If Ambode could turn back time, he would rapidly change his style to placate all those he offended in the past four years. Let’s be clear here.
Everybody, please rise and join me to pray for the political future of Akinwunmi Ambode, the embattled and hassled governor of Lagos State, who is perched precariously on the edge of being shoved out of political office. Up till now, many people had perceived Ambode as the governor who could do no wrong. He was coasting home, as it were, literally, in public opinion polls. He was seen as a man of the people (apologies to Chinua Achebe), a man with few or no blemishes. However, a day could make a big difference in a politician’s life. And this seems to be the case with Ambode.
In the past few weeks, Ambode has dominated headlines in mainstream and online media for no reason other than growing opposition to his declared ambition to seek re-election. His predicament has polarised the political milieu. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against the man. There are considerable forces lined up in opposition to Ambode. Those forces, including local government chairpersons and Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the man who propelled Ambode to power and fame, now appear to be against his ambition to serve a second term. Politics is a cruel game.
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What could be going on in Ambode’s mind? I am not a clairvoyant but I can make a calculated guess. So many things are going through Ambode’s mind but the most profound would be the lyrics of the hit song performed by American singer and actress, Cher. The song – If I Could Turn Back Time – was released in July 1989. The lines of that song must be rolling in Ambode’s mind like a revolving door. The words in Cher’s song are what Ambode would be wishing to convey to all those who feel he has upset them.
In the first stanza of her song, ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, Cher sang the following disarming and touching lines:
If I could turn back time If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that hurt you
And you’d stay I don’t know why I did the things
I did I don’t know why I said the things I said
Love’s like a knife it can cut deep inside
Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes
I didn’t really mean to hurt you
I didn’t want to see you go
I know I made you cry, but…
If Ambode could turn back time, he would rapidly change his style to placate all those he offended in the past four years. Let’s be clear here. Ambode made mistakes and trampled on politicians’ and business people’s toes. One consequence of those mistakes is the growing army of angry politicians and business people now calling for his head. Life in politics can be tragic. It is like a fantasy.
In the past few months, Ambode has watched helplessly as his hold on power gradually slipped through his hands. This has prompted the question: When did Ambode’s tumble from power commence, how long would it last, and how low would he fall? It is public knowledge that Ambode is seeking re-election but his godfathers seem to have other ideas. At the moment, Ambode might be living a fictional life, informed by painful assumptions that his re-election has been sealed and signed. That may not be the case, according to those familiar with the political gamesmanship at play at the state secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja.
Ambode is a deeply troubled man. You need to watch the beads of sweat that form ridges on his forehead even in air-conditioned rooms. The man is stressed out, exhausted, nervous, worried, and restrained. A man who used to smile, walk around boisterously, and engage in banter with his officials can no longer find the space and reason to smile. His walking pace has slowed noticeably. That’s how serious the situation has become for a governor now swimming in a sea full of sharks. Ambode has reasons to fight for his political life. He believes he has transformed Lagos tremendously and would like four more years to complete the projects he initiated. Despite claims that he is still on good terms with Tinubu, his political master, the forces hovering angrily around Ambode suggest otherwise.
The other day, during a public ceremony, Ambode ran from his position in the photo session to go and stand beside Tinubu. Tinubu gave journalists the confirmation they had long sought after. While Ambode grinned in Tinubu’s direction, Tinubu maintained a straight face; he did not smile, as the camera lights sparkled and dimmed, and as journalists jostled for position to catch the big moment. That non-verbal action exposed the lie in Ambode’s claims that he was still friends with Tinubu. The claims were nothing but illusory. It is fake news dressed in a political garment. If Tinubu was still friendly with Ambode, he would have reciprocated Ambode’s grin, even if it was for the cameras.
It is difficult to understand why some political and business forces have coalesced to stand steadfastly opposed to Ambode’s re-election bid. What did the man do to attract antagonism from across political and business groups? One claim is that Ambode destroyed the goodwill and support that people from diverse ethnic, religious, and business backgrounds conveyed to him soon after he was elected governor. I know, for example, that a coalition of Igbo business people in Lagos rallied and visited Ambode to express their support for his government after his election. Soon after that, he snubbed them. If it is true that Ambode destroyed the kindness and support extended to him after his election, as is now widely circulated, it must be deemed a grave error of judgement. His latest ordeal must serve as a sore lesson in how not to treat your friends and allies when you are in a position of power. As the popular saying goes, you must remember people you meet on your way up the political ladder because you might need their favour on your way down to the bottom of the valley. This message is apt for Ambode. It is suicidal to bite the fingers that fed you in your early days as governor.
Is there any way for Ambode to retract his steps so he could receive the forgiveness of all those he might have offended? I don’t think so. The golden door of forgiveness is swiftly shutting down and narrowing. In politics, there is no second chance. If you mishandle or mess up a much-needed opportunity, you will find there are always hawks hovering to throw you out in order to empower themselves. I would argue that Ambode shot himself in the foot. He burnt his own fingers and distanced himself from friends who would have spoken for him at this moment of difficulty. That is why he cannot find shoulders to lean on to cry his eyes out.
State governors attract various levels of sympathy when they leave office gracefully and when they depart in ignominy. Ambode is about to exit his exalted governorship position surrounded by controversy. Politics is an unforgiving but entertaining hobby.