Editor's note: George Cyril, a Lagos-based business strategy trainer and consultant, writes on the recent world press conference by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos which shook the foundations of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and instantly became a trending topic on social media.
On Sunday, September 30, Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos state and 2019 governorship contestant from the All Progressives Congress (APC) hosted a world press conference in Lagos. Thereafter, the public space has been filled with red-flag expressions from the governor and responses from Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his opponent. But the trending information is not total. What we have seen out there are merely small portions of the total package that escalators find interesting or attractive to amplify. But for balance, there are always more sides to any issue.
The Upside of the Presentation
Governor Ambode drew the world’s attention to the fact that Lagos has moved further progressively in the last three and a half years. He particularly made reference to significant improvement in the state’s security apparatus as well as the significant drop in incidents of crime in the state. He noted that within this time, the state has experienced remarkable growth and performance, and it is upon this backdrop that he is seeking a second term in office to consolidate on the giant strides that Lagos has recorded for itself and for APC.
But this is indeed a very brief summary of Ambode’s achievements in Lagos. It would have taken much more time to expatiate on all sectors that his government has worked on.
The Downside of the Presentation
The governor noted that the peaceful and stable front of APC is being threatened by the current political issues which are cropping up at this time to cause unnecessary fear amongst Lagosians. He hinted that there are strong indications of ongoing recruitment of an army of political thugs to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of Lagos state ahead of the party primaries.
Of course it is public knowledge that despite his visible performance, the party has pitched an opponent against him in the person of Sanwo-Olu, and this is causing an intra-party feud which has put Lagos APC in the national spotlight.
The State Assurances
All these notwithstanding, the governor assured that the Lagos state government will do everything possible to ensure a peaceful Lagos - a destination currently adjudged as the safest city in Africa - during the primaries, while putting relevant stakeholders such as the federal government and all security agencies on notice and urging them to take more than a passing interest in the political developments of the party in the state.
While asking Lagosians to remain calm, he advised all criminal elements not to foment any trouble in the name of politics or under any guise as the full wrath of the law would come upon law breakers.
He also stated that the APC party leaders have given assurances of a free and fair primary elections for those who wishing to represent the party in the forthcoming general elections.
Issues from the Q&A Session
After the governor’s presentation, there was room for questions from the media. And this was where further issues that are currently trending emanated from.
Asked if he will cave in to the pressure from the party to edge him out and give way to Sanwo-Olu, Governor Ambode said as a full-blown APC member, he is going nowhere. “We believe strongly that the tenets of democracy is to allow the democratic values that we have preached as a democratic party to thrive,” he said.
Ambode noted that during his administration, Lagos state APC has been able to attract more members into APC than at any other time in the history of the politics of Lagos state.
The Party Dynamics
The Lagos APC chose direct primaries, which is also open to all contestants. The governor said what Lagosians need is a very clean slate which will allow everyone participate.
“I believe as the party leaders have decided, that it is in the greater interest of the party to allow reason to prevail in order that every contestant can come out and show their strength; that way, we will be activating all the democratic values that APC has always been known for,” he said.
For nearly four weeks before the press conference, APC has been in power tussles over who becomes governor come 29 May 2019. While majority of Lagosians and Nigerians do not see any reason why Ambode should not be re-elected, two other contestants came out all of a sudden to declare their intentions of contesting against Ambode.
But Ambode said the field is open for all contestants. However, he said Lagosians and Nigerians have seen the level of the performance of his government and the need for Lagos to be taken to higher grounds. He expressed confidence that he and his team have done well enough to be able to deliver even more from 2019.
Attacks on Ambode and his Silent Treatment
According the governor, there was a lot of campaign on social media disparaging his personality and character. “But we have been extremely humble,” he said, adding that “we have never responded, we have never accused anybody because we believe that there is always a reason to come together as a family; we are one family in APC.”
It will be recalled that Ambode had tried several peace moves in Lagos and Oshogbo prior to the Osun elections. The impression of some public observers is that he was being weak. But indeed, he was only staying faithful to his political family.
While buttressing his willingness to genuinely move Lagos further, he observed that his prime opponent Sanwo-Olu, is not fit and proper for the job of a Lagos governor, arguing that the facts are known. “Party leaders and even party members have been misled to think that he is a better candidate than myself,” he said. He also said he has done everything possible as a governor to serve people selflessly and to serve the poor, noting that the only way out is to continue to do that in the next four years. He sees no reason why he should not finish what he has started.
He referenced some integrity issues on the part of Sanwo-Olu when he informed his audience that his opponent had at some point been arrested in the US for spending fake American dollars in a nightclub. The governor also called out his opponent’s questionable competence when he informed that the latter had undergone rehabilitation at the Gbagada Hospital.
This part of Ambode’s press conference drew the ire of some members of the observing public, particularly the opponent and his camp in the Lagos APC. Yet, the governor said they are more issues but they (himself and his camp) would not want to say too much.
He called on the leadership of the party to have a rethink. “I will not stand here on the mandate of Lagosians and then allow our great party, APC, to fritter away its opportunity by putting somebody that the opposition will easily take out for lack of integrity,” he said.
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The Buhari-Osinbajo 2019 Ticket
Ambode observed that part of the polarizing effect that the party’s actions will create borders on the delivery of the President Mohammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s 2019 APC presidential ticket. He said the APC’s choice of another governorship candidate might jeopardize that chance.
The APC Lagos Primaries Question
The governor pointed out the fact that while as a progressive, he is committed to the outcome of the primaries as well as the tenets and principles of the party, the party should not accept the disenfranchisement of a lot of APC members. He said there is a plan to use the register of APC members up until 2014, locking out all members of the APC that joined the party from 2015 till date. “All persons that have registered as members of APC should be entitled to vote in the direct primaries; that is where we entrench the democratic values that we are all preaching,” he said.
No War; It’s all values
When asked if he will wage war against party stakeholders that are holding him to ransom, he said there is no rift and no war to fight. He said the whole thing is all about the progress and development of Lagos and that of Nigeria.
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