The fate of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State hung in the balance last night as President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, were locked in a meeting in Abuja over the national leader’s withdrawal of support for the second term aspiration of the governor.
However, signs that, in spite of the meeting, peace might not be in sight soon emerged yesterday as Ambode’s main challenger, Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu, pushed out a list of his campaign coordinators, announcing that he would hold a rally shortly to formally announce his aspiration.
The other contender, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, also told newsmen last night that he was preparing for his screening, having submitted his nomination form to the party.
Multiple sources in Abuja and Lagos confirmed the peace meeting to newsmen yesterday, assuring that with Buhari’s last-minute intervention, Ambode would likely secure Tinubu’s approval to seek re-election in 2019 on the platform of the ruling APC.
There has been controversy over the political future of Ambode after Sanwo-Olu and former Lagos State Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Hamzat obtained nomination form to challenge Ambode in the APC primaries scheduled to hold on September 19.
Just after obtaining the nomination form, the Mandate Movement, a political group loyal to the APC national leader, promptly endorsed Sanwo-Olu, a former Commissioner for Establishment, Training & Pensions in the state to contest the 2019 governorship poll.
Subsequently, all chairmen of 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) as well as 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state signed Sanwo-Olu’s governorship nomination form, claiming that they were acting on the instruction of the APC leader.
Some APC chieftains in the state, including former Deputy Chairman of Lagos APC, Cardinal James Odumbaku and former Commissioner for Agriculture & Cooperatives, Mr. Kaoli Olusanya, allegedly directed Ambode to return his nomination form or face impeachment at a meeting held at Watercress Hotel, Ikeja Monday night.
But the potential collateral damage the defeat of Ambode in the primary could cause the APC at the general election has become worrisome to party leader at the national level, prompting the intervention of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, who was in Lagos yesterday to persuade Tinubu to change his mind.
After the meeting, Tinubu left Lagos for Abuja to meet with Buhari who had invited him for discussions over Ambode.
The discussions with the president was still in progress at press time.
Sources close to the power play in Lagos, however, doubt that the meeting with the president would provide reprieve for Ambode as Tinubu’s options are said to be limited.
According to sources, Tinubu’s close associates are telling him that having showed his hand, it was better for him to finish what he has started, fearing that should he be persuaded to back pedal and support Ambode, it could be costly.
“Ambode could play the good boy now, and deal with Tinubu and his supporters once he wins his second term. He would have nothing to fight for or lose again,” a source said.
Besides, said another source, it is not only Tinubu that is aggrieved. Most other party leaders are, warning that the national leader is aware of the real danger of losing his key supporters who are very angry with Ambode and baying for blood.
A very reliable source told newsmen yesterday that Tinubu would likely tell Buhari to trust his judgement and allow him to handle the situation his own way.
“Tinubu is not likely to be persuaded by Buhari’s fear that an Ambode defeat could backfire. He would assure them that he could handle the situation without any adverse consequence for the president’s election and APC’s fortune in the state,” said the source.
In a telephone conversation yesterday, a lawmaker from the South-west confirmed that both Tinubu and Ambode had been in a close-door meeting with the president.
According to him, “The president is meeting with both parties. He is resolving the crisis already. All of them are still in the meeting. Hopefully, all the issues will soon be resolved.”
Another federal lawmaker confirmed the peace meeting, noting that the president would definitely resolve what might have pitted the APC leader against the incumbent governor.
He said, “I know that the matter is being resolved. But I cannot confirm yet. I am expecting details of the meeting with the president. Hopefully, it looks as if it would be resolved with the high-level meeting with President Buhari and other APC national leaders.”
A party chieftain, however, expressed divergent view about the likelihood of resolving the disagreement between the APC leader and Ambode, noting that the matter had gone beyond Tinubu because the party leaders and most party chieftains in the state were fed up already.
He said, “The president has invited Asiwaju to Abuja. He has already gone to Abuja. He ought to have gone Wednesday night. But he could not make the trip for some reasons. In actual sense, most party leaders do not want Ambode to come back again.
“The party elders are saying they do not have access to the governor. They are saying they have been shut out of the government. It appears they have made up their minds they are not going to support Ambode’s re-election. But they cannot deny Ambode’s sterling performance.”
The chieftain noted that it might be difficult “to convince the elders to accept Ambode again because of what they have suffered under this administration in the last three years. It is above Tinubu. I know Tinubu will present cases against Ambode to the president. But we cannot rule out resolution with Buhari’s intervention.”
In an attempt to neutralise the outcome of Buhari’s peace meeting, checks revealed that Sanwo-Olu and handlers had already started working on alternative plan if Tinubu eventually agrees to a peace deal in favour of the incumbent governor.
A source noted that the Mandate Movement, which endorsed Sanwo-Olu on behalf of the APC leader, might not honour any peace deal that would edge out its candidate, though Tinubu would eventually rally them behind Ambode’s re-election campaign.
The source said the leaders of the Mandate Movement “have been running around already and meeting different party leaders across the state to ensure Sanwo-Olu clinches the party governorship nomination. But the leaders of Justice Forum, another formidable political group loyal to Tinubu are not with them. They are sympathetic to Ambode.”
In a statement by its Director-General, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, yesterday, the Olusola Sanwo-Olu Campaign Organisation (BOSCO) said it “is on course. His formal declaration will happen shortly followed by his rally.
“The campaign organisation remains focused on its objectives and will not be distracted by unfounded rumours and insinuations. We thank all APC members in Lagos for your overwhelming support.”
The statement said Sanwo-Olu had inaugurated Directors and 3 Senatorial Coordinators for the campaign oragnisation with Mr. Tayo Ayinde as Director General, Alhaji Abdullah Enilolobo (Mobilisation), Hon. Adeniran Onilude (Special Duties), Mr. Tobi Lawal (Fund raising), Hon. SOB Agunbiade (Legal), Hon. Wasiu Eshilokun (Research and Intelligence) and Hon. Kola Egunjobi (NGO, Civil Society & Students).
Other directors are Hon. Sesan Dani (Media & Publicity), Hon Bolaji Ariyo (Security), Hon. Jimi Benson (Planning & Strategy), Hon Bolanle Akinyemi–Obe (Women Affairs), Hon. Wale Adelana (Ethnic Affairs), Hon Ayoola Fatai (Welfare), Hon. Kolade Alabi (Finance), Hon. Abiodun Mafe (Party Affairs) and Dr Sulaimon Aleshinloye (Medical and Safety).
The senatorial coordinators are Hon. Rasak Ajala (Lagos West), Hon Wahab Alawiye King (Lagos Central) and Mayor Dele Oshinowo (Lagos East).
In another telephone conversation yesterday, Hamzat, currently Special Adviser to the Minister of Works, Power & Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, told newsmen that he had completed the process already after obtaining and filling the nomination form.
He said, “I am preparing for screening. I am ready as soon as the APC National Secretariat calls us. But we have not been communicated. I am waiting for calls from the national secretariat to screen us.”