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Tribulations of Ambode: When good performance is not enough

“A man alone hasn’t got a chance.”Ernest Hemmingway, 1898-1961’

Hemmingway, an American Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 1954, wrote several books including The Sun Also Rises and Road to Dusty death. I read all of them because I loved his simple style which nevertheless has a way of sticking the truth in your guts long after you have finished the book.

Akinwunmi Ambode

The statement above is taken from the second book. Summarised, it teaches a valuable lesson to everyone who is engaged in social, economic and political activities with other men where teamwork is the most important ingredient for success.

Sports offer us some contrasts. A miler or tennis player or golfer or boxer needs not acquire the spirit of cooperation. But, a footballer or rugby player would not go very far in his career if he does not pass the ball as often as he should when necessary. Marketing, politics and war – which are alike in many respects – are fields of human endeavour in which collaboration with others in the same group is essential. I spent most of my early career in Marketing and Sales – starting with my first sales work in Boston US in 1968 and finishing in VANGUARD in 2008.

In between, I had other assignments that were not purely marketing and sales related. But, the lessons and experiences I gained selling or teaching people to sell over five hundred different products have continued to remind me about that line from Hemmingway. A person can fit into and last as a member of a lot of groups if everybody strongly believes he is working for the association, party or Committee of Friends.

The palace coup against Governor Ambode did not come as a surprise to me. I knew about it months ago. But, it was not my business to call the Governor (I don’t even have his number) and warn him. As one of the longest members of some Lagos Clubs and generally known to be non-partisan media person, I enjoy total confidence among politicians when they gather to talk and I am around. They never ask me to excuse them. So, I got the first hints of a plot months ago and quietly followed developments. Sooner or later the secret would come out as it did two weeks ago.

However, before going forward, let me remind our readers that in late 2010 and early 2011, on the pages of SUNDAY VANGUARD, I had published a series of articles titled LAGOS STATE GOVERNORSHIP 2015 – CHRISTIAN AGENDA. In it the history of progressive politics in the state was reviewed showing that all the elected governors of Lago State, except one, Sir Otedola, were Muslims.

Even Otedola became governor because the Muslim leaders of the progressive movement disagreed over whether Professor Agbalajobi or Engineer Sarumi, both Muslims, should be fielded. As a Lagosian on both sides of my family, and each family equally divided between Muslims and Christians, I thought the political leaders were being unfair to Christians and something needed to be done. More so, when reliable information had reached me that the Leader had already penned down four names as possible successors to Fashola – also a Muslim. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“In a sick country [or state], every step to health is an insult to those who live on the sickness.” Bernard Malamud in THE FIXER.

Something had to be done to bring some fairness into Lagos politics and I took up the challenge to do it. Those articles which brought threats, maledictions, at first; then support and triumph in the end, triggered a lot of underground political activities. Space will not permit me to go into details. But, I was aware that in making that declaration that I was challenging one of the mightiest political powers in the land. Friends and relatives who read the articles either ridiculed me for being naive or were afraid for the repercussions.

To be honest, I was not afraid or discouraged. I had a lot of work to do. Among the outcomes of the columns was the formation of Christian Conscience, CC, a group dedicated to ensuring that a Christian emerged governor of Lagos State in 2015. CC was the arrowhead of the campaign. But, with my neck on the chopping block, I was not taking chances. Other small groups were formed in rural parts of Lagos State to support the effort. In the end, we were so successful that the two political parties – APC and PDP – fielded Christian candidates. I was actually the one to invite Jimi Agbaje to join the race.

Ambode was the beneficiary of a war he never started or fought because while we had donations from several politicians, he gave us nothing as far as I know,. But, I was happy that once again the pen had proved very potent if used for a social not a selfish cause. Despite the initial victory, my instincts told me it might be temporary. So, at our last three meetings at CC, I admonished our members not to abandon the Governor when elected and to remain a standing body. I must confess that we all departed from the trenches after the election of 2015 – which is a pity and might have in some way contributed to Ambode’s tribulations now.

But, the Governor himself had been his own worst enemy in a political mine-field strewed with explosives. I would have expected him to identify the groups that fought for his emergence and to keep them close to himself as his first line of defence. Incidentally, several politicians as well as ordinary Nigerians outside Lagos followed the political drama in Lagos State from my first article to Election Day.

