The frosty relationship between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and his predecessor Babatunde Raji Fashola, has shown no sign of thawing.
Another layer was added last weekend as Fashola--who is President Muhammadu Buhari’s minister of power, works and housing--visited his home State and the nation’s commercial capital.
The date was Saturday, March 25, 2017 and Fashola was in Lagos for a continuation of his project tour across Nigeria.
Last week belonged to the Southwest on the minister’s itinerary and Fashola had been hosted by Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, hours prior.
If the former number one citizen of Lagos was expecting a red carpet reception like he had been accorded in Ekiti, he had another think coming.
Things got really cold as Fashola and his team drove to the government house in Alausa at about 4:30pm for a courtesy call on Ambode.
“We were shocked by the type of reception we got from the Lagos Governor”, an aide of Fashola told Pulse, moments later.
The aide pleaded that his name be left out of this story because he hadn’t been granted permission to speak about the development.
“Normally, the minister and his entourage are ushered into government house in every State we visit. Ambode practically gave us the cold shoulder. He kept us waiting outside his office. He wasn’t warm. He looked like he was already sick of the sight of us even though we just barely arrived”, the aide offered.
Another member of Fashola’s party added that, “the minister then made his way into Ambode’s office for an audience with the Governor. It lasted barely five minutes. It wasn’t what we were looking forward to. And then we were off, as abruptly as we had come”.
Governor Ambode’s media team handed out a completely different picture of what had transpired and portrayed a picture of cordiality and geniality between both men.
“We welcome the Honourable Minister and appreciate him for his years of meritorious service to the Government and People of Lagos”, Ambode tweeted moments later, complete with a picture of himself and the deputy Governor, Idiat Adebule, holding what looked like a civil conversation with Fashola.
Ambode added that “the former Governor of Lagos State and the current Hon. Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) was our guest today.
“The Lagos State government will collaborate with and support the federal government to execute projects for the benefit of Lagosians and Nigerians”.
Behind the scenes, however, was a completely different picture, aides told Pulse.
“It was photo-op and nothing more”, one aide said of the pictures. “You could feel the tension before the pictures were made public.
“We were in Ekiti where an opposition Governor (Fayose is PDP) is lord of the manor and we were accorded better reception. Fayose was up at 1:30am to welcome us. He even offered Fashola the use of the presidential lodge for as long as he wanted. But in Fashola’s home State, it just seemed like the Governor couldn’t wait to see our backs”.
Fashola and Ambode have endured a fractious relationship for as long as anyone can remember.
It has been rumoured that as Governor, Fashola handed Ambode the sack from the civil service.
Ambode has demurred, saying he left voluntarily.
In the run-up to the 2015 general elections, Fashola openly backed Supo Shasore to emerge his successor.
Lagos and Southwest godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, stuck out his neck for Ambode and pulled out all the stops toward an Ambode governorship.
And it paid off nicely.
This turn of events only deepened the rift between Ambode and Fashola.
Once he had assumed the reins of Governor, Ambode wasted little time in firing most Fashola loyalists in the cabinet and civil service.
A few days ago, Fashola admitted that he hadn’t spoken to Ambode since he moved out of Alausa and Marina in 2015.
Both men had fallen out over infrastructure projects in Lagos; with Ambode accusing Fashola of frustrating his take-over of certain federal government owned assets that were fast deteriorating.
Ambode accused Fashola of a lack of cooperation in delivering democracy dividends to the people of Lagos State.
It was an accusation that stung, considering that Ambode and Fashola belong in the same political party which now calls the shots at the center.
Fashola’s response arrived like a fusillade.
“If there is any lack of co-operation, it is on the part of the State Government that has refused to acknowledge not to talk of approving the Ministry’s request for Land of the National Housing Programme in Lagos. This response is to ensure that members of the public are not misled by deliberate or inadvertent mis-statements”, the minister flared.
“The motive behind these public accusations must therefore be scrutinized… The allegations of lack of cooperation from the Ministry and frustration of Lagos State Government development initiatives are simply not true and the facts do not bear them out”, Fashola added.
It was yet another piece of evidence that Fashola and Ambode have grown to become sworn enemies.
Last weekend was the unfurling of another chapter in an affair that has since hit the rocks.