Not many knew Akinwunmi Ambode when he declared his interest to run for the gubernatorial position of Lagos State except for his portfolio as the Accountant-General of the state under the Babatunde Fashola administration and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance under Tinubu.
With the backing of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC leader, Ambode easily cruised to victory at the APC governorship primary, defeating much more popular candidates, including a serving Senator and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
He narrowly won against the PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, and immediately get down to work after he was sworn in as Governor on May 29th 2019.
In 2017, a year before Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Akinwunmi Ambode fell out, Tinubu had praised Ambode thus:
“Today, I can see your report card, you have scored well, and you have shown prudency especially in the judicious use of resources of the State. You didn’t disappoint us. Ambode is silently achieving, meticulously planning, religiously executing and brilliantly giving results for Lagos State.”
It didn’t take long after that speech before they fell out.
One of the earliest signs that Ambode was stepping on the toes of some powerful persons in the state came in July 2017, when he contracted
Visionscape, an environmental utility company, for waste management services in the state.
The contract he signed with Visionscape had put the Lagos Private Sector Partnership (PSP) operators in charge of refuse collection and disposal, out of business. The big deal at the time, though, was that those in charge of PSP operations were mostly influential persons at the grassroots, who make up a core part of the APC structure in the state.
He also changed the Lagos slogan of Eko oni baje to Itesiwaju Eko.
There was also the rumour of him insulting the party leaders and side-lining them in decision making of his government.
The state assembly would later overrule him on the issue of PSP and in October 2018, ordered the PSP operators across the state to resume work.
However, as his second term bid got more intense in 2018, it became obvious that Ambode was no longer in the good books of Tinubu.
This, many believed, was mainly because of allegations that he abandoned the party structure put in place by Tinubu and even dumped some loyalists of the APC leader.
As Ambode continued to fight for his political life, the 57 Council Chairmen in Lagos state abandoned him and pledged their support to Babajide Sanwo-Olu who at the time had reportedly been anointed by Tinubu.
“Meeting is over. Ambode is out. Jide Sanwo-Olu is the new Governor of Lagos. All 57 local government chairman have signed his form. It’s over,” one of the insiders privy to the development had told close associates.
As his goodwill among political actors in the state continued to diminish with each passing day, the APC leadership was said to have intervened to get Tinubu to “forgive” Ambode.
On the instruction of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Adams Oshiomhole, then-National Chairman of the party, reportedly met with Tinubu to make a case for Ambode to no avail.
What is regarded as the last straw that shattered what’s left of Tinubu’s goodwill for Ambode was a press conference Ambode organized as he battled to secure the Governorship ticket.
At the briefing which he called a day to the party’s primaries, he had alleged that Sanwo-Olu was once detained for spending fake dollars at a nightclub in the US, among other damning claims.
“The aspirant being put up to compete against us is not a fit and proper person to take this job. This is somebody that has gone for rehabilitation before. The records are there at the Gbagada General Hospital,” he had said, before urging Tinubu and other APC leaders to “have a rethink.”
Hours after the briefing, Tinubu released a statement in which he chided Ambode and accused him of departing from the state’s masterplan.
“Whenever a government departed from this plan without a compelling reason, the state and its people have borne the painful consequence of the improper departure,” he had said.
Just as the state Governorship election was drawing near, the aftermath of Ambode’s frosty relationship with Tinubu spilt over to the State House of Assembly where most of the lawmakers are staunch loyalists of the APC leader.
On January 28, they began a move to impeach him, after accusing him of incurring expenditure from the 2019 budget without presenting it to the assembly.
However, he was said to have been saved by the intervention of party leaders at the national level.
He lost the primaries to Babajide Sanwo-olu who later won the Presidential election.
On Friday, almost two years after Ambode lost his second term bid, Tinubu opened up on why he abandoned him for Sanwo-Olu.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Agege Pen-Cinema Bridge in Lagos, the APC leader said “the ship of this state seems to have headed in a very wrong direction” under Ambode but Sanwo-Olu “turned it round to the right direction”.
Indeed, most Lagosians can agree that in the state, the fear of Tinubu — whom the Financial Times once referred to as a political Svengali, the all-controlling character in George du Maurier’s 1891 gothic-horror novel, is the beginning of wisdom.