A fast-paced plot is unfolding in the Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to sack embattled Governor Akinwunmi Ambode before the expiration of his single term on 29 May, 2018, Saturday Tribune learnt from both pro and anti-impeachment groups in the state.
The plot, which is now at an advanced stage, according to sources on both sides of the divide, is mainly being hatched by the elite in the party but being sold to the rank and file as a last-minute solution to feared defeat of the party in next year’s governorship election.
Factional chairman of the state chapter of the party, Mr Fuad Oki, has warned the House of Assembly to drop its threat to impeach Governor Ambode or it would incur the wrath of Lagosians.
Also, a Lagos-based civil rights movement, Save Lagos Group (SLG), said it had concluded arrangements to picket the House of Assembly next week over what it termed illegal impeachment process against Ambode, warning the Hon. Mudashiru Obasa-led Assembly against being used by those it called selfish individuals to impeach the governor.
One major weapon to get the public to the pro-impeachment side, according to findings, is the raging issue of heaps of refuse in the state, which has become a major talking point with the House of Assembly directing the restricted PSP operators to resume work all over the state.
The state is contracted to Visionscape for major refuse disposal engagements, while the PSP operators who hitherto had the entire space to themselves are now restricted in their operations.
The “sacking” of the PSP operators had been a major contentious policy issue for the Ambode administration.
On Thursday, the state legislature ordered the local service providers back to work, including areas where they had been barred by the state environmental laws, passed by the assembly.
A top source in the dogfight told Saturday Tribune that the discontent of residents of the state over the challenged capacity of Visionscape to handle the refuse business is now being explored by the party elite to push their agenda through.
It was learnt that after the appearance of the commissioners summoned by the state assembly, the lawmakers would launch an investigation into the payment allegedly made to Visionscape on the order of the governor, after the assembly had pronounced the foreign firm a ghost.
The “accountability” probe, according to a top anti-impeachment element, will likely be spread to other contractual issues with the assembly expected to pronounce the governor guilty of misapplication of state funds, among other impeachable offences to abe listed against him.
“These people (lawmakers and their patrons) are forgetting history. Is this not the same nonsense they tried with Fashola (former governor)? What came out of that process? They are inviting crisis and they would have it,” the obviously embittered party leader told Saturday Tribune.
It was learnt that though all commissioners but two have deserted the governor who was stopped by the same party elite from seeking a second term in office, his camp is not planning to allow those behind the impeachment plot to have a field day or a smooth passage.
“Yes, we are very aware they are planning to impeach Akin (Akinwunmi Ambode) and we are saying, let them try it. I am surprised with the way the media is allowing these people (pro-impeachment camp) to get away with impunity. Is legislative motion not mere advisory? Can they order the governor around in the name of motions?
“Imagine them usurping executive function by directing PSP operators back to work. Will they pay them? Maybe those ones want to work for free. Party members are not buying their ploy and they would be shocked next year. Do they think Lagosians are fools?
Because Akin went back into his shell after the charade of primaries, do they think he is a fool? Let’s wait and see. There is always a limit to nonsense like this,” the party leader told Saturday Tribune.
About a fortnight back, the assembly and the governor reportedly met and parted as friends with the lawmakers said to have come out of the meeting at the Government House smiling.
Facts of the meeting could not be independently verified.
Days after, there were reports of alleged pressure on the governor to resign from office or be impeached.
A party top shot in the state also reportedly boasted recently that “he (Ambode) will go.”
The said leader is a heavyweight in the party’s affairs.
An alleged encounter between a major contractor to the state and the governor not quite long ago reportedly incensed the party elite, firming up their stance that retaining the state depended mainly on getting the governor out as soon as possible.
The said contractor, who is allegedly a major financier of the party and expected to be a major donor for the general elections’ expenses, was said to have returned empty-handed from the meeting where he was supposed to be properly “briefed” on some jobs.
The contractor is said to be central to the funding of the next elections in the state.
Saturday Tribune was further told that “they said he (the governor) was romancing the PDP when in the actual sense of it he had withdrawn into his shell. They said the way he is smiling about his defeat is ominous; that he would not only stop cash flow to their candidates’ campaign, but would use state apparatus to undermine our party. They are now using Visionscape as an opportunity to get rid of him.”
Asked what would be the response of the governor to how he is being buffeted on all sides by his party leaders and elders, the chieftain, who is neither for the governor nor his adversaries, hinted that the crisis that would follow the impeachment attempt at the assembly could only be imagined without elaborating on the fine details.
It was, however, gathered that a silent mobilisation might be ongoing among the rank and file of the party in the state to thwart the plot by bombarding the assembly ground during sitting and force a major commotion to emphasise their discontent with the humiliating treatment being meted out to the governor.
There are also corollary actions expected from the planned assembly invasion as well as collateral damage to governance in the state.
A source warned that the lawmakers might just walk into a trap with their impeachment agenda and could get themselves crippled in a way that many would end up losing their re-election bid.
Saturday Tribune also gathered that the security apparatus in the state and Abuja might be involved in a way that would not be favourable to those who are winning now.
A day after the reported meeting with the lawmakers, it was learnt that Ambode was asked to come down to the Presidential Villa.
Saturday Tribune could not establish who he met and what was discussed.
Feelers from his camp suggested that he has the backing of the Commander-In-Chief to get along with his traducers, regardless of provocation.
While Ambode’s Villa meeting was not made known to the public, the presidential intervention in Ogun State where the outgoing governor, Ibikunle Amosun, lost in his bid to install a successor is known to all.
