By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Olasukanmi Akoni, Omeiza Ajayi and Monsuru Olowoopejo
LAGOS— GOVERNOR Akinwunmi Ambode’s prospects of returning as governor of Lagos State were yesterday hanging on the cliff with all major political players in the state pointing at the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for direction.
Meanwhile, Ambode has relocated to his home base in Epe where he is weighing his options in the face of chorused mobilisation by the political base of the party to stop him.
With the Tinubu camp seething of rebellion by Ambode, pacifists were, however, calling on Tinubu to thread with caution, with the assertion that he could lose his place of political ascendancy in the state if the crisis with the governor was not properly managed.
Indicative of the governor’s unbalanced position, the chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the party, Alhaji Babatunde Balogun said yesterday that the party and its mainstream were still waiting on Tinubu for direction in the face of what he said were three options.
The three options he cited were Ambode, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu, who is the choice of Tinubu’s Mandate Group and Dr. Femi Hamzat, a loyalist of the state’s immediate past governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
Pending a word from Tinubu, Balogun said the party would remain neutral.
I’m not threatened—Ambode
However, Ambode in a show of political fortitude yesterday submitted his nomination form, dismissing threats from political antagonists that he would do so at the risk of impeachment.
The embattled governor in his first public comment on the issue yesterday dismissed the reports of a rift between him and Tinubu. He spoke when he attended the APC’s presidential convention delegate selection exercise in Epe, Lagos.
The governor was being egged on by support by party activists from his Epe base where four Local Government Area/Development Area chairmen made a public knowledge of support for the governor’s second term bid.
His main challenger, Sanwo-Olu on his part said his candidacy was driven by the Lagos project saying his ambition “is about the Lagos we want to take to the next level.”
Besides the issue of the PSP waste disposal operators that Ambode set aside, it was also alleged that the governor’s decision to forge ahead with an independent political structure of his own had infuriated the Tinubu camp.
Adherents of the Lagos political leader were peeved that Ambode could if allowed forge ahead to displace the Tinubu machine which has controlled Lagos politics in the last 18 years.
“You never know what he can do in his second term if he is doing this in the first term. The option of allowing him to run and impeach him at the beginning of the second term is not one that should be contemplated,” a source said.
Many in the Tinubu camp it was alleged are seriously displeased with the governor over their displacement from reckoning.
Meanwhile, another source disclosed that the recent crisis rocking Alpha Beta, the Lagos State consultant on Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, surrounding its erstwhile Managing Director, Dapo Apara, was a contributory factor to the crisis.
It was perceived in some quarters that the revelations and controversy could not have arisen without being instigated by officials of the state government.
It would be recalled that Apara, had last week, taken to Twitter to churn out facts on the agency, even after petitioning Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on the alleged shenanigan perpetrated by the firm.
He added that the State Government had reduced the control of Alpha Beta after contacting a new firm to engage in financial management for the state.
As at last night, several high level interventions were said to be ongoing to smoothen the way for Ambode. The interventions were coming from royal fathers and political quarters in Abuja.
The prospects for reconciliation were, however, dimming in the consideration of some sources.
Council bosses dump Ambode
The chairman of a Local Council Development Authority, LCDA, in Lagos, told Vanguard yesterday that they have been instructed to commence mobilising grassroots support for Sanwo-Olu’s aspiration.
Noting that they have been instructed not to support Ambode, the local government boss said: “We operate as a family in Lagos, and we obey our leaders.
There is already an order that we should commence marketing Sanwo-Olu to the grassroots where power belongs. Before now, the Ambode re-election campaign had not commenced fully, but the latest development means that we are not going to work for him.
As loyal representatives of the people, who subscribe to the leadership style of our leader, we will not act contrary to the order. By this time next week, the Sanwo-Olu campaign will commence at the various councils ahead of the primaries.”
However, Ambode was basking in the support of at least four local government chairmen in his Epe axis in the state according to a press statement issued by the governor’s spokesman, Mr. Habib Haruna.
The local government bosses he said had endorsed Ambode were Adedoyin Adesanya, Chairman of Epe Local Government Area; Saliu Adeniyi, Chairman of Eredo LCDA; Samson Onanuga, Chairman of Ikosi-Ejirin LCDA; and Kehinde Adeniyi, party Chairman in Epe Local Government.
Nevertheless, there were still calls for caution from within Tinubu’s camp as some were also drawing the attention of the political leader to the possibility of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP exploiting the situation to win over the state.
