ON Wednesday, January 28, 2015, ENCOMIUM Weekly was at Opebi, Lagos office of Director-General of Akinwunmi Ambode Movement (AAMO), Architect Anifowose Abiola, where we had an encounter with him on the activities of the group so far in preparation for the February 28, 2015 governorship election in the state. He also spoke on why Ambode is a candidate to beat in the race and other issues…
When and how was Akinwunmi Ambode Movement (AAMO) formed?
The movement was formed in May 2013, by four people – my humble self, Architect Anifowose Abiola, our governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (former Accountant General of Lagos State), Mr. Murtala and Aremo Kunle Adewale.
That means Ambode has been nursing the ambition of becoming Lagos State governor since 2013?
What happened was that Ambode resigned as Lagos State Accountant General in 2012. So, by 2013, four of us came together and started the movement. And since, we have not looked back. The movement started really with six people here in my room. When it expanded, we moved to the conference room, and when the conference room couldn’t accommodate us again, we moved outside. By the special grace of God, the movement is now divided into two categories – the professionals and the grassroots groups.
What’s the vision of the movement?
There is only one goal which incidentally is our vision and that’s for our symbol (Akinwunmi Ambode) to emerge the governor of Lagos State come February 28, 2015.
How ready is the movement to achieve the goal?
Just as I have told you, this movement started almost three years ago. Since then, we have been sensitizing our people. We’re very strong in 47 local governments in Lagos State minus five local governments from our division, that’s Epe. I said excluding Epe Division because that’s Ambode’s home base. Whether they like it or not, they have all accepted him wholeheartedly. Apart from that, AAMO is very solid in other 47 local governments in the state.
Can you reveal some of the strategies the movement is putting in place to ensure Ambode’s victory in the February 28, 2015 governorship election?
First, we have embarked on house-to-house campaign in all the local governments. All our members have been equipped with all the keys required to move from house to house for the campaign. They have all been told to start the campaign from their immediate neighbour.
From there, they should talk to the people on their respective streets, let them know the need for continuity in Lagos State. We don’t want to have a break. Someone started this thing in 1999, another person took over from him in 2007 and took us to where we’re now. The person coming behind him now, that’s Akinwunmi Dapo Ambode is taking the state to the world map.
It’s obvious that the race is between Ambode and Jimi Agbaje of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Agbaje’s candidature can be overlooked based on the situation on ground. How do you think Ambode’s victory is guaranteed come February 28, 2015?
Akinwunmi Ambode worked with Lagos State government for 27 years. That alone is a pedigree for him and All Progressives Congress (APC). He is different from someone who only works in his private establishment.
Does that make Ambode more qualified than Agbaje?
Yes, and as far as we’re concerned, Akinwunmi Ambode is the only candidate for the job.
There are lots of issues PDP as a party is capitalizing on concerning Lagos State governorship race, especially the okada and few others. What’s your reaction to that?
Concerning okada riders operation in Lagos State, APC or Governor Fashola’s administration didn’t ban okada riders, they were only restricted to certain areas of Lagos State. If you go all over the streets of Lagos State, you will see okada riders operating. They were only asked or instructed not to operate on the express road. And you and I can also agree that since this law has been in place, the rate of okada accident has reduced drastically. If you visit orthopedic hospital in Igbobi, you will find out what I am saying. Also, the rate of armed robbery has reduced drastically. So, why are we deceiving ourselves? We need to tackle the issues instead of deceiving ourselves, telling ourselves what’s not about okada issue. If we all tackle the issue appropriately, it’s going to be a thing of joy for every one of us. In Abuja today, okada has been banned out-rightly but that’s not the situation in Lagos State. It’s just restriction. And the restriction is even for the operators good and our good as well.
How far have you sensitized these people and the grassroots about this??
These are the people we call target audience. And before next week, we’re going to have a meeting with their executive council (Exco). We have plans to improve their lives. My governor has ordered safety helmets to be distributed to them for free. It’s a safety measure for their lives and the passengers they convey. To be honest, it’s never done in any civilized society, riding okada without a safety helmet. It’s only in Nigeria we practice it.
How is this organization being funded?
It’s self funded. And that’s the truth. People of like minds contribute to this movement in cash and kind. That’s how we have been waxing stronger and stronger since its establishment.
But the tale is that it’s being funded by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Ambode himself…
(Cuts in) That’s just an insinuation. Personally, I have never met Asiwaju in five years. He doesn’t even know me and I don’t know him. Also, our symbol, Akinwunmi Ambode didn’t give us a kobo for this. It’s because we believe in the gentleman that he can take Lagos State to the next level, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing?
Why do we need to vote for Ambode?
One, we want continuity. We’re not voting for Ambode as a person, we are voting for him as APC. You’re now voting for Ambode because he has the pedigree. This is the man who was the Accountant General of Lagos state when the Federal Government refused to release the state local government allocations. This is the man that put everything together on how Lagos State will fund the 57 local governments established by the then Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.
In a nutshell, Ambode is going to be a candidate to beat in the forthcoming governorship election in the state?
Yes, I believe it’s only Akinwunmi Ambode contesting for the governorship election, come February 28, 2015. Other candidates are no match. It’s Akinwunmi Ambode and others.
Would you say the movement is fully on ground concerning house-to-house campaign knowing fully well that February 28 is almost here?
We’re on ground. That’s why we have two groups, that’s professional and grassroots groups. Thursday of every week is meant for the grassroots. So, we’re readily on ground for the house-to-house mobilization, to ensure Ambode wins the February 28, 2015 guber polls in Lagos State.
There is political violence here and there. Is your group not being intimidated and harassed by the opposition party?
It’s normal. Just last week, one of our members, a woman, was harassed by some PDP members all because they saw some APC materials in her vehicle when she was passing. She was rescued by passersby.
Some days back, we learnt an APC man was shot dead in Orile Agege, allegedly by a PDP member during a political violence that erupted in the area between the loyalists of the two political parties. What effort are you putting in place to orientate members of your movement against violence?
Our group don’t fight. But it’s PDP attacking some of our members, especially in Alimosho area. We have always warned all members of our group against violence and they are following the instruction.
Okay, what has your organization done on the killing of its member in Orile Agege?
A committee has been set up in that respect. And very soon, the committee will give us a report on that.
Some people within and outside APC still believe that some of the aspirants that vied for the governorship ticket are still aggrieved, and that they are likely to mobilize Lagosians against Ambode at the last minute to the election, what’s your movement doing to address this?
The party is handling that.