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Ambode faces battle for second term

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A man walks past banners campaigning for All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate Akinwunmi Ambode, under a bridge in Lagos April 6, 2015. The governorship election will take place this weekend. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The governor of Nigeria’s Lagos state, which drives the country’s economy, is facing a rare challenge to secure a second term of office, at primary elections this weekend.

Akinwunmi Ambode was elected in 2015 for President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, replacing two-time governor Babatunde Fashola.

Ordinarily, most governors in Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja are virtually guaranteed a second, four-year term.

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But Ambode, who was the only APC nominee in Lagos state last time round, looks likely to have to contest the primary for the party ticket against two other candidates on Saturday.

The governor is said to have lost the support of Bola Tinubu, who ran Lagos state from 1999 to 2007 and who remains a political godfather and powerbroker at local and national level.

Lagos state is home to the megacity of the same name which is home to more than 20 million people. Ambode in 2017 said Lagos was “the fifth largest economy in Africa”.

He has earmarked the development of tourism, entertainment, agriculture and transport to make the top three economies by 2020.

Nigeria goes to the polls in February next year to elect a new president, parliament, state governors and legislatures. Lagos is a key electoral prize because of its size and influence.

Ambode has been silent on the purported rift with Tinubu, which has fuelled rumours he would withdraw if forced to contest a primary.

But on Wednesday he said he was “happy to… participate in that process” with a “grateful heart, open arms and a pledge to open and deeper attention to the concerns” of the party.

Notably, he singled out Tinubu and other party grandees “whose support, understanding and prayers have assisted me in no small measure”.

Relations between the two men are said to have soured after Tinubu hand-picked Ambode for the position. Politics in Nigeria is characterised by patronage.

This weekend’s primary has been seen as Tinubu’s way of cutting Ambode down to size and to demonstrate his influence over party delegates.

Tinubu has reportedly shifted support for the top job to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who heads the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation.


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