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Hurdles before Lagos PDP in 2019 governorship poll


Uche Secondus

In its preparation towards the next governorship election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State has embarked on what it described as ‘internal cleansing’ with the aim of defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) but observers continue to ponder on how far the opposition party can go in ridding itself of the many obstacles on the path to victory.

While many believe that the PDP cannot pose significant threats to the reelection bid of Governor Akinwumi Ambode, whose administration like that of his predecessor, Babatunde Fasola, is seen as the face of good governance in Nigeria, there are those with the conviction that despite that, a united, focused and committed opposition can easily defeat the incumbent.

According to the optimists, the political calculations in the country will not only change soonest but the APC will also lose its bearings due to serious internal crisis to which the Lagos chapter of the party is not immune.

Since the Lagos PDP was defeated for the fifth time since the commencement of the present democratic dispensation in the last election, despite getting massive support from the Goodluck Jonathan leadership of the party in Abuja, it has found it difficult to organize its affairs, not to talk of effectively playing the role of opposition.

Lagos PDP has also been trying to wean itself of the effect of the protracted tussle for the control of the party’s national chairman between Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi and the outcome of last December 9 National Convention where leaders of the party in the Southwest, including Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman, claimed they were humiliated and deprived of national leadership.

The party is also facing challenges of funding as it is alleged that it could not offset the accumulated rent for its secretariat complex at the GRA Ikeja, which runs to hundreds of millions of naira. Only recently, the state chairman, Moshood El-Salvador said about N2.5 million was raised to settle some bills.

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Unfortunately, the usual financial support that the party used to get from Abuja when the likes of George and former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro wielded influence in the Presidency had stopped when the PDP lost control of the Federal Government.

Recently a substantial part of the party’s gains in the 2015 elections was lost when seven out of its eight lawmakers in the House of Assembly decamped to the APC and also pledged to use their support base for the ruling party in 2019.

Therefore, the general perception is that the Lagos PDP is going into another crucial election with a heavy financial burden and disjointed family to face a well-oiled and financially buoyant APC that is being led by a performing governor who is most likely to get support of Abuja powers.

However, during a meeting organised by the leadership of the party recently, the PDP expressed confidence that it will take advantage of the developments in the country to spring back and defeat APC in 2019.

Pointing to the prevalent state of poverty, inter-ethnic crisis, herdsmen menace and the impending implosion in the ruling party, the PDP said its spirit has been reawakened and being repositioned to make considerable impact in the next general election.
During the gathering, Salvador assured supporters that the turbulent wave of crisis in the party was over “as we are currently strategizing to give the incumbent governor a good fight in the next general election, not just in Lagos but also at the centre.”
Determined to succeed, the PDP leadership is aiming at changing the narrative and jettisoning all previous inhibitions on its path to victory. But how far Salvador and his team could go without the likes of George, who has remained aloof since the convention and Obanikoro, who has decamped to the APC, is a big question begging for answer.
Salvador’s main message was that members of the PDP should unite first if they hoped to dislodge APC in the state. To achieve this, he set up the party’s Caucus and State Leaders Council with the purpose of reinvigorating the party.
While stressing that it would be difficult for PDP to break the jinx of election failures in Lagos if members continue to work at cross purposes, he insisted that the party must cast aside its differences and be more committed to victory.

Speaking in a similar vein, the PDP governorship candidate in 2015, Jimi Agbaje said it is imperative for members to stay together to defeat the APC, stressing that this is the best time the PDP can capitalise on the failure of the ruling party to take over the state.

He said, “The APC has failed in the state making one to ask if anything is working now in Lagos. It is time for the PDP to take over government. However if we must win, we must be united. If we must win, we must say no to impunity. We must put our acts together and work with unity of purpose, that is the only way.”

Another former governorship candidate, Dr. Samsideen Dosunmu and a member of the party ‘s Board of Trustees, Mrs. Aduke Maina, also urged members to close ranks and be united.

Slim chance of a strong candidate  

One of the best opportunities the PDP had to take over Lagos came in 2006 when Engineer Funso Williams indicated interest to contest the governorship election under its platform. Until he was assassinated on July 26, 2006, when preparations for the 2007 elections were underway, William was a force to reckon with.

The party eventually presented Obanikoro who was defeated by Fashola. In 2011, the party struggled to present Ade Dosunmu, a former Director General of NIMASA, whom many people considered a weak candidate to Fashola who was running for second term. In 2015 it brought out Agbaje, a stranger and new entrant to the party who ordinarily was expected to make impact but he could not change the dynamics when the PDP lost popularity at the centre and in several states.

As the journey to the 2019 election begins, it may not be difficult to get a candidate but how strong the flag bearer would be to withstand the APC in the state is what is in doubt.

Factor of non-indigenes

Part of the reason the last governorship election was keenly contested in Lagos was the full participation of non-indigenes, particularly the Southeast and South-South citizens who operated under different names and platforms with massive support from Abuja. That scenario may not be visible this time because the ruling party is not relaxing on getting support of non-indigenes.

The APC, through its Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe is already meeting with Nigerians of Igbo extraction on the need to give the ruling party the necessary support, not only in Lagos but even at the federal level to enable the Southeast produce a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.

When contacted for comments on the chances of the PDP, one of the leaders who did not want his name in print said, “As at now, I don’t know what can happen tomorrow, we stand no chance.”

The member also expressed fear that nobody could be trusted even among the leaders “because we don’t know those among us but are not for us. Those big names that make PDP what it used to be in Lagos are no longer committed.”

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