By Eric Elezuo
Baring last minute resolution, all is set for a tripartite battle among the incumbent Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, a former two time commissioner, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olun and another former commissioner, who is also a former governorship aspirant, Mr. Olufemi Hamzat in the quest to grab the governorship candidacy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) come Sunday, September 30, 2018.
Not many people expected a challenge for the incumbent, who hitherto was believed to have performed creditably well, and would not be challenged in his bid for a second time out until, like a bolt out of the blue, a 53 years old son of Epe, like Ambode himself appeared on the scene.
Alleged to be a prodigy of a former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu within hours of declaring his intention to run, gathered massive followership, including as many people that hitherto were singing the praises of Ambode and his ‘good works’. The reason was not far-fetched – his candidacy was propelled by the all powerful Mandate group, which has its roots in the Jagaban of Borgu, Tinubu. It was not hard to imagine that his declaration has the backing of the man who has come to be the defacto godfather of Lagos politics.
All entreaties so far made to get Tinubu to rescind his decision against Ambode, and allow him to go for another four years have fallen on deaf ears. Tinubu has refused to bulge even as the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and the President have waded into the matter. Tinubu, it is said, has not only insisted that Ambode be replaced, but went ahead to institute a direct voting process, a move to further strip the governor of any grace of playing a trump card.
This is the score card of the three gladiators:
He is 53 years, and probably the youngest of the three aspirants. His entry into the race change the narratives of the whole set up, and introduced seriousness as well as apprehension into the race.
Babatunde Sanwo-Olu is believed to be the anointed one even as many is of the opinion that the forthcoming election is only but a formality. He is being presented by the Mandate Group – the same group that stood stoutly with Ambode in 2014 in the prelude to bringing him to the Alausa Government House.
He actually began his political journey as an aide to Tinubu’s deputy, Mr Femi Pedro, between 1999 and 2003. He was later appointed Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to the Governor before being named the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. He is known to have grown through the ranks, testing the waters one foot after the other until experience engulfed him. He has also been the Commissioner for Budget and Planning and Commissioner for Establishments and Training. Presently, he is the Director General of
Earlier between 1994 and 1997, Sanwo-Olu, a financial guru, worked at the defunct Lead Merchant Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa, where he was the head, foreign money market and First Inland Bank, Plc (now First City Monument Bank).
From the banking world, he moved into the construction and property development sector where he worked with Baywatch Group Limited and First Class Group Limited.
He is a proud product of the prestigious University of Lagos, The London Business School and the Lagos Business School.
Proving his capability as the right man for the job, he said “Why am I in the race? I’m sure I am 53 years old but more importantly, in the last almost 30 years; I had spent 16 years out of it in the private sector and 11 in the public service. Of course, I have been three-time commissioner. I have been two-time special adviser; I have been director in the biggest corporations in the state. I have served over three governors.”
Sanwo-Olu made it absolutely clear that he “will run an open door policy”, a crime they are pinning on Ambode.
“I will ensure that there is an unhindered access. We will do a lot of things differently if elected the governor. I will bring all my experience into place; I will bring all those contacts, I will bring all the relationships for the benefits of Lagos and Lagosians,” he said.
For Mr. Hamzat, who no one has given enough thought in the quest for the governorship, it is threading in a familiar terrain as he has a onerous credential of having contested against the incumbent governor in the 2014 primary election. He is therefor, not new in the business of politicking for the governorship seat of Lagos State.
Hamzat was born on September 19, 1964 in Lagos state, and had been a Commissioner for Science and Technology, a post he took up in August 2005 during the second term tenure of former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His abilities were the reasons he was retained when former Governor Babatunde Fashola took over in 2007.
As commissioner, Hamzat enforced the application of modern technology in the state’s ministries, thus changing the face of data and record keeping in Lagos and at the same time eliminating the trend of state ghost workers. In execution of his mandate, Hamzat’s ministry has completed several key projects for Lagos state in the mega-city era. Dr. Hamzat has remained a key figure in the Lagos state government over the past few years.
He may just play the Otedola factor; coming from behind to pick the ticket while Ambode, Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu continue to engage in bickering. His superlative performances in the public sector can give him the game changing edge.
The present governor of Lagos State was born Akinwunmi Ibidapo Ambode on June 14, 1963 in Epe, Lagos, into the family of Festus Akinwale Ambode and Christianah Oluleye Ambode. One of ten children of his father, Ambode attended St. Jude’s Primary School, Ebutte Meta, Lagos, from 1969-1974, where he sat for the National Common Entrance Examinations.
From 1974-81, he attended Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State before attending the University of Lagos in 1981 and graduated with a B.Sc in Accounting. He also has a master’s degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos, and qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
Ambode was awarded the Fulbright Program scholarship for the Hubert Humphries Fellowship Programme in Boston, Massachusetts. He also attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for Advanced Management Programme. Other institutions he attended for courses and programmes, includes Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, England, the Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland, INSEAD, Singapore and John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard, Boston, US.
A full time civil servant, between 1988 and 1991, Akinwunmi Ambode was the Assistant Treasurer, Badagry Local Government, Lagos State, Nigeria. In 1991, he was posted to Shomolu Local Government, Lagos State, as an Auditor. He has also held the position of Council Treasurer in Shomolu Local Government in later years.
He also previously served as Council Treasurer at Alimosho Local Government, Lagos State. In 2001, he became acting Auditor General for Local Government, Lagos State, Nigeria. This position was confirmed by the State House of Assembly. In January 2005, Ambode was appointed the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance.
From 2006- 2012, Ambode was the Accountant General for Lagos State, in charge of all the financial activities of the state and directly responsible for over 1400 accountants in the state service. Under his watch, the State Treasury Office (STO) revolutionized the way Lagos State finances were raised, budgeted, managed and planned.
In his six years as the Lagos State accountant general, the state’s financial performance improved visibly with the budget performing at a remarkable average of 85% annually.
In 2015, he ran for the office of Lagos State governor, and won beating the PDP opponent, Jimi Agbaje by a slim margin. In the close to four years he has held sway as the chief helmsman of the arguably richest state in the country, Ambode has proved that he is a workaholic, developing one part of Lagos after another, and delivering the smart city mandate of the state as initiated by Tinubu and sustained by Fashola. He look good to scale through using the power of incumbency, but observers say he has no structure to see him through outside Tinubu.
In Lagos, where it is only Tinubu’s blessings and approval have proved to be the only qualification an aspirant needs, professional, political and attitudinal credentials of these aspirant may matter little.
Time will tell.