In an emotion laden voice during an informal chat with journalists in his office, Ambode says he’s packed his bags out of government house.
There were moments during Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s informal chat with journalists at the Banquet Hall inside Government House, Ikeja, when he looked like he could use a hug or some sleep.
It was the governor’s valedictory session with political editors from the print and digital media spaces on Monday, May 27, 2019, barely hours before he hands over the keys to his office to Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, his successor.
“It is an emotional moment for me”, Ambode said, pulling his Agbada (traditional flowing attire) the right way. “I have already moved out my things. My rent has expired”, he added to general laughter.
The APC Lagos governorship primary that threw up Sanwo-Olu as flagbearer in the general elections, was a learning curve for Ambode, he said. The governing party hierarchy and godfathers handpicked Sanwo-Olu and funded his primary election campaign and the general election campaign afterwards. Ambode had fallen out of favour with the godfathers of the APC in Lagos and before he knew it, he was on the losing side, even as a sitting governor. Not many governors lose their re-election bids in Nigeria. “I am wiser now”, Ambode said for the umpteenth time this month.
He also pointed to some of his achievements in government as proof that you can do some work in your first four years, just in case you are denied a second, like he was. “I worked as if I knew I had just four years to do this job. But I only worked for two and a half years in the real sense of it. I am grateful to God for even coming this far.”
Mr Sanwo-Olu would take over the reins after an inauguration ceremony at the Tafawa Balewa Square on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, and Ambode pleaded with the media to accord his successor the same support he received in four years. “Support the next person the way you supported me. Without you, no one would know if I worked or not. You could have chosen not to report what we were doing. But you did. Thank you. Thank you for all the criticisms and the plaudits. You made me work harder. You were like a mirror for us.
“No matter what it is that I have not done well, never forget that I meant well for Lagosians from the beginning”, he said with a smirk. “This week should not be about me”, Ambode added, after announcing that he had just finished recording his farewell broadcast with the television networks. “This week is about the man coming after me”.
For much of Ambode’s tenure, he was draped in the regalia of a party-goer by social media users. He was often portrayed as the kind of man who loves the good things of life and who likes to socialize at parties, at Nite Clubs etc. An owambe governor, more or less. He considers this image of him a misconception that sprung from a one-off appearance at Quilox Nite Club.
According to Ambode, he was a guest at an official event in Quilox, circa 2015, soon after he had been sworn-in as governor to succeed Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola. As he emerged from the club, he ran into an ambush of young people waiting to be ushered into the club; and the social media legend revolving around how he’s a party person, was born. “The attack was so intense that I withdrew my social life”, Ambode said with a chuckle as the audience joined him in more rounds of laughter. According to the departing governor, he’s not that much of a party person and would rather spend time indoors or in his office.
Looking back at some of his mistakes, Ambode said he knew he should have communicated a lot more through the media or grant more interviews. “The passivity on my part (towards the media) affected me”, he said.
In a couple of hours, Ambode would be addressed as a former Governor of Lagos and he said he can’t wait to disappear into some place quiet—away from the cacophony and distractions of government house. “This place (government house) is like a prison. I am looking forward to tomorrow afternoon”, Ambode said with an air of freedom. He also looked happier when he said this.
Afterwards, he took the time to hug everyone, chipping in a joke now and again as he mingled, posed for photographs and engaged in small talk.
And he was gone.