Ambode: Adebule’s Unkindest Cut – By Comfort Obi
I have never met the Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Dr. Idiat Adebule, either officially or unofficially. Like her colleague–Deputy Governors across the country, she is redundant and anonymous, even though her state gives her a little advantage over others. When you are the Governor, First Lady, or Deputy Governor of Lagos state, it is a plus. Every Governor of Lagos state can always lay a claim to being the number one governor in the country – deserved or not. So is the Lagos First Lady. And, well, so is the Deputy Governor. The reason is simple.
Lagos is the capital of the Nigeria Media. It is also the business capital of Nigeria. So, these guys in Lagos attract more attention than their counterparts elsewhere. At times, they are arrogant about it. What other governors would fall over themselves for, a Lagos State governor would ignore it.
I remember a former Vice Chancellor of the most respected Federal University of Technology in the South-east, lamenting, to me, how the then governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, ignored the letter his University Senate wrote, offering to confer on him an Honorary Doctorate Degree. Fashola did not as much as acknowledge the letter of offer. I laughed aloud, and advised him to try “lesser governors.” Those ones will not only accept the offer, they will celebrate it to high heavens. The media will be awash with congratulatory adverts paid for by government parastatals, state executive council members, contractors and many others who the government patronise. Then, they will go to the ceremony with every who is who in their states, including Traditional Rulers. To them, it is a big deal. For a Lagos state governor, at least, Fashola, it is a huge distraction.
But I have digressed. I was talking about the Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Dr. Idiat Adebule. So, may be, she is a notch better than her colleagues – not quite very anonymous, not quite very redundant. But hey, I sympathise with her now, and for all the glamour attached to her position, I don’t pray to be in her shoes. I would give an arm to know her inner feelings these past three weeks, especially, after the governorship primary of October 2 which confined her boss, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, to the unenviable basket of Nigeria’s second state governor to be rejected by his party, and denied a shot at a second term in office. In this category, former Anambra state governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju took the first position.
Edged on by the powerful Anambra political godfathers who installed him, his then party, the PDP, denied him a second term ticket for alleged incompetence. He went to the AD, a party not quite known in the South east, and ran on its ticket. He failed woefully, and till date, Mbadinuju has not recovered from that humiliation. He has become politically irrelevant, almost.
So, what’s in Adebule’s heart? Has she and Ambode met face to face since that governorship primary, and especially, the morning after? If so, was she comfortable? Or, did she feel like the Biblical Judas Iscariot, the guy who betrayed Jesus Christ? Or, was it business as usual?
If you have been following the story of Ambode’s humiliation, how at the governorship primary by his subordinate, then, you know why I’m asking these questions. But, for the purpose of this write-up, a brief recap.
On Tuesday, October 2, the deputy governor, like the Biblical Peter who denied his master, Jesus Christ, three times before cock crow, Adebule publicly denied his boss. She disowned Ambode. Here is how.
For months, the rumour had been on that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Lagos state’s ultimate political godfather, would deny him a second term in office. Initially, not many people believed it. It was dismissed as beer palour gossip. When it wouldn’t abate, some of us said: “Politicians. Don’t mind them. They will make up.” Afterall, there is a precedence in Lagos. Former governor Babatunde Fashola, another of Tinubu’s political godsons, had the same problem with him when he aspired for his second term. Tinubu refused to endorse him, initially. But after a lot of pressure, the Asiwaju caved in and endorsed Fashola. So, we thought it would be the same. But no.
The pressure on Tinubu, to forgive and endorse Ambode, if media reports are anything to go by, was like claps of thunder. They thundered from Abuja to almost all the states of the federation. Even Bolanle, Ambode’s wife, joined. But nothing.
To put a seal on his ambition, endorsements for his nemesis, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, came tumbling, from everywhere, like the Victoria water falls. The APC structure in Lagos. The all powerful Mandate Political Group founded by the Asiwaju himself. The Governor’s Advisory Council. National Assembly Members. ( Ah. the three Lagos state senators, remember, had a couple of months ago, endorsed Ambode). Members of the Lagos state House of Assembly, Chairmen of LGAs, and LCDAs, and Wards. Market Women and men led by Asiwaju’s first daughter, Mrs Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja of Nigeria. Every stakeholder in Lagos state. Just everybody who is anybody.
Yet, to me, the “unkindest cut” was Ambode’s denial by his Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, who publicly disowned him during a press interview.
Dr. Adebule, according to media reports, arrived at her Ward A and D, Iba LCDA, along with some of her aides, carrying posters of her principal’s opponent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. As if that was not enough to make her point, she chose to address reporters, – cheeky fellows – who mischievously waited for her. Her words, when asked of her position: “The party has chosen a man and it is that man that I will support and follow. I have no doubt that anybody who emerges today as the candidate of the party will have my support. I have no doubt as exhibited by my people today that they are standing with the party’s position on this primary, and with that position I stand. And I choose to stay with my party at this time. My party has spoken and I have no doubt to state that on the position of my party. I stand. It is a very clear election as you can see. People are voting in line with the dictates of the party. We have voted for the person who the leaders of the party have chosen. It is an overwhelming experience as you can see it, and we will continue to support the party and abide by its rules.”
