By Ambrose Idonije, reporting from Abuja.
Tears flowed freely from my eyes, was the way Prince David Aloba, a civil servant who lives in Lugbe, a suburb in Abuja, described the visit of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of Lagos State, to President Bola Tinubu, on Friday, July 14th, in his Aso Villa office. “when the news flash came, myself and my wife, jumped up in extreme joy”, he said. “We have looked forward to this day when God will vindicate this man, Ambode”, he said, stressing that no one knows why he was inexplicably pushed out of relevance. “Now, our joy is complete that God has indeed shown He is real”, he stated. Before this historic visit, which has continued to generate ripples, it would be recalled that Ambode appears to have been in the cooler, estranged from his political godfather, for reasons yet unclear, despite his magnificent performance as governor. “I never thought this day would come when a kind gentleman like Ambode would see justice”, disclosed Mrs. Precious Ugbade, an Abuja-based Estate Agent. “We prayed and prayed wondering if God was alive”, the elated Mrs. Ugbdade revealed. She said, though she has never met Ambode, he was endeared to him by reason of his rare performance as governor. ‘When they said he would not have a second term, we were shocked”, she said, thanking President Bola Tinubu for reconciling with him.
Ambode is a known achiever. In his days as governor of Lagos, he was able to deliver, according to statistics a total of 1,450 projects spanning the entire coastal environment. Lagosians were happy, as did Nigerians within and outside the country. He spared no effort to ensure that the State looked good. In the end, he was mysteriously overlooked and left in the lurch. “I couldn’t believe it” was the way Olatunde Braimoh, a Nigerian who lives in diaspora put it. “We thought it was a joke until it became real”, he explained. “But now, what a relief to see him being honored and reinstated”. Braimoh describes Ambode’s contribution to the development of Lagos and the party as not only commendable but invaluable. “He surely deserves to be honored”, he declared. The whole process began with the unprecedented visit of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State to Ambode during his 60th birthday celebration.
The visit sparked off a wild jubilation across the nation with many Nigerians hailing Sanwo-Olu for taking the initiative. That momentous visit was followed by the president himself declaring to a bewildered audience of the combined stakeholders of Lagos politics “Akin, thank you for coming, good to see you!” The widespread reaction that followed was better imagined. It was clear that President Bola Tinubu’s short statement had touched a chord in the nation’s political nerve wire. That was all that was needed to set off a wildfire celebration that reverberated all over, with friends, relatives, and associates calling from far and near hailing the process; their verdict was unanimous; the president had wiped off the injustice meted to Ambode; now they can breathe a sigh of relief!
And yet, only on July 14, at the Aso Villa, president Tinubu capped the joy of Nigerians when he formally received him his office! “Look, the president knows Ambode too well; he knows what Ambode can do; listen, boy, give Ambode the opportunity and he will dismantle whatever is wrong with any establishment and restore order”, said Mr. Charles Ediare, a newspaper vendor, in Garki, Abuja. Despite his lower status, he has heard so much about the Epe-born technocrat. “Ambode’s DNA is to work and produce results; he knows nothing else”, he stated, adding, the president was right in his decision to bury the hatchet at this critical moment. Never before has there been so much reprieve and peace in the land. It was obvious that the wounds inflicted on Ambode needed somehow to be addressed.
Now, the president has done the right thing. “Ambode is a member of the political family; he is also their son and brother; above all, they know him to be a jolly good fellow”, said Mr. Ediare. In retrospect, the last four years have been anything but pulsating for the humble former governor. In the face of the blatant snub, he displayed such a gallant attitude of remaining quiet; he kept an unbelievable mien—a character difficult to find in today’s greedy politicians. More significantly, those close to him say, he was even abandoned by “friends” who refused to pick up his calls. “He is finished” was often the response from people who hitherto “ate” from his table! “But now you can see the work of God”, explained Ibrahim Muhammed, a Quantity Surveyor, based in Abuja. “At His appointed time, look at what has happened”. Ibrahim explained that God’s favor was upon Ambode and that he merits it. “I am from Kano, but you know what? My entire household love that man”. He ended by saying for taking this laudable step, president Tinubu has captured our hearts!