Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Why have they thrown Ambode into the Lagos lagoon?

By Sam Ohuabunwa 
08 October 2018   |   3:30 am
Many Nigerians will remember the story of the threat which the Oba of Lagos was said to have issued to Ndigbo who lived in Lagos during the 2015 political season.

Governor Ambode

Many Nigerians will remember the story of the threat which the Oba of Lagos was said to have issued to Ndigbo who lived in Lagos during the 2015 political season. Those who decide what happens in Lagos State were in great panic. They looked into their crystal balls and found that a majority of Ndigbo in Lagos had planned to vote for Jimmy Agbaje of PDP as governor of Lagos. All the political principalities in APC in Lagos went beserk. What to do? Oba of Lagos was recruited. He summoned some of the so called Eze Ndigbo in Lagos and issued the infamous threat. They must vote for Ambode of APC or they better be prepared to be thrown into the Lagos Lagoon. It was a desperate situation that demanded desperate action.

Ambode went on to win the election. I do not know if the threat succeeded in frightening the Igbo Lagosians into voting for Ambode in order to stay alife or if it did not. But that threat actually awakened the Igbo, both in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria. When later in 2017, the Arewa Youths gave ultimatum to Ndigbo to move away from Northern Nigeria before 1st October, many Igbo finally (hopefully) came to the conclusion that they remain in a precarious situation in Nigeria. And the Nigerian government kept mute as Ndigbo went through these psychological terror campaign from our compatriots. As if these were not enough to break a people, this same Government visited additional terror on the people with operation Python dance 1& 2 and Operation crocodile tears. Yet paradoxically, the Igbo remain the most committed to the unity of Nigeria, as they continue to water the tree of Nigerian unity with their blood.

Thank God that the Oba of Lagos did not carry out the threat and Ndigbo have continued to live and do their businesses in peace in Lagos and the Arewa Youths eventually rescinded their ultimatum and Ndigbo have continued to build more houses and set up more businesses in every part of the North of Nigeria and indeed in every other part of Nigeria, perhaps until the next political eruptions! But now, it looks like Ambode for whom the Ndigbo in Lagos would have been thrown into the lagoon seem to have himself now ended in the Lagos Lagoon. What happened?

Lagos has been run essentially on a strategic plan laid out by Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) when he came into office in 1999. Like him or hate him, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a strategic leader. I had the privilege of joining the rank of the greats like Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti to serve as a member of the transition committee that helped Asiwaju to plot the strategic plan for governing Lagos State. Bola chose a broad range of great Nigerians who live (or lived) in Lagos to help him chart the strategic plan. I also served as the Chairman of the Planning Committee of the first Lagos State Economic Summit. I did not know Asiwaju from Adam, but he got me and many like me to support his vision. I truly believe that one of Bola’s strongest virtues as a strategic leader is his uncanny ability to pick good men or good people to work with or for him. His cabinet in 1999 was star studded, many from the Private Sector. It is to his credit that many of those who worked with him at that time are now the people running the Nation at the centre- Yemi Osinbajo (VP), Babatunde Raji Fashola (Minister of Works, Power and Housing), Lai Mohammed (Minister of Information & National Orientation), Tunde Fowler (Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service), Ade Ipaye (Deputy Chief of Staff in the Presidency), etc.

When Asiwaju Bola Tinubu chose Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) to succeed him, many were rattled. For many, BRF did not belong to the first eleven. After all, he only became the Chief of Staff, when Bola had despatched Lai Mohammed to go and take up political position in Kwara State. In 2007, when as the President of the Business Club Ikeja (BCI), I organized a Private-sector driven debate for the Gubernatorial candidates in Lagos, I must confess that I did not see what Bola had seen in BRF. But from 2007-2011, BRF dazzled all lagosians. He literally transformed Lagos. He boldly cleaned up Lagos, dealt with chaotic Lagos traffic and brought crime down.

I do not know exactly what Fashola did to Tinubu that, he considered not allowing him run for a second term. But Lagosians had fallen in love with Fashola and were prepared to rebel against the lion of Bourdillon. Being a smart leader, Asiwaju retreated and gave in to what was essentially public pressure and allowed him run. BRF did so well that President Muhammadu Buhari rewarded him by making him the defacto Prime Minister of Nigeria. Now enter Akinwunmi Ambode. Again when Tinubu brought up a retired civil servant to succeed BRF, many Lagosians cried foul especially when we seemed to have a suffice of great materials in the mould of BRF. But as usual, Asiwaju stood his ground, touting the great success of BRF as evidence that he knew who would deliver best among his team. At last the Lagosians gave him the benefit of doubt and elected Ambode.

If you ask me I will say that Ambode has done well but not as stellar as BRF. So why did the people not rise up to defend him against Asiwaju’s ‘mid term crisis’ as they did for BRF? First, Visionscope. From nowhere, Ambode decided to change the working refuse clearance system in Lagos initiated by BAT and perfected by BRF. Lagosians were shocked by the return of filth to Lagos after many years of not seeing refuse dumps on Lagos streets. This was very disappointing to many. Indeed, some thought it had to do with Asiwaju, but later, we got to know that he did not have a hand in it. Then Ambode began to repair and construct many roads at the same time, returning Lagos to the traffic gridlocks it experienced last when Fela was still living at Ojuelegba and driving against the traffic. Though I believe this was for good cause, but many Lagosians were really sad. Up till Ambode was thrown into the lagoon, I had no idea, he had other problems with the people of Lagos and the King makers.

But I have since read and heard of the so many ‘sins’ of Ambode, from what he did to the Chaplain of the State house chapel to how he sacked several Permanent Secretaries without apparent cause and how inaccessible he was. I have generally seen these as effort to call a dog a bad name to justify why it was hanged. Nevertheless, one matter ran through all the stories including first hand stories told me by some close friends who are top notchers in APC in Lagos- the man forgot those who held the ladder for him to climb up.

So the guys quietly took away the ladder and Ambode had no other way to climb down than to jump. And unfortunately he landed in the lagoon, the same one the Oba had prepared for the recalcitrant Igbo Lagosians who would not vote for Ambode. How the tide changes!

To be true, the popular view amongst many Nigerians is that BAT purposely pushed Ambo into the Lagoon for his own selfish reasons. Well may be BAT often suffers from such ‘malady’ at mid term, but because BRF stood with the people, he was saved from the Ambo treatment. It therefore makes sense to always stand with the people, especially those you met on your way up, because you are most likely to meet them on your way back. Now we may be back to where we were in 2015. The old war horse Jimmy Agbaje is back on beat. I wish to believe that both the Oba of Lagos and the new darling of Lagos APC- Babajide Sanwo-Olu (BSO) will not adopt any such desperate measures and threats. There may always be the ‘midterm crisis’ and what goes round often comes round. Eko oni baje: ju bayi lo!, then itesiwaju ipinle eko..oje wa logun, what next for eko?

Mazi Ohuabunwa, OFR,