27 September 2018
Disagreement over spoils of office
Another crack opens in the ruling party
The rumored rift between the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode, and his now estranged political godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has finally blown into the open. This ends months of speculation.
Obviously this crisis is only another crack in a ruling party already riven by multiple divisions, most of which are struggles between different gangs of thieves. But given the enormous political and economic importance of Lagos state, Nigeria’s production and commercial epicenter and Africa’s 5th largest economy, this also could become a crack that hurts the most like a boil that sinks root under the cervices of one’s armpit. In other words, except the feverish behind-the-scene negotiations which now involves the Presidency brings up an acceptable deal, something which cannot be ruled out at the last minute, this rift could have some political repercussions for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2019 general elections in the State.
The first sign of trouble was when the Mandate Group, a political platform and clearly the powerhouse of Lagos politics led by Tinubu, openly endorsed another member of the party who is a former Commissioner in the State and trusted ally of Tinubu, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as a gubernatorial aspirant for the general elections in Lagos. In their tow, the chairmen of all the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) adopted the aspirant. This of course spells doom for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s second term bid.
Disagreement over Spoils of Office
As expected, the disagreements are not about the pro-rich character of the infrastructural development of the city which has seen shops, informal clusters, markets and slum housing demolished and land-grabbing without compensation to make way for glittering malls, mansions, road and bridge networks. Rather, it is a question of disloyalty of the Governor towards his godfather and infighting amongst a gang of thieves for a share of the spoils of office.
Therefore, while it may be correct to oppose and under some circumstances openly campaign against godfatherism and imposition in politics, working class and youth activists must not for a moment fall for the illusion that there is any difference between Ambode and Tinubu or that it is in the interests of working people and the poor to support one against the other. In other words, there can be no support for either of them. Rather both ought to be kicked out of power if Lagos is to be free and livable by poor people whose homes and livelihood will constantly be under threat so long as Tinubu’s political dynasty, of which Ambode is a scion, continues to rule.
For instance, while Governor Ambode claims to have repaired or constructed 114 roads in each of the 20 LGAs and 37 LCDAs in Lagos State as part of the 456 new inner city roads expected to be completed in 2019, the entire process of the award of contracts and execution was done by the Governor without allowing the LGA and LCDA chairmen to play a role. This is one reason for his loss of support. Ambode’s method meant instead of these local chairmen benefitting from the statutory kickbacks, it was the Governor and his kitchen cabinet and cronies who benefited. Ordinarily, the repairs and construction of these roads fall under the responsibility of the LGA and LCDA but on the basis of the undemocratic State and Local Government joint Account, Governor Ambode arrogated to himself the statutory role of the LGAs and LCDAs. This means in actual fact, federal allocations belonging to the LGAs were part of the resources the state utilized to repair and construct the roads yet it was the Governor who took the glory for the projects.
This is aside the fact that the cost of these road constructions is shrouded in secrecy. But on the basis of findings by Punch newspaper that a kilometer of road in Nigeria is the costliest in the world at N1 billion per kilometer against World Bank’s benchmark of N238 million, then one can easily guess just how much Ambode and his cronies have cornered to themselves alone, aside the enormous debt accretion the regime has caused, which could be part of the grievances that triggered the current revolt which runs deep into the base of the ruling APC.
Another of Ambode’s attempts to outsmart the power brokers in the State is the dismantling of the Private Sector Participants (PSP) who were previously in charge of waste management. The PSP, itself a dubious Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, is majorly made up of contractors consisting of party members, mobilisers and enforcers at the local level on whom the electoral success of the Tinubu political dynasty since the dawn of civil rule had often rested. But in sacking them, Ambode was, like the often repeated theme of the Godson trying to outsmart the godfather, only planning to erect his own system of patronage devoted to him.
Ambode brought in a private company of dubious antecedence called Visionscape to take over the waste management business thus triggering a waste management crisis of an epic proportion. Now many streets are almost swallowed by refuse dumps as the new company still struggles to keep wastes off the street. These and many more are the issues involved in the current crisis.
Deepening Political Crises
But the event in Lagos is taking place in the context of a wider political crises both for the APC and the capitalist ruling class as a whole. Six months to the 2019 General Elections, the political situation in Nigeria remains fractious and tense as economic and social conditions continue to worsen. The crisis in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has not abated since its June 23 National Convention. Rather, and as we predicted (APC CONVENTION: Can the Ruling Party Survive its Internal Crisis?), the fissure has widened with the loss of the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives to the opposition – something which has never been the case at any time in Nigeria’s political history. But it is not only the ruling party that is in crisis. Virtually all the mainstream bourgeois political parties, including the PDP, are gripped by internal crises all of which shows that what we are witnessing is deepening political crises for the entire capitalist class against the background of a faltering economic recovery.
But while our prediction of post-convention defections from the ruling party has been largely borne out, although this nowhere near the level of the mass defection witnessed in 2014 of PDP members into the then opposition APC. At the same time a counter-movement has equally taken place with equally important figures from the n-PDP and PDP defecting to the ruling party. This frenetic attempt by the ruling party to balance out every single defection from its ranks by wooing key elements from the PDP has further reinforced the popular feeling that no fundamental difference exist between the PDP and APC. But this however means that while the ruling party may have lost the leadership of the National Assembly, it still retains a majority in both houses.
This has created a stalemate. Now the National Assembly is on recess till October 2018 but apprehension continues to exist of impending crisis anytime it resumes. This would certainly be the case should the ruling party attempt to actualize its threat to impeach the Senate President. The invasion of the National Assembly by armed and masked officials of the DSS in August 2018, in what is popularly assumed to be a botched attempt to remove the Senate President, is a signal of how the political situation can degenerate in the run up to 2019 general elections. Now both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and several other heavyweights in the PDP have declared interest to contest for Presidency in the 2019 general elections.
By HT Soweto. A version of this report was published on the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) website.