The Tinubu-Ambode imbroglio

It was only a question of time before the battle becomes public knowledge, as it has been going for a while now. In our peculiar brand of politics, the godfather-godson relationship rarely ends well. We all remember Orji Kalu and Theodore Orji, Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime, Rasheed Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala, and Rabiu Kwankaso and Abdullahi Ganduje.

The godfather anoints a godson, helps him secure the position, often times imposing him on others who could even be more qualified or competent. Soon after assuming office, the godson decides to create his own political base, dismantling his mentor’s structure in the process. More often than not the godson succeeds, with a potent combination of money and political influence often laced with nepotism and cronyism, he can also send the godfather into early political oblivion. Once in a while, the godson meets his match in the godfather who fights back and decimates his erstwhile political son. Naturally, like other battles, there are bruises here and there, injuries and wounds, which may not heal quickly.

That is where we are in Lagos State currently. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom, is trying to show his godson, Governor Akinwumi Ambode, who truly is in charge of Lagos. It started as whispers until pictures surfaced earlier this week of the Mandate Group, a Tinubu-funded group, throwing her weight behind a gentleman, Jide Sanwoolu, who as the spokesperson, James Odumbaku, pronounced oracularly, “He’s the next governor of Lagos.” Try and watch the video, and you will understand that truly Tinubu is the suzerain of Lagos. He determines who gets what and when. It’s so interesting that we see a total personalization of a state in Tinubu who has been the feudal lord of Lagos State since 1999. Stealthily, he has succeeded in dismantling other political machines in the state, within and outside whichever party he pitches his tent with, ensuring total control over the structures. The old guards of Afenifere, warriors of many political battles, first tasted his bitter pill of defeat.

With a potent combination of cronyism and area boy politicking, he exerts total control brooding no opposition or tolerating any dissent. He moves often to whip into line any acolyte who start thinking of branching out on his own or challenging his totalitarianism. Sure, folks like Femi Pedro, Musiliu Obanikoro, Muiz Banire and Babatunde Fashola can tell us more about their experience. His political machine reminds one of Tammany Hall, that Democratic Party political machine that dominated New York City politics between 1821 and 1872 also between 1905 and 1932 and the Cook County Democratic Party with 50 wards in the city of Chicago under Richard J. Daley and his children. We’ve also had political machines controlled by Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano and Obafemi Awolowo. But it is doubtful if any comes close in the absolute control wielded by Tinubu over his.

A story is told of how Awolowo preferred the late Emmanuel Alayande as governor of the old Oyo State for the 1979 governorship elections. But the late Bola Ige challenged that notion asking that an internal election be allowed to which Awolowo consented and he defeated Alayande thereby emerging as governor later. Not sure Mr. Tinubu allows that, otherwise Gboyega Oyetola could not have been the APC candidate in next week’s Osun governorship elections nor will his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, be going for a third term in the Senate when the other two senators in Lagos are not sure of getting the party’s nod. Deputy governorship candidates are changed at will and no one is sure of what happens next, otherwise 57 local government chairs will not sign to support another person when an incumbent is running.

Make no mistake, however, the current battle between Tinubu and Ambode is not about Lagos or her citizens. It is about entrenched political interests and mammon, who controls what and who gets what. It is inconceivable that Mr. Ambode will complain now if his godfather decided to throw him into the lagoon, as his emergence was not squeaky clean too. We remember how other candidates did not know the venue of the primaries and how his predecessor was not allowed any input into his emergence. So, why the complaint now? And the stuff about Alpha Beta is hogwash as he was part of the system; there could have been no expose now if not for the battle for second term. Attempts at obliterating his predecessor’s legacy too could not have endeared him to Lagos citizens just as the rains of the past one-week have exposed the underbellies of some of his road projects.

It is a mutually assured destruction for both Tinubu and Ambode as neither can do without the other at this stage, hopefully reason and common sense will prevail. But how long will Tinubu’s hold over Lagos last? He will do well to remember that even the empire on which the sun never sets is battling Brexit today.