So, may be, Adebule had no choice really. A lecturer at the Lagos State University, the Lagos APC party leadership plucked her and installed her Fashola’s SSG. From that position, they drafted her to be Ambode’s running mate. So, perhaps, she really had no choice. But in her shoes, God forbid, I don’t know if I would have the courage to publicly disown my boss, unless he was thoroughly mean to me. Even then, I would have done so in a more tidy manner than she did. Number one, I will not go to the voting centre with the posters of his opponent. Number two: I will not grant a press interview endorsing his opponent. It was an over-kill. Unless, as earlier said, my boss is mean to me.
Now, I don’t know if that was the case, but believe me, many state governors are mean to their deputies. They have no respect for them. A number of commissioners are more influential than them. They hardly consult them on any major issue. They are just there because the Constitution says so. It is because of such treatment that most governors hardly allow their deputies to succeed them just so they are not paid back in kind. Those who did, or forced to do so, have sad stories to tell. Ask former Kano state governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. His then deputy, now Governor Ganduje, has barred him, almost, from entering the state. Not even the Police can help him. Also ask former Ebonyi State governor Martin Elechi. He has since abandoned the PDP for his former deputy, Governor Dave Umahi. Elechi is now an APC chieftain. But, how relevant is he there?
We never heard, or read anywhere that Adebule was having any misunderstanding with her boss and/or his elegant wife, Bolanle. Yet, the story everywhere, now, is that the man runs a one-man show, and has allegedly, forcefully removed the feeding bottle from adults – you know, the usual patronage and other fringe benefits, even from the DG, SSG, and his Commissioners. If true, he is the architect of his downfall. Good politicians know better than that. They oil the political machine.
For the records, Ambode is on a long, lonely journey to his village. If he doesn’t manage the situation well, and package himself better than he is doing now, he may become politically irrelevant. Even, now, he has become a lame-duck governor. His friends, if he still has any, may start disappearing. He is no longer the centre of attraction. Sanwo-Olu is.
A thorough-bred civil servant, I understand, who was brought out of retirement and enthroned as the governor of Nigeria’s number one state, how did Ambode fall out of favour everywhere – to the extent that neither President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Working Committee of his party, nor several VVIPs could save him?
As confirmed by Tinubu, it is not that he has not performed well as a governor. The problem, as has been more than hinted, is that he “may have been eating alone.” He was not free with patronages. He became swollen-headed. He deviated from the norm. He may not have remembered to oil the party machinery, nor those who helped him to the exalted position. Tinubu put it nicely. Ambode deviated from the Lagos development blueprint and, is not a good party man. But where is this blueprint? Can it be publicised so others can copy. Or, does it have a patent?
Ambode’s rejection by about everybody is unprecedented. It was total. Never in the history of politics has any rejection been this overwhelming. It is like a bad dream.
His fall should be a lesson for people who forget those who made them in life, or helped make them, once they find their feet. They not only forget, they run the person down behind, even publicly. Fact is: such attitude is a sin before God and man.
It beats me that Ambode could attempt to tango with Tinubu. For now, Tinubu is the most powerful, the most influential politician, not only in Lagos, but in the South west. He commands followership. And loyalty. But that’s because Tinubu, on the average, has a forgiving heart, and rewards loyalty. When he sneezes, Lagos shakes.
But, here is the implication of his power, influence and, hold on Lagos politics. Any APC member, who rejects his opinion, goes nowhere. If Sanwo-Olu wins, his main job has been made simple. It is: Look unto the Asiwaju, hang unto his every word, or you get the Ambode treatment. Even the APC NWC cowered before him in the Lagos matter. From publicly saying no election took place in the state, Clement Ebri, the Chairman of the Electoral panel, made an about-turn within 12 hours. Many people were embarrassed for him. He learnt late that “power pass power!”
Yet, Ambode can still redeem himself. He already started with his broadcast to Lagosians on Wednesday, October 3, accepting the fate that befell him and, pledging to cooperate with Sanwo-Olu. Not that he had any choice. He knows the implication of fighting on. Who are his backers? He is standing alone.
When some people advised him to dump his party for the PDP, I laughed. He knows better than that. In Lagos? That would be committing suicide. He wouldn’t have lasted two weeks more in office. He would have been impeached. So sad he learnt his lesson very late, and in a hard way. A political novice? Yes. For, even when the chicken was coming home to roost, he hardly noticed.
His earlier outburst against Sanwo-Olu was ill-advised. He called him a criminal who is unworthy to occupy the office of a governor, yet, the guy was a high profile LASG official appointed by him. He alleged that Sanwo-Olu went for rehabilitation at the Gbagada General Hospital – meaning he was a drug addict – and asked anybody in doubt to go check the records in the hospital. That was beneath the office of a governor. Where were his media managers when committed this blunder?
The question is: How did Ambode access the medical records? Such things are confidential. Even though Sanwo-Olu has denied both allegations, I suspect that heads will roll at the Gbagada General Hospital, particularly at the Records department, if he finally wins the governorship election.
But back to Deputy Governor Adebule. Not a few people will keep referring to her as the woman who abandoned her boss. The choice before her, excuse this cliché, was like one between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand, she is a product of the party. On the other hand, Ambode is her boss. It is a no-win situation. Either way, many will look at her with suspicion. Situations like this are some of the reasons many people, especially women, don’t have the liver to join politics.