AMBODE FIGHTS BACK: Moves To Neutralise Tinubu’s Men

For days it’s been raining in Lagos, but the political atmosphere remains hot. 
The political intrigues shaping the governorship race in the ruling APC in Lagos has intensified as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode indicated that he would not go down without a fight.
He is said to have reached out to the presidency in Abuja to intervene on his side as he battles the Mandate Group, the political machine of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Assured of the support of Tinubu, who is also the party’s national leader, to run for a second term, Ambode had flown to Abuja on Monday morning to obtain the governorship nomination forms.

But by the evening of the same day, the tide had changed with two of his political siblings, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, found to have also obtained the nomination forms by proxy.

While Sanwo-Olu has the backing of the Mandate Group, the political machine that brought Ambode to power, Hamzat rides on the back of the Justice Group, which has the former governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, as its leading light.

The governor, who was said to have been perplexed by the development because he claimed he obtained the nomination forms after due consultation with the party’s national leader on Sunday, had his doubts, about the position of Tinubu, cleared when by yesterday afternoon, the chairmen of the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas (LCDAs) had appended their signatures to the nomination form of Sanwo-Olu.

With Sanwo-Olu as the clear choice even without the voice of Tinubu being heard, Ambode began his survival battle yesterday, reaching out to the presidential villa for help.

THISDAY’s multiple sources said although Ambode was not minded to look Tinubu in the face, he was being prodded by some of his loyalists and friends who believed that having done his best to take care of the political and economic interests of his godfather, he had not been treated fairly, and should consequently fight back.

Ambode says he is not a politician and did not ask to be a governor. He feels, therefore, that if he is no longer wanted by the powers that be, he should simply ease out in peace,” said a source close to him.

But there are some of us who feel that loyalty should beget loyalty, and that if Tinubu has become disloyal to Ambode, the governor should not go down without a fight, giving that he has goodwill not only among the people of Lagos State, but also with the seat of power in Abuja,” he added.

The embattled governor appeared to be listening to his close confidants who asked him to respond to the challenge to his return bid.

His strategy, said a reliable source close to the unfolding power game, is a mixture of diplomacy and war. First he would seek to persuade Tinubu to change his mind and support him. If that fails, he would fight, believing that he has enormous capacity to do maximum damage to the political fortunes of the APC in the state.

Consequently, THISDAY gathered that Ambode had contacted the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, to intervene, the earlier involvement of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo having failed.

On the home front, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, is expected to lead a delegation of the Council of Traditional Rulers in the state to Tinubu’s Bourdillon residence today to plead the case of Ambode.

It was gathered last night that Akiolu is expected to point out to Tinubu the dangers in allowing the rift to fester. The traditional ruler is believed to be worried that the widening of the crack between the governor and his godfather could do incalculable damage to the fortunes of the APC in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

Ambode is, however, said to have a battle plan should the efforts to persuade Tinubu fail. The battle line, according to competent sources, would be drawn today if Tinubu fails to sign Ambode’s nomination form.

The governor would be presenting his nomination form to Tinubu for endorsement tomorrow (today). If he refuses to sign, it would be a clear signal that he no longer supports Ambode. At that point, he would have to activate his battle plan,” a source said.

The governor is said to have placed all his commissioners and political appointees on notice that should peace fail, they would be required to rise to the occasion and mobilise their constituencies.

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