Pulse Opinion: It’s difficult to believe that Ambode and Sanwo-Olu are good friends right now and I can explain why

Mr. Gboyega Akosile, media aide of Lagos Governor-elect Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, has just issued a press statement denying any form of rift between his principal and incumbent Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, in this transition period.

Sanwo-olu, Ambode and Obafemi Hamzat at the Lagos Government House in Alausa after a bitter primary contest (Twitter: @AkinwunmiAmbode)

“I can confirm that Mr. Sanwo-Olu and Governor Ambode are in constant touch with each other. They are working quietly behind the scene to come up with a smooth transition. They are talking majorly about the composition of the transition committee that will work on the seamless hand-over on May 29th this year. There is no rift of any sort between the Governor-elect and the sitting Governor”, Akosile writes in a press statement sent to media houses this week.

The fact that Team Sanwo-Olu still finds the time to deny stories of a simmering rift between Sanwo-Olu and Ambode at this time, should tell you all you need to know, really.

The truth however, is that there is a rift between Sanwo-Olu and Ambode. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the politics of Lagos since Ambode’s infamous meltdown at his world press conference of Sunday, September 30, 2018. 

On a well-tended lawn on the day, Ambode referred to Sanwo-Olu as a mentally deranged man unfit for public office. He also announced to the world that Sanwo-Olu once sprayed fake dollars in an unnamed U.S Nite Club; and that his challenger had served jail time in the past and there were mugshots to prove it all.

“It's also known that he doesn't have the competence to do what he's been promoted for saying he is going to do, he doesn't have the competence to do what he is saying he can do. The records are there. And this is somebody that has been rehabilitated before….”, Ambode stuttered in palpable rage. 

That night, I watched a visibly rattled and irritated Sanwo-Olu address allegations that he is a fake, deranged so and so. 

“I felt sad for Lagos as I watched the press conference by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Many things he said was beneath the dignity of our people and the exalted office he now holds. Perhaps the tension and anxiety of the moment got the better of him.

“If given a chance at cooler reflection of what he said, I am sure he would regret his descent into such low conduct”, Sanwo-Olu said. 

It’s been five months since that embarrassing Sunday for Lagos, and Sanwo-Olu would not only go on to trounce Ambode at the APC Lagos governorship primary election, he also defeated Jimi Agbaje of the PDP on March 9, 2019, to win the governorship election, with a well oiled APC machinery in Lagos, pulling out all the stops for the anointed candidate.

During the electioneering campaigns, Ambode and Sanwo-Olu didn’t look particularly happy soliciting for votes alongside the other. On a few occasions, Ambode dodged stomping for Sanwo-Olu. Those in the know say when Ambode campaigned for Sanwo-Olu, he did so rather grudgingly, with his body language often giving him away.

This writer has also spoken to one or two bigwig politicians who worked on the Sanwo-Olu campaign about the relationship between both men, post that world press conference. I was told that they are just tolerating the other, that Ambode didn’t financially support Sanwo-Olu throughout the duration of the campaign and that the Lagos governor has kept his distance from the Governor-elect, save for a handful of compulsory transition meetings they both needed to attend.

I have been told that in the final days of Sanwo-Olu’s governorship campaign, those campaign banners with photos of Sanwo-Olu, running mate Obafemi Hamzat and former Lagos Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola—with no space for Ambode’s photos or ringing words of endorsement from the serving governor on them—were deliberate. 

I have been told that Team Sanwo-Olu deliberately set out to storm television and radio stations with Fashola instead of Ambode, in the final days of the campaign, because the Lagos governor wasn’t keen on taking on the role of campaigner-in-chief for his successor. 

Residents of Lagos would also tell you that Ambode has almost stopped governing--looking the other way as tankers and articulated trucks continue to make life difficult for Lagosians, heaps of refuse are enveloping the city once more--as though he wants his successor to have his hands full on his first day.

One top politician in the Sanwo-Olu set-up tells me that Ambode is deliberately keeping the trucks on bridges to make the APC in Lagos look bad.

One member of the Sanwo-Olu campaign would explain that the only reason why Ambode could have accused Sanwo-Olu of possessing unsavory medical records at the Gbagada General Hospital, was because Sanwo-Olu’s wife, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, was Chief Medical Director at the hospital and that Sanwo-Olu would always drive his wife to the hospital before heading for his own office in Ikeja.  

"So, they see him at Gbagada Hospital dropping off his wife and they think he's nursing an ailment or something", this aide says.

You also do have a feeling that Ambode still has a lot to say. That he isn’t done talking. And that he’s commenced the writing of a tell-all memoir of his last days as Lagos governor and the high wire politics that effectively ended his second term bid.

Yes, Sanwo-Olu and Ambode may have spent the last couple of months holding hands and singing Kumbaya in public for the cameras, but behind the scenes may just be a mass of sweltering animosity over bitter words uttered in 2018. Yes, words are that powerful and yes, Lagos had this kind of transition coming. 

What will be interesting to watch in the next couple of weeks would be how well Ambode makes the handover smooth enough for Sanwo-Olu. But at this point, you also have to say that Sanwo-Olu is past caring because he expects nothing. And just as well. 

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