How La­gos As­sem­bly is Cag­ing Am­bode with Im­peach­ment Threat

Gov­er­nor Pow­er­less Over Tin­ubu-backed Com­mis­sion­ers, Aides

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - From Nu­rudeen Oye­wole, La­gos

Once ad­dressed by his col­leagues as Nige­ria’s ‘Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral’, Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode, the La­gos State Gov­er­nor, has how­ever been en­meshed in po­lit­i­cal bat­tle of his life that not only cost him a re­turned ticket for sec­ond term in of­fice but cur­rently threat­ens to sweep him out of of­fice be­fore May 29, 2019.

Days af­ter the Speaker of the La­gos State House of As­sem­bly, Hon. Mu­dashiru Obasa, re­futed news of the planned im­peach­ment of the State Gov­er­nor, Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode, Daily Trust on Sun­day can au­thor­i­ta­tively re­veal that the plot to remove the Gov­er­nor is still very much alive.

The de­ci­sion to still keep the Gov­er­nor’s im­peach­ment plot alive de­spite the Speaker’s as­sur­ances, Daily Trust on Sun­day gath­ered, was ba­si­cally aimed at whip­ping him into sub­mis­sion any­time he is sus­pected to be work­ing in con­tra­ven­tion of the “party’s in­ter­est.”

“There has been in­ter­ven­tion of prom­i­nent peo­ple within and out­side the state. There have also been meet­ings of stake­hold­ers, one of which I at­tended and from where it was agreed that while our law­mak­ers may soft­pedal with the im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ing for now, it should not be to­tally kept off the ta­ble. We can­not be too cer­tain of what may hap­pen when the elec­tion draws closer,” a highly-placed chief­tain of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) in the state who pref­fered anonymity told Daily Trust on Sun­day.

Sim­i­larly, a prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer within the State House of As­sem­bly said whereas there are still those among the law­mak­ers who felt the Gov­er­nor should be left to com­plete the re­main­der of his ten­ure, those who in­sisted that the im­peach­ment op­tion should be left open are in ma­jor­ity. “They are en­joy­ing the sup­port of our prin­ci­pal of­fi­cers and party big­wigs. To that ex­tent, no­body can say all is well,” the law­maker said.

In­ter­est­ingly, the skep­ti­cism of the law­mak­ers and the party chief­tains are known to those in Gov­er­nor Am­bode’s camp. Daily Trust on Sun­day gath­ered from one of the Gov­er­nor’s aides that they are not un­aware of the mis­trust and plots, but that they are wor­ried that in spite of Am­bode’s com­mit­ment to sup­port the elec­tion of his ri­val Baba­jide Sanwo-Olu who later be­came the party’s gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date, there are those who sim­ply want the Gov­er­nor pushed out of of­fice.

Am­bode’s tra­vails be­gan im­me­di­ately it be­came clearer that his quest for a sec­ond term ticket un­der the plat­form of the APC does not en­joy the sup­port of his po­lit­i­cal god­fa­ther and Na­tional Leader of the party, Asi­waju Bola Tin­ubu. The cri­sis of con­fi­dence later erupted be­tween him and Tin­ubu on one hand, as well as against the party lead­er­ship on the other.

At the end, Am­bode’s hope of earn­ing a sec­ond term ticket was dashed as a former twoterm com­mis­sioner in the state, Sanwo-Olu, propped by Tin­ubu and other party chief­tains, won the gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary. Although Am­bode has since con­ceded vic­tory and an­nounced his in­ten­tion to work for San­woOlu, many are still ques­tion­ing the au­dac­ity that led him to chal­lenge Tin­ubu, the revered po­lit­i­cal leader, in the first in­stance.

For po­lit­i­cal pun­dits, the cur­rent cat and mouse game be­tween the Gov­er­nor and the State House of As­sem­bly is just the lat­est in the se­ries of po­lit­i­cal brick­bats he might have to con­tend with as the count­down to his va­ca­tion of gov­er­nor­ship seat be­gins. Even the im­peach­ment re­but­tal is­sued by the State As­sem­bly Speaker was laced with in­nu­en­dos that sug­gested that the gov­er­nor’s tra­vails are nowhere eas­ing off.

“We are not em­bark­ing on any im­peach­ment process against the gov­er­nor now. Whether or not there would be an im­peach­ment is based on his ac­tions,” the Speaker ini­tially said. But he went on to add, “Even at that, im­peach­ment is con­sti­tu­tional. So many Speak­ers, Se­nate Pres­i­dents, Pres­i­dents and oth­ers have been im­peached all over the world. So, no­body can threaten us if it hap­pens be­cause we are rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple. We don’t need the wail­ers to guide us in per­form­ing our du­ties. It is not out of place for us to do our job.”

