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Akinwunmi Ambode: The Tragedy of Not Conquering the Self By Akin Fadeyi

While reading the book, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate by Bob Woodward, something fascinated me. Richard Nixon, former American president and the man at the centre of the Watergate scandal, was facing the most disastrous period of his career. The options in front of him were limited. One of it was to…”
October 3, 2018 8:51 am

While reading the book, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate by Bob Woodward, something fascinated me. Richard Nixon, former American president and the man at the centre of the Watergate scandal, was facing the most disastrous period of his career. The options in front of him were limited. One of it was to resign or face a disgraceful impeachment and trial. Nixon had to decide not just on the resignation, but also how to navigate his exit without going to jail. He would require state pardon from his successor.

He summoned his chief of staff Alexander Haig, his right-hand man and a retired Army General for a brainstorm. They decided that Haig had to see the vice president, Gerald Ford and subtly negotiate Nixon’s post presidency pardon. Gerald Ford was to become president once Nixon resigned.

Gerald Ford had very protective aides. One of them was Robert Hartmann, who was detested and distrusted by Haig. Hartmann did all he could to talk Gerald Ford into taking the hardline against Richard Nixon. But while Gerard Ford refused to commit to any agreement that could blight his presidency from get-go, he was resolute not to throw his boss, Richard Nixon, under the bus. As a matter of fact, at the risk of a public outcry that questioned his integrity, he processed and pardoned Nixon.

This preamble is a showcase of the rigour and laborious process of the administration of government, crisis management and forthrightness in the face of complex political machinations. It is often a time for leaders to rise above themselves in clear and charitable demonstration of nobility.

After Sunday’s ill-fated world press conference called by the embattled governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, I took time to study his resume posted on a friend, G.B. Onitilo’s social media wall. From Wharton to INSEAD to Harvard, Ambode parades an intimidating track record of academic and administrative excellence. Indeed, you have to give it to him, he paid his dues.

If this resume is the only thing he reeled out at that press conference; if he had mentioned all in his C.V. with emphatic grace and candour; if he had relegated his ego, anger and a visibly combative quest for vengeance to the background, by day-break on Monday and by now, Akinwumi Ambode would have seized the momentum in public discourse. This C.V. is what we would be talking about. But in contrasting self-immolation from the Gerald Ford model above, Ambode walked into his own long dark night in a reckless, misguided vulnerability to adult delinquency.

Ambode’s penchant for compulsive and unforced errors did not start today. I recall at the primaries that brought him to power at the Lagos Airport Hotel years ago. In front of other bewildered contestants, Ambode made a remark curious to the standards of sensitivity and gauge mechanism. He said, “Anyway, we already know who would win”. Eyebrows were raised. That was tactless. Ambode was made to apologise. After getting to power, no one can deny him of having delivered a stellar performance. The face of Lagos has changed. But again, I hasten to say, this is an added “storey building” on Fashola’s well decked upstairs. Characteristic of him, Ambode is accused of having uprooted all of Fashola’s legacies. Why? Fashola was known to have worked against his emergence as governor in clear preference for Supo Shashore. This he paid for dearly, as he only escaped being muddied up after a series of smear attacks that seemed to emanate from his successor.

There is something disreputable about being deliberately slavish to an unbridled urge to throw others under the bus. It is this same compulsive demeanour that may propel you to attempt the suicide of rubbishing the man who brought you to reckoning, Bola Tinubu. However, should you decide to burn that bridge and be your own man, which is bold, daring and frankly lies within your right for self-advancement, you must have “conquered” the mass populace through a people-centred system of governance that would propel Lagosians to queue behind you in one unequivocal voice on your raining day. Fashola enjoyed this, while Ambode seems to be struggling right now. You cannot destroy the party structure that brought you to power and still have the generality of the people behind you. It is tantamount to stepping out to jog bare-chested in snowy winter! Ambode did not think this through, he did not choose his battle well.

Let’s now add this icing on the cake. Imagine if at that press conference, Ambode had said the following:

“I welcome my co-contestant to the race. I admire and respect him. His ambition is his right and well safeguarded by our constitution. Moreso, the more contestants we have, the merrier and better it is for the robustness and deepening of our ever evolving democracy.

“As the holder and incumbent of the current mandate and chief security officer of this State, I assure you, Jide Sanwoolu of maximum security as you present yourself for this primary. Finally, my good people of Lagos State, the meaning of leadership actually is service. And part of the inherent virtue of service is selflessness. Therefore, I am not desperate to be returned, but nonetheless, I emphasise that you reflect on my evidence-based giant milestones as you make a choice. Our bigger picture shall be the peace, progress and consolidation of the strategic template that differentiates Lagos from other states. Our bigger picture is not my brother Jide and definitely, not me, Akin!

God bless and thank you all!”

If this was Ambode’s short speech, I can visualise the applause and the turning around of the wheel of tremendous goodwill to himself. What were his handlers thinking?! What went wrong? How did he waste such monumental opportunity that led to the anti-climaxing of himself and his brand personae?

Leadership requires the capacity for conquering the self in the face of physical, psychological and emotional pressure. It requires seizing every opportunity as a platform to step out and make a STATEMENT in tempered, measured, soothing and winning words. Ambode’s resume is fantastic but it was torn to shreds on Sunday in a self-destruct moment of fury. Many people boast of resumes, but not many people can lead. If they lead, occasions that test them expose them and they crash like a pack of cards. This exposes their lack of inner strength and how bereft they are to arrest and manage crisis. Ambode’s public communications disaster is a learning curve on the tragedy that befalls a lack of capacity for conquering oneself.

Akin Fadeyi is the convener of the Corruption Not In My Country Project.

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