Governor Ambode, APC and the Justice of Roosting Chickens
With what has been happening in the past couple of days, I guess the last thing you want to read is a random letter from someone you don’t even know — but please don’t disregard this letter.
When I watched your emotional press conference yesterday, I felt your pain. I cried and asked myself why on earth would anyone be so inhumane? Then I remembered the poor people of Otodo Gbame. Like the people of Otodo Gbame whose personal spaces were raided by your government, your personal political space has been raided by top party stalwarts in the state. I guess you may begin to appreciate a snippet of what the people of Otodo Gbame must have been going through when they were held captive by an occupying Lagos State task force. Your pleas to your political godfather seem to have fallen on deaf ears, just like the pleas of the Otodo ‘Gbameans’ fell on deaf ears when they begged your government to let them live in peace. What goes around comes around.
How frustrating it must be to see people abuse their political power. Now you might be able to empathise with people like Tina Edukpo and Emmanuel Oluwagbemi who have first-hand experience on the abuse of power by the Lagos State apparatus. What goes around comes around.
What you have achieved in the last three and a half years is plain for all to see — the newly built roads, the internally generated revenue, the Abule-Egba and Ajah Bridges and other landmark projects. Now you are at risk of leaving all these behind just because some people don’t want you to be governor. Guess what? A similar script was played out in Otodo Gbame where people worked hard and bought beds, fridges, televisions and clothes only for them to be separated from the fruit of their labour by the Lagos State government. What goes around comes around.
If things don’t go your way, you may have to leave your home just like the people of Otodo Gbame. The plot to deny you a residence at the Lagos State House, which has been your abode since 29 May 2015 on your own terms, must be frustrating. Guess what? The people of Otodo Gbame were also frustrated when they had to vacate their houses, on your own terms. What goes around comes around.
During your Sunday speech, you said, “In the past few weeks, they have been disparaging our character but we have not responded.” Guess what? Your political opponents are using the same script your government used against the people of Otodo Gbame i.e. Give a dog a bad name and hang him. Remember, when your government wanted to sell the Otodo Gbame social cleansing project, it described the residents as miscreants, street urchins, kidnappers, touts, street traders and hawkers who lived in ramshackle structures, sheds, canopies and shanties. What goes around comes around.
You said in your speech, “We believe strongly that the tenet of democracy is to allow democratic value to continue to fester.” Guess what? The rule of law is also an essential democratic value. Remember, on 21 June 2017, the Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo declared the forced eviction by your government unconstitutional. Despite the court ruling, the Otodo Gbame residents remain unsettled. How can you claim to believe in the tenets of democracy when you won’t even obey a court injunction? Another tenet of democracy is the respect for human rights. According to the United Nations, “Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy.” The human rights of the Otodo Gbame residents were not respected under your watch when their houses were demolished and their children left unprotected. As you said, we should practice what we preach.
The good news is that even though your plight bears some semblance to the Otodo Gbame residents, you will not suffer the same fate as them. You have so many options, which the poor people of Otodo Gbame will never have. If things do not go your way in APC, you can cross over to another political party like the PDP and use the incumbency resources to get yourself re-elected. If you are evicted out of Lagos State House, you will not face the humiliation of having your belongings thrown on the streets by the police. If you leave Lagos State House, you will move into another mansion and not be sentenced to a life of poverty and homelessness.
I don’t know what the future holds for you, but it is obviously bright. You could win the APC primaries and then get elected as governor; you may lose the primaries and cross over to another party and still be elected governor or you may never be elected again. Whatever happens, I hope you would reflect on the words of the psalmist, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God” and “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise.”
Happy Independence Day.
Eko o ni baje.
Ahmed Sule, CFA
1 October 2018