mandate the governor is wielding and the governor heads the mandate so every effort must be made to strike cohesion between the actions and programs and policies of a government with those of the party. A party is a vehicle and if a vehicle is allowed to dilapidate to an unmendable state, it won’t carry the occupants; of which the governor is first, to their desired destination. It cannot be overemphasized that a successful government cannot be run without the party whose manifestos and activities procured the seat. A party is like a ladder and whoever pushes off the ladder after reaching the heights courts suicide because he needs the same ladder to get down. The interests of the party should be well taken care of alongside with the interests of the masses in governance.

Having said that, I feel that the party should not toss off its golden boy for that singular mistake. If Ambode has been a non-performer, it would have been very easy to throw him to the coyotes who are among the people now cheering a confrontation between Ambode and Asiwaju merely for its nuisance value and how well it thrives their own speculations to take power. So in a star performer like Ambode, Asiwaju and the party leadership and followership in Lagos needs to stretch the grace period and allow him to complete his constitutionally guaranteed term just because he had done very well. Let this spat end and let us move towards the coming election with a united mission and force. It is certain that anything less than this will fracture a solid, impregnable family. Even if victory emerges to either of the sides of the aisle in the long run, it will be mitigated by the division within the house.

As someone that lives in Lagos, I am a stakeholder who can attest that Ambode has done well, like his two eminent predecessors-thanks to Asiwaju and the APC for we knew the bitter, gritty battle that was fought to get him into office. He must have learnt his lessons as well as newer political arts by what is happening now for he had gotten so close to losing his golden run. Let The Leader, the Logician and the Pathfinder of our time, with the party leadership and followership in Lagos draw him back closer for a new beginning because the combo between these offers much more promises to Lagos and Nigeria than any alternative.



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