Akinwunmi Ambode: Et tu Tunji Bello?

By Victor Ojelabi

The very short title of this article, Et tu Tunj Bello is an allusion to one of the greatest political literary works in the world. Originally from the famous question, Et tu, Brute? a Latin phrase literally meaning “and you, Brutus?” or “also you, Brutus?” and often translated as “You as well, Brutus?” or “Even you, Brutus?,” is notable for its occurrence in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, where it is spoken by the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Junius Brutus at the moment of Caesar’s assassination.

Caesar utters these words in Act III, scene 1, as he is being stabbed to death, having recognized his friend and protégé Brutus as one of the assassins. However, there is no evidence that the historical Caesar spoke these words.

Though different scenarios, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s exit from the Lagos State house and the incidents that led to it has some similarities to that of Caesar’s. Caesar’s betrayal by Brutus was more painful than that of others because of the closeness and perhaps the position the latter occupied in ‘his’ government.

Most recently, the former Secretary to the State Government, Mr Tunji Bello who served under Ambode had said the government of his former boss, Akinwunmi Ambode, failed over what he described as lack of emotional intelligence, among other issues he supposedly raised with colleagues in what was described as a farewell message not intended for public consumption outside a platform.

Bello’s assessment of the administration in which he was the third most powerful person, after the governor and the deputy governor, has been seen as a further betrayal of a Governor that has suffered other forms of betrayal from party members and officials at Alausa, part of the reasons that made him fail to get the endorsement of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for a second term. He became the first Lagos State governor to serve one term since 1999.

Among other things, Bello was quoted by the Punch Newspaper to have said the following on the Ambode led government: “Our main drawback is our government’s inability to apply enough emotional intelligence in the administration of the state. Emotional intelligence includes interpersonal skills, interpersonal relationship, humility, respect for the well-established mores of governance, disregard for the accomplishments of others.

“…We undertook gigantic projects without the soul. We were too self-opinionated and narrow in our approach to governance. It is a big drawback which prevented the administration from returning because it was punished for its lack of inclusiveness in a democratic setting. In leadership, emotional intelligence is 70 per cent of application while individual brilliance is only 30 per cent. Successful leadership across the world in history have thrived on this fact.

“Besides and apart from lack of enough camaraderie compared to previous administrations, our cabinet has been less rigorous, less fulfilled, less engaged and less accomplished. And for the first time since the time of Governor Lateef Jakande, this cabinet departs unappreciated and disenchanted.”

No doubt many have hailed Bello’s assessment as dispassionate, objective and straight to the point. Some others have even hailed him as been brave to stand up to Ambode without fear or fervour. I have refrained from talking on this issue to observe others’ reactions to it. I must say some people have managed to surprise me all the same, hence my take on the issue. To me, Bello’s statement showed the calibre of people Ambode worked with as a governor. Like Caesar, he was surrounded by enemies who could only gather and collectively stab him in the back when the opportunity presented itself. The former SSG’s statement, coming at the end of Ambode’s tenure is a demonstration of lack of discipline and responsibility. If you have been part of a government for four years and you think such a thing is happening and you are not man enough to walk out of that government or speak out while in service, it clearly questions the man in you. Such a person lacks self-dignity and respect.

I for one see no honour there. I see the much touted objectivity and dispassionate analysis of Ambode’s government as a cowardly attempt at disparaging Ambode’s efforts in the last couple of years. As one of Ambode’s aides anonymously noted albeit, correctly, Ambode should praise him for doing that much, knowing that he was surrounded by people who from the beginning were out to sabotage him. “It was clear that so many of his aides were against him. We should commend him for staying on for four years. So many of his aides deserted him at the dying minute and these were the people who hailed him for four years.”

The aide added, “Rather than bring Ambode down, they are only disgracing themselves. If because this man wanted to be a governor twice and he did not make it, should that be enough to disgrace a man who gave you a chance to be SSG? They know that he fought tooth and nail to achieve what he achieved despite the opposition. I am one of his aides and I can tell you that the man put in his best. He does not sleep. He is on the streets at 2 am, 3 am. The new governor should watch his aides. He should not trust anyone because obviously governance in Lagos State has been bastardised.”

