To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honours humility…these are marks of maturity and graciousness.
The above words by William Arthur Ward, an American author, aptly underpin the high level of maturity and courage of character displayed by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode in handling the events culminating in the thwarting of his eminently deserved second term in office.
The governor did not only privately and publicly demonstrate very rare courage but has truly moved on by accepting the outcome of the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which threw up Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is now the Governor-Elect of the State.
In the build up to the governorship primaries in October last year, there were intense political activities which hitherto created palpable tension in the state but immediately after the said primaries and twists that followed, Governor Ambode in a statewide broadcast did not only congratulate Sanwo-Olu, but also pledged to work for the victory of the party, a shrewd sacrifice that drastically brought down the tension in the political firmament of the state.
“Fellow Lagosians, the last few days have witnessed intense political activities that have gripped the attention of the nation and created palpable tension in the polity. I strongly believe that the time has now come for the state to move forward in order that the gains of the last three and half years are not lost.
“APC is a great party and the interests of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group. It is in this regard that I wholeheartedly congratulate the winner of the Lagos State APC Primaries, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and urge all Lagosians to immediately support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections and work for the success of our dear party,” the governor said.
Those words were instructive and immediately, the governor led by example as he commenced another move to galvanize all the critical stakeholders in the party to ensure that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not take advantage of the fallout in the primaries to clinch power in the State.
During the first weekly Exco meeting after the primaries, Governor Ambode had specifically told cabinet members to forgive and forget the past, and team up with the candidate of the party to ensure victory, which would in turn, according to him, foster the consolidation of the massive gains recorded in the last four years.
“We must all double our efforts to make Lagos a true Centre of Excellence. All of us must forget what has happened. We must forgive and forget so that we can face the business of government with renewed spirit and approach the next election in unity,” the governor said.
While also walking the talk, Governor Ambode immediately ordered that his campaign structure, Ambode Mandate Support Group (AMSG), be collapsed into the Sanwo-Olu Campaign Council which later transformed into Independent Support Group (ICG) to work for the victory of all APC candidates in the state, as well as the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
From the political front, several other moves were initiated to ensure victory for APC across board, including directing his supporters across the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to begin grassroots campaign for the APC governorship candidate, while preaching message of forgiveness and unity.
Speaking to journalists at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport shortly after he accompanied President Buhari to perform the official commissioning of the new Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Border Posts at Seme-Krake joint border post in Badagry, Ambode publicly assured all that he would lead a strong campaign to ensure victory for the President and Sanwo-Olu.
At another event during the unveiling of an ultra-modern lecture theater donated to the Lagos State University (LASU) by businessman and philanthropist, Chief Remi Makanjuola, on November 22, 2018, Ambode assured, in the presence of the APC candidate, that Sanwo-Olu would not abandon ongoing projects in the state but would rather complete and build on the enduring legacies already put in place by his administration.
“I am so excited about the fact that Mr. Sanwo-Olu has actually come out here and he has issued a promissory note and what that meant is that we are going to have a government of continuity,” the governor said.
Aside hosting Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, on a number of occasions at Lagos House together with members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), and visiting some markets in Lagos with the Vice President to launch the TraderMoni initiative, Governor Ambode also continued with his message of assurance to Lagosians that the APC government remains the best option in 2019.
This assurance was restated by the Governor during the presentation of cheques to over 2,000 beneficiaries of the loan programme of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) held at LTV Blue Roof, Agidingbi, Ikeja, on November 26, 2018; and during the 12th Annual Town Hall on Security organised by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund on November 28, 2018, at Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Yet on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, in Abuja during the National Consultative Forum of the National Committee of Buhari Support Groups, a coordinating body of all the groups campaigning for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo in 2019, Ambode vigorously campaigned for the party’s presidential and governorship candidates.
Also, at a stakeholders’ meeting of APC held at the State secretariat of the party on Acme Road in Ogba on December 17, 2018, Ambode further demonstrated his acceptance of the party’s position with regards to emergence of the governorship candidate when he officially endorsed Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat by raising their hands before scores of party leaders and faithful and wished them well in the general elections.
Interestingly, however, the Governor’s sacrifice and efforts to unite the party had not gone unnoticed. In fact he has earned accolades from within and outside the state.
Chairman, APC National Peace and Reconciliation Committee for South West, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, described Ambode as the politician of the year for displaying uncommon courage and spirit after the party’s primaries in Lagos.
Another member of the Committee, Senator Sa’ida Sa’ad Bugaje, said Ambode’s actions after the primaries had resonated beyond the state as a learning curve in leadership and sportsmanship for future leaders.
“I was at a youth forum recently where young people were dissecting Governor Ambode’s leadership story as a perfect example. They said they had never seen such in the history of Nigeria since 1999. They said they look up to Governor Ambode as a role model in terms of peace and good leadership,” she said.
Also, Deputy Governorship candidate of APC for Lagos State, Hamzat, said Ambode deserved commendations for displaying unusual maturity and character which eloquently confirmed him as a man with large heart.
Even the Presidency noticed the sacrifice made by the governor for the unity of the party, with President Muhammadu Buhari commending Ambode for his rare loyalty to the party.
“In every competition, someone has to win and someone has to lose, but those who lost should not abandon the party or lose their enthusiasm for the advancement of the party,” Buhari said, urging other Nigerian politicians to learn from the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, “who despite his loss didn’t abandon the APC for another party because he was angry over the outcome of the governorship primaries,” Buhari said.
The activities of the governor, however, paid off during the presidential election, with President Buhari winning the state. The president, according to result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), polled 580, 825 votes to beat his closest rival in the race, who polled 448, 015, culminating in a win margin of 132, 810 votes.
Still not satisfied with the margin of victory for APC at the presidential election in the state, Governor Ambode, again, moved to town especially with Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat, canvassing for votes in the stronghold of the opposition.
This also turned out positive for the APC, as the party won the governorship election with a wide margin. In the final result, Sanwo-Olu scored 739, 445 votes, while Jimi Agbaje of the PDP polled 206, 141 votes. The APC also won all the 40 seats in the State House of Assembly.