By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
His predecessor, Babatunde Fashola had set a mark in urban renewal that few expected him to match. However, after nearly three years as governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode seems to have set new heights in governance that few expected little challenge to a second term. Hence the surprise at the preemptive move by his associates to tackle the opposition.
The men and women who gathered last Sunday at a discreet Ikeja GRA residence of a top Lagos politician tried much to dismiss insinuations of a panic.
There should not be in a panic given that the men comprised a significant proportion of the elected political office holders in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC from Lagos State.
Local government chairmen, members of the House of Assembly, and a sprinkling of federal legislators were present that afternoon. Also present were heads of extra-ministerial agencies of the state government.
It was as such not surprising that men of the Rapid Response Squad patrolled around the street giving security cover to the gathering.
It was supposed to be an interactive session with some selected newsmen. It eventually turned into a press conference. Addressing the about ten newsmen were scores of politicians led by former three-time chairman of Bariga Council and presently special adviser to the governor on community relations and communications, Hon. Omoyele Sulaimon.
They were gathered for the formal unveiling of the Ambode Mandate Support Group, AMSG which they claimed was formed by associates of the governor to champion his bid for a second term. So, given the belief that Lagos goes the way its political leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu goes and the impression of cordiality between the governor and Tinubu, so why the bother for a support group? Sulaimon tried to fend it as the normal politicking associated with an election.
However, beneath the assumption and confidence radiated by the group is the fact of a looming political battle for control of the country’s richest state.
Though Ambode may have no problems with Tinubu and even the mainstream of the party in the state which is firmly in Tinubu’s grip, there is fear in high quarters of what dissidents within the party could do.
Though he has been almost quiet in the political affairs of the state, the impression that the immediate past governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola could spring a surprise Vanguard learned is seriously bothering leading stakeholders.
Indeed the treatment given to the former governor at the birthday colloquium of Tinubu at Eko Hotel and Suites last month was interpreted as an indication of the division within the party. Many had noted that even though Fashola instituted the colloquium as governor of the state that he was completely left out of the programme that day and not recognised at all.
The perceived animosity flows from the not too hidden secret that Fashola had initially supported a former commissioner in his cabinet, the urbane Supo Sasore, SAN before the APC primaries as his successor.
Sasore, however, bowed down to the superior political power of Tinubu who singlehandedly nurtured Ambode. Though Fashola campaigned vigorously for Ambode after he emerged as the APC candidate, the bad blood apparently had been spilled, and the camp of Ambode seemed not to have forgiven the fact that he was not backed from the beginning by his predecessor.
The fear of the Ambode group is not so much in Fashola, but in what he could do in collaboration with other political dissidents. The most notable of such potential collaborators with Fashola is Muiz Banire; the former law teacher turned hardened politician and incumbent national legal adviser of the APC.
While the bitterness with Fashola and Sasore has been coldly emitted, the bitterness with Banire has been poured out very violently.
When late last year, the Lagos State Government issued an eviction notice on a property occupied by Banire’s mother at 24A, Remi Fani Kayode Street, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos some stakeholders were quick to associate it with the political bitterness between Banire and the mainstream of the party in Lagos.
Even more, a close associate of Banire’s the former deputy speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mrs. Funmi Tejuosho while on official duty as a member of the House was evacuated from her residence. She claimed she had bought the residence as part of the monetisation policy of the previous government, but state authorities debunked the claim with the assertion that she had not made complete payment for the building the government insisted was by right the official residence of the deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly.
Willy-nilly, the eviction notice on Mama Banire and the eviction of Mrs. Tejuosho only seemed to give the impression of an internal battle which is now beginning to spill out.
Banire had ahead of the last local government elections in the state taken opposition to the conduct of the internal primaries with his open questions against the party leadership in the state.
In response, Banire’s ward in Mushin Local Government Area of the state expelled him from the party, a decision that was upheld by both the local government area executive and the state local government executive.
The decision was, however, rejected by the National Working Committee, NWC of the party which affirmed that Banire as a national officer of the party could not be sanctioned by subordinate authorities.
It is as such not idle talk that the opposition of the Lagos State executive of the party to the alleged tenure extension plot for the National Working Committee is also partly influenced by the abhorrence for Banire. While it is true that Tinubu almost singlehandedly installed Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as national chairman, it is also true that he also installed Banire as national legal adviser.
Banire had been regarded as one of the powerful political scions of the Lagos political leader. As Tinubu battled to take dominance of the state, Banire was one of the eggheads who rose on the ladder of Asiwaju Tinubu and increasingly became the local lord over Mushin.
Sources said that the Banire was promoted and used to neutralise the political influence of former Senator Ganiyu Solomon who increasingly lost influence as Banire rose under the aegis of Tinubu.
It is now claimed that Solomon is again gaining the ascendancy as Banire has lately come under political attacks from the mainstream of the party in Lagos.
It is against this background that sources talk of a possible convergence of forces between Banire and Fashola to tackle the Ambode forces on the ground. Banire is believed to have had governorship aspirations. The intentions of Sasore are presently not known despite continuing insinuations.
To the advantage of the Banire/Fashola camp is the fact that they hold sway at the national level and hence, could influence the nomination of officers who would conduct the forthcoming congresses.
However, can the two of them dare take on Tinubu in his political fiefdom? That is an issue that is bound to provoke a political crisis that no one can predict as it is bound to echo beyond the state.