The storm raised by the troubling politicking over the All Progressives Congress (APC) party nomination for the Governorship of Lagos State in the 2019 polls continues to rage unabated, and unlikely to dissipate any time soon.
Before anyone, however, can hazard a guess on how the saga will likely end, it is prudent that he visits Epe, the hometown of the incumbent, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The mood in Epe–a town gripped by tension––is fever pitch. The people’s sentiment is at boiling point. In rallying for its own, people of Epe town have gone ballistic spiritually to quell the tempest threatening to bring to a halt the upward trajectory of their rising son.
Gov. Ambode is presently battling an internal wrangling within his party that has resulted in the emergence of two other APC stalwarts, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Mr Obafemi Hamzat, who have both signified their interest in slugging it out with him at the party’s primary for the APC governorship ticket in Lagos State. The emergence of the duo followed a rumoured frosty relationship between Ambode and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who hitherto was regarded as his political godfather and mentor
While cloak-and-dagger manoeuvrings continue to play out in the party, the people of Epe have moved the fight to a spiritual level as they embark on combative prayers to dismantle the various forces arraying against the embattled governor.
While tension is rising in the political firmament of the centre of excellence, a group of APC elders called the Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC dominated mainly by Tinubu’s trusted allies, will today at a scheduled meeting in Ikeja take a final position on who the party will present to the public for support in the 2019 polls.
The body had met on Tuesday to consider pleas and various interventions from different groups and prominent individuals to consider Ambode for a second term. The meeting, however, ended without a definite answer to the embattled governor. One of the decisions taken at the Tuesday meeting was that the governor will not be allowed to sit in today’s meeting when the party elders will decide his fate. A notable source who attended the meeting told Saturday Sun that, “For us, we already know the direction things will go in today’s meeting because after the Tuesday’s parley, Asiwaju left us with a strongly coded rhetorical question, that is, ‘can you pack back into a bottle the beer you want to drink after spilling same on the floor?”
With this, today’s meeting may just be a mere ceremony to say a capital NO to the governor as majority of those who will attend the event are already bitter against Ambode and have not hidden their opposition to his style of governance and bid for a second term.
In the prevailing “We against Them” aura, a majority of the Epe folks envisaged themselves battling against Lagos forces trying to undo their son’s progress.
A major development has been a rare show of unity between Christians and Muslims, who set aside their religious differences and joined forces together in daily prayers of intercession and vigil for Gov. Ambode at the Saint Michael Anglican Church, which is the governor’s family place of worship.
21-man prayer warrior team. In no time, the team has since been joined by a host of volunteers, both Christians (from other denominations) and some Muslims.
Findings by Saturday Sun showed that the team holds some of its prayer sessions for the governor on a large expanse of land opposite the church.
During a visit to the church, some of the volunteers were sighted sitting on white plastic chairs on the land across from the church. In their response to questions from Saturday Sun, they all spoke in unison about their commitment to the “Save Ambode Prayer” project.
The church’s support
A cleric of the church who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that intercessory prayers are being held for Gov. Ambode. He vowed that the daily vigil and prayer session would not stop until Ambode’s second term ticket is guaranteed by APC.
“It is true that this church is coordinating series of prayers for Gov. Ambode. What we are doing is not evil. We have no regret over it,” he declared.
Asked why the governor’s issue is dear to the church, the cleric fired back: “Gov. Ambode and his family are part and parcel of this church. Although Gov. Ambode himself is no longer a member of the Anglican Church, when he was young, he used to worship with us here with his parents. Up till today, the governor’s mother, Mama, is a regular worshipper with us. Mama is very close to us, and up till today, there is no programme or project we have in the church that Mama, the governor and other members of the family don’t join us in doing. Like every other family in this church, the Ambode family also observed its own yearly harvest and thanksgiving in the church.”
Continuing, he stated: “Even before Mama asked us to mobilize prayers to save the governor’s political career, on our own as a church we’ve already started the intercessory prayers. Although it is not every day or night that Mama is with us; whether she is here or not, our prayers and vigil for Ambode is every day.”
The cleric who denied the church’s involvement in partisan politics explained the basis of their support for the beleaguered governor. Said he: “Our support for Ambode, apart from his family’s connection to us, is due to his performance. Ambode has done marvellously well. If he has not done well, I would have said so. He has transformed Epe.”
He said further: “Before he assumed office in 2015, Epe was in darkness. Not only that, the town had no good roads, and other infrastructural facilities were lacking. I know what I’m saying. I have been working in Epe and its suburbs for a long time. There is no governor in the history of Lagos State that has transformed Epe the way Ambode has done. And from available reports, he has also done well in areas of infrastructural development of Lagos State. I think the man should be given a chance for the second term.”
The cleric delivered a parting shot thus: “Let me, however, state this categorically. There are talks about some individuals and groups. There are those mentioning that one group called Mandate has sealed the fate of Ambode and that he is a goner. People should, however, know that with God nothing is impossible. It is only God that can give anybody a mandate. If God gives Ambode a divine mandate, not even one million Mandate Group can stop him. Let’s leave everything in the hand of God.”
The Chief Imam of the Ansar-U-Deen Society in Epe, Alhaji Zakariyah who described Ambode as Allah-sent also weighed in on the issues calling for a compromise. “I’m a religious leader and not a politician,” began the mullah, “Ambode’s tenure has brought monumental development to Epe. In fact, Epe, and its environs, has never been so blessed. We plead with those who will determine Ambode’s fate for a second term to forgive him his shortcomings.”
Septuagenarians Alhaji Yeeken Dairo and Alhaja Taibat Akingbehin at Oke-Balogun Street and Imokun Street respectively echoed similar sentiments. Dairo, community leader of Imokun LCDA, appealed directly to the good nature of Asiwaju Tinubu to forgive Ambode his perceived sins.
Alhaja Akingbehin, 75, said: “I have been on my praying mat, praying for Ambode since this crisis started. I have not benefited or received one kobo directly from Ambode, but I’m pleased with how he has transformed Epe. See how Ambode has turned Epe into a beautiful place. Many of our sons and daughters that came home during the last Ileya (Eid-el-Kabir) festival didn’t even know the way to their father’s compound again because of the new network of roads, and street lights Ambode has put in place in Epe.” It will be a big loss to Epe, she said, “if Ambode is denied a second term.”
Najeem Quadri, a baker, tackled APC leadership and Tinubu directly.
.“You give a man a job to do, and you are breathing down his neck again that you want to look into everything he does, what do you call that? Tinubu should stop playing God.” The baker advised the governor to be level-headed. “Ambode should not see the second term issue as a do-or-die affair. If they allow him good, and if they say no, he should come back home, we all love him.”
Continuing, Quadri avowed: “Ambode is a good ambassador of Epe. If they are making life too difficult for him, he should go to another party, and Epe people will vote for him.”
Once more, Quadri raved at Tinubu and others, whom he described as greedy.
“Did Tinubu not serve two terms? Did Fashola not serve two terms? Now they are deciding another man’s fate. Tinubu and his co-conspirators in APC should know that God will also decide their own fate,” he said.
He resented the idea of anyone begging Tinubu to endorse Ambode for a second term. “They should leave him to God,” he declared.