By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Dapo Akinrefon, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsuru Olowoopwjo
LAGOS—THE unfolding move to oust Governor Akinwunmi Ambode from political relevance in Lagos State went a step further yesterday after his key rival, for the All Progressives Congress, APC governorship ticket, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu set up a campaign structure to accentuate his ambition.
The move came in the light of disclosures that APC national leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was under tremendous pressure from his political base not to support a second term for Governor Ambode.
The pressure on Tinubu from his political base came as a faction of the APC in the state, some monarchs, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP rallied to the side of the embattled governor of the nation’s commercial nerve centre.
Even more, a group of 50 opposition political parties operating in cahoots with some activists under the aegis of Lagos Democracy Advancement Forces said the evolving crisis in the APC was a golden opportunity for the state to be liberated from the apron strings of Asiwaju Tinubu.
Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu, the choice of Tinubu’s supporters in anticipation of glory yesterday promised to reveal himself soon as he urged the political base not to be distracted by rumours and insinuations on his objectives.
A statement issued by the Sanwo-Olu Campaign its Director-General, Hon. Tayo Ayinde, last night announced the appointment of a 21-man campaign committee including three senatorial coordinators.
Among those named yesterday, as members of the committee, were the Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni (Director of Research and Intelligence), Majority Leader, Senai Agunbiade, (Director of Legal) and Chairman of Agege Local Government, Mr. Kola Egunjobi, who is to coordinate Non-governmental Organisations, NGOs, civil society and students.
The senatorial coordinators appointed were Hon. Rasak Ajala (West), Hon. Wahab King (Central) and Mayor Dele Oshinowo (East).
Also among the campaign directors appointed yesterday were Alhaji Abdullahi Eniloobo (Mobilisation), Hon. Sesan Dani (Media and Publcity) and Hon. Bolanle Akinyemi-Obe (Women Affairs.)
Ambode’s travails beyond Tinubu
Sources privy to the developments that had pitched Ambode against his benefactor, Tinubu, Vanguard learnt were deeper than imagined and appeared to many as they said that it was beyond Tinubu.
“This is not a Tinubu matter as many are saying, it is more than Asiwaju,” the source revealed as he noted that Ambode was in a battle with the political base as symbolised by Tinubu.
“Tinubu is just a figurehead in this battle and is almost a prisoner in this battle between the troops and Ambode,” the source revealed.
Among the charges levelled against Ambode included aloofness from the party and his deliberate refusal to service the political structure as erected by Tinubu.
“As a major stakeholder I could call Asiwaju as governor, I could approach Fashola, and if I sent him a text he would reply, but Ambode I don’t have his number, and he is unapproachable.”
Another source said, “yes it could be true that Asiwaju has his issues with him, but I can tell you that Ambode’s problem is with the party. If Asiwaju can manage him, definitely we cannot manage him,” another source said yesterday.
Vanguard gathered yesterday that on account of the austere disposal of the governor towards his commissioners that some members of the cabinet who had seen their time in the cabinet as not profitable were planning to exit to contest for state and National Assembly elections.
“You can see that staying in the cabinet is not a guarantee for emotional or material stability. Tinubu never dissolved his cabinet, Fashola did his commissioners well, but it is not so with our oga.
“I can tell you that up to eight members of the cabinet are preparing to leave the cabinet for other political aspirations,” a member of the state’s cabinet revealed yesterday.
Ambode returns toGovt House, meets monarchs; Oba of Lagos absent
The embattled governor was, however, yet unmoving as he changed his mind and relocated from his Epe base to the State House, Ikeja from where he and some aides coordinated a charm offensive to woo back support.
Among those, the governor interacted with yesterday were some traditional rulers who met with him in a closed-door meeting.
The monarchs, it was learned, had gathered at T-Block at Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja specifically to discuss issues that had enveloped the political atmosphere in the state.
Following that meeting, the monarchs proceeded to the State House. As at press time last night there were yet conflicting indications as to whether the governor personally interfaced with them.
The Oba of Lagos Oba Rilwan Akiolu was not among those in the delegation of the monarchs.
Vanguard gathered yesterday that insinuations that the monarch was among those pleading for the governor might be far-fetched.
