Bye-bye Ambode; welcome Sanwo-Olu

According to Google, “All is well that ends well” is Shakespeare’s romantic story about Helena, in love with the unloving Bertram and the lengths she went to make it work. Set in France and Italy, “All is well that ends well” is a story of one-sided romance, based on a tale from Baccaccio’s “The Decameron.” Helena, the orphaned daughter of a doctor, was under the protection of the widowed Countess of Rossillion. In love with Bertram, the countess’ son, Helena followed him to court, where she cured the sick French king of an apparently fatal illness.

The king rewarded Helen by offering her the husband of her choice. She named Bertram; he resisted. When forced by the king to marry her, he refused to sleep with her and, accompanied by the braggart Parolles, left for the Italian wars. Bertram said that he would only accept Helena if she obtained a ring from his finger and became pregnant with his child. She went to Italy disguised as a pilgrim and suggested a “bed trick” whereby she took the place of Diana, a widow’s daughter whom Bertram was trying to seduce. A “kidnapping trick” humiliated Parolles while the bed trick enabled Helena to fulfil Bertram’s conditions, leaving him no option but to marry her, to his mother’s delight.” In the same way was Herod left with no option than to give the head of John the Baptist to the daughter of his mistress Herodias (Mark 6: 17 – 29).

On Tuesday, 28th May, Akinwunmi Ambode had no choice but hand over the baton to his successor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The battle for second term or not had been acrimonious. Ambode gave it his all but the stakes against him were more than he could surmount. The Oracle spoke and the rest, as they say, became history – at least for now! Who, after all, knows what tomorrow has in store for anyone?

Last Monday, May 27th afternoon while the vicinity of the State House, Alausa, Ikeja was crowded by fun-seeking children celebrating Children’s Day, outgoing Gov. Ambode hosted top media buff to say “thank you” – and see you again. Of course, we shall see again but where, we cannot say. One thing is certain, though, Ambode has become “former Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State.” Such is life! As Nnamdi Azikiwe told loud-mouthed Administrator of the defunct East Central State, Ukpabi Asika, “no condition is permanent.” Even if Ambode got second term, it would still have come to an end some day. We have many two-term governors in our midst who, today, are as ordinary as ordinary can be. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, who took his own oath of office on Wednesday, will also one day be referred to as “former governor of Lagos” whether or not he serves a second term.

The afternoon was filled with fond memories. Many words were spoken but those that could not be spoken outweighed them all. Ambode appreciated the media’s contribution to his success story. Remember, even godfather Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu admitted he was a good governor. Ambode must have put that disappointment behind him. He was quoted recently as saying he had learnt useful lessons and was now a better person. Loaded! Next time he has the opportunity to dine with the devil, as it were, he will get a longer spoon!

Speaker after speaker eulogised Ambode for turning Lagos into a huge “construction site.” Everyone had an on-going Ambode project in his or her vicinity to point at. That must have given Ambode a lot of satisfaction, even if he would have wished he were allowed to complete the good job. He gave assurances, though, that his successor, Sanwo-Olu, would continue where he stopped and solicited the media’s support for him.

Where does Ambode go from here? Rumours are rife that he might make President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet. Two antecedents that resemble his, however, give the hope that Lagos may not have seen or heard the last of Ambode. Peter Ayodele Fayose was Ekiti State governor between 2003 and 2006 when his first tenure was truncated by erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo. For the next eight years Fayose was in the political wilderness; but exactly eight years after in October 2014, he rode triumphantly back into office and completed his second term in October 2018. In the same Ekiti, sitting governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, was trounced by Fayose in 2014. The same Fayemi was thereafter appointed Minister by Buhari. From there, he came back last year July to win election for his ongoing second term as governor.

Ambode almost took after Fayose’s pattern. When he became estranged from his godfather with the entire APC political machinery stacked against him, the fear was he would be impeached. It almost got to that as a “loyal” House of Assembly was already itching to do the godfather’s bidding until commonsense prevailed. Having escaped impeachment and successfully completed his term, the other possible scenario awaiting Ambode could be Fayemi’s. For now, however, all is well that ends well. Well…until the “Ambode’s government was a failure” internal memo of the Secretary to the State Government under Ambode, my brother and friend Tunji Bello, got leaked to the media. Who leaked the memo since Tunji said it was an “internal farewell message to colleagues”? Leakage could have come from either of the two ends – the writer’s or the receiver’s. While many will describe the memo as damning, it says nothing that has not been in the public domain for a long time. In fact, it can be described as a mere rehash of the reasons adduced by the godfathers for denying Ambode a second term: Good governor, but bad party man. Ambode himself had said he has learnt his lessons and is now a better person – who will make a better party man in future?

