Thousands of party members defied Friday’s hot, scorching sun to cheer Akinwunmi Ambode as he announced his intention to run for governor in Lagos in 2015.
Inside a capacity filled Onikan Stadium, in Lagos island, members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in colourful attires waved brooms and gyrated to loud music belching out from giant loudspeakers.
“The presence of thousands of supporters today is an attestation of the state-wide consultations that we commenced since last year,” said Mr. Ambode, 51, reading from a prepared speech.
“The acceptance and popularity of my candidacy, the great turnout and the fantastic support we have received from every corner of the State and beyond, from all sectors and various religious persuasions confirm that this is a divine moment in the history of Lagos State.
“In recognition of this support, I, Akinwunmi Ambode, in your presence and in the presence of God, formally put myself forward to run for the position of the governor of Lagos state.”
The first rally to be organized by a gubernatorial candidate in Lagos ahead of the 2015 elections, Mr. Ambode said he was putting himself forward because of an inherent self-belief of his qualities to pilot the affairs of the state.
Before he climbed the podium for his declaration speech, Mr. Ambode, sporting a blue native cap on a white attire and accompanied by burly, plain-clothed security men, moved around the stadium waving his two brooms, clutched in both hands, to the crowd.
The crowd responded in a frenzy.
Inside the stadium, fuji artiste, Wasiu Alabi (popularly known as Pasuma); and hip hop stars M.I and Olamide took turns to perform on a make-shift stage.
Private security guards sweated profusely as they struggled to control a crowd attempting to surge into the pitch.
“Lagos is my state and you are my people. I shall work to serve you. I shall never do less. Here and now, I dedicate myself to this task. I shall not flinch nor lose focus,” Mr. Ambode continued during his speech.
“The last fifteen years have witnessed an irreversible growth and development of our great state with a foundation laid concretely by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu between 1999 and 2007. The consolidation and actualisation of that growth, of which we are all living testimonies, have been achieved by the incumbent Governor, Babtunde Raji Fashola (SAN).
“I stand before you today in the spirit of the continuity of excellence that Lagos is known for. My vision and mission is to create a clean, secure and prosperous Lagos State that is driven by a vibrant economy and supported by quality service, equity and justice.”
Over half a dozen candidates are aiming at the Government House at Alausa in 2015, but Mr. Ambode, a former Accountant-General of the state, is widely believed to be the anointed one of Bola Tinubu, a chieftain of the APC.
Not a politician, Mr. Ambode frequently flaunts his public service credentials.
At his declaration, Mr. Ambode said he played an important role in the management of Lagos State’s monthly internally generated revenue from N600 million till it increased to N12 billion.
“I am resolved to offer you genuine leadership that will be accountable with all the principles of good governance, a government of inclusion that will not leave any race or gender behind. No matter your age, sex, tribe or any other status, as long as you reside in Lagos, we will make Lagos liveable for you,” he said.
“We will work to create opportunities for all and offer selfless service. As we proceed we will leave no one behind. What our great party stands for is change, positive change. We will create wealth. We will create new jobs. We will challenge ourselves to make Lagos a better place. We will take Lagos to the next level. We are going to do it together.”
Mr. Ambode promised to run an inclusive government that will cater for the aged, widows, artisans, students, children, the physically challenged, professionals.
“For corporate Lagos, Lagos is open for business, even for greater business. We have the political will to move Lagos to the next level. We are going to face our challenges by ourselves. Nobody is going to do that for us. With our collective will, we will overcome them.
“I call on all Muslims, Christians, and people of other religious persuasions to come out en masse and ensure we vote in a candidate that has the interest of Lagos and Lagosians at heart. A candidate that is passionate about Lagos. A candidate that truly understands the needs of the ordinary people. I am that candidate.”
‘A generational bridge’
Those opposed to Mr. Ambode’s candidacy have questioned his roots, insisting he is not a Lagos indigene.
On Friday, he arrived the stadium in a black, tinted jeep with Epe boldly inscribed on the plate number.
In his speech, he described Lagos as the most cosmopolitan state in Nigeria with no room for discrimination.
“Whether you are Igbo, Efik, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, a foreigner, whoever you are, so far you live or work in Lagos, our government will work for you and you will be adequately represented.
“We want a Lagos that will protect Abdullahi; that will address the issues of Chukwuma and uphold the well-being of Yewande. We want a Lagos that will not deny any Nigerian citizen the right of political participation and access to services. It is not about sectionalism. This is the new Nigeria that we want to build and Lagos is the focal point from where we would build the Nigeria of our dreams.”
Mr. Ambode also said that the APC’s motto of ‘Change’ would not only manifest in Lagos State, but also at the federal level.
‘Every family is represented in Lagos and have benefited from the purposeful APC government. If you believe Lagos can do more, it is imperative that we do not only win in Lagos but we must also take over the centre at Abuja. So when we say change, we mean change in its total ramifications. Change at the Centre,” he said.
“We want to have more. We want more. The only way we can do this is to tell your family members and friends that live, in and outside Lagos, to vote for change, to vote for APC. This is what this election is about; this election is about positive change.
“We will start from your neighbourhood. We will knock on every door. We will traverse the entire country. We will take over power at the center by the special grace of God. We are tired of transformation without motion. In their kind of transformation, the more they brag about, the less we see things transformed. And God will help us.”
Mr. Ambode described himself as a bridge between the elderly and the youth.
“I hold before you a beacon that summons us all to building together a more prosperous Lagos. I have the competence, experience and determination to lead Lagos State to greater economic heights and prosperity.”