A web of intrigues surfaced on Monday as Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and two others, Mr. Jide Sanwonolu and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, picked the governorship nomination forms for the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket for the 2019 contest in the state.
The three of them are known godsons of the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who, it has been variously speculated, has unresolved issues with Ambode.
The initial information THISDAY had yesterday was that Ambode proceeded to Abuja to pick up his forms after getting signals from Tinubu that the coast was clear for him to make his move for a second term of office.
But by last night, sources said, the tide had changed in an intricate political maneuver that threatens to leave the incumbent governor high and dry. With the entrance of Sanwonolu and Hamzat into the race, a storm, THISDAY gathered, is about to hit the Lagos political firmament, and Tinubu might find himself in a complicated dilemma.
According to a THISDAY source, the governor’s main opponent is being backed by the Mandate Group, his godfather’s associates, who felt slighted by his policies that had gravely injured their economic lifelines.
In fact, one Ayilara, believed to be an inner caucus member of the Tinubu political machine, was said to have purchased the forms for Sanwonolu, using one of his office staff to pick the forms on his behalf.
THISDAY gathered that leading members of the group mobilised all the party’s local government chairmen last night to Watercress Hotel, Ikeja, believed to be owned by a former chief security officer to Tinubu, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, to fill Sanwonolu’s nomination forms, which submission closes tomorrow.
The three-corner fight, said an insider of the Tinubu political machine, promises to be testy and could leave the political family worse off if not cautiously conducted.
Sanwonolu, said to have been brought into politics by Tinubu’s former deputy, Mr. Femi Pedro, is believed to be favoured by the national leader. He came into public prominence as the political adviser to Pedro and graduated to commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions under Mr. Babatunde Fashola, serving only one term. He is currently the Managing Director, Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC).
Hamzat is not new to the turf. He had played there before against the formidable, including Ambode. In the fight for the APC ticket for the 2015 contest, he came second, despite been dumped mid coast by the then incumbent, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the current minister of Power, Works and Housing, whom Hamzat now works for as a special adviser. He was Fashola’s Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure and gave a good fight. Hamzat is not likely to be a push over, coming from the Abuja flank of the Lagos political divide that has delivered two gubernatorial elections to the party in the South-west, Ondo and Ekiti States. Lagos may well be their final push after Osun State governorship election that holds next week. Given that Hamzat belongs to the Abuja caucus that is known to be bent on clipping the wings of Tinubu, can the national leader cut his nose to spite his eyes? “That is the intrigue we are seeing playing out. We can only wait to see the end of it,” said one insider that craved anonymity.
A close associate of Tinubu, however, told THISDAY last night that he might have no choice but to support Ambode because “he is a lesser evil,” Hamzat having challenged the authority of the national leader before, and showing little or no remorse by joining the Abuja group in a grand plan to liquidate him politically.
What is more, said the associate, Hamzat comes from an established political family with strong roots in Lagos grassroots politics. His father, Oba Olatunde Hamzat, is a strong political leader with wide contacts with grassroots leaders across the state.
“He is now the monarch of Afowowa, a town in Ewekoro Local Government Area, Ogun State. That is the main reason Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, opposed Hamzat’s aspiration in 2014. But the monarch still oils his political machinery in the state,” he said.
“Tinubu has no choice than to support Ambode for several reasons I would not disclose now,” the associate stated
Following some level of clearance from Tinubu yesterday morning, according to a source in the know, Ambode proceeded to Abuja, where he obtained the governorship nomination forms in company with the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem; Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan; and Commissioner for Commerce, Industry & Cooperatives, Mrs. Olayinka Oladujoye, among others.
He returned to Lagos shortly and met with his cabinet and party officials during which he formally declared his intention for a second term of office.
Leaders of the party in attendance included the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello; Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro; Sen. Gbenga Ashafa, Sen. Ganiyu Solomon; members of the House of Assembly and all chairmen of the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).
Ambode recalled how the journey began four years ago when he called on Lagosians to join him in a journey of selfless service to build a secure and prosperous state driven by a vibrant economy and supported by quality service, equity and justice.
He said, “I have fulfilled my promises to you to make Lagos work for all. With your support, we have made Lagos a better place and changed the face of our state. I did not do it alone; we did it together, because you believed.”
According to the governor, “Lagos State has remained steadily prosperous because of your positive outlook. I urge you to always stay positive in your personal and communal lives. On my part, I will continue to aspire to do great things.”
He thanked APC leaders for giving him the platform to contribute to the growth and development of Lagos State while appreciating party leaders and members in the state. He also thanked Lagos residents for supporting his administration.
Though a lot had been achieved, Ambode noted that he was nonetheless not daunted or tired to achieve a lot more for the state.
“In these three and a half years, I have seen visible proof that we can achieve unbelievable things when we all come together with no more than our belief in our dreams. We achieved because you believed. But there is still a lot more to be done,” he said, adding, “But I am not daunted. I am not tired. I am sure you feel the same way because we all envision a better Lagos, a Lagos of our dreams. I humbly call you again, to give me your support as I seek to continue with your mandate to steer the affairs of our State. I ask you to believe again and together, let’s achieve more.”
Also speaking, senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said Ambode had already been endorsed for a second term by Tinubu on account of his sterling performance in office.
He said, “We are so proud to have Ambode as our governor. As the senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, which produced him even though he is for the whole of Lagos State and Nigeria, we are saying we are very happy to endorse him Ambode) for a second term on the instruction of our leader.” The governor’s political future had been in abeyance as a result of speculated disagreements between him and his godfather, necessitating high level interventions by senior party stalwarts, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
But with the Mandate Group now massed behind Sanwonolu, it is most unlikely, said an authoritative source, that Tinubu would dare his political base to chest out for Ambode.