Meanwhile, the calls for caution on the combatants was against the background of signals of still unsettled issues that arose from previous internal party nomination exercises.
“Don’t forget that many people are still unhappy because past promises of compensation for loyalty to the party are yet to be settled. These people can go anyway so if this is God’s way of containing Asiwaju you can never tell,” one senior party official told Vanguard on the condition of anonymity yesterday.
Grievances over primaries
“People are still aggrieved with the outcome of the last local government party primaries, and the idea of telling people to work for the party is not going to work this time,” a source revealed.
Even more, other party activists were calling for caution on the background of the increasing political consciousness of the non-Yoruba population in the state who it was claimed could exploit the situation to upend Tinubu’s political ascendancy in the state.
The exigency of time was, however, dawning on all concerned as it was claimed that resolving the issue immediately was of importance.
Explaining his absence and that of party executives at Ambode’s Monday declaration for a second term, Balogun, at a press conference said: ‘As a state chairman of the party, you do not expect me to be at such a gathering. We have not held a primary; we do not know the candidate yet to emerge. I am supposed to be neutral.”
Responding to questions about a possible crisis in the party, he said: “The fact is that the three people (Ambode, Jide Sanwoolu, Dr. Femi Hamzat) have obtained forms, let the party decide who emerges, that is why we are going for direct primaries.
The implication of direct primaries is that it allows all registered members, of over five million, to participate in choosing who becomes the candidate of the party, rather than the indirect that allows for only selected few who are delegates.”
No plans to impeach gov —Party chair
The party chairman also dismissed reports of a plot to impeach the governor for obtaining and submitting his form to go for a second term, saying “there is no such plan, all is about social media stunt which is uncontrolled.”
He also affirmed trust in Tinubu to successfully resolve the issue and give guidance to the party mainstream.
He said: “We have confidence in our National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He has delivered on many occasions. He is a man that can be trusted and reliable.
He has been directing the party aright towards progress and victories. What else do you expect from a leader? He has been a stabilizing force that is why we abide by most of his decisions.
For our party, he has been a pathfinder. Because of Tinubu’s singular efforts, APC has been able to expand since the days of AD, ACN, to date. So, wherever is going, we follow.”
Also, a source close to the governor, last night, said the matter would be resolved in the next 48 hours. According to the source, the horse-trading is “the normal half-time negotiation.”
Ambode dismisses rift with Tinubu
Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Habib Aruna, in a statement, yesterday, quoted the governor as dismissing the reports of a rift with Tinubu.
Ambode, while addressing party faithful in Epe during the election of delegates for the Presidential primary was quoted as saying: “I want you to know that there is no fight anywhere. The National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and my good self are not in any fight, we are not in any controversy.
“We are praying to God that the best is yet to come and the best will be what Lagos State deserves and I want you to just continue with your prayers that at this time, God will show His hand and make sure that everything that is of blessing to Lagos State and also blessing of Epe will come to pass.”
At the event which was held at APC’s Secretariat in Aiyetoro, Epe, Alhaji Shakiru Seriki (Bamu), Otunba Bode Alausa and Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, the State’ Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, were elected as national delegates from Epe division which comprises one Local Government Area (Epe) and two Local Council Development Areas (Eredo and Ikosi-Ejirin).
Aruna also said that youths in the division staged a peaceful protest displaying placards of various inscriptions to affirm their support for the governor’s second term bid.
Why I want Ambode’s job—Sanwo-Olu
Meanwhile, Sanwoolu at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday said his aspiration was a dream to project the interest of Lagos.
Speaking at the national secretariat of the APC where he went to submit his nomination form yesterday, he said: “I am 53 years myself. There is no doubt that things would be said here and there.
The man that is standing in front of you, a fully grown-man with several years of experience, like I said, it is about the Lagos of our dream, it is about the Lagos we want to take to the next level.
“I think it has nothing to do with our leader and there is no denial that he is our national leader and he takes the back position not only in the State but at the national and you know he has interest in the well-being and improvement of Nigeria’s dream.”
When asked whether he would feel betrayed if he were in Ambode’s shoes, he said: “The truth is, I am not in his shoes.
But the truth of the matter is, what has been generating issue about me is a reflection of how people have come to understand the person I am.”
Otedola yet to get PDP normination form
Meanwhile, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Diran Odeyemi, yesterday disclosed that Mr. Femi Otedola had not purchased any form for the governorship race.
“Mr. Otedola has not bought any form and neither has anyone bought forms for him,” he said.