By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Noun definition of loyalty in English by Oxford dictionary is the quality of being loyal while the adjective form has it as giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution. Tried and true.
During his ministerial screening at the Senate, the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, echoed and schooled senators on his own concept of loyalty in respect of his encounters with the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, during his tenure at the Government House, Alausa.
He said, “The concept of loyalty is a very strange concept. I always pray that my loyalty should not be tested. We may discuss it loosely, but you may not know. When loyalty is tested, you might have to take a bullet for your own child. I have remained loyal to causes I signed to. I stand by my word.
“Nobody can fairly accuse me of giving my word and going back on my word”.
Jocularly, he said a prayer to rap-up his defense to which all the senators chorused “Amen”.
His successor, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, in recent times, has been battling to save his re-election bid for 2019 after his loyalty had been tested by APC leaders.
Ambode had fallen into stormy waters with Tinubu especially, over several alleged breach of trust and other offenses ranging from disloyalty to wealth aggrandizement and the introduction of a refuse collection outfit without due process, among others.
The governor, who had treated the development with kid gloves, later realized his naivety in a hard way when Asiwaju, the “Jagaban”, as he is fondly called, raised a formidable challenger against him (Ambode) for the 2019 gubernatorial ticket of the APC in Lagos.
The development has posed a threat to the governor’s political future since the Tinubu-led Mandate Movement propped the Managing Director of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to challenge the governor at the party’s primary. 98 per cent of the Chairmen of the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas in the state had also declared support for Sanwo-Olu as well as major stakeholders which prompted the immediate setting up of Babajide Sanwo-Olu Campaign Organisation,BOSCO.
As if this was not enough, another strong contender emerged in the former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who has the backing of an equally powerful group, the Justice Forum.
Albeit, there have been series of maneuverings and lobbying by the incumbent governor to save his skin.
President Muhammadu Buhari had intervened several times for “Jagaban “ to have a rethink. The efforts of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi and Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, to save Ambode also failed.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the National Chairman of APC Adams Oshiomhole have also intervened but failed to secure Tinubu’s support for Ambode. They could not persuade the APC National Leader to “forgive” Ambode alleged infractions and back the governor to secure a second term.
However, there came a ray of hope for Ambode in Oshogbo, Osun State capital, during the APC mega rally ahead of the state governorship election last Tuesday, when Buhari, the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Aremu Olusegun Osoba, begged Tinubu again who decided to re-present the matter before the Governor’s Advisory Council, Lagos State’s highest advisory political organ under the leadership of Tinubu, at a meeting on Wednesday. The meeting could not actually decide on the matter due to the Osun gubernatorial election which took place yesterday. The final decision was expected to be taken on Ambode’s fate as the meeting was rescheduled to hold last night.
Previously, there were calculations that the crisis could be resolved in favour of Ambode in Osogbo, as some APC members were of the opinion that the party could be stretching its luck too far if it denies the incumbent a ticket.
Also, in a desperate move by Ambode’s wife, Bolanle, to save her husband’s job in an unprecedented outing, she accompanied her husband for the purpose of begging Asiwaju but her efforts did not yield any positive result.
Meanwhile, in solidarity, some youths from Epe, the home town of Ambode, on Tuesday, rallied on major streets in the community to drum support for the governor’s re-election.
One of the APC members, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard under anonymity, at the Lagos State secretariat of the party, wondered, “What is Ambode afraid of in going for the primary if he is popular? He should go and test his popularity, afterall, he is the incumbent. If he emerges from the primary, that will further strengthen internal democracy in the party.
The Chairman of the Lagos chapter of APC, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, lent credence to this, describing the race for the guber ticket by the three contenders as “healthy”.
With what is playing out on Ambode’s re conciliatory moves, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, the Director- General of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu Campaign Organisation, said there had not been any resolution, stressing that his principal (Sanwo-Olu) was not ready to step down for anybody.
“It is the party and not Tinubu that said other aspirants should contest the governorship ticket. There is no iota of truth in the narrative that APC governors and President Buhari prevailed on Tinubu to reverse the decision”, Ayinde said.
“There is no going back on the Sanwo-Olu ambition. The National Leader did not instruct us to back out and he wouldn’t even say so because it is a party affair, not individual. My aspirant is going ahead to participate in the direct primary”.
Some elders and members of the party, who do not like the face of Ambode, are of the opinion that, if given the second term, the governor will get back at them and might possibly destroy Tinubu and Aregbesola’s structures in Lagos as part of break-away to end “godfatherism” in Lagos.
In a related development, since the joker by Tinubu against Ambode was let out of the bag, in Sanwo-Olu, some activities of the state government appear to have been severely affected as the governor runs around to save his job. The capital projects which seem to have been suspended by contractors due to lack of funds and because of the fear of the unknown include the Oshodi-Abule Egba Bus Rapid Transit Corridor being built along Lagos-Abeokuta Road, Agege Fly Over Bridge and Expansion of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Express Way.
If Ambode loses out at the end of the day, he will go down in history as the first democratically elected governor in Lagos that failed to use two terms of eight years. According to a source, there was a strong signal that a resolution could be struck before next week’s governorship primary of the APC across the country to pave the way for Ambode’s second term.
Even as some officials of Ambode Mandate Support Group, AMSG, intensify moves to roll out campaign programmes anytime soon, it was gathered that the repentant incumbent governor may have agreed to sign a code of conduct that would form the crux of his administration in second term as his loyalty will be put to test again.