Just like all Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s successors, Akinwunmi Ambode was relatively unknown when he contested for the governorship seat in Lagos state. Better put, Ambode was relatively unknown when Tinubu appoints him governor of Lagos.
This is in no way an embarrassing statement against the electorates in Lagos but more of the recognition of the political influence of Tinubu born not out of sheer blind followership but the goodwill he has amassed over time.
Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, Tinubu has solidified himself as the godfather of Lagos state’s politics. Despite his growth from a state leader to the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, he still maintained a hold on his political root.
When Tinubu hoisted Babatunde Fashola’s hand in 2006 as his potential successor in 2007, not many people knew the then chief of staff to the governor. All eyes had been on Femi Pedro or Musiliu Obanikoro but Tinubu had other plans and he worked tirelessly to see his anointed candidate win the election.
There were rumors that Tinubu did not want Fashola to seek re-election as Lagos governor in 2011 but the latter had performed so well that it would have been a political error if Tinubu had stood in the way of his successor. Thus, Fashola expectedly won the 2011 governorship election.
The emergence of Ambode as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos did not go as smoothly as expected. Even though the party was looking very solid and ready to wrestle power from the Peoples Democratic Party at the national level, Ambode did not have the same charisma and wasn’t as eloquent as Fashola was. If elections were won on the debate floor, Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party would have won the election as he articulated his points better. Ultimately, Ambode won with just 150,000 votes.
Following his victory in the governorship election, Ambode would probably have been salivating at the thought of being in office four-eight years as Tinubu and Fashola had done and possibly grow his political tentacles
He however failed to earn this honor as a result of some of the decisions he took in office.
On March 1, 2017, Ambode enacted the Lagos State Environmental Management and Protection law and also signed a 10-year agreement with Visionscape, a foreign-owned company to manage waste in Lagos. by doing this, the 41-year old state agency, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), would lose its core responsibility and be relegated to the background.
Visionscape was expected to bring international expertise in dealing with waste management in Lagos. It however turned out to be a monumental failure. Many critics opined that one of the core reasons why Visionscape failed was because it did not understand the local landscape of the state and instead tried to transpose a foreign formula for a peculiar Lagos problem. Before long, refuse started piling up around the state and Lagos became an eyesore.
Many Lagosians complained that unlike in the past when the PSP management had specific days for picking up waste for different areas, Visionscape did not do this thereby making it difficult to identify days and period their trucks would come around.
It didn’t help that many were complaining about the strong stench in residential areas as a result of huge refuse that had not been cleared in days and sometimes weeks. Ultimately, the project ended up being a huge failure.
Surprisingly, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s multiple road projects that were supposed to benefit Lagosians turned out to be a badly-planned move.
This is because a lot of roads were blocked thereby increasing the already problematic traffic situation in the state. For example, a trip from Ikeja to Iyana Ipaja that was supposed to take less than one hour suddenly became a three-hour journey. Some of these road projects were also being done during the rainy season thereby tripling the traffic.
With the increased traffic situation, crimes went on the rise as people who were stuck in their vehicles became easy prey for thieves and snatchers. This led to serious criticism against the administration of Ambode and by extension, the APC.
Disconnect From APC
Ambode’s governance problem would not have meant a lot of it was not being rumored that he had fallen out with the party. His contract with Visionscape reportedly affected some APC chieftains who allegedly had stakes in the waste management business.
Thus there were reports that Ambode was not carrying influential party members along in his administration perhaps because he thought he would automatically get the party’s ticket as the incumbent governor.
Oba Abedina Durosimi who is the Osolu of Irewe Kingdom in the Ojo local government area of the state gave a glimpse of how traditional rulers in Lagos turned their back against Ambode. The monarch accused Ambode of not having regard for the traditional institution in the state as against his two predecessors. Anyone following politics in Lagos knows that traditional rulers in the state have had a good alliance with the ruling party for a long time and Ambode’s action was perceived as an affront against the sacrilegious institution.
Ambode’s fallout with the APC also reportedly extended to the state assembly. While other governors usually move to secure the support of their state assembly by making sure that their loyalists became principal officers, Ambode had zero influence in the assembly.
Thus in early 2019, there was a threat to impeach Ambode. The then governor was accused of gross misconduct and spending money from a budget that had not been passed. Of the 34 lawmakers that spoke at the plenary, 28 called for Ambode’s impeachment while six others called for his resignation.
It was ultimately reported that it was the intervention of Tinubu that stopped his embarrassing removal from the office so as not to drag the party through a muddy internal problem.
One of the most important ingredients of political leadership that Ambode lacked was political charisma. In four years, Ambode failed to build and marshal support from the electorates, his commissioners, party members, and the state assembly.
Following the disclosure that a primary election would take place to determine the governorship candidate of the APC in Lagos state and Babajide Sanwo-Olu had received the backing of Tinubu, Ambode was practically done.
Ambode’s s deputy, Idiat Adebule, in a tactical move gave a statement in late 2018 that she was in support of whoever the party endorsed for governor. Of course, at that period, it was already clear to political observers that Ambode had lost the plot and his deputy was not ready to go down with him.
In another nail in the coffin of Ambode, Tunji Bello, his secretary to the state governor who is the third most powerful political office holder gave a highly disparaging opinion about the Ambode administration describing it as the worst. None of those who worked with Ambode could be described as loyalists because of his inability to grow his political brand. Unlike Fashola who had Lagosians rallying around him in support, Ambode was left out in the cold.
Last Ditch World Press Conference
On the 30th of September 2018 when Ambode was facing heat from his party, he gave a last-ditch Wold Press Conference that can best be described as a disgraceful and embarrassing show of shame. The so-called conference was barely attended by party loyalists and people from his administration. At the conference, Ambode accused his rival, Babjide Sanwo-Olu, of having a criminal record in the US as well as being mentally unfit to govern Lagos due to an alleged mental disorder. He even said those interested in finding out the truth should get the records from Gbagada General Hospital. He hinted that Sanwo-Olu was being forced by some party chieftains (Tinubu) to do what he was not capable of doing.
Sanwo-Olu in his gracious but powerful response denied the criminal allegation but said he would not go on an attack against the current governor and soon-to-be predecessor. It was a master-stroke that exposed Ambode’s weakness.
When it became clear to Ambode that he had no political relevance anymore in Lagos which was towards the tail-end of his administration, he decided to shift his focus to the federal government. He was always seen during all President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign in 2019. Many political analysts interpreted it to mean a move that Ambode hoped would earn him a ministerial appointment. This did not turn out to be so as even though Buhari appointed two ministers from Lagos, none of the announced names was Ambode.
When it became clear to Ambode that he had no political relevance anymore in Lagos which was towards the tail-end of his administration, he decided to shift his focus to the federal government. He was always seen during President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign in 2019. Many political analysts interpreted it to mean a move that Ambode hoped would earn him a ministerial appointment. This did not turn out to be so as even though Buhari appointed two ministers from Lagos, none of the announced names was Ambode.
His paperweight influence in the APC, if there is any, is so inconsequential that it would be a surprise if he can influence any election in Lagos and beyond. In a few years, not many would remember that he ever governed Lagos as his political career seems to be already over.