Though a close ally and confidant of the president, Amosun, at the persuasion of the C-in-C is letting go of the obvious political meltdown he suffered at the hands of the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who installed his associate, Dapo Abiodun, as the party’s candidate.
The Abiodun agenda was reportedly negotiated in a way that guaranteed Solomon Olamilekan Yayi a return ticket to the Senate, in Lagos, despite the initial support for recent PDP defector, Musiliu Obanikoro, by party hierarchy.
Obanikoro’s son eventually got the party’s nod for a House of Representatives ticket.
Yayi is originally from Ogun State and showed interest in the party’s ticket in the state.
Lagos State may also end up with two senators who have their roots elsewhere with Bayo Oshinowo being also of Ogun State ancestry.
The party’s deputy governorship candidate, Femi Hamzat, is also a prince from Ogun State, same as the party’s candidate, Jide Sanwoolu.
Tinubu’s camp in Lagos is, however, worried that the ease with which the president’s men are letting go of political contests with the national leader could portend serious danger next year if the president won a second term.
A Tinubu supporter told Saturday Tribune that the scenario was beginning to look like the proverbial massage of calling a madman the groom to allow for easier passage.
With the emergence of Abubakar Atiku, a former vice president, as the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, tongues have also been wagging about Tinubu’s longtime relationship with Atiku.
Atiku and Tinubu are believed to be more of political soul mates than the pair of Tinubu and the president.
Recently when Atiku made a supposed offensive political statement about allowing Tinubu, out of pity, to keep his Alausa seat in 2003 in the face of PDP’s storm that swept away other Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors, the expected bristling reaction from the former governor never came.
The relationship forged then by the duo, which is perceived to still subsist, is said to be a concern to the president’s camp.
Ambode, Amosun and others who have received the short end of the stick at Tinubu’s hands, are being tipped to lead the 2023 charge against him in the South West when the former Lagos governor is expected to bid for the highest seat in the land.
“We want Asiwaju to run but this president who is just accepting everything from him may be up to something,” an admirer and supporter of Tinubu said.
‘We dare them to try it’
The APC factional state chairman, Oki, in an interview with newsmen in Lagos, gave his warning against the background of a directive issued by the state Assembly to the effect that the Private Sector Participation (PSP) involved in refuse disposal in the state should return to their job and that Visionscape, a foreign company hired for the job, was not known to the law of Lagos State.
Already, the House of Assembly has summoned the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Babatunde Durosimi-Etti, to appear before it, while demanding that Visionscape be made to refund all the money paid to it so far.
“Ordinarily, I don’t comment or discuss issues that arise from the social media but again to every rumour, there is an iota of truth. So, I want to comment based on what I want to perceive or assume to be the iota of truth therein and I want to dare the Lagos State House of Assembly to try it. Let them try it. You see, people who refused to learn from history shall be consumed by history.
“You talk about impeachment as if it is something you pick up from the shelf, like you serve impeachment on Monday and then carry it out on Tuesday. You think Lagos is Ekiti or any other state where six [lawmakers] can impeach a governor. I dare them to try it. Let them try it,” the party chieftain said.
Oki, whose faction is in court following the party’s last congress, said the state lawmakers appeared to have lost a sense of history, recalling that a similar thing occurred between 2009 and 2010 but ended nowhere.
“It seems they’ve lost a sense of history. In 2009 and 2010, a similar thing was tried. Where did it end?” he queried.
“Today, the governor and his government may not be as popular as we all love to see, but let them try it.
“I want to believe it’s a rumour. I want to believe they are all honourables, and I want to say this: I always pride myself to be the 41st member of the House because they are honourable men. I can vouch for them. I believe they would not allow themselves to be used or compromised. If they do it, they would see Lagos,” he warned.
‘We’ll picket House of Assembly next week’
In a statement, the Save Lagos Group (SLG) described as unconstitutional and illegal, the attempt by the Assembly to impeach Governor Ambode.
The signed statement issued by the group’s convener, Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman, which followed the conclusion of an emergency meeting of the group in Lagos on Friday over the subject matter, described the move the Lagos Assembly as a ruse, self-serving and politically motivated.
It noted that the Assembly’s action was not in the interest of Lagosians but an attempt to create confusion and bad political precedent in the polity of the state.
SLG alleged that the only sin of Governor Ambode was his refusal to open the treasury of the state to certain leaders of the ruling party.
The group said it had consulted the like-mind groups across the length and breadth of the state for a mobilisation to picket the House of Assembly next week in order to forestall the impeachment of Governor Ambode.
It said the “anti-masses” attempt to impeach the governor would be resisted through legal and democratic means.
“They want Ambode out of office prematurely because they don’t want him to be entitled to the pension and emoluments of the exalted office. As a civil rights group that stands for truth and justice, we must say NO to selfish removal of the Lagos State governor.
“It is a shame on the leadership of the party [APC] that is claiming to be different in deeds from the main opposition political party [PDP] if it could attempt to impeach a governor through ‘palace coup’ on the basis of not satisfying certain political leaders’ interest.
“We believe that the impeachment process in any democratic clime used to be the poor performance of a holder of certain executive offices.
“Truly, we are not members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and we should be less concerned about their matter but as a responsible and responsive civil society organisation (CSO) that believes in good governance, we cannot fold arms by allowing certain individuals to lay a bad precedent for our hard-earned democracy. Our democracy should be allowed to grow beyond the interest of godfatherism,” the SLG said.
Sulaiman, who doubles as Executive Chairman, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the APC leaders in the state to caution the leadership of the State House of Assembly against illegal attempt to remove Governor Ambode, warning that such an attempt might be catastrophic for the state.