Ambode: This war must be won

By Sunny Igboanugo on 22/09/2018

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How many people have seen the report currently going viral in the social media, showing the debt profiles of the 36 states in Nigeria? How many have noticed that Anambra is at the bottom of the ladder, as the least indebted? How come? Perhaps, their leaders are either angels or have some magic wands to post such an impressive outing?

I think Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, as he grapples with his present challenges, has a lot to learn from how Anambra came about this envious outing, especially if he is desirous of making enduring positive history in Lagos. I say so, because, I believe the outcome of the current events in the state, lies significantly in his own hands. I believe as the governor of the most powerful and prosperous state in Nigeria, he clearly has the yam and knife to his political destiny, no matter whatever people may think. In other words, no individual in Lagos, can be more powerful than him, unless he allows it, because he is the most powerful governor in Nigeria today.  

In fact, unlike many who think the governor has been done-in, I believe the current political turn in the state is indeed the turning point he needs to establish himself as one of the biggest names in Nigerian political history. Here is why.

 On May 29, 2003, at the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, Anambra State, a very ugly, dramatic, but highly significant spectacle, unfurled before the audience. Chris Ngige, had just finished taking his oath of office, as the new governor of the state and was in the middle of his inaugural address, when the convoy of Chief Chris Uba, the Esele enu ego 1, of Uga, made it to the scene. Not only did Ngige stop reading immediately he saw the convoy snake into the arena, the entire vicinity went quiet suddenly. Even the crowd, stopped their excited chattering, drumming and singing, as they watched in awe, the magnificent retinue of exotic cars and the unfolding theatre.

What an eyeful! The Eselu (loosely translated – drawing from the tip of money-bunch), oblivious, unaware or evidently unperturbed about the consequence of his disrupting such a high-profile occasion, the most significant of the day in the state, was clearly in world of his own, as he savoured every moment of the hundreds of thousands pair of eyes.

As the security operatives jumped out of their vehicles in the usual commando style of Nigerian servicemen and the other dignitaries accompanying him started streaming towards the podium, the man of the moment, then just in his early 30s, remained in his car, actually making calls or pretending to be doing so, apparently for maximum effect, as everybody waited. Thereafter, he got out of the vehicle, nodded as a smartly-dressed mobile policeman, opened the door and gave a sharp salute, took some measured steps, to the thunderous applause of Eseluuu! Ochiaghaa (Commander - his second alias).

Not until he walked leisurely to the podium, having exhausted his well-calibrated and deliberately-executed plan, obviously meant to announce his arrival to the scene of supreme power in the state to the unwary and probably remind Ngige, who the master truly was, and finally sat down did the ceremony recommence.

Thereafter, more than half of the speech of the governor, were directed at extolling and venerating him? However, it was evident that even with their forced smiles and with some actually joining in the hero-worshiping, many, with whom he shared that podium that day, comprising, elders, leaders, political movers and shakers of not only the state, but Nigeria, including traditional rulers, were not amused at all at the bizarre spectacle they just beheld. Many yet, in the crowd, who felt clearly scandalised, muted their own complaints. Who dared raise a finger?

I recall this incident, because the current Lagos political scenario, appears to sit on all fours with the Anambra situation 15 years ago, when the Uba political dynasty, pointedly played God on earth. Eselu, the yougnest in the family, usually placed in front to lead major political attacks, by “installing” Ngige, was the most daring. In fact, he simply removed the father from godfather and took the rest.

You may have heard from Ngige that he demanded N5billion as election expenses. Of course, at that time, when the state’s monthly take-home was under N500million, paying back such a huge sum and still keep the state afoot, would have been highly herculean, if not impossible.

Yet, even if Ngige had acquiesced, it would not have been enough. Having abdicated all major appointments, he probably would have acceded to further concessions if Uba did not push for his outright castration?

The public heard about the kidnap from his office on July 10, 2003. Fewer actually were privy to the complete mortification of the former governor by a boy, just about half his age few days before. How many heard that the former governor was pushed around and even slapped on some occasions? Such was the humiliation. It was at the point they wanted to kill the maleness in him that the fight started, as we say here in our clime. The abduction saga, was actually the anti-climax.

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But that humiliation birthed the NEW ANAMBRA. From thence, things never remained the same. While Uba, took recourse to the deadly Aso Rock arsenal, Ngige went to the people.

