Frankly Speaking

July 3, 2016

Governor Akin Ambode has vindicated me (1)

Governor Akin Ambode has vindicated me (1)

Lagos CP, Fatai Owoseni and Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State.

By Dele Sobowale

“To know that which before us lies in daily life, is the prime wisdom. What is more is fume.” John Milton, 1608-1674. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 275).

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s first year in office is a resounding success by widespread acclamation. Nothing today gives me more joy. Had he failed, I would have been inundated with phone calls and text messages mocking me for calling for a Christian Governor in 2015 at a time when others were too afraid of the “god” of Lagos State politics to mention it.

But, then, as always in my life, I believed that all power belongs to God alone. Later, you will read reactions from some people who represented the voices of opposition to my stand at the time. You can judge for yourself who was right. Seldom does a writer who had taken a calculated risk with reputation, and possible life, end up announcing, years after, “I told you so”. Without breach of modesty, readers of this page and this column in late 2011, would recollect my four part series of articles titled: LAGOS STATE GOVERNORSHIP: 2015 CHRISTIAN AGENDA.

Expectedly it brought responses fast, furious, funny and sad. Understandably, because the theme of the series was clear. The so-called Progressives in Lagos state, especially the owner of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, had better start finding a Christian candidate to field for 2015 otherwise they ran a great risk of losing Lagos State.

Muslim Governors put forward by the “descendants” of Awolowo had governed Lagos as follows: Jakande- 51 months, Tinubu – 96 months, Fashola had finished 48 months and was set for another 48 months. The total is 243 months; to which they were eager to add another 96 months; to make it 339 months.

The only Christian Governor came from the opposition. And, that happened only because the “Progressives” disagreed on the candidate to back between two Muslims – Sarumi and Professor Agbalajobi. Otherwise those eight months served by Sir Otedola would also have gone to a Muslim. To rub salt on injury, we heard from the grapevine of Lagos, that the selection of Fashola’s successor had been narrowed down to four candidates – all Muslims.

The second most powerful position in Lagos State is that of Chief of Staff, COS, not Deputy Governor. In fact all the Christian Deputy Governors were treated worse than dirt from 1999 to 2015. The roll of honour of CoS, from 1999 to 2015, included: Alhaji Lai Mohammed (from Kwara), Alhaji Fashola, Alhaji Hakeem.  At one time, the Head of Service was another Alhaji Tinubu. Need I say more? These are facts which nobody can refute – all because of one man.

What started as inadvertent discrimination had suddenly become pre-meditated bigotry – especially when we also noticed the pattern of selection of candidates by the owner of the party in other states – Amosun in Ogun, Ajimobi in Oyo, Aregbesola in Osun, even Mimiko and Oshiomhole (then of Labor Party) in Ondo and Edo states, were all Muslims. The only exception was Fayemi in Ekiti State. When a leader exhibits that sort of bias, repeatedly, no reasonable person can assume it is any longer an accident. The fight by a group to get the APC to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket, for the Presidential election in 2015 had finally laid to rest any argument regarding deliberate discrimination against Christians in Lagos State from 1999. We foresaw this tendency early and we (at least I was) were prepared to resist it.

Like black Americans fighting for equal rights, it was not surprising to me that the series evoked the responses it did – mostly from our Muslim, as well as Christian brothers.

Below are samples of what I received and my responses to them. I deliberately excluded the death threats at the time because that told me how desperate some people were to hold on to their unfair advantage at all costs.

It is gratifying that even former Governor Fashola who opposed us, by stating that performance is not religion-linked (as if anybody ever said that), had observed my reply to his statement in the accomplishments of Ambode so far. I said then, “What one man can do, another can do better. Records are created to be broken.” The whole world is witness today to that fact.  Below are some of the printable responses to my series in 2011. The rest have been consigned to the dustbin of recent history. Enjoy them.

“0803-347-4820

An elderly and wise man like you should not incite people in matter of religion in Lagos. Do not create crisis in Lagos. We Lagosians are peace loving people.

“We love peace as we abhor pusillanimity; but, not peace at any price”.Douglas Jerrold, 1803- 1857 Australian writer.

(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 184.

“0805-215-5964

By all standards you qualify as a Senior Citizen of Lagos State.I didn’t believe you had a deep thought of what you might be igniting before u write on d Christian Governorship thing in Lagos. Please it takes a slip from people with followership like u to start what they cannot finish as there are millions out there to highjack noble talks and put the state on fire. I am a Christian. Lagos needs peace for development than who is the Gov. Muslim or Christian…”.

“This time we aren’t fighting [enemies], we are fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things got, they’re still our friends and this [Lagos State] is still our home”. Harper Lee, in TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD (modified to suit the occasion).

If those who sent these messages still read Vanguard, they are witnesses to the fact that the change we asked for occurred without anybody being killed, slapped or even pinched. The Christian brother can now see that peace can only endure when allied with justice.

As for the person who wrote for “we Lagosians”, I have a message. My father was born in 1890; his father in 1828 and my Daddy told us that our great-grandfather was born in the 1770s – all at Agbowa Ikosi in Lagos State. My grandpa’s grave is still in our compound till today. I hope the writer is not the offspring of carpet-baggers who trekked from some village before, or after, roads were tarred to join us. He cannot be more Lagosian than me certainly. Even the owner of ACN is not….

MAKING JOKE OF A SERIOUS MATTER –2

“Of all the grief that harass the distress, sure the most bitter is a scornful jest.” Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, (VBQ p 108).

Last week you read about the jokes told by the Governors from Northwest and Southwest. I ended by telling our readers that the Southwest Governor is performing magic. And he proved it during the launch of the School Feeding Programme at Aso Rock. First, “Wonder Governor” announced that he spends N50 per day per pupil while feeding about 250,000 of them. And the Vice President clapped. So, N12.5 million per day goes into it. In a month of 20 days, N250 million would be spent just to feed the kids. Very noble of the Governor.

But wait a minute. In December, the state collected minus N24.185 million; and in February N160 million from the Federation account. That a state can spend more money than it collects feeding school children is certainly a huge joke. And those in attendance laughed.

But, the real rib-cracker came when the SW Governor told the august participants the content of the “balanced diet” he serves the distressed kids in his state.  It includes egbo, a maize meal with a few beans, carefully counted on top, with a teaspoonful of oil and coco-yam porridge – which Wonder Governor swore was balanced diet for other peoples kids –certainly not his own. And the audience laughed again. Yours truly smelt a rotten rat in the whole show and consulted a nutrition expert who pointed out that such a diet, regularly administered to kids, would lead to calcium, iodine and iron deficiency.

I can’t help the Governor overcome iodine deficiency. But, the kids can get all the calcium they need if they eat the plates and there will be no iron deficiency if they swallow the spoons. Don’t laugh, please!!

How on earth did we come about these jesters called Governors? And, all these at Aso Rock? God help us.