Lagos 2019: Between Ambode, ‘the godfather’ and the rest of us by Buchi Obichie (Opinion)

Lagos 2019: Between Ambode, ‘the godfather’ and the rest of us by Buchi Obichie (Opinion)

Editor's note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, analyses the current alleged sour relationship between Akinwunmi Ambode and Bola Tinubu, and uses the situation as a reference point to bring to fore, the place of godfathers in Nigerian politics. She questions why the will of one man should be imposed on everyone else, and calls for a truly democratic process, in which ‘the will of all’ will prevail.

For the past couple of days, the buzz in Lagos state has been centered on the reported rift between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and how the tense situation may affect the former’s chances of re-election in 2019.

The gist is that Ambode has fallen out with the APC national leader; primarily over financial issues. According to a certain (unconfirmed) report, the governor and Jagaban had a rift over a N1bn contract for an OB van – and other equipment - for LTV. Ambode was reportedly supposed to allow the contract go to Tinubu’s candidate, but he didn’t. He reportedly handed it out to a Lebanese citizen; drawing the ire of Tinubu.

As things allegedly turned out, the contractor did not deliver; even after the huge payment was made.

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However, Asiwaju’s anger is said to run deep, not just over this matter, but because it is said that Ambode has been sidelining him in Lagos affairs – especially the state’s financial affairs.

According to the rumor mill, Ambode has made himself the number one authority regarding all things Lagos, as against the previous status quo, which had the Asiwaju as the paramount political leader of Lagos, regardless of who had the title of governor…at any given point in time!

One source, speaking to Punch, put it this way: “The issues are many – alleged sidelining of party elders, the scrapping of PSP waste management initiative, the sacking of highway managers, award of contracts to a few cronies, ignoring advice from party leaders – they are many, and Asiwaju did not see how all could be resolved without Ambode leaving."

Anyway, the matter has reportedly deteriorated to the point where Tinubu is said to be against Ambode’s second term bid and has allegedly backed someone else to emerge as Lagos state governor in 2019; despite the fact that Ambode has already picked up his nomination and expression of interest forms!

These are interesting times indeed.

It is really ironical, to think that just some few years back, this same Ambode had been ‘anointed’; despite the fact that the immediate past governor – Fashola- reportedly had someone else in mind to succeed him. So how did he suddenly go ‘rogue’, after being a loyal ‘Tinubu boy’? And can he really beat Jagaban at this game? Is he now that powerful?

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I think for me, the bigger problem is not this alleged rift or what it means for Ambode; but how ‘godfatherism’ has become the order of the day, to the point where one man – or some men – can claim ownership over territories, as though it is their birth right.

It almost seems like the will of the people does not even matter…like our votes don’t matter. Afterall, regardless of what we want, when a ‘godfather’ decides on whom to give his blessings, the matter is settled. And in the case of Lagos state, one particular man seems to be the only godfather in town…the mega don…the chief landlord; while the rest of us are lowly tenants, even though we are bonafide citizens and residents.

Yet, this situation is not just peculiar to Lagos.

In all aspects of Nigerian politics, it’s the same. Godfathers abound; and if you want a piece of the cake, you must bow to them. I guess that’s why Bukola Saraki has become something of a maverick.

For some reason, he (Saraki) seems to have found a way to break out of the shackles of the godfather syndrome, and map out his own path, even though it has taken cunning, trickery and deceit. And Saraki has gotten so good at outsmarting older politicians that he has become somewhat of a godfather in his own right!

But is this really good for the country? Can we afford to keep allowing our lives be controlled by a few, to the detriment of the many? When will politics really be about ‘the people’, in this country?

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It is sad that instead of talking about the records of politicians and judging them by their achievements (or non achievements) in office, we are talking about the ‘will of godfathers’ as yardsticks for who takes up the mantle of leadership. So now, instead of objectively looking at Ambode’s track record and using that as a guide to determine if he is fit to lead for another four years, it has become a case of ‘whoever Tinubu anoints will become governor’! Sad!

I don’t know how this situation will pan out. One thing I have learned is that in politics, nothing is static…anything can happen. Deals can be made, last minute; and foes can become friends, under the cover of darkness. Do these men really have my interest at heart, afterall? No.

However, I do hope that we can – someday - get rid of this ‘godfather gangsterism’, and have a truly level playing field where people can be voted into office on the basis of their character and track record.

Lagos does not belong to any one man. It belongs to all who dwell in it. We all should have an equal say in what goes on in this town. We all should be able to decide who we want to lead us – Ambode or anyone else. It should be our choice…all of us!

This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of

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