Perhaps, Bello is currying favour from the new Sanwolu’s government or merely carrying out a ‘suppressed or hidden vendetta’. Many are of the opinion that the Fifty eight year old Lawyer, Journalist and Publisher has not been a happy man for long as he bemoans the fate that has made Lagos House slipped off his hands, yet again. Recall that Bello oversaw the media unit of the Babajide Olushola Sanwoolu Campaign Organization BOSCO even though Comrade Sesan Daini is the face of the unit. Daini is however rumoured to be a mere tool in the hands of Bello who controls the budget and purse of the unit which ran into hundreds of millions of naira.

To add to that, it was believed that Bello, a native of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital laboured alongside other pro-democracy activists for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate, made no pretence about his desire to become Lagos State helmsman. He was among the team detailed to set up Vintage Press Limited publishers of The Nation newspaper. He was drafted in public service as the Managing Director of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency LASSA and he later served as Commissioner for Environment in the Babatunde Raji Fashola administration before his appointment as the Secretary to State Government by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode a position he held till the end of his tenure. It will not be out of place to say that Bello’s recent statement has a direct connection to Bello’s ‘frustrated’ political ambition which is to become the Executive Governor of Lagos State.

It is rumoured that from inception of the Ambode administration, he continually bombarded Bourdillon residence of the national leader with alleged tales of “official recklessness and abuse of office” on the part of Governor Ambode, threatening to resign at a point. He complained that Ambode gave out “juicy assignments” meant for his office to the commissioners. He was so unruly that it was alleged that Tinubu had to caution him to control his emotions, promising that he will call Ambode to order. Tinubu had to wade in by directing Ambode to recall the “juicy assignments” back to Bello’s office.

Perhaps, Bello’s pain which many understood, is the fact that, not only was he bye-passed and Ambode chosen, he was also bye-passed for Babajide Sanwoolu, though he was considered but his ill health in 2014 for closed his choice back then, even as the Deputy Governor. He had a mild stroke hence he was not anointed as the Deputy Governor. Ambode in his characteristic manner refused to join issues with him and others who took it upon themselves to report the activities of his government to Tinubu, with the absolute believe that his performance will suffice at the end.

In an article by Public Affairs analyst, Tunde Okikioposu which is titled ‘Dirty couple of Lagos power house the story of the Tunji Bellos’ it was noted that currently, Bello is responsible for the negative press Governor Ambode got from The Nation newspaper. He was said to have acted in partnership with Mr. Dele Alake and Mr. Wale Edun the Chairman of Vintage Press.

It further quoted, “Unknown to many Bello was among the saboteurs of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative of the Ambode administration. He had a recycling company that bided for the recycling arm of the business, but lost to others. He used his contacts from his days as Commissioner for Environment to sabotage Visionscape Sanitation Services, instigating these firms not to cooperate with Visionscape. Bello was allotted 28 waste evacuation detail contract in Lagos; but he deployed only one truck, to cover these details, yet collects 28 truck payments from Lagos State Waste Management Agency LAWMA. He is indeed a greedy fellow.

“He had serious altercations with Fashola who accused him pointedly to stop scheming, he was among the cabal that occasioned the media blackout of Fashola’s post tenure book launch. He was stunned alongside his clique when President Muhammadu Buhari name Fashola as the federal cabinet appointee for Lagos State,” the article noted.

The new Sanwo-Olu’s administration has just started. It is only wise that the sitting Governor learns from the mistake of his predecessor. Learning from the experiences of others, sometime is far better than learning from personal experience. Like the elders are wont to say, “The cane with which the first wife was beaten is always available for the second. This advice will not be necessary if the current administration watches out for ‘Brutuses’ like Bello who will only be too glad to drive the knife at the back without an iota of remorse.

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