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Governor Ambode: When talk was not cheap

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

Silence could have been golden. But Ambode chose a world press conference. The sympathy of the neutrals was with the embattled governor.

Not many understood why he was being hounded by his political kinsmen. Yes, heaps of refuse have returned and remained part of the picture of Lagos.

Akinwunmi Ambode

And trucks have seized the city and are choking its inhabitants.  But governor Ambode hasn’t been utterly indolent. He had tackled security with practical efficiency at the outset. He had a vision for a cleaner transport system.

He reined in the cannibalism of Lagos Traffic Management Authority officials  and  their cousins in white and black—the VIOs. Yes, he had seemed uninspiring when they injected him into the scene.  But by his third year, many were convinced Tinubu didn’t disappoint the public. So when the party turned against him many Lagosians raised eye brows. Those brows came down at the press conference.

Tinubu and the party had drafted him in from oblivion. Governor  Fashola wasn’t amused. He  had other plans. But he was muscled out. He licked his wounds quietly and campaigned for Ambode. He didn’t preach the sufferings of democracy in the hands of god-fatherism. He was fathered by godfatherism.  Ambode  took pettiness to the throne. He inflicted more wounds on his castrated predecessor.  Ambode did not  read the handover notes of his predecessor. So he fell into pits dug before he was born.

A rattled Ambode chose a press conference.  And  came across like a sparrow that had eaten and challenging his god to a wrestling match. In choosing defiance many thought Ambode had unseen powers. But as Ambode ran from pillar to post and then to Abuja,  ordinary observers wondered how a former accountant general of a state could lack so much prudence. How could he be so poor in rank assessment and risk management? How could Ambode have become so bigheaded that nearly all his political kinsmen  testified of his detachment and lack of generosity?

The resentment was wide and deep. His pleas fell on deaf ears. They wanted him out.  But Ambode who was being punished for his aloofness didn’t listen. It is true that panic can cause   disorientation.  But when Ambode chose  defiance   rather than a dignified surrender his predicament came to resemble  that of the grasshopper destined to be eaten by Okpoko—a noisy bird.

In the press conference he poked a finger  into the eye of the gods of Lagos politics. The gods are benevolent, but it is not for nothing that they are always carried with two hands.  Ambode spoke like an irritated  child.  No one wins his kinsmen in a wrestling match. Ambode should have fought for the hearts and minds of his kinsmen till the end.

But he castigated them. He said they chose an unfit man. He  broke through the bounds of civility and  poured scorn on their lack of diligence.  They bemoaned his effrontery.

Ambode wanted a level-playing field.  He spoke like a returnee from Australia. The same Ambode whom the gods in their fickleness chose at night and foisted on the people three years ago. He said that transparency and equity  were the foundation of democracy. Ambode wasn’t just biting the fingers that fed him, he was saying that eating political amala with hands was bad habit.

If it was insolence alone then perhaps  he could be excused. Because there is in every heart that has lived in Lagos a compartment for area boy tantrums against any exuberant authority or perceived oppressor.  But when Ambode  at a world press conference turned gossiper, it dawned on even the neutrals that Ambode had started  dancing ‘surugede.’  But our ancestors had warned children about  suregede. Suregede was a dance of the spirits. A confrontation against the principalities of Lagos politics would need the blessing of many gods.

Lagos is neither Abia nor Akwa ibom. In those places political sons euthanize their political fathers. In Lagos the father doesn’t cut the umbilical cord of the children.

It could have been an olive brach. But he drew the battle line and drew his dagger. All there was left when he was cornered was a white towel. Ambode could have exited like a masquerade. People would have remembered his whistling and  dance steps off the stage. No one would have known his actual size. Now he has been denuned. Every market woman now knows he is a mere gossiper.

He could have left when public sympathy was high. Because he who runs,  lives to fight another day. But Ambode stayed and played. And what that has befallen him has left him worse than a cow without a tail.

The quality of mercy isn’t yet strained. But its unlikely that the damage that reference to Gbagada hospital has done can ever be undone. Because after that people started wondering whether starching and ironing a jeans trouser was actually  compatible with sanity.

The primaries turned out a rout. While the Abuja electoral panel dallied and dallied and drank tea in protea hotel Ikeja  his political kinsmen spoke with one  angry voice. In the days past it could have dragged on, on the rickety wheels of legal technicalities. But Oshiomhole overruled the panel and effectively  shut the door. And gave Ambode an opportunity to examine his wounds as his commissioners deserted him.

Ambode held another press conference. This time it was sober. But the damage had been done. It sounded like a dirge. His deputy governor had departed.  His hands were up. He had frittered away all goodwill. There was nothing left to give. He gave his hand of fellowship.

Talk isn’t always cheap.

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