The question I had been asked in at least eighteen states of Nigeria has always been: did Ambode call you after the election to thank you? Or variations of it. My answer had always been: “He did not and he has no reason to, I did what I had to do; let him govern well and that is all the thank you I want.” One of my own leaders would be reading this and we still discussed the same question on September 19, 2018. He had called me to ask me what I think of Ambode’s tribulations. He shook his head when I told him about never being called by the Governor. Permit me now to make the first comments on the imminent turmoil matter in Lagos State if Ambode is sent off next year as objectively as I can – starting with one declaration. I like Ambode and I think he has performed excellently. Some of his accusers are also my friends and their grievances are well-known to me after months of listening to them grumbling.

“Are you going to hang him anyhow and try him afterward?” Mark Twain, 1835-1910. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 85.

Let us return to the opening paragraph for now and try and marry that with the narrative about CC. Let me be the first to admit that Ambode’s victory was not made possible by CC alone. A political party had to field him and at the core of that party is a major group with a Leader. Political organisations as we know them worldwide are like the wild dogs or hyenas in the jungles of Africa. They hunt as a group, with a leader, and they share the booty. None can or is allowed to seize the kill and devour alone.

The same is true of the Area Boys in Lagos – among who I voluntarily live. Sharing the loot is the name of the game and a politician will last long once he grasps that principle and applies it all the time. Someone who providentially gains advantage is seldom begrudged his lion’s share of the carcass. But, he is not expected to take everything. That is why from time immemorial it has always been said that “There is honour even among thieves”. However, this government started in May 2015 and if Ambode had been ignoring his political base and insulting” his Leader why wait till now to tell him? Why had the Lagos APC leadership not called him to order long before now? That raises a question about motive as well as timing of airing the grievances now being publicised.

The “hanging” group brought the rope and the evidence at the same time!!! However, just in case somebody thinks that Ambode had been exonerated let us consider the other side.

“Ingratitude is a worse crime, more despicable than revenge, which is returning evil for evil; while ingratitude returns evil for good.” William George Jordan.

From information available to me Governor Ambode is now being accused of sidelining all the people who worked for his success within the All Progressives Congress, APC. If true, he had broken the first rule of engagement in these social arrangements.

Again from information at my disposal, the feeling that under Ambode Lagos State had become a Öne Man’s Estate” is quite pervasive. All the Chairpersons of Local Governments and Development Areas, party leaders, most members of the State House of Assembly and even Commissioners have joined in the revolt. It is now generally known among the “coup plotters” that some Commissioners in Lagos State cannot boast of four million in their account. While that will keep them off the EFCC’s watch list, it nevertheless is embarrassing for the Centre of Excellence.

More annoying for the aggrieved is what is regarded as an assault on Alpha Beta Consulting whose ownership is closely tied to some powerful forces and which provides a great deal of the patronage the group enjoys. There is already a media war going on between Alpha Beta and one of its former top managers which is proving most inconvenient and the Governor is accused of not doing enough to halt the attack.

Finally, one complainant speaking for the rest has described Lagos State as “a state with one contractor”. The Governor has been accused of negotiating and awarding all the contracts by himself and approving them all alone and even following up on payments for contracts afterwards. Everybody else in government or party had become an onlooker as hundreds of billions flow out of Lagos State treasury to companies favoured by His Excellency. And, if he must know, some of those firms are suspected to be his own.

There is no need to list seriatim all the accusations made against the Governor. Readers should please remember that these are allegations. Readers should also notice that the conflict is not about performance or service delivery to the public. It is a family affair tied to money – no more, no less. What is one to make of this issue?

Because this article is being written before the screening of APC candidates takes place, please permit me to adjourn the matter for now. Stay tuned. I have some surprises for you.

LAMENTATIONS OF A PUBLIC SERVANT

NOTE: Read below a mother’s prescriptions for our national problems. She is also an author and a damn good writer. I am partial to ladies and would do virtually anything legal to help them. So, here we go. Enjoy it.

“God can’t be present everywhere and at all times; so he created mothers.” Anonymous.

“Sir, why can’t concerned and patriotic Nigerians come together and put pressure on government to postpone next year’s election to a later date to allow restructuring to take place? The truth is that the present govt is a Northern agenda in all things. Should Nigerians make the mistake of voting this government in next year, they will have themselves to blame. The truth is what you believe in will guide your conduct. These people who don’t believe in life after death can never do things right. In their minds is “WHERE IS THAT GOD?”

The solution is to get a consensus constitution  and a system where everyone must be subject to the law no matter their belief system or social status if we are not postponing the evil day. A day of reckoning is at the corner for God can’t be mocked.”

 

 


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