With such state­ment, the Speaker has in­deed not ruled out out­rightly the pos­si­ble re­moval of the Gov­er­nor. Whereas the spec­u­la­tions about the Gov­er­nor’s im­peach­ment have been on and off for some­times, the au­da­cious move by the leg­is­la­tors at a pro­ceed­ing few days ago, dis­own­ing the oper­a­tion of the newly in­tro­duced waste man­age­ment out­fit, Vi­sion­scape, while ask­ing the sacked Pri­vate Sec­tor Par­tic­i­pants (PSP) to take over ap­peared to have trig­gered an alarm bell that the im­peach­ment spec­u­la­tion is grad­u­ally be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

At the pro­ceed­ing, Gbo­la­han Yishawu, the Chair­man, House Com­mit­tee on Bud­get and Eco­nomic Plan­ning, had moved a mo­tion of ur­gent mat­ter of pub­lic im­por­tance over heaps of refuse scat­tered all over the state.

“Some refuse are be­ing taken to Epe and Iko­rodu but th­ese places are a bit far now. We used to dump the refuse in Olu­so­sun, but the place was gut­ted by fire. We can give the place to pri­vate com­pa­nies. The san­i­tary land­fill in Epe is not be­ing utilised and the trans­fer loading sta­tions too are not work­ing ef­fec­tively with the turn­around time of col­lect­ing the refuse not be­ing utilised. It is not all the PSP op­er­a­tors that are work­ing. Maybe we can re­call the PSP Op­er­a­tors and re­open Olu­so­sun and the land­fill sites should be op­er­ated prop­erly,” Yishawu al­leged at the pro­ceed­ing.

Other leg­is­la­tors who par­tic­i­pated in the de­bate had sim­i­larly toed Yishawu’s foot­path and at the end, the House had sum­moned the Com­mis­sioner for the En­vi­ron­ment, Mr Ba­batunde Durosinmi-Etti, to ap­pear be­fore it.

But days be­fore the House sit­ting, a chief­tain of the APC who has been privy to the de­vel­op­ments had con­fided in Daily Trust on Sun­day how the House had lined up a num­ber of im­peach­able of­fences against the Gov­er­nor and that con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the Vi­sion­scape is one of them.

“The plot to im­peach the Gov­er­nor was ear­lier hatched at a time it was ex­pected that the Gov­er­nor will not ac­cept his loss of the gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary ticket and per­haps de­fected to the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) or any other party at the time.

“The Gov­er­nor’s con­ces­sion­ary speech dis­armed many but there were other forces who kept in­sist­ing that the Gov­er­nor could no longer be trusted and that since he has shown his readi­ness to con­front the party’s hi­er­ar­chy, his sud­den con­ces­sion af­ter ini­tial con­tes­ta­tion was just a di­ver­sion­ary at­tempt as it was clear that he has other mo­tive which may be­come more man­i­fest as the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions draw nearer,” the party chief­tain said.

The source added that the fears of those push­ing for Am­bode’s re­moval were pred­i­cated on two things. First, that the Gov­er­nor, hav­ing lost out in his re­turn bid, may choose not to fund the party as ex­pected when the gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion draws nearer, thereby pre­par­ing the party for a dis­grace in the gen­eral elec­tions.

With such state­ment, the Speaker has in­deed not ruled out out­rightly the pos­si­ble re­moval of the Gov­er­nor.

The sec­ond al­le­ga­tion against the Gov­er­nor was that he may have reached out to a prom­i­nent gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date of an op­po­si­tion party with a prom­ise of fi­nan­cial sup­port so as to give the can­di­date an edge dur­ing the gu­ber­na­to­rial con­test.

“In pol­i­tics, one of the golden rules is that you do not cre­ate a room for your power bro­kers to doubt you. The mo­ment they can trace any act of in­sub­or­di­na­tion to you, you can be sure they will come af­ter you and do every­thing pos­si­ble to pull you down, in­clud­ing us­ing your sub­or­di­nates and aides to rub­bish you. That for me typ­i­fies the ex­pe­ri­ence of Gov­er­nor Am­bode,” Raji Car­doso, a La­gos-based civil rights ac­tivist and so­cial af­fairs com­men­ta­tor said .

