Lagos 2019: Fresh Anxiety Over Ambode’s New Ambition

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Leading stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Lagos State are gathering today to take briefings from party leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu amidst apprehensions on the intentions of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode ahead of the forthcoming governorship

It was yet unclear as at press time yesterday if Tinubu, the undisputed leader of the party in Lagos, nay, the Southwest would dwell on the mutterings by some party leaders that Governor Ambode is halfhearted, if not, funding the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship campaign as payback for the way he was stopped from seeking a second term.

Close associates of the outgoing governor, however, deny the claim and allege a conspiracy by the mainstream of the party to paint the governor black for whatever purpose.

Governor Ambode’s associates say that despite collapsing his campaign structure into that of Sanwo-Olu and professing loyalty to the party that the outgoing governor is still held in suspicion over his intentions.

It is also reported that the governor’s invitations to the Sanwo-Olu camp for harmonization of campaign had remained unheeded until last week.

The mutterings and suspicions in the party follow the October primaries in which Sanwo-Olu, the anointed candidate of Tinubu and the mainstream of the party outwitted the incumbent governor for the party’s governorship ticket.

It was the first time since the advent of the Fourth Republic, nay since the creation of the state that a sitting governor in the state would be denied a return ticket.

Following the declaration of Sanwo-Olu as the party’s candidate, Governor Ambode had done a volte-face and openly endorsed him and pledged support for him and the party to win all elections in the state.

His declaration and actions have, however, not excited many following reports now and then of alleged plans by the governor to back the PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje at the last minute.

At the centre of the musings Vanguard gathered is the report that Ambode has not released money to the Sanwo-Olu campaign and even blocked channels for such.

That suspicion was not helped by the recent defection to the PDP of Mr. Olawale Oluwo, the immediate past commissioner for energy from the party.

That defection sent strong signals to some observers who claimed that Oluwo, from the same Epe base of the governor was acting a script by Ambode.

Oluwo’s defection was seen by some as indicative of the governor’s proclivity given that the former commissioner was one of the closest to the governor and part of his inner caucus.

The governor was, however, quick to denounce Oluwo and deny any dealing between the two of them concerning the governorship election.

His antagonists within the party, however, do not believe him with one such critic saying:

“I can tell you that what Ambode said was a damage control attempt after we confronted him with proofs of his double-dealing. He goes to the public to say he is supporting the party’s choice, Sanwo-Olu, but he is doing the opposite in reality.

We are aware of the unwholesome activities of people he sent to be part of the campaign team for the party in the state but these moles only come to our meetings to gather information and pass on to the enemy.”

Some mainstream APC activists allege that the governor has besides not funding the APC machine, but is also alleged to be funding the PDP campaign with the intention of ensuring the defeat of his party’s candidate in the election.

However, that suggestion is derided by Ambode’s close associates.

One of the associates in dismissing the conspiracy theories around the outgoing governor affirmed that it was in Ambode’s best interest to promote the candidature of Sanwo-Olu on the claim that a PDP government would witch-hunt him on both his decisions as governor and before then as accountant-general of the state.

Governor Ambode had been observed to have put aside the mudslinging that characterized the party governorship primaries between him and Sanwo-Olu and pledged his support for the latter.

He has also been actively involved in moves to reconcile the different tendencies and factions in the party being a member of the party’s reconciliation team in the Southwest.

However, suggestions of Ambode double-dealing are frowned upon by his associates. One of them speaking on condition of anonymity declared that Ambode was conscious of the fact that only an APC government that can give him the necessary protection after he has left office.

“Not just as governor, but even as account-general, he was in charge of the state’s finances and he is not unconscious of the fact that a PDP government could go back several years to nail him down,” the source said.

The present issues in the party have not been helped by the fact that no major platform has been made for reconciliation.

Vanguard gathered that the Sanwo-Olu camp may still be embittered by the allegation raised by the governor during the primary campaign where he alleged that the APC candidate had a history of mental illness. It was gathered that Ambode had as at press time not made an apology on the issue.

Another cause for concern among some APC stakeholders is the alleged support given to one of the most controversial decisions of Governor Ambode by the PDP candidate, Agbaje.

While appearing on a Channels Television programme, Agbaje was reported to have given his endorsement for the deal with Visionscape, the waste management company that is blamed for the mountain of refuse that today loiter Lagos State.

The contract with Visionscape which dislocated party operatives in the APC from what it is claimed to be their honey pie, that is the Private Sector Participation, PSP operation in wastage disposal, was one of the issues that caused the governor support among the grassroots.

Agbaje’s support for the Visionscape contract it is alleged, could be one way of cementing a linkage with the outgoing governor and as such fueling the conspiracy theories around him and the PDP.

Agbaje has every reason to court Ambode. The PDP’s candidate past foible of challenging Chief Bode George in the PDP national chairmanship contest has lessened enthusiasm for his candidature among the grassroots loyal to George.

Besides that, the decision of Mr. Femi Otedola to openly side with Sanwo-Olu may also have denied him of much needed funding. These reasons it is claimed would push Agbaje to push any deal with Ambode.

It is in that context that it is alleged that the PDP candidate might have backed the Visionscape contract despite the wild public resentment of the company and its failure to manage waste in Lagos.

Nevertheless, assertions that Governor Ambode is funneling money to the PDP opposition is dismissed by the governor’s camp.

“It is impossible for the governor to lock money away from Sanwo-Olu because all the channels for disbursement of Lagos money are not in the hands of the governor,” one source close to the governor said.

“The money in the coffers of Lagos State is not in the hands of the governor, the people who impose have planted their people everywhere to take control of the money. They are the ones in charge, every layer of control in the state is in the hands of the man. Lagos is peculiar and different from other states,” the source added.

They also note how Ambode has tried to reach out to Sanwo-Olu and been put at a distance.

Vanguard gathered that it was only last weekend that the Sanwo-Olu camp honoured the governor’s invitations to come for the harmonization of the campaign structure. It was gathered that at least three invitations had been made in the past without as much as a response.

“The governor has shown character and consistency but these people are still afraid they are afraid of oga’s shadow.”

When Tinubu addresses the party operatives drawn from across the state today with these issues at the background, stakeholders will be watching out to see how he would navigate the landmines.

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