But truth be told, Ambode was not the only loser in the battle for second term. Many who stood by him went down with him. They, too, were denied tickets. Those in appointive positions knew they had to pack bag and baggage and leave office with Ambode. So, they made the best of the situation while Ambode was in office. On the contrary, those who supported the godfather had a bellicose Ambode to contend with from the period the former governor lost the second term battle. They were like “traitors” and “enemies” within who had lost the confidence of the then governor. It must have been trying moments and difficult times for both sides.

Now, there is the other side of the equation which the emergence of Sanwo-Olu and Obafemi Hamzat threw up: New permutations and re-jigging of appointments and positions necessarily had to be done. In this wise, many who were loyal even to the godfathers, for no fault of theirs, had their fortunes compromised. This group will blame Ambode for rocking the boat. I guess Tunji spoke for this group, if he did not speak for himself as well. Leaving office “unappreciated and disenchanted” as Tunji’s leaked memo divulged, is something that political office holders will not forgive in a hurry. I have witnessed this happen in two or three instances. Every political office holder wants to leave office fully “appreciated;” they want to be properly “sent-off.” They want their “severance package” They want to leave “fully loaded.” If this is not the case, yesterday’s friends or loyal subordinates will automatically turn into inveterate foes with automatic alacrity. More so if they felt Oga “loaded” himself to the hilt while leaving the others threadbare.

While we welcome Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat to the saddle, we must state that it will take some time for the ripples caused by Ambode’s failure to secure second term to settle. The Lagos State Government must present a unified front and move as a team, which they promised during the electioneering period. Sanwo-Olu must avoid the temptation of becoming another Muhammadu Buhari who reneged on his promises immediately he got into office. Already, rumours are all over the place that the new Lagos governor has started making a u-turn on some of his promises. Thank God for technology; people have him on tape and will be more than ready to hold his feet to the fire. Our people have a saying: Pasan t’a fi na’yawo…

Cultists’ threat: How did it go at OAU?

As I put this column to bed on Friday afternoon, it was with mixed feelings. One feeling was that the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife had done the needful to avert a breach of the peace which some cult groups had threatened on the campus. The usually pro-active and responsive OAU authorities, I believe, must have made the necessary contacts with the security agencies to ensure the security of life and property on its campus. The present OAU administration headed by Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede has been especially efficient and successful in this regard.

The other feeling, however, was that of “deja vu” or “you never can tell” If the PDP/Goodluck Jonathan administration was noted for corruption and cluelessness, to quote APC’s Lai Mohammed, then, the APC/Muhammadu Buhari administration will go down in the nation’s history as the very first time in its annals that Government totally abdicated governance. Criminals of all shapes and sizes ride roughshod over the polity. Each region has its own peculiar security challenges. In the South-west, the problem used to be petty thieves and small-scale criminals who took to their heels at the mere shout of “ole.” Gradually, however, cult groups began to emerge. We shouted ourselves hoarse to draw the attention of the authorities and to warn, like the elders would say; that you begin to cut the branches of an “iroko” tree when it is still fledgling and not when it has become a giant that your arms cannot encircle again.

The chickens, as they say, have come home to roost as far as cultists and their murderous activities are concerned in the South-west. Bragging rights among rival cult groups and reprisal attacks now make life a nightmare. Since Buhari, the security apparatuses, like the national grid which collapses again and again, appear to have accepted defeat and, in boxing parlance, have thrown in the towel. Which is why, at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the palpable fear that gripped the academic community in the last couple of weeks can be cut with a knife. A cult group wrote to the authorities stating the date and time – the night of Saturday, June 1st – when it will attack to avenge what it termed an insult to some of its members. Such temerity, yes; but that is how emboldened criminals have become under Buhari and a measure of how ineffectual and clueless the government itself has become.

The University authorities issued a statement to say all is well; assuring everyone to go about their duties without fear. But as the D-Day approached, students, even lecturers, were in panic mode, with some contemplating fleeing the campus. Remember that the ongoing herdsmen’s siege on the South-west has not spared OAU members of staff. I pray the OAU authorities are on top of this situation and the cultists and their ilk deflated. It is when this ends well that all will truly be well!