Car­doso’s ob­ser­va­tion is apt in many re­spects. San­woOlu, the Gov­er­nor’s ri­val in the bit­ter con­test for the party’s gu­ber­na­to­rial ticket and even­tual can­di­date of the APC, was un­til re­cently, the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the La­gos State De­vel­op­ment and Prop­erty Cor­po­ra­tion (LSDPC) un­der Am­bode. Aside Sanwo-Olu, a co­terie of Com­mis­sion­ers, Spe­cial Ad­vis­ers and other ap­pointees who saw the tur­bu­lence sig­nal early enough and were not pre­pared to go into po­lit­i­cal obliv­ion with the Gov­er­nor sud­denly went mute on their re­peated cam­paigns for his re-elec­tion.

Of in­ter­est to many was the case of the State Com­mis­sioner for In­for­ma­tion and Strategy, Ke­hinde Bamigbe­tan, who is a well known po­lit­i­cal pro­tégé of Tin­ubu. A jour­nal­ist of many years ex­pe­ri­ence, Bamigbe­tan served as the Chief Press Sec­re­tary (CPS) to Tin­ubu dur­ing his sec­ond term as the La­gos State Gov­er­nor be­tween 2003 and 2007. And in what many at­trib­uted to Tin­ubu’s in­flu­ence, Bamigbe­tan went on to serve as a two-term Chair­man of Ejigbo Lo­cal Coun­cil De­vel­op­ment Area (LCDA).

Af­ter Am­bode’s emer­gence as Gov­er­nor in 2015, Bamigbe­tan, still with Tin­ubu’s in­flu­ence be­came the Spe­cial Ad­viser to Gov­er­nor Am­bode on Com­mu­ni­ties and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. And at the last cab­i­net reshuf­fle by the Gov­er­nor in Jan­uary 2018, Bamigbe­tan be­came the Com­mis­sioner for In­for­ma­tion and Strategy. By virtue of his com­mis­sion­er­ship role, Bamigbe­tan was nat­u­rally co-opted into the Am­bode’s re-elec­tion cam­paign team, co­or­di­nat­ing its pub­lic­ity and me­dia re­la­tions.

On Oc­to­ber 1, 2018, when hun­dreds of Am­bode sup­port groups mo­bi­lized in protest against what they per­ceived as a de­lib­er­ate ploy to side­line Am­bode in the gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary sched­uled for Oc­to­ber 2, Bamigbe­tan was among the lead­ing lights who as­sem­bled the pro­test­ers at the Gani Fawe­hinmi Free­dom Park, Ojota, La­gos. But less than 24 hours af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in the protest, Bamigbe­tan recorded a land­slide vic­tory for Sanwo-Olu at the gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary con­ducted at his area of res­i­dence in Ejigbo on Oc­to­ber 2.

Per­haps, the big­gest shock to the Gov­er­nor’s camp dur­ing the gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary was that of Am­bode’s Deputy, Dr Idiat Ade­bule. A lec­turer at the La­gos State Univer­sity, be­fore her ap­point­ment as the Sec­re­tary to the State Govern­ment dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov­er­nor Ba­batunde Fashola, SAN, Ade­bule sur­prised many when on the day of gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary, she de­clared un­al­loyed sup­port for Sanwo-Olu – her boss main chal­lenger.

“The party has cho­sen a man and it is that man that I will sup­port and fol­low. I have no doubt that any­body who emerges to­day as the can­di­date of the party will have my sup­port. I have no doubt as ex­hib­ited by my peo­ple to­day that they are stand­ing with the party’s po­si­tion on this pri­mary and with that po­si­tion I stand.

“I stand and I choose to stay with my party at this time, my party has spo­ken and I have no doubt to state that on the po­si­tion of the party I stand, It is a very clear elec­tion as you can see, peo­ple are vot­ing in line with the dic­tates of the party. We have voted for the per­son who the lead­ers of the party have cho­sen. It is an over­whelm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as you can see it and we will con­tinue to sup­port the party and abide by its rules,” Ade­bule said at Ward A and D, Iba LCDA, where she par­tic­i­pated in the gov­er­nor­ship pri­mary.

Eleswhere, such open in­sub­or­di­na­tion and re­bel­lion would have had dire con­se­quences. But ob­servers say Am­bode, with no firm grip on the po­lit­i­cal struc­ture and hav­ing re­al­ized that any pun­ish­ment on any of his aides will be in­ter­preted as a di­rect at­tack on Tin­ubu, “he has no other choice but to soak in the em­bar­rass­ment.”

