•What City People Has Found Out
In the last couple of weeks, the story had been spreading like wildfire. It took over the media space and shocked many to their marrow. The story was that plans had been concluded by the ruling party, APC, to dump the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and replace him with someone else for the coming governorship elections next year, thereby denying him a second term. The authors of the story even suggested that current Lagos Head of Service, Muri Okunola, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday in grand style, would be the beneficiary if the APC indeed goes on to deny Sanwo-Olu a second term ticket like it did the immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. And to make it even more confounding, it was said that the Lagos State Governing Advisory Council, the GAC, was indeed a part of this and had already concluded arrangements to make Muri Okunola the next governor of Lagos State come 2023.
The GAC acted swiftly. It immediately released a press statement dissociating itself from the falsehood and stating clearly that it is not aware of such plot and that the council is pleased with Governor Sanwo-Olu’s performance and so would have no reason thinking of shopping for a replacement for him. The man whose name was largely touted as a possible replacement for the incumbent governor, Muri Okunola, also released a statement distancing himself from the speculation. In the end, it was uncovered that the said story had been created, concocted and spread by loyalists of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode. Many of these loyalists are still members of the APC.
Many political observers have found the entire drama interesting. They have posited that the only reason the story about governor Sanwo-Olu being dumped and replaced by another made sense to people was because of the Ambode saga. Ambode was shockingly denied a second term by the APC at a time when many Lagosians were singing his praise as one of the most hardworking governors in the land. And he had quite an impressive scorecard to show for it. Since then, it was believed that going forward, subsequent Lagos State governors would be allowed only a term each by the APC power brokers, to allow for others waiting on the long queue of the APC prospective ‘governorship candidates’ get their own shot at the exalted office. And so it seemed almost likely that Sanwo-Olu would be the first sacrificial lamb to be used to validate this horrendous arrangement.
But it is clearly a long shot, analysts have observed. The Ambode drama was one script that didn’t quite go according to plan for the ruling party in the state. This is because they didn’t expect the humiliated sitting governor Ambode to fight back the way he did. The expectation was he would bow to pressure from the party and walk away quietly without as much as lifting a finger to fight back. But the man, a wounded lion at the time, gave the last gap fight to cling on to power. He was determined to bring down a few people with him if he was going to go down. It was one move that very nearly got the fingers of Asiwaju burnt in the process. The national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was fingered as the one behind the shocking exit of the former governor from office, an allegation he has denied several times. He insists it was the party that chose to dump Ambode out of the office and not him, Jagaban. The electorates and Lagosians expressed their displeasure at the development and it reflected in the results of the governorship polls. Sanwo-Olu defeated his PDP opponent only by a pretty slim margin. It was one very close shave and it is not likely that the party would want to go that route again. There are thousands of Lagosians who adore Governor Sanwo-Olu. To them, he can do no wrong. They will fight back for him and raise a lot of dust if it becomes the least certain that he will go the Ambode way. But the biggest worry for the party would be the risk at the polls. The last time out, it was close. PDP put up a great fight, all thanks to the anger and displeasure shown by Ambode loyalists and Lagosians as a whole who felt the former governor was unfairly treated. Will the APC be willing to have another similar drama play out again? It is very doubtful.
Another reason why dumping Sanwo-Olu looks a long shot is the fact that, unlike the last time when Asiwaju was fully on top of the situation in the state and had sufficient time to plan and strategise and ensure the PDP does not get even a sniff of the Lagos seat of power, the situation is not so this time. Unlike 2019 when Asiwaju had no political aspiration for public office, this time around, the man has come out publicly to declare he wants to contest for the highest office in the land, the presidency. To say he will have an awful lot on his plate come next year (if he gets the party’s ticket) would be putting it mildly. Indeed, he will be the busiest man on the face of the earth. He will need to deploy everything he’s got, his time, his resources, intellect, strategies, man power, structure, everything, into making his long term dream of ruling this country become a reality. Surely, it is not going to be a walk in the park for the man regarded as the Master Political Strategist, this will certainly be the biggest political battle he has ever fought. Now, will the Jagaban Borgu be willing to make things even more difficult for himself by throwing up another chaotic political situation in Lagos, which is what the possible dumping of Sanwo-Olu could bring the party should he be denied a second term ticket like Ambode? And there is the potential possibility of losing Lagos State as well as possibly losing out at the presidential election should he allow himself get distracted by the chaotic situation in Lagos. It could be a straight career suicide for him and one which could very well terminate his presidential ambition. Asiwaju is way too smart to risk all of these.
