The former governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode, made a public return to frontline politics after a period of estrangement Thursday.
The reunion with Lagos APC frontiers took place during a reception organised by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. It was in honour of President Bola Tinubu’s first visit to the commercial capital of Nigeria since his swearing-in as the country’s 16th president.
This gathering marked the first time since Ambode left office in 2019 that all four governors who had served in Lagos State since 1999 are seen together at a public event. It was a momentous occasion seeing Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, Ambode, and incumbent Sanwo-Olu together at a time when speculation of strained relationship among the leaders was rife.
Tinubu was the governor from 1999 to 2007 before handing over to Babatunde Fashola, who governed from 2007 to 2015. Fashola later became Nigeria’s Minister of Works and Housing from 2015 to 2023.
Ambode is the only former governor of Lagos state who served a single term since Nigeria’s democratic return in 1999. Ambode assumed office in 2015 but faced defeat during the APC primaries in 2019, allegedly due to intra-party conflicts, as Tinubu reportedly favored Sanwo-Olu over Ambode.
Since the end of his term in 2019, Ambode had been relatively absent from political and social functions involving his predecessors, Tinubu and Fashola, as well as the incumbent governor, Sanwo-Olu. Speculations arose that Ambode might contest the party’s governorship ticket against Sanwo-Olu in May 2022, but his ally, Wale Oluwo, stepped forward instead and lost to Sanwo-Olu.
Signs of Reconciliation
While Fashola and Sanwo-Olu publicly endorsed Tinubu’s 2023 presidential ambition, Ambode remained silent on the matter. However, hints of reconciliation emerged when Sanwo-Olu attended Ambode’s 60th birthday party in Lagos on June 14, 2023. This event marked the beginning of the reconciliation process.
The reconciliation process gained momentum after Sanwo-Olu praised Ambode for his dedication to serving Lagos state as a governor and civil servant. The gesture served as a significant step towards rebuilding bridges and fostering unity among the political leaders.
As the welcome back party for President Tinubu was organised, the atmosphere was filled with smiles and camaraderie.
Tinubu, Fashola, Ambode, and Sanwo-Olu, who had all served under Tinubu’s tutelage, came together once more. Their past roles intertwined: Fashola as Chief of Staff and Commissioner in the Cabinet Office, Sanwo-Olu as Special Adviser, and Ambode as Accountant-General. Later, under Ambode’s leadership, Sanwo-Olu served as the Managing Director of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC).
At the reception, President Tinubu expressed his happiness and pride in his “political children” – Fashola, Ambode, and Sanwo-Olu. He concluded his speech with a special acknowledgment of Ambode’s presence, saying, “Thank you, Akin.”
The event at the Lagos House, Marina, marked a new chapter in Lagos politics.
Also, the dignitaries in attendance the grand Reception were esteemed political figures who have held and continue to hold key positions of power and influence which included: Deputy Governor, Dr Femi Hamzat, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, Speaker, House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass, Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, chairman of Nigeria Governor’s Forum, NGF, And Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola and Minister of Works and Housing, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Business magnate, Aliko Dangote, Abia State Governor, Alex Otti, former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, Tajudeen Olusi, chairman Lagos State Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC. All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftains, among others.