Intriguingly, it was from that epic battle that the Uba dynasty incurred the permanent political wound, which has continued to fester till date. So ends an era.

Now, who says that this cannot be replicated in Lagos? Just like in Ngige’s case, the reason why some people have sworn that Ambode will never return to complete his second term, is neither about how far he has fulfilled his electoral promises, his work rate nor his job approval, but patronage or lack of it to some key political figures in the state.

Yes! What we hear is that Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu is unhappy because Ambode is not playing ball.  And like the old Anambra political god, when the Lagos god is unhappy, everything else takes a cue from there. Suddenly, Ambode, who a few weeks ago, was cited across the entire country as the poster boy of APC, and a model of performance, has turned a political leper, which no one should touch.

We hear that all efforts at placation have remained futile. We even heard of how Tinubu practically laughed off all entreaties from Ambode’s wife, Bolanle in a bid to send the message that the gods have spoken.

But that is exactly how the cookie crumbles. It is only when a man becomes too confident of himself that he opens his jaws to the sucker punch.  

I have heard many people say that Ambode has no weapon to fight with. Foul! Where did Tinubu get the weapon to fight Obasanjo? At what point did he become so invincible? Is it not when he became governor? Now Ambode has stepped into the same shoes. He now has more than enough to fight with as the governor of not any other state, but Lagos, the most important state in Nigeria.

What did Ngige have in 2003? Few months before, he was a mere Assistant Secretary of the PDP, a very innocuous and nondescript position. But with his status as governor and the people behind, him he defeated then ubiquitous “Uba structure,” comprising the entire PDP executive in the party and government, both at the local government and state levels, federal government appointees, a powerful, audacious, vindictive and almighty Obasanjo. Yet, he was able to triumph by sheer resilience and counterforce, located in the power of the masses.

Of course, it was not that Ngige was a saint or seen as one. In fact, ordinarily, those who stood behind him, would not have dropped a tear, were he to engage a less formidable and more amenable foe. Many of his latter day sympathisers actually wanted him out, because they felt he did not win the election. Yet, they not only stood by him, but were prepared to sink and swim when he became the underdog.

All Ambode needed at the moment, is some strategic thinking and moves. There are a lot of scaremongering out there, which he should never succumb to. One statement alone is enough to turn the table, to the extent that you begin to hear, I no follow!  Theodore Orji against Orji Uzor Kalu, is another perfect example of how to do away with the yoke of a burdensome and bothersome godfather. 

I pray that the Tinubu camp would see reasons and refrain from beating further war drums. It would be a heavy blow to the nation's polity if he comes to a major political harm, caused by a blind thrust occasioned by an undiluted ego, propped up by some praise-singers, who may scatter and abandon him in the middle of the battle.

To assume that everybody in Lagos loves Tinubu, is a dangerous fallacy, which realisation might come at a great price. In fact, it could safely be said that for the thousands who profess their love, including those who troop daily to Bourdillon, there are many others, who ring their nose in revulsion, some out of pure jealousy and would be waiting for ample opportunity to celebrate a bad news. Many of the Tinubu adorers today, are indeed assume that mode out of fear of many things and not due to genuine love. 

I'm one of those who believe that the nation owes the Jagaban a load of debt for upping the ante in the nation's democratic trajectory and will hate to see him go down. His singular contribution in ending the behemoth called the PDP, has delivered a clear message that a sitting President could be removed in Nigeria. It will therefore be a great pity, if having attained this enviable height in history, he is rubbished for chasing the crickets with his legs, while carrying an elephant on his head.

I should advocate for a further and perharps, last ditch effort at a rapprochment from Ambode to win the Jagaban back and get him retreat, failing, which there ought to be no other option than fight.   

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry shattered the complacency of America and told them to take their destiny in their hands. In that classic speech, Give me liberty or give me death, at the Virginia convention debate on whether to send troops to fight in the Revolutionary War, he urged Americans to conquer their fears, take up their arms and fight or be conquered by an invading army that would trample on their appeasement and supplications. I recommend Ambode reads that speech. It’s just 1,213 words. Or else, he should listen to our own Fela’s Sorrow, Tears and Blood. He will surely get the message. It will make him decide whether to fight like a lion or be plucked like a duck.   








Posted on September, 22 2018

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