*Portrait of the tiger Ambode rode (3)*
– By Yinka Odumakin
MY first encounter with Akinwumi Ambode was at the Ikeja home of late General Adeyinka Adebayo the day after his transition. I was exchanging pleasantries with Otunba Niyi Adebayo when he walked in. As the governor offered his hand to greet me, a convoy screeched to a halt outside.
To my consternation the governor dropped my hand and “pick am for race” muttering “Asiwaju is here” and ran out like a kid whose father just arrived after a long absence from home.
The second meeting with him was at the Bourdillon home of the Tiger the day I joined Chief Reuben Fasoranti, the Leader of Afenifere, late Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo to visit Tinubu.
Unknown to many of us then, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi was already in the departure lounge and was trying to fix the fixable before boarding and suggested at an Afenifere meeting that there should be a meeting with Tinubu to bring some harmony to Yoruba political establishment. The proposal was accepted.
I reached out to Mr. Dele Alake who fixed the appointment. In fairness to Tinubu, he sent word back that he would come and visit the elders but Sir Ajayi insisted they should go and see him.
Tinubu had Ambode, Alake and Prof. Bayo Williams on his side for the meeting making eight of us in the room. As the meeting proceeded Tinubu, looked in Amode’s direction and said, “Iwo, lo ba mi so fun Kabiyesi ki won mu suru” (You, go and tell Kabiyesi to exercise patience). Amode got up and went to meet Olubadan in the sitting room like a schoolboy dispatched on an errand by his teacher. I couldn’t hide my disgust at such situation and a frown descended on my face. Tinubu must have noticed my look, he said: “If Kabiyesi saw that I sent a governor, the message will look serious” – by way of an explanation.
The third encounter with the Governor was at the Church service for the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme in Anambra State. Ambode sat next to Tinubu in the church as the latter was being interviewed by a TV reporter. As I passed by where they sat, he beckoned to greet and said “Thank you” to me and looking over his shoulders as if Tinubu would give him a knock on the head if he saw him greeting me.
He was appreciating me because I made a public statement around the time commending him for taking Lagos State into Oodua Investment and promising to invest in Agriculture in other South West States. From 1999 till when Ambode took that decision, Tinubu had always maintained that “gedegbe ni Eko wa” (Lagos stands alone).
A godfather should look for no more an ideal captive than the character in the above narratives but not Tinubu who doesn’t take 99 but 100%. So, there was nothing Ambode could have done to survive as he had made up his mind no General Manager he put in office as Lagos Governor after Fashola will do a second term. The day he appointed the current Governor was the very moment he started plotting his exit and Amode made it very easy for him with his own aloofness which made him to carry on as a UAC Manager and not a politician.
One major complaint by the feeders on power and mostly Tinubu hangers-on in Lagos misnamed political leaders is that Ambode does not pick their calls. When they go to Tinubu to complain that Ambode doesn’t pick their calls he would respond: “He doesn’t pick my own too, I call the ADC when I am frustrated.”
Alas, it was the godfather who told the godson to concentrate on his job and shun phone calls from everybody and that if he needs him he would call the ADC. Like a goat being led to the slab, Ambode carried on with the instruction that would lead to his political death.
By the time Tinubu pulled the rug from under his feet, all the political dealers of Lagos came out with their own knives playing the role Tinubu designed for them from the beginning. He did not have the challenge of when he intended to stop Fashola in 2010 when critical voices spoke up for him. Among independent people who approached Tinubu in Fashola’s moment of trial were Gen. Alani Akinrinade and Dr. Amos Akingba.
After a stormy session with Tinubu back then, he resorted to his crass material card by telling them he would need a house he donated to a Yoruba cause they were pursuing them in the Opebi area of Lagos They told him he could take possession the following day. Tinubu realised he was stuck. The only contact Ambode could possibly have with many of those who stood up for Fashola may just be reading about them in the newspapers!
I have heard stories of Ambode saying nasty stuff about Tinubu behind him in spite of his dovish disposition before him. His moles around the governor were said to have even played such tapes to him. This brings home the truism of the Yoruba saying that the man whose vocation is severing heads from others’ necks dreads the cutlass dancing kilometres around his own neck. Pray, what did Tinubu not say about Senator Abraham Adesanya and his colleagues who were no taskmasters over him the way he constituted himself over Ambode?
I recall how Senator Adesanya called Tinubu, the late Alhaja Habibat Mogaji (Tinubu’s foster mum) and Chief Kafaru Tinubu shortly before the 2003 elections to his home in Apapa when his ears were full. Senator Adesanya looked straight into Tinubu’s eyes and started: “Bola, God will not cover your shame if you lie to cover my shame today.”
He asked Tinubu if it was true that he was on Level 16 in Alausa and he answered no. He also asked him to name the address of the house he bought for him in London and Tinubu said he didn’t buy any house for him. Papa Adeasnya said the only house he had in London was bought before Tinubu was born and wondered why he was spreading slander about him all over the place.Tinubu denied spreading evil reports about him adding: “May be it is Dele Alake and Co just looking for tales to spin.”
Back to Ambode. He has enjoyed a momentary ride on the back of the tiger before ending in its belly. I have heard a lot of uniformed commentaries that he could have continued the ride if he had handled things differently. I dare say that those who hold such views do not understand the tiger he rode. Towards the end of his first term as governor, he impeached his first deputy, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele. An Afenifere panel of Chief C.O Adebayo, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and my humble self were asked to look into the feud between them. After talking to both of them, our verdict was that they could no longer work together. It should have really been no deputy with a mind of his own can work with Tinubu.
He replaced her with Chief Femi Pedro. You would think Pedro dropped from the sky the day he introduced him to me in Bourdillon before he nominated him. He impeached him also before the end of his second tenure and replaced him with Chief Abiodun Ogunleye who stayed for a very brief period to suffer impeachment. Let the Tiger makes Oluremi Tinubu governor, they will fall out!
The last time I saw Sola Lawal standing behind Alhaji Adeoti, the Governorship candidate of ADP in Osun election was a sad reminder of how Tinubu’s exclusive, overbearing, high-handed politics scattered an assembly of the best and brightest Yoruba young men and women who converged at Adesanya’s feet in 1998 in different directions so the basest, vilest and strange children can take centre stage in Yoruba affairs.
The resort to using the Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly to start issuing executive orders signals the imminent impeachment of Amode as governor. Whichever way it goes, the no Amode said that made Tinubu resort to his political wayward ways at the crudest has collided with the law of unintended consequences as something tells me loudly that Tinubu may need to dig two graves as he plans Amode’s burial.The tiger has eaten what will not digest.