By Usen Idongesit
The seeming upheaval in the political stratosphere of Lagos State, the commercial hub of Nigeria has been interesting and a lesson in diplomacy, politics and the treasured involvement of the people’s strong views.
In the past few weeks, the state’s ruling party has been enmeshed in a fever pitch political debate about a second term for its incumbent governor, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode or supporting the candidature of a new aspirant in the person of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The hues, cries, unfolding events, activities, pros, cons and political shenanigans of this decision have mostly been reported and gleaned from numerous social media sources and traditional media. Social media has never been this agog. every minute, the social media reporters produce different dishes of purported tales, stories and news ascribing each story to unconfirmed sources.
With the cacophony of reports abounding, different stories have been bandied such as that the Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) is experiencing turbulence over whether to grant the incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode a second term; that the Mandate Group backed by the APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has thrown its weight behind the new candidate Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu for next governor of Lagos State; that Governor Ambode has been asked to step down his ambition or be impeached by members of the State House of Assembly who are loyal to the party leadership.
There is also stories that various groups within the State have taken the cue to endorse Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; that a group of parties had purportedly endorsed Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and offered its party ticket/platform if he so wishes; that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had allegedly stepped down his second term ambition and endorsed Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu for the governorship seat; that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has been inaccessible to certain elders and party hierarchy; that the State government’s engagement of Vision Scape as its preferred company to handle waste disposal is one of the Governor’s perceived sins; among several other stories that keep flying around.
These largely unconfirmed stories, which have formed the bedrock of this unfolding imbroglio have been circulated as factual and ensured that the tension and rancor surrounding the current situation continue to amplify and fester to a very high crescendo. People now tired of ascribing different stories to different sources mostly unconfirmed have resorted to asking why Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is not even talking. As a matter of fact, the only official response or statement from the Governor’s office to all the stories making the rounds, is a recent rebuttal by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Aruna, stating the obvious; Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is still in the race and is not quitting!
So why has Governor Ambode, the man in the eye of the storm maintained such stoic silence? Could it be that he is waiting for his various achievements/activities in office to speak for him? Of course, there is no denying the fact that the man really worked! Even his adversaries have not accused him of poor performance. Rather they said he has not carried the party members along, whatever that means.
As a matter of fact, there are also stories making the rounds that Ambode, contrary to malicious accusations and castigations, has been a very understanding and loyal party man. His loyalists say he has kept in touch with the party’s high level officials. In politics and general affairs, leaders like Governor Akinwunmi Ambode are expected to avoid situations that may tarnish their image and bring their integrity into question especially taking into cognizance the exalted office they hold on behalf of the people. Outside of party divides and opinions, political watchers are wondering aloud why party men would not give one of their own due credit for the great job he is doing in Lagos State, such as the ongoing construction of the 10-lane Oshodi-Murtala Muhammed International Airport road.
There is indeed no doubt that Ambode has worked relentlessly to provide infrastructure and world class projects for Lagos and set it on a path to greater prosperity. There are developmental projects springing up in numerous parts of Lagos and strides to support all LGs and LCDAs with infrastructural development. It is clear that Governor Ambode wants Lagos to be the true centre of excellence.
Some of the strategic projects being ascribed include; the completion or near completion of more than 300 Local Government road projects since 2015; repositioning of the Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA); acquisition of equipment worth more than N5 billion naira for the State Police Command and Rapid Response Squad, which included 100 4-door salon cars, 55 Ford Ranger pick-ups, 10 Toyota land cruiser pick-ups, 15 BMW power bikes, 100 power bikes, 3 helicopters among several others. He Launched the Bus Reform Initiatives to bequeath a world class transportation system to the State, which will see the construction of new bus terminals, introduction of 5,000 new buses and construction of 100 modern Bus Shelters across the State; Employed 1300 teachers into primary education system; Presented N500 million in Grants to 275 Community Development Associations in July 2018 to enable them complete various self-help projects; Installed Skywalk Bridge to link Terminals 1 and 2 at Oshodi Bus Interchange; Established N25 billion Lagos State Employment Trust, which has provided loans worth more than N5 billion Naira to more than 8,000 persons since inception and helped create more than 11,000 jobs; Commenced development of N49 billion Public Private Partnership Medical Park in Ikoyi; among a plethora of other progressive and developmental projects poised to take Lagos State to the third largest economy in Africa.
These projects are greater points of interest that should speak for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode while the political process plays out. Lagosians know their hardworking governor as a silent achiever but this time around, he needs to talk to set the records straight. Silence at times can be taken for consent. Or is the governor truly hoping that his work will speak for him? Well, maybe not. As posited by Stuart Henderson Bricks, “Doing business without advertising is like winking in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.”
Mr. Usen Idongesit is a Social Critic and Commentator.