By David Oyekanmi
Ever since the events culminating in the thwarting of his eminently deserved second term in office, Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has privately and publicly demonstrated very rare courage and character and truly moved on by accepting the outcome of the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which threw up Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the gubernatorial candidate of the party for next year’s general elections in the state.
In the build up to the governorship primaries, there were intense political activities which hitherto created palpable tension in the state but immediately after the said primaries and twists that followed, Governor Ambode in a statewide broadcast did not only congratulate Sanwo-Olu, but also pledged to work for the victory of the party, a shrewd sacrifice that drastically brought down the tension in the political firmament of the state.
“Fellow Lagosians, the last few days have witnessed intense political activities that have gripped the attention of the nation and created palpable tension in the polity. I strongly believe that the time has now come for the state to move forward in order that the gains of the last three and half years are not lost.
“APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group. It is in this regard that I wholeheartedly congratulate the winner of the Lagos State APC Primaries, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and urge all Lagosians to immediately support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections and work for the success of our dear party,” The governor said in the broadcast.
After that, Ambode commenced another move to galvanize all the critical stakeholders in the party to ensure that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not take advantage of the fallout in the primaries to clinch power in the state.
During the first weekly Exco meeting after the primaries, Governor Ambode had specifically told cabinet members to forgive and forget the past, and team up with the candidate of the party to ensure victory, which would in turn, according to him, foster the consolidation of the massive gains recorded in the last three and half years.
To authenticate the development, a cabinet member had quoted the Governor as saying that, “The primaries have been concluded at all levels. We must forgive one another irrespective of what happened before the primaries. As a Christian, I will never be vindictive to any person for opposing my re-election.
“The State Executive Council has taken off fully and we should focus more on governance and issues of public concern rather than engaging in another round of political conflict that can undermine governance and public administration.
“We must all double our efforts to make Lagos a true Centre of Excellence. All of us must forget what has happened. We must forgive and forget so that we can face the business of government with renewed spirit and approach the next election in unity,” the Governor said.
While also walking the talk, Governor Ambode immediately ordered that his campaign structure, Ambode Mandate Support Group (AMSG), be collapsed into the Sanwo-Olu Campaign Council which later transformed into Independent Support Group (ICG) to work for the victory of all APC candidates in the state, as well as the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in 2019.
From the political front, several other moves were initiated and still being implemented by Governor Ambode to ensure APC victory across board, including directing his supporters across the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to begin grassroots campaign for the APC governorship candidate, while preaching message of forgiveness and unity.
Speaking to journalists at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport shortly after he accompanied President Buhari to perform the official commissioning of the new Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Border Posts at Seme-Krake joint border post in Badagry, Ambode publicly assured all that he would lead a strong campaign to ensure victory for the President and Sanwo-Olu in the 2019 general elections.
“I want again use this opportunity to let Lagosians know that we are heavily committed to the re-election of Mr. President and you can see that his continuous visit to Lagos reiterates the fact that he is actually a lover of Lagos State and I am committed to ensuring his re-election,”he said.
At another event recently during the unveiling of an ultra-modern lecture theater donated to the Lagos State University (LASU) by businessman and philanthropist, Chief Remi Makanjuola, on November 22, 2018, Ambode assured, in the presence of the APC candidate, that Sanwo-Olu would not abandon ongoing projects in the state but would rather complete and build on the enduring legacies already put in place by his administration.
“I am so excited about the fact that Mr. Sanwo-Olu has actually come out here and he has issued a promissory note and what that meant is that we are going to have a government of continuity,”the governor said.
Aside hosting Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, on a number of occasions at Lagos House together with members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), and visiting some markets in Lagos with the Vice President to launch the TraderMoni initiative, Governor Ambode has also continued with his message of assurance to Lagosians that the APC government remains the best option in 2019.
This assurance was restated by the Governor recently during the presentation of cheques to over 2,000 beneficiaries of the loan programme of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) held at LTV Blue Roof, Agidingbi, Ikeja, on November 26, 2018; and during the 12th Annual Town Hall on Security organised by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund on November 28, 2018, at Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Yet on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, in Abuja during the National Consultative Forum of the National Committee of Buhari Support Groups, a coordinating body of all the groups campaigning for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo in 2019, Ambode vigorously campaigned for the party’s presidential and governorship candidates.
