How I Got Involved In The Ambode Project – Richard Akinnola

I never knew him nor heard his name until a younger friend told me that the next governor of Lagos was going to be the State’s Accountant -General. He further told me that in months ahead, he was going to be asked by Asiwaju to resign. So, some months later when l read in the papers that he had resigned, l called this friend, telling him you might be right after all.
However, the person who first sold the Ambode project to me was Adesina Tiamiyu, currently the GM of LASEMA. Then, he was not in government. But prior to this, at a book launch, the Oba of Lagos had decreed that Ambode was the next governor of Lagos, “whether you like it or not”. This aspect pissed me off.
So, when Tiamiyu sought and pleaded for my support for him, l told him that l took exception to what the Oba of Lagos said. But he pleaded with me to overlook.
Eventually, Ambode emerged as the candidate and the campaign started. I noticed that in most of the campaigns, it was Fashola that was the main speaker. I eventually booked an appointment with Fashola during the campaigns and told him that “you are not the candidate. Why don’t you allow your candidate speak and for Lagosians to connect with him”. He answered that “l am trained to talk as a lawyer, while Ambode is a figures man as an accountant. Let me do the talking while he does the work when he comes in”. And l left it like that but not without yabbing him. I said “Is it because you have talked much at the campaigns that you are smoking like this? Don’t you know you are forcing me to inhale the smoke of your cigarette?” That was when he now bribed me with Man U glass cup on his shelf, he being a fellow Man U fan.
We left it like that.
After the presidential election and coupled with the “you would drown in the lagoon ” threat of Oba of Lagos against non-indigenes who would vote against Ambode, managing the backlash became a tough task.
The Ikeja GRA house of Tokunbo Afikuyomi became our strategy meeting point. A number of us, mostly non-party members but who were committed to the project, were meeting for long hours to strategise. They included Dupe Ashama (who came down from his London base), Funmi Olunuga, Sola Salako -Ajulo, Jaiye Opayemi, Shina Loremikan and a couple of others.
On my own part, since l lived in the Isolo/Okota axis, with the preponderance of non-Yorubas as residents, l had to take on the responsibility of engaging them, disabusing their minds against what the Oba of Lagos had said. It was a tough assignment l gave myself. They had vowed never to vote for Ambode based on the threat of Oba of Lagos. But l managed to change the minds of a large number of them.
Having experienced the rain on the day of presidential election, l then decided to plan towards the governorship election in my area. I provided canopies and chairs in some of the polling centres in case of rain. Then, through the APC ward executives, l made provisions for packed take away food and several bags of pure water, so that people would not leave the polling centre on the pretext of going home to eat. All of these, l did with my own resources. Till date, l don’t know Ambode and l have never entered the government house since he assumed office. I gave my words to Tiamiyu in 2014 and l am sticking by it, particularly since in my estimation, he has done well, even when l have some areas of criticism.
If l am with you, l am with you. And if l change my mind, l make it known. No subterfuge. Perhaps, the reason Gani Fawehinmi said during my 45th birthday:”Richard is so scrupulously honest that his word is his bond anytime, any day “.