Former Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources in Lagos State, Olawale Oluwo, has stated categorically that government in Lagos State starts and ends in the house of the national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Oluwo, who spoke at Afang Summit, organized by a Lagos-based investment banker, Joseph Edgar, also gave insight into the power play that denied former Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode his second term bid.
In his words, “Part of the things we were doing before they stopped our government was building terminals and bus depots all over the state. If completed, the project will take out completely those garages that have been there for decades. It’s those garages that are producing touts. There is no need for National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
“The NURTW makes N82 billion every year from Lagos, which is almost 10 per cent of our budget. So, these things would have eliminated the commercial danfo, the molue, tricycle, and okada and the same guys will be the ones running the new transport system. We never used to ride okada. So, why would okada be normal? This is one of the things we were trying to eliminate. The okada and agbero we see today were not in that future.
“I think the Lagos of three to four years may not be the Lagos of the last three to four years. Lagos will change; the change will be tough, rough, and I believe it will be bloody. It will be delusional to think you want to go and do a struggle and you are thinking of coming back. Until you are able to make coming back home a probability, you are not qualified to lead the struggle. You might be qualified to be a supporter or sympathizer of a struggle but you can’t be at the forefront, because nothing good comes easy. Do you think they will leave power and move on?”
On why the powers that-be moved against Ambode, Oluwo said, “Don’t judge a man you don’t know and you have never met before. People manipulate people to destroy people and they succeeded in doing that to Ambode. “Ambode deliberately decided not to talk. So, it’s not balanced. One side was busy feeding the public with a negative story. I was not only a government official, I was also close to him and I was a member of his kitchen cabinet. I know the time he will talk will come. Ambode has made his own determination not to talk for now.”
On how Ambode became Lagos State governor, Oluwo recounted his meeting with Delta State-born businessman, Albert Okumagba who “told me that Ambode would be governor of Lagos in 2012 and I laughed. I told him then that even if I don’t know who would be governor of Lagos, I know those who would not be governor, that if they were sharing it for free Ambode was one of those who cannot rule Lagos. And I did not work for Ambode during the primary. I worked for the former Speaker of Lagos Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, because he is my maternal cousin and I gave him my commitment in 2007 that I would support him in anything.
“I never knew Ambode until Okumagba introduced me to him in 2011 when I took a proposal to his house, and I think at that period, Asiwaju Tinubu had told Ambode that he would be governor of the state. So, Ambode is not the kind of guy they woke up from sleep to be the state governor. I didn’t believe it when I was told. I didn’t work for him during the primary because I did not believe Tinubu was behind him.”
Oluwo also spoke about the battle Babatunde Raji Fashola fought before securing his second term. According to him, “I don’t want to believe that Tinubu has the intention of making anybody a governor and then give him a second term. Fashola was not meant to go for the second term. There was a plan to stop Fashola; I was in Ikuforiji’s camp at that time and Asiwaju told him to start preparing. Whatever that meant, I don’t know, and Ikuforiji was the only one that came to contest against Fashola during the primary. So, people say probably it was because of Fashola’s popularity that earned him a second term. The answer is, ‘no!’ It had nothing to do with that. It’s just that that thing (federal might), Asiwaju did not have it in 2011. That was what made him succumb to Fashola going for the second term; he had it (federal might) in 2015. If the party had been in power in 2011, Fashola would never have gone back, because these guys (Fashola and Ambode) are technocrats. They don’t have any party of their own; they don’t have structure. PDP was ready to give Fashola the ticket before Asiwaju ran back.”
Oluwo also spoke on the Afang Summit’s theme, ‘The Economy: What Hope?’, saying, “Anybody can build a structure but a man that has access to state’s money to build a structure is different. If Ambode had known a year earlier that he won’t come back, it would have been a different thing, because they sold a dummy to him and to all of us but I didn’t believe them and I told my people that they were being deceived. Ambode did not fight because of Buhari. One, Ambode didn’t know that Buhari would be aloof and will not get himself involved. Two, he had too much respect for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“They sold Ambode a dummy, that the ticket will be given to him, but they just wanted to shake him and they were sending people to tell him, ‘don’t worry, you are too popular to be stopped.’”
Oluwo also spoke about the relationship between Ambode and Lagosians, noting, “There are things Lagosians didn’t like. Refuse became a disaster; they didn’t like the Land Use Charge, but that doesn’t affect the ticket of a political party. The refuse problem is not as serious as killings under Buhari. As long as you are on the right platform of a political party and they have money they can share, some Nigerians will sell their votes and look the other way and let you write the result. That is the level of our development at this time.
“Yes, mistakes were made on Visionscape, but in every reform, you are displacing vested interests. They would fight back and take you down or destroy the programme. Visionscape has its own problem, but they escalated it. But one thing is sure, Lagos will go back to Vissionscape reform; they may repackage it, do the naming ceremony for it but they will surely go back because that is the only way to manage waste and the transportation programme we put together.”
On what Ambode would have done differently if he had realised early that he would not get the ticket of the party, Oluwo said, “Forget about the party leaders; they don’t count. That thing they call Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) is a toothless bulldog; they don’t have one per cent relevance in the scale of hundred. Ambode was too popular for them. So, what Abode should have done was to have gone to his principal to say, oga, anything you do, we are going into this second term together, give me my second term and I will give you everything you want’. The truth is that Ambode never had any issue with Tinubu; it was people that came in between them.
“Nobody has power in Lagos outside Bourdillon. If Ambode had given the impression that he was ready to fight, they would sit him down. It is about power and resources; power does not belong to these people. The lesson learned is that you can be given something on a platter of gold, but you may not sustain it on a platter of gold.”