THE political tide may have turned against Ambode. State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, due to what the Lagos chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders regard as his many sins.
This could be responsible for the withdrawal of the party structure barely 24 hours after Governor Ambode formally declared his second term ambition of the APC platform.
Ambode had, on Monday morning, flown to Abuja to obtain his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms from the APC national headquarters, following what he interpreted to green light from the National Leader of the party and godfather of Lagos politics, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
And, within hours, he was back in Lagos, to meet his cabinet members and some party leaders at a brief ceremony where he reeled off his achievements and the assurance of a second term.
By the time the ceremony ended, the party leaders present, including the 57 local government chairmen in the state were asked to return, yesterday morning, to endorse the governor’s forms.
Meanwhile, an Army of Tinubu’s political Generals, under the banner of Mandate Group, had been assembled at Watercrest Hotel, off Obafemi Awolowo way, Ikeja, where a former commissioner in the state and current Managing Director, Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC) Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, was handed over to them as Ambode’s replacement in the 2019 governorship race.
The facility where the meeting was held is owned by a former chief security detail to Tinubu, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, who was equally present at the meeting.
A leader of the party and veteran coordinator of Tinubu’s political machinery, Dr James Omolaja Odunmbaku led the meeting. Others included Dr. Tola Kasali and Mr. Kaoli Olusanya, who were commissioners in Tinubu’s administration and Alhaji Ganiyu Badmus; among several others.
All the leaders who spoke at the meeting, especially Odunmbaku and Olusanya, confirmed they were instructed by Tinubu to back Sanwoolu in the race.
In a dramatic twist, as soon as the meeting at Watercrest Hotel leaked, all the local council chairmen and party leaders who were supposed to gather at the governor’s office in Alausa, in the morning, to endorse the governor’s nomination form, simply changed the route.
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Instead, they joined the meeting at the hotel where, one after the other, they endorsed Sanwoolu’s nomination form and pledged their loyalty to the party and its leader, Tinubu, Jagaban Borgu.
One of the council chairmen said “Up till 7.30pm on Monday, when we were still with the governor, we didn’t hear anything; until this morning.
“By the time I got to Alausa to join my colleagues to endorse the governor, the atmosphere had changed and the place deserted. That was when I knew there was a problem before I got information that there was a new direction.”
Party leaders who were taken unawares by the development, who could not attend the meeting began to call Odunmbaku, to pledge their loyalty and support for Sanwoolu’s candidacy.
It was further gathered that by yesterday evening, the team proceeded to Abuja, along with their candidate, to submit his forms at the APC national headquarters.
They are expected back in Lagos this afternoon when they will lead Sanwoolu to the Bourdillion Ikoyi home of Tinubu, who is expected to openly anoint the candidate as the party’s choice for the Lagos governorship race in 2019.
One of the many sins, it was gathered, may have been the petition from a former managing director of Alpha Beta Consulting, a tax collection firm with suspected links to the leadership of the party in the state, Mr. Dapo Apara who accused the firm of tax fraud and money laundering.
Apara’s sudden move, almost a year after he had left the company, is believed in Tinubu’s inner circle to be Ambode’s arm-twisting game of forcing the party leader to endorse him for a second term.
But, before now, the governor had been detached from the party and its leaders who consistently complained to Tinubu.
One of the party leaders told Daily Sun, yesterday, that, “the governor had, on three occasions, asked some of the party leaders to meet him in the office for interaction.
“On each occasion, we spent a minimum of five hours waiting to meet him and at the end of the day, his aides would tell us the governor had gone out for other official engagements.
“Aside from that, he promised the state party executive official vehicles. After a long wait, he then said he was going to give each N2.5 million to buy used cars; we accepted and till today, there has been no word from him.”
The governor is also believed to have lost the needed support due to some of his unpopular policies. One of such is an increment in taxes, especially the Land Use Charge by over 400 per cent, a decision which impacted negatively on the image of the APC in the state.
Another is the sacking of private operators in the waste management sector.
Tinubu introduced the waste system in 1999; to address the problem of waste management in the state and also, empower party leaders and operatives who had been controlling the sector from inception.
The governor simply handed over waste management to a private firm, Visionscape, which has reportedly proven incapable of tackling the refuse problem in the state.