The Upper Crust

Trials of brother Ambode (1)

 

With Uche Nnadozie

There’s hardly any gubernatorial contest that has dragged national attention to its side better than that of Lagos. With the primary election of the All Progressives Congress, APC attracting this serious scrutiny, it is only left to imagination what the general elections will look like in February 2019. The signs and symptoms of a dog fight are there for all to see. Events leading up to the primary election has been such a drag. The state is governed by the APC. The governor is Akinwunmi Ambode. Ironically, it is the party in power that is enmeshed in crisis. Although some debate whether what is happening is a crisis or not; no question about it, the outcome of the primary which was supposed to hold yesterday, but rescheduled for today may become the trigger for what is likely to become a crisis.
It started like a rumour. The first time we heard anything about Lagos APC primary was when the state party leadership adopted direct primary method. In their constitution, it is said that it provided for direct, indirect and consensus to choose whoever will fly the party’s flag. So any of the methods adopted will not contravene the party’s constitution. Lagos was the first to identify with direct primary.
Soon, signs began to emerge that there was something in the offing. Political pundits predicted that that form of primary was targeted at the governor. Analysts posited that where members are made to vote, the likelihood of Ambode emerging as candidate was very slim; as against if it was delegates’ election where it could be easy to identify and probably “buy off” the delegates.
Before long, other aspirants began to emerge. As forms became available two other persons bought the form which the governor equally bought. Personally it is difficult to argue against direct primary election; more so if the argument is between direct and indirect or consensus. Second, it is also not against the law for other aspirants to show interest where an incumbent is contesting- even if those other aspirants may step down after some form of consultation. So for me, the other aspirants have not done anything wrong. They have exercised their constitutional right. It is important we do not shout down people and their aspiration. The same way, nobody should shout down the ambition of governor Ambode. This was my area of divergence when president Obasanjo issued his statement where he made scathing remarks against President Buhari in January. I agreed with almost all his criticisms, but when it got to asking Buhari not to contest the 2019 election, I got pissed off. No, you don’t tell a man not to contest election- certainly not in public.
For Ambode, virtually all the major groups, caucuses and individuals within his party have distanced themselves from him. Instead these groups ranging from council chairmen, legislators, long standing caucuses within the party, etc have endorsed his opponent Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The way these groups changed overnight looks to me like a long bottled up anger or misgiving. Seems they bid their time, waited for a moment like this when the governor will come back to them to renew his mandate. And they seized the opportunity with both hands. This is interesting because according to my investigations, Ambode has not been a particularly party man. It is understood that he hardly consulted with the party or deferred to the party where necessary. It is alleged that he practically made himself the single and unquestionable leader in Lagos such that he felt if he secured the backing of Bola Tinubu that was all he needed. However, that has proved to be a wrong move.
My interest in the Ambode debacle is not necessarily about who picks the party ticket; for me, it is about the mechanics of party politics in Nigeria. We have people who pretend to know better especially on the social/main media who dish out all manner of opinions on how things should be. Things are not like how these people want it because politics is a tedious game. It is not for the faint hearted. It is tough and engaging. And in our land, it is even tougher considering the kind of environment they operate. Building and sustaining political parties is even tougher. I have argued elsewhere that the APC at the national level have suffered the same fate as with Lagos. The president had abandoned the party and its mechanics soon after he won election. That is a fact. I’m sure if he had shown more interest in the internal contradictions within APC and indeed any other party for that matter, most of the people who left the party recently would not have done so.
The president behaved like someone who merely used a vehicle to a destination and abandoned it. As the party cried from its self-imposed success hangover the president looked away and claimed he was instead minding the country. That the country was his primary constituency, he is correct except that members of his party are equally part of Nigeria, without them, he won’t occupy the seat of the president of Nigeria. Like the proverb says, the okra does not grow taller than the owner. The Ambode debacle, no matter how it ends today should help new politicians learn how to manage the political party. Parties are central to the democracy we preach. Addressing party issues does not necessarily mean handing cash to party loyalists or leaders. No! In fact, that is naïve. But that may suit propagandists. Nevertheless, whichever way the primaries go, there will be consequences.
…This article will continue on a later date

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