“Who ap­pointed the Gov­er­nor, the Com­mis­sion­ers and other aides? Even in pre­vi­ous ap­point­ments. It will be a po­lit­i­cal sui­cide if the Gov­er­nor should sack any of his aides be­cause the per­son dis­agrees with him. He has no other choice but to soak in the em­bar­rass­ment,” a former Spe­cial Ad­viser and APC chief­tain who pre­ferred anonymity said.

But at a time his loy­al­ists’ camp was be­ing de­pleted, Am­bode re­ceived sup­port from an un­usual quar­ter – the Fouad Oki-led fac­tion of the La­gos APC. Oki, ear­lier sus­pected to be work­ing with Tin­ubu’s po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents like the party’s former Le­gal Ad­viser, Muiz Banire, SAN, was among the first to raise an alarm about pos­si­ble de­nial of Am­bode sec­ond term ticket. And of late, groups linked to him have been ac­tive on so­cial me­dia, mo­bi­liz­ing sup­port against al­leged moves by the House of As­sem­bly to im­peach the Gov­er­nor.

At­tempts by Daily Trust on Sun­day to have Oki’s re­ac­tion proved abortive as he nei­ther picked his call nor replied text mes­sages sent to his phone line. How­ever, in a pre­vi­ous me­dia pub­li­ca­tion, Oki was quoted as say­ing that he was in tune with any ef­fort that would make the Gov­er­nor’s im­peach­ment im­pos­si­ble. Ear­lier in the week, a group that iden­ti­fies it­self as Save La­gos Group (SLG), be­ing co­or­di­nated by Adeniyi Su­laiman had threat­ened to picket the as­sem­bly if it car­ries on with the al­leged im­peach­ment moves.

“The Speaker of the House has said there is no im­peach­ment move against the Gov­er­nor. All we have had so far is the me­dia­make up. What­ever that has so far hap­pened is a fam­ily af­fair. And as a mem­ber of the fam­ily, is­sues are be­ing han­dled,” Abio­dun Salami, the As­sis­tant Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary, La­gos APC said.

Per­haps it was in re­al­ity of the tur­bu­lence ahead that the Gov­er­nor has also been ex­tend­ing peace­ful over­tures to ag­grieved forces. In fact, barely 24-hours af­ter Speaker Obasa re­futed the claims of im­peach­ment, Govenor Am­bode him­self used the occasion of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s com­mis­sion­ing of the Nige­ria/ Benin bor­der post at Seme to re­it­er­ate his loy­alty to the party.

“I have just ac­com­pa­nied Mr. Pres­i­dent to the Nige­ri­anBenin Bor­der Post… But again, just to also use this op­por­tu­nity to let Lagosians know that we are heav­ily com­mit­ted to the re-elec­tion of Mr. Pres­i­dent and you can see that his con­tin­u­ous visit to La­gos re­it­er­ates the fact that he is ac­tu­ally a lover of La­gos State and I am com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing his re-elec­tion.

“We are go­ing to cam­paign heav­ily for him. I am also com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that the APC wins the gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion come 2019. We sup­port the can­di­dacy of Baba­jide San­woOlu and we would make sure that APC re­tains La­gos State and the cen­tre,” Gov­er­nor Am­bode said.

Sim­i­larly, the Gov­er­nor, through the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment has also reached out to some of the PSP op­er­a­tors, seek­ing a new way of en­gage­ment that will make both the Vi­sion­scape and PSP op­er­a­tors work to­gether. Daily Trust on Sun­day gath­ered that about 400 PSP op­er­a­tors have al­ready met with the State Govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the last few days.

At the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the18th Na­tional Women Con­fer­ence of the Com­mit­tee of Wives of La­gos State Of­fi­cials (COWLSO) held in La­gos, the Kebbi State Gov­er­nor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, a very close as­so­ciate of Am­bode said the La­gos State Gov­er­nor has as­sured him that he “ac­cepted the will of the peo­ple; he bears no grudge and has moved on”. What per­haps Bagudu did not add was whether or not, the forces against the Gov­er­nor, will let him be.

But ob­servers say Am­bode, with no firm grip on the po­lit­i­cal struc­ture and hav­ing re­al­ized that any pun­ish­ment on any of his aides will be in­ter­preted as a di­rect at­tack on Tin­ubu, “he has no other choice but to soak in the em­bar­rass­ment.”

Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu

Speaker, La­gos State House of As­sem­bly Mu­dashiru Obasa

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