2015 APC set to field Ambode in Lagos
As the different political parties step up their campaign for the 2015 gubernatorial race in Lagos State, the All Progressives Congress, APC, aspirant and former Accountant General of the state, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, is receiving high rating among politicians and the populace at large. Ambode is seen as a major contender in the governorship contest.
The return of the leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to the country a few weeks ago has not changed the calculus in favour of Ambode in APC, rather it has reinforced him as the key person to succeed the incumbent Governor, Mr. Raji Babatunde Fashola (SAN).
Apart from Ambode, other aspirants in the APC include the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, whose campaign was buoyed by his clearance from money laundering allegation by a Lagos High Court recently; former Commissioner for Education in the State, Dr. Leke Pitan, the current Commissioner for Works, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, a Senator representing Lagos West , Ganiyu Olarenwaju Solomon, former commissioner for Rural Development, Tola Kasali, and a former Attorney-General of the state, Olasupo Sasore.
However, Ambode is coming into this race with an intimidating credential .Indeed, he had been described as part of the successes Lagos State had recorded in the last 15 years.
He was said to have been in the background putting finishing touches to the success of almost seven governors in the state in the past but that as a typical public servant, he was never seen and heard.
“He was in the background along several others, designing and implementing many of the policies that stood Lagos out from the rest of the country,” a source informed Sunday Mirror.
Born n June 14, 1963 at Epe, Ambode had his primary education at St. Jude Primary School, Ebute Meta, Lagos before proceeding to the Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State for both his West African Examinations Council, WAEC, as well as the Higher School Certificate Examination, HSC, which he obtained in 1981. He was admitted into University of Lagos where he graduated with honours in Accounting at age 21.
After graduation, he joined the Lagos State Public Service as he began working with the Lagos State Waste Disposal Board, now known as the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, as an Accountant Grade II in November 1985.
At the age of 24, he was already a Chartered Accountant and has also completed his Master's degree programme in Accounting at the University of Lagos, specialising in Financial Management.
Ambode moved to the Local Government where he worked for 10 years and was at various times Council Treasurer in Alimosho, Somolu, Mushin and Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government councils.
In 1998, his commitment to public service earned him the nomination and award of the U.S. Fullbright Scholarship for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship programme, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, on Public Leadership with emphasis on Finance and Accounting.
When he returned to the country, he moved to the core Lagos civil service as he was appointed acting Auditor-General for Local Governments in 2000, and he became the auditor-general for Local Governments in the state.
A few years later, he was appointed Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance in 2005 and in February, 2006, he was given the additional responsibility of Accountant-General of Lagos State.
It is believed that he was the brain behind how the then governor, Tinubu, survived the war he fought against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when he (Tinubu) created additional 37 local government development councils, which led to the seizure of local government funds by the Obasanjo government.
Sources said he designed a template that increased revenue generation from N600 million to over N6 billion monthly, ensuring that all civil servants in Lagos State whether at the state or local government received their monthly salaries without delay.
Upon his retirement, Ambode established Brandsmiths Consulting Limited and the company is presently consulting for the federal, state and local governments on the transition to the new international public service accounting system and other financial advisory services. He has also put pen to paper to document his time as a public servant in Lagos State.
It is also believed that Ambode's emergence would put paid to the clamour for a Christian governor in the state, being a Christian. Only last week, the Lagos State Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, at a political forum organised for its members, said they wanted a Christian as the next governor.
They said that whatever criteria being used in picking the governor, they believed a Christian would also meet such criteria. Ambode's representative was present at the event and he was the only gubernatorial candidate that sent a representative there.
Being a Christian has become a major ingredient for the next occupier of Lagos governor's seat as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is said to have insisted on a Christian candidate as Fashola's successor. The background to this is because both Tinubu and Fashola are Muslims.
