It appears the choice has been made. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) now has a potential successor with whom he has some issues. The Christians seem to have had their say and their way. The politicians appear to have lost again to the technocrats. Akinwunmi Ambode, a Christian and a former accountant general in Lagos state, is not your typical professional politician, he can only boast of one or two years post- resignation political experience.
The “oracle of Bourdillon”, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is watching the unfolding drama of selection with keen interest. Tinubu does not talk much when it comes to choosing his anointed. His body language is enough. He does not like to be predictable when it comes to his choice. He knows how to get the message across to his ‘structure’. And they know how to decode his message(s) especially when it comes to “oga, tala ma dibo fun” (Asiwaju, who are we voting for?)
Undisputably, the governorship slot has been zoned to Lagos East. But who is the most favoured candidate of Asiwaju in Lagos East? Is it Gbenga Ashafa, a first term senator representing the district? Is it Abike Dabiri, the only lady contestant from the zone? Is it Leke Pitan, a medical Doctor and a former commissioner in Tinubu’s cabinet? Is it Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the honourable speaker of the Lagos state house of assembly? Is it Tola Kasali, also a former commissioner in Tinubu’s cabinet? Or is it Akinwunmi Ambode, a former accountant general in Lagos state?
I will not want to flatter myself to assume that I know Asiwaju’s disposition towards everyone of these aspirants since we all served under him and were all “made” by him. But with all sense of modesty, I can say that with my twenty three years of “reading and studying” Tinubu (our first meeting was in 1991 through Dapo Sarumi and my uncle, Dr. Segun Machado, of blessed memory), I know one or two of the aspirants that he will never touch with a long pole. Anyway, that does not matter anymore. The agitation by the Christians for a Christian governor since the time of Michael Otedola, has helped Asiwaju in doing the shortlisting. From all indications, the two Christians on the list, Leke Pitan and Akin Ambode seem to have been automatically shortlisted while a muslim aspirant of substantial social influence in the state was put on standby in case of any political eventualities. Though he has not openly excluded anybody from the list, the wise ones among the aspirants have reduced their spending and their consultations. This is why the tempo of night politicking has gone down.
By now, if you are on the list and Asiwaju has not called you for a tete-a-tete, positive or negative, you are on your own. To members of the structure the message is clear that Asiwaju is inclined to the Christians’ agitation for a Christian governor. And of the two Christian aspirants, Pitan and Ambode, the codes being received from the symbol of the structure, are pointing towards Akin Ambode as the anointed or the ‘special one’. If Asiwaju is opting for Ambode, and not Pitan, does that mean Pitan is not his favourite? Absolutely No. Aside from being a commissioner in Asiwaju’s Cabinet, Leke Pitan has consistently represented Tinubu at every function he (Tinubu) could not attend. Pitan is a loyal and influential member of the Tinubu group. The only disadvantage (if any), in my view, would be his age. Leke Pitan is nearer Sixty years than Ambode who was born in June 1963. Besides, Ambode is seen as a neutral choice being a technocrat. The choice of a politician could have triggered envy, jealousy, ripples, malice and misunderstanding among fellow politicians. During Tinubu’s administration, Ambode proved to be a very diligent, hardworking, committed, loyal and intelligent officer who never betrayed trust reposed in him.
With less than two years post- resignation political experience, the politicians are wondering if Ambode would not behave like Fashola who had a very testy relationship with Asiwaju during his first term in office. The Fashola hostility was so strong that most Asiwaju supporters believed that it was because he was not really a politician and had nothing to lose. In a worst case scenario, he would dust his law books, dry clean his silk and gown and go back to his law profession.
As expected, Asiwaju Tinubu has denied ever trying to impose any candidate. It was an unnecessary denial because nobody has ever quoted him on this. Those who know him very well know that he is too meticulous and circumspect to make a pronouncement on his choice. He has a way of revealing his ‘anointed’ to his own people.
As stated earlier, the core politicians are always suspicious of the technocrats because they feel they are not always loyal and committed since they have nothing to lose politically. As much as one can refer to Ambode as a political neophyte, his resignation from office was contingent upon his desire to contest for an elective position. Right from the moment he resigned, he had told his very close friends and associates that his target was the governorship. Immediately after his resignation he went to inform Asiwaju Tinubu of his political intention. Whether there was an understanding or agreement between the two on what position to vie for remains a secret between the two of them. If therefore Asiwaju has indeed chosen him, it must have been a fulfillment of a pledge made to him when he resigned.
The truth is that Ambode’s resignation was necessitated by a frosty relationship he had with Babatunde Fashola. His reasons were never made public but circumstances of his departure were strangely awry. The thinking is that being a very strong Tinubu boy in Fashola’s cabinet, there was no way he would have resigned his appointment without clearance from Asiwaju Tinubu.
Fortunately for Ambode, his christian faith gave him an added advantage over others. Besides, Ambode is a very rugged and dogged fighter who remained focused to his ambition and never allowed himself to be distracted by the contemptuous way the politicians treated him. Even the mere mentioning of his name was evoking unmerited mockery. If today the name Ambode is echoing in the political circles as being the anointed, it was because both Ambode and Tinubu were faithful to the covenant between them when Ambode resigned.
Will Fashola be happy with the choice of Ambode as his successor knowing how much the two of them loathe each other? In this instance, he has no option because he lacks the political structure that can counter the formidable political machine of his predecessor. Fashola’s preferred choice was never configured as a relevant aspirant hence his complete isolation from all political equations. It is in Fashola’s interest to begin to see Ambode as a friend and his possible successor if he is to avoid another collision with Asiwaju. This is the time he should be reconciling with all those he might have offended these past seven years. In politics, personal animosities are secondary to political expediencies.
This is why I believe that the choice of Ambode is strategic to a greater political interest. Political leaders hardly make concessions on benevolence no matter the intensity of the pressure. If Christians see Ambode’s choice as a victory, they should not be reluctant to pay a price for this victory when those, nay he that chose Ambode requires their alliance in achieving a greater political objective. Until the whole game is played out, Ambode’s choice remains inchoate and it may require extra prayers by the Christians to avoid a replay of the Hakeem Gbajabiamila scenario. Let those on standby know that the whole process is between God and man.
-Dapo Thomas writes from Lagos