Speaking at the event held at Nicon Luxury, Abuja, Ambode stunned the participants drawn from across the country when he said that Lagos State had not benefited anything from the PDP’s reign at the centre in the last sixteen years.
“Sixteen years of PDP, I can say it clearly that Lagos State never enjoyed anything from them. Three and half years of APC, I can clearly attest here that whatever it is that we have achieved in Lagos in the last three and half years, the present Federal Government has largely contributed to the things that we have achieved be it in terms of right of way, be it in terms of approval for waivers for import duties and other things that have actually made Lagos to be on the progressive trajectory that it had been in the last twenty years.”
“So, for me it is very easy and it is just common sense that we have to uphold the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket to allow that economic progress and the growth in the GDP that we want for Nigeria rather than allowing it to get dismantled and then make us to go back to Egypt after crossing the Red Sea, and we are not going back to Egypt,” Governor Ambode said.
At another meeting in Epe few days ago, held at the instance of the governor with APC leaders from the division comprising Epe Local Government, Eredo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Ikosi-Ejirin LCDA and the entire Lagos East Senatorial District, the governor continued his message of unity and specifically urged voters in the division to vote massively for the APC at all levels.
Also, as a member of the National Peace and Reconciliation Committee set up by the APC to pacify aspirants and members aggrieved with the outcome of the primaries conducted by the party to elect candidates for next year’s general elections, Ambode has visibly been involved in trying to pacify aggrieved members of the party in the South West region to queue behind Buhari and Osinbajo.
At one of the peace meetings held in Lagos, the governor stated unequivocally that “I can declare here that we do not have any issue in Lagos State and that we are one family. But again that is not to say that there is no platform for reconciliation; we do not know whether there are some aspirants who are aggrieved but we can say affirmatively as a party that we are one family in Lagos State,” he said.
Also, at a stakeholders’ meeting of APC held at the State secretariat of the party on Acme Road in Ogba on December 17, Ambode further demonstrated his acceptance of the party’s position with regards to emergence of the governorship candidate when he officially endorsed Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat by raising their hands before scores of party leaders and faithful and wished them well in the March 2, 2019 election.
Interestingly, however, the Governor’s sacrifice and efforts to unite the party had not gone unnoticed. In fact he has earned accolades from within and outside the state.
Speaking, Chairman, APC National Peace and Reconciliation Committee for South West, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, described Ambode as the politician of the year for displaying uncommon courage and spirit after the party’s primaries in Lagos.
Another member of the Committee, Senator Sa’ida Sa’ad Bugaje, said Ambode’s actions after the primaries had resonated beyond the state as a learning curve in leadership and sportsmanship for future leaders.
“I was at a youth forum recently where young people were dissecting Governor Ambode’s leadership story as a perfect example. They said they had never seen such in the history of Nigeria since 1999. They said they look up to Governor Ambode as a role model in terms of peace and good leadership,” she said.
Also, Deputy Governorship candidate of APC for Lagos State, Hamzat, said Ambode deserved commendations for displaying unusual maturity and character which eloquently confirmed him as a man with large heart.
Even the Presidency noticed the sacrifice made by the governor for the unity of the party and President Muhammadu Buhari commended Ambode for his rare loyalty to the party.
“In every competition, someone has to win and someone has to lose, but those who lost should not abandon the party or lose their enthusiasm for the advancement of the party,” Buhari said, urging other Nigerian politicians to learn from the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, “who despite his loss didn’t abandon the APC for another party because he was angry over the outcome of the governorship primaries,” Buhari said.
No doubt, Ambode has demonstrated an unusual courage, character and commitment that is unheard of in this part of the world with the way he managed the fallouts of the party primaries in the state. The governor placed the unity of the party and the development of the state and the country as a whole beyond his personal interest. Nigerian politics and the democratic process would be on a solid trajectory if politicians can emulate the governor.