A few months ago, just as Lagos politicians were still considering how to go about 2015, Oba Akiolu of Lagos caused a stir when he publicly announced that the state traditional council had endorsed Ambode as the sole candidate of the APC, adding that he was going to be the successor of Fashola. Speaking recently in an interview, Ambode was quoted to have said that he would forever cherish what Oba Akiolu said about him at his book launch.
Many party members also said that Ambode remains Tinubu's candidate and that he had already mobilised many high rate politicians within the party to work for him. Some other gubernatorial aspirants are said to be clamouring against imposition of Ambode as the next governorship candidate of APC by Tinubu ,but a top member of the state Exco of the party said those agitating against imposition have benefited from such in the past.
Chairman of the party in the state, Henry Ajomale, was said to have attested to the clamour when he attacked those opposed to imposition as hypocrites recently at an event in Epe. Ajomale was said to have informed those that are saying no to imposition that they should remember that they were imposed on others just to get to where they are currently. He, therefore, warned members against indulging in activities that could endanger the chances of the party in 2015.
It was also gathered that many party members remembered how Tinubu single handedly placed the senatorial ticket of Lagos West Senatorial District on Solomon's lap after he dumped his ambition to contest for the Senate in 2007. Solomon is one of those aspiring for governorship and calling for an open primary and a level playing field for all.
It was also gathered that some party members are also protesting that Ikuforiji who contested the House of Assembly seat in Ikeja in 2011 after he was rejected in Epe should not be allowed to return to Epe for gubernatorial ticket because Ikeja is not part o the Lagos East that the party had zoned the gubernatorial ticket.
Fashola is said to be currently backing Sasore, but a top APC leader in the state disclosed that because of his ambition to be vice-president to whoever emerges as the APC presidential candidate, the Lagos governor is ready to sacrifice Sasore for Ambode who is being put forward by his principal, Tinubu, as a way of securing Tinubu's backing for his ambition.
Oba Akiolu has also vowed that that Hamzat would not get the support of Lagosians and its leaders because he is not an indigene of Lagos. Hamzat is the Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure and a close pal of the state governor, Fashola.
According to sources, O Hamzat's brother, Ganiyu, who is currently representing Mushin Federal Constituency, is said to be eyeing Ogun Central Senatorial seat in 2015 under APC.
There were speculations that the party was not interested in Hamzat whose father, a tradition al ruler in Ogun State, died two years ago.
Interestingly, Ambode made his intention to contest the governorship election known recently when he opened his campaign office at Gbagada, Lagos. It was gathered that thousands of APC supporters were at the Ambode campaign office opening ceremony to witness the declaration.
On the occasion, he charged his supporters not to fight during the upcoming APC primaries for aspirants for the exalted seat.
He also promised to build a new level of leadership that would eradicate poverty in the state.
Former Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Political Matters, Abdullateef Abdulhakeem, was also on the occasion to sing Ambode's praise. He pledged to deliver the votes of the entire Muslim community in Lagos to Ambode, saying he is the right man for the job.
“I will deliver the Lagos Muslims vote to him. Ambode is a divine intervention. We have been accused by the enemies because of reduction in LASU fees. Ambode is a testimony,” he said.
As part of the preparation for the primary, Ambode was said to have already toured all the administrative divisions in Lagos and had reached out to all local governments.
While unveiling his dreams for the people of Lagos, he said he had developed an all-inclusive action plan to give all Nigerians the tools to get out of poverty and penury, to lead a better life for themselves and their families.
On his preparation for the job at hand, he said, “I see a prosperous Lagos that is easily accessible, open to foreigners and Nigerians to pursue their potential. l foresee a safe and clean environment; a Lagos that allows every person to achieve their potential; a Lagos that knows no gender; race, sex or religious and coloration.
However, the race in the PDP is narrowed down to two aspirants who are regarded as being in the frontline. They are Senator Musliu Obanikoro who only resigned his ministerial position last week and a pharmacist, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who carried the banner of Democratic Peoples Alliance in 2007.