Rude Shock

Nigeria: How Ambode’s removal dealt a blow to Tinubu’s direct primary dream

By Akin Irede

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Posted on January 26, 2022 06:02

French President Emmanuel Macron stands next to Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the Afrika Shrine in Lagos
Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode (L) with President Macron dring happier times on July 3, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters

President Muhammadu Buhari recently refused to sign the electoral bill, which sought to introduce mandatory direct primary in Nigeria’s electoral law. However, documents exclusively obtained by The Africa Report now show that the president’s action is partly connected to a controversial governorship primary that took place in Lagos three years ago. In so doing, it prevented frontrunner Bola Tinubu from getting the direct primary he craved.

In October 2018, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was fighting his biggest political battle yet. Having been governor for three years, he thought that – like his other colleagues across the country – he would automatically win his party’s ticket to contest for a second term. But his godfather, Bola Tinubu, had other plans.

Tinubu, who had handed Ambode the governorship ticket on a silver platter three years earlier, to the chagrin of more experienced politicians, decided that the governor would not be flying the APC’s flag in the next election. Instead, the party’s ticket would be given to a relatively unknown former commissioner, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Tinubu’s reason was that Ambode had deviated from a ‘master plan’ that would have ensured that Lagos State remained on the path of development.

However, Ambode would not go down without a fight and this deepened the division in the party. Several governors reached out to the Lagos godfather, but his mind was made up. Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, who had signed a lucrative rice contract with the Ambode administration, was reported to have gone on his knees to beg Tinubu, but all entreaties fell on deaf ears.

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