It must be said that, in fairness to the APC hierarchy, they did not just wake up one morning and decided Ambode had to go. It was as a result of his several acts of misconduct, most of which the leaders of the party found utterly disrespectful. At a point, it was said that the only person Ambode felt he could not ignore his calls or show disrespect to was Asiwaju. And it was not because he genuinely loved or respected Asiwaju, it was simply because he did not have the liver to look Asiwaju in the eye and disrespect him like he was disrespecting others within and outside the party. It was not a secret that Ambode had an attitude problem that was unbefitting of the man who occupied the office of the governor of Lagos State. He was alleged to have treated some leaders of the party with contempt, displaying an arrogance that was never seen before by anyone who occupied the office before him. But current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is nothing like that. He has shown that he is a good natured, humble and respectful gentleman. He carries himself with no chips on his shoulder and treats everyone, young or old, with profound respect that is uncommon of many of our public office holders. This explains why no member of the party’s top hierarchy has had any issue with Sanwo-Olu. They all treat him with mutual respect and their support for his administration has never wavered. He is approachable. He is accessible. He is a governor who understands that true democracy must come with a human face, after all, it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. He runs a government of inclusiveness and this has enabled him navigate his way around some of the pitfalls that marked the beginning of the end of the Ambode era, an era many agreed, if he had handled right and dropped his toga of arrogance and contempt, would’ve gone down as one of the best in Lagos State. Ambode’s biggest sin was his absolute disrespect for the party leadership, the same people who worked tirelessly to make him become the Executive governor of the richest state in Nigeria. For Governor Sanwo-Olu, this cannot happen. He is a courteous and respectful gentleman who knows how to wash his hands well and dine with the elders.
Finally, Governor Sanwo-Olu has earned himself a second term ticket, not just because of the above reasons, but because he has done creditably well in his first term. His achievements are there for all to see, though a lot of his haters often choose to close their eyes to these enduring accomplishments or simply dismiss them with a wave of the hand. Most of the achievements of his administration have been well documented. Some of his aides also took out time lately to reel them out for all to see when the story regarding his ‘botched’ second term ticket took over the media space. Many will still recall that his administration took off with a resolve to complete the unfinished projects of his predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode and that of former governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. And give it to him, he has done great job completing these projects. Only last month, the governor inaugurated the construction of the Ojota-Opebi link bridges to ease congestion within the Ikeja axis and its environs. We also hear that construction work on the 4th Mainland bridge will begin the 2nd quarter of this year. And the Governor has assured us that there’s a whole lot more coming our way in the next couple of years. There is no doubt that many Lagosians will be eager to see how the governor intends to dazzle us more than he has already done. There is no way the party hierarchy will want to throw all of these away and risk bringing in somebody new into the system when what you have right now is already running on auto.
All of the odds are well in favour of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. He will get his second term ticket and he will most likely go on to complete his two terms and finish all of the good works that he has started. There is no doubt that he has earned himself a second term, he has also learned from the mistakes of his predecessor and this has helped him a great deal. Sanwo-Olu has the support of all the party leaders and he enjoys a cordial relationship with his deputy and other key members of his administration. This became immediately evident when the GAC swiftly reacted to the falsehood making the rounds that the governor was not going to get a second term ticket from the ruling party in the state. Political analysts have advised the rumour peddlers and enemies of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration to go and make better use of their time, because, without needing to consult a prophet, the governor is certain to remain in that prestigious office for another four years. Except if something terrible happens, Sanwo-Olu’s second term is a foregone conclusion, he who has ears, let him hear.