“Those saying so do not know the relationship between the Oba and Jide Sanwo-Olu who is his relation,” one source said.
PDP opens door to Ambode
The opposition PDP in the state yesterday formally intervened into the melee in the ruling party when it opened its doors to the embattled governor.
The Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Mr. Taofeek Gani, in a statement said that the party would be glad to receive Ambode into its fold if he decided to leave APC for whatever reason.
Gani said: “Any forward-looking party would not have rejected its main opponent joining it, especially a big personality like Ambode.
“We are ready to welcome him (Ambode) to our party if he decides to join for any reason. We are very ready to accept him if he decides to join us.
“You see PDP is a party for all, so far as the value will be added. We cannot turn down our opponents, especially a big personality like Ambode.
“Therefore, he is welcome. His joining us will add value and boost our chances to win the state.”
He said the party would accord him all the rights and privileges with the existing members to realise his political ambitions.
Sanwoolu, notthreat to Ambode—APC faction
Support also came from the faction of the party aligned to Fouad Oki who yesterday played down assertions that Ambode had reached a political dead end as he affirmed that the governor was on his way to re-election.
He said, “To me, Ambode is very much in the race. From every investigation, there is nothing concrete against him. Jide Sanwoolu supporters are no threat to the ambition of Ambode.
“The Sanwo-Olu groups are just making noise in the media of the Mandate Group. Their numbers can’t take them into electoral victory; I know that for a fact.”
APC plotting to rig primary—Oki
Also, while reacting to the claim by the chairman of the party, Alhaji Tunde Balogun of having five million registered voters, Oki said, “The factional chairman of APC, Tunde Balogun claiming to have five million registered voters is not true.
“If they have five million members why is the total number of registered voters 6.2 or 6.5million in Lagos, are they saying that it’s only politicians that have registered to vote in Lagos. If one party, out of 91 parties has five million registered members, what is the assurance that they are all registered voters.
Saying that Balogun’s claim was a plot to rig the forthcoming party primaries, he said: “Why he said that is because they are planning to rig the primaries. The reason why they are excited on direct primaries, it’s not because they are democrats, not because they believe in the popular franchise, it’s just because they want to use a rigging apparatus to stop their perceived opposition or foes from emerging.
“And to do that they need justification, and they have used a wrong justification on the Tinubu to decide who becomes the next governor of the state. Is it the type of democracy we are craving for, we need to ask ourselves some questions.”
Youths rally for Ambode
Support for Ambode also came the way of the governor from a group of youths, under the aegis of “Lagos Democracy Advancement Forces,” LADFORCE, which called on the leadership of the party to end the politics of ‘godfatherism” saying it is inimical to the unity and progress of the party, even as it urged Ambode to leave APC for another party, saying, “enough is enough.”.
Speaking at a media briefing, the convener, Mark Adebayo, claimed that no fewer than 50 political parties are waiting to endorse Ambode for next year’s poll immediately he defects from APC.
The group believed that leaving APC would liberate Lagos State from Tinubu’s “chessboard”, as they described the political leader as an individual that had pushed governance in the state around at his own will “ for self-centered pedestrianism.”
“It is being alleged that it is Tinubu who masterminded the sudden emergence of Sanwo-Olu as the anointed governorship candidate of the Lagos powers that be. It is being alleged that he is a mere decoy for the real power game that is unfolding.
On their plan to end Tinubu’s dominance in Lagos, Adebayo said: “The first stage of the revolution is to mobilise a minimum of 50 political parties in Lagos State to adopt Governor Ambode as their governorship candidate. A contact and liaison committee has been set up to actualise that project.
“Moreover, LADFORCE as an umbrella organisation for the five organisations that formed this coalition will effectively utilize its structures in all the Wards, LGAs and LCDAs of Lagos State as the effective machinery of mobilising Lagosians for the mother of all socio-political revolutions in Lagos State.
The group, while applauding PDP for wooing oil magnate, Femi Otedola, to become its governorship candidate, described the emergence of the businessman as another individual that could rescue the state from Tinubu through the poll next year.
“Having been a successful businessman and a political virgin, so to speak, Femi Otedola might just be the Messiah to break the almost twenty years of the tarantula’s stranglehold on Lagos and Lagosians.”