The gloves are off in Lagos. Political gladiator and former Governor, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has thrown his weight behind Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, whose image suffered a bad dent early Sunday after Governor Akinwumi Ambode said he was unfit to be governor and was once arrested for using fake dollars.
Ambode and Sanwo-Olu are slugging it out on Monday, Independence Day, for who gets the APC ticket for next year’s governorship election.
In the move by Tinubu, seen as a final nail on Ambode’s political coffin, though the governor enjoys the blessing of the Presidency and other governors of the APC, he accused the governor of deviating from the blue-print of developing Lagos, which he and Fashola followed.
Abuja and other APC Governors appear to have failed in last-ditch efforts to save Ambode from Tinubu’s wrath. A visit by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to plead for the governor was even tweaked to make it look like he endorsed Tinubu’s choice.
Somewhere else in Lagos, before Tinubu issued his damning statement, a chieftain of the APC, Hon Sheriff Balogun threw his own weight behind Governor Ambode, saying he is the best option.
Balogun, former Sole Administrator of Sururele Local Government Area, also dismissed the endorsement of Hon. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
“It is a free world. Our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said it all. He has not anointed anyone. All the aspirants are his men. They are free to contest in direct primaries. He asked them to exercise their rights. APC faithfuls will decide whoever is going to be the gubernatorial candidate of the party” he said.
Balogun who spoke on Sunday at a gathering of APC faithfuls from the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Development Area Councils commended Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other elders of the party for not imposing any individual on the people of Lagos State.
“The people here are for the governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode. We walked from Maryland to Freedom Park. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will win APC gubernatorial primary tomorrow. What happened at the Lagos State APC Secretariat on Saturday and what is happening here can tell Nigerians that Ambode has the support of APC members” Balogun said at Freedom Park.
He advised APC members to be steadfast.
“The people here are APC faithful. They want to vote Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Monday. They should also stand their ground. No one should be intimidated. The members should be free to vote whoever they want on Monday” he said.
Balogun who rejected the gospel of endorsement, urged APC leaders to support Ambode.
“We appreciate and respect our leaders. What is on ground now is democracy at play. They led us to this point. They said we should come out and express our rights. At the end of the exercise, whoever is victorious should be appreciated. We should rally round the person”.
Pledging commitment to a level playing ground, free and fair contest, Balogun described APC members as the major power brokers.
“Everyone is entitled to his opinion. The members of the Lagos State House of Assembly are APC members. They have the right to do what they want. However, the members of the party have the right to say this is what they want. It is the primaries that would decide who holds all the aces.
Balogun said Ambode was confident of victory.
“We are sure of victory” he added.
However, tracing why he withdrew support for Ambode, Tinubu said in his statement: “My goal is and shall always be a better Lagos. To this objective, I have dedicated the greater part of my public life. Roughly 20 years ago, a corps of dedicated and patriotic Lagosians, put aside personal interests and rivalries, to put their minds and best ideas together for the good of the state. Out of this collaborative effort, was born a master plan for economic development that would improve the daily lives of our people.
“Bestowed on me was the honour of a lifetime when I was elected to be your governor in 1999. My administration faithfully implemented that plan. The government of my immediate successor, Tunde Fashola, also honoured this enlightened plan.
“Where state government remained true to that blueprint, positive things happened. During my tenure and Governor Fashola’s, Lagos state recorded improvements in all aspects of our collective existence, from public health to public sanitation, from education to social services, from the administration of justice to the cleaning of storm and sewage drains. Businesses, large and small, invested, hired millions of workers and thrived.
“All Lagosians were to fully participate and justly benefit from the social dividends and improvements wrought by this plan. From the common labourer, to business leaders, to professionals and our industrious civil service. We all were to be partners in a monumental but joint enterprise. None was to be alienated. None was to be left out. And none were to be pushed aside. This is especially true for those who contributed so much to our development, whether as a business leader who has invested heavily in Lagos, the homeowner who struggles to pay his fair share of taxes or as someone employed in the hard work of keeping our streets and byways clean so that others may go about their daily tasks unimpeded.
“I make no pretence that the master plan is perfect. It can always be fine-tuned. However, whenever a government departed from this plan without compelling reason, the state and its people have borne the painful consequence of the improper departure.
“To ignore this blueprint for progress in order to replace it with ad-hoc schemes of a materially inferior quality contravenes the spirit of progressive governance and of our party. Such narrowness of perspective does not bring us closer to our appointed destination; it takes us farther from that destiny.
For reasons unknown to me and most Lagosians, we have experienced such deviations from enlightened governance recently.
“This trend is that which most concerns me as the primary nears. We must arrest this trend before irreparable harm is committed against the people and their future. For the record, let it be known that I shall vote in this primary because I see it as one of extreme import to our state and our party. Just as I shall vote, I equally urge all party members to do so.
We must vote in a manner that returns Lagos to its better path, the one that promises a just chance for all to enjoy the fruits of our prosperity. We must always pursue our goal of a Lagos energised by creative dynamism, tolerance of others, and guided by a leadership capable of extending a collegial hand to all stakeholders, far and wide.
“I am encouraged by the emergence of a candidate in this primary who has served the state in senior positions in my administration, the Fashola administration and even in the current one. While possessing a wealth of experience and exposure, he is a young man endowed with superlative vision and commitment. Most importantly, he understands the importance of the blueprint for development. He esteems it as a reliable and well-conceived vehicle for the future development of the state. He also knows the value of reaching out and working with others in order to maximize development and provide people the best leadership possible.
“With people like him at the helm, the state will write the proper history for itself.
“When the final word is given let it be said that we want all Lagosians to look to the future with the hope and optimism that our best days remain before us and not behind us.
“We walk into this primary strong and confidently believing in the right course we are to take. We shall emerge from this primary even stronger and more confident that we have taken that course by returning Lagos and our party to their finest path.”