By Uche Mbah
The festering sore between the Lagos state Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, and the Godfather of Lagos, Bola Tinubu has blown into a scandal of unexpected proportions. Although some see it as political gimmick by the grandmaster of political intrigue, that at the end of the day, Ambode will still be the All Progressives Congress, APC flag bearer, it is clear that the whole shenanigan has gone dirty. Tinubu had the same altercations with the current Minister for Power, Babatunde Fashola, for his second term bid. They eventually settled, and Fashola went ahead to win his second term.
The Tinubu-Ambode beef started recently like a rumor. The buzz was that Ambode is set to decamp to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, following political disagreement with his godfather, who always demands absolute loyalty from every governor that he installs in Lagos. Arguably, Tinubu sees himself as Lagos personified. “When Tinubu goes to bed”, a source told this Magazine, “we say that Lagos has gone to bed.”
Precisely. That was why he was angry that Ambode apparently does not carry him along as much as he wishes. First, it was the issue of Visionscape. Tinubu was piqued that his environmental company, PSP, was jettisoned by Ambode for his own company, visionscape, with the defense that his own company will be able to recycle the waste products. It never did, and Lagos has become wasteland. Tinubu has seen that as an affront to his orders. Since then, things have not been the same between them. Then there was the issue of the Outside broadcasting bus ordered for Lagos Television at Agidimgbi, Lagos. The Asiwaju allegedly had a grand design to use the Lagos government facilities to acquire broadcasting equipment for his private television station, TVC. Ambode, on the advice of Steve Ayorinde, the then commissioner for information and culture, planned to award the contract for the OB van to a Lebanese, but Tinubu was said to have directed him to stay action until further notice, but he ignored the order and went ahead. Tinubu was said to have preferred to award the contract to one of his proxies as compensation for a job done, and for his loyalty. The contractor was paid 50% mobilization fee to bring in accessories of the van, but he supplied inferior products and has since gone underground. This ensured that the equipment is in the Agidimgbi office of LTV wasting away, while the main van remained undelivered. This served a major purpose of thwarting the efforts to divert the equipment to Television Continental, TVC, Tinubu’s private concern. When Tinubu queried them on the issue, principal officers of LTV involved in the purchase were either retired or redeployed while Ayorinde was transferred out of the commission. He maintained that the Lebanese, one Delkash Farez, , has disappeared into thin air, particularly when two directors that were loyal to Tinubu started asking questions on what has become of the remaining equipment. They alleged that the initial payment, N1.2 billion, being 50% of the initial cost.
It may be surprising that an ex governor will wield such influence on an incumbent. It also spells how Ambode was elected. First, in the presence of Fashola, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwani Akiolu, a Tinubu boy, endorsed Ambode for governorship. Fashola was skeptical about it until Tinubu himself confirmed in the presence of Fashola. Fashola allegedly stood up and left without saying a word. The rest, they say is History.
As part of the bargain, Tinubu had to supply virtually every worker in the top echelon of Ambode cabinet. This included members of the state executive council. Tinubu simply handed them over to Ambode to swear in. The council chairmen, 57 in number, board members, permanent secretaries and directors were handpicked by Tinubu for Ambode. Every contract must be drafted by Tinubu’s consultants and approved by Tinubu-a system he allegedly uses to reward his loyalists. Thus he had unfettered influence on his protégé. This is why he gave Ambode an ultimatum to account for the OB van or forget second term. Ambode, in an effort to settle the issue, was said to have contacted the British firm that sold the equipment, Excellence Transmission Inc. Ltd. , Manchester, to pay up the balance. He was told the price of the equipment has doubled for the original even, and that the one reserved for Nigeria has been given to Malaysia. However, the budgetary allocation for the balance of the OB van payment has been released. No one knows what it was used for.
Since then, Ambode has been trying to mend fences with Tinubu to no avail. He then tried an arm-twisting tactics by allegedly exposing the Apha Beta, a company allegedly conceptualized between himself, Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the period of Tinubu’s governorship. They allegedly contacted Tunde Apara, apparently a former ally of Tinubu, to write a petition to the Economic and Financial crimes commission, EFCC, on the strange doings by Alpha Beta consortium (read Ahmed Tinubu). He alleged that Alpha Beta is embroiled in a multi billion Naira scandal. He was the Managing Director of the Firm that is involved in revenue collection for Lagos state, and accused the firm of engaging in money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, bribery, fake loans and twisting of banking rules and regulations. The fraud alert is to the tune of N150 billion. The proxy war has begun.
The revelation was said to have rattled the Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, who rushed to Lagos and tried to mediate between the two. Tinubu was said to have been adamant. The initial person he wanted to replace Ambode with, former speaker of the house, Adeyemi Ikuforuji, was said to have declined. He was said to have settled for Jide Sanwoolu, a former commissioner in the state. Then pressures became much on Ambode, particularly as Tinubu insists on Direct primaries. He has already bought over the local chairman who are now said to be united in the rejection of Ambode. He has also told the house to consider impeachment of Ambode. This, according to sources, is to be if Ambode tries to decamp to any other party. In fact, the speaker of the house was said to have officially written him to that effect. This as when, out of frustration, he was considering decamping.
However, he continued on his face mending mission. Last weekend, he was sighted at the Bourdillon home of Tinubu, where he had a closed door with the Godfather. After that, he went to Abuja to pick up the APC nomination form. Jide Sanyolu was also on hand to collect his own form. A third person, said to be the Fashola anchor man, Obafemi Hamzat, also collected forms. They are meant to slug it out at the direct primaries, even though the incumbent ought to have right of first refusal.
Meanwhile, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu has waded into the matter. He has been having series of meetings with both parties. Ambode, in a master stroke, has decided to take the form to Tinubu for endorsement, failure of which it becomes a public declaration of war.
Meanwhile, the Lagos masses are insisting on Ambode or they revolt against the old order. Ambode is being accused of infrastructural development without funding party structure. He has temporarily halted most constructions to save money for the battle ahead. It is likely that if he is not picked, he will stay put and fund the PDP candidate clandestinely. This true as the new entrant to the PDP race is said to be a popular Lagos businssman, Femi Otedola.That will be the sucker punch. Particularly as Tinubu is having issues with Osun people for fielding his cousin and insulting the state. He is currently fighting battles on many fronts. Ambode was said to have also reached out to Aisha Buhari for help.
For Tinubu, he appears to be biting too much at the same time through his many battles. Whether he will be floored by the sucker punch remains to be seen.