How Lagos East Senatorial bye-election will test Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat’s popularity
When the state’s Publicity Secretary of Lagos State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Seye Oladejo recently dismissed the insinuation that the leadership of the party has begun the process of replacing the late lawmaker that represented Lagos East zone in the upper chamber, Senator Bayo Oshinowo, many insiders knew that there was more to it. Oshinowo died on Monday, June 15, 2020.
Oladejo had said the party was still mourning and that it would be inappropriate to start strategizing on his replacement so soon. However, indications have emerged that some members of the party from the senatorial district are not leaving anything to chances.
The development, of course, will put to test the acceptability and popularity for the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration and that of his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat before citizens of the state especially in Lagos East zone where a by-election will be conducted to fill the vacuum created.
At present the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to fix a date for the bye-election but some stakeholders in the opposition party have expressed worries why the commission has kept silent on making necessary information about the bye-election public since the demise of Oshinowo.
Oshinowo, who came from Kosofe axis of Lagos East zone, remained a strong ally, staunch loyalists and political foot soldier of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu till he died. Besides the internal politicking that will characterize the process of selecting a candidate for the ruling party, the coming bye-election will also open the old rivalry between Lagos APC and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While some observers are of the opinion that the ruling APC remains strong and stands a better chance to crush the opposition to retain the seat, contrary views indicate that PDP could capitalize on the present political upheavals going on in APC to claim victory whenever the bye-election is conducted.
A source indicated that “Lagos APC will defeat PDP to retain the seat because of its structure, well-organized political machinery and its financial strength,” adding that this is despite APC undergoing some internal challenges, which if the PDP is smart, it may likely secure victory in the bye-election. But PDP itself is not immune to internal crisis. It has since been fragmented into about three factions after suffering defeat in the 2019 general elections.”
Why bye-election is key to Sanwo-Olu
IT may not yet be clear to many observers that Governor Sanwo-Olu and his deputy are two stakeholders that need to put all they have into Lagos East Senatorial bye-election without necessarily leaving anything to chance both from within or outside the party.
As an insider put it, “Of course, all members of Lagos APC will still defer to Tinubu when it comes to the selection of a would-be candidate. It is, however, more important for the incumbent to get involved to determine who succeeds Oshinowo ahead of the permutations for the 2023 presidential and governorship elections that are already on the way.”
For instance, the negative reverberation resulting from the controversial circumstances that threw up Sanwo-Olu as APC’s governorship candidate in the direct primary in 2018 has not been totally resolved among the electorate in Lagos East. Many of them are still nursing their wounds over the disgraceful manner in which the former governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was denied a second term ticket by the party’s leadership.
“It is not yet clear if those aggrieved members in Lagos East have overcome their grievances and may not likely want to use this opportunity to express their grouse,” a source said.
Another challenge the ruling party will face in selecting the candidate to replace Osinowo is the fact that Sanwo-Olu came from Lagos Central, but with Tinubu’s support in 2018, he defeated Ambode, who hails from Epe in Lagos East. But the manner Ambode was denied the second term ticket was regarded as a breach of zoning and gentleman’s agreement in the ruling party among the three senatorial districts in the state.
Many hold grouse against Tinubu, who emerged as governor in 1999 on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD), but came through Lagos West and spent two terms. Tinubu’s successor and Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola came from Lagos Central and also spent two terms in office. In 2015, the ticket was given to Ambode from Lagos East with many believing he would also spend two terms, but the case was not to be. Sanwo-Olu will have a lot of explaining to do to people of Lagos East in this aspect.
Another challenge Sanwo-Olu will need to address as the bye-election comes close is the displeasure of members of Lagos East over the controversial manner Senator Gbenga Ashafa from the Ibeju-Lekki axis was also dishonorably deprived the opportunity to return to the upper chamber for the third term unlike the wife of the national leader, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, who easily earned her third term ticket in the same process.
It is insinuated that the party’s leadership deliberately used 2018 direct primary to stop the former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Ashafa to pave the way for the late Oshinowo. The governor may also need to work on the psyche of the electorate in Ibeju-Lekki and Epe ahead of the bye-election.
The Guardian authoritatively gathered that some leaders of the party from Lagos East are already making moves to direct the electorate’s attention towards their political interest for the vacant seat. Some politicians from Epe Division have been accused as the brain behind the zone’s misfortunes.
But some members in the party told The Guardian, “For any Epe-based politician to be jostling for the Lagos East Senatorial District’s seat is more like a direct affront to the deputy governor, who is also from Epe. It is not possible for Epe axis to produce the deputy and also the senator simultaneously.”
The state’s Publicity Secretary, mr. Oladejo, however, told The Guardian to discountenance any report about names of those the party will put forward since nothing has so far happened at the party level in that direction.
According to him, “It will be unfair to Oshinowo and his family if the party should start the process of replacement now when we are still mourning. It is also not true that the party has tagged any name or names for the vacant seat.”
Meanwhile, the current development at the APC national level may also not have allowed Lagos chapter to have time to start discussion arrangements for Oshinowo’s replacement.
The PDP challenge
The history of Lagos West Senatorial elections since 1999 has never been in the favour of PDP except when Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe won the 1999 senatorial election in the zone on the platform of defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD). But he later defected to PDP. PDP could not, however, retain the position in 2003. Since then, other PDP candidates had always lost to the ruling party. But with the coming bye-election, PDP is hoping to take advantage of the in-house bickering in the ruling party, depending on the type of candidate APC fields.
Lagos’ PDP spokesman, Taofik Gani has, however, chided INEC for failing to supply any information since the demise of Oshinowo on when a bye-election would be conducted to fill the vacant seat. He alleged that it would appear deliberate so as to favour the ruling party “because as we speak, I doubt if any mention of the demise of the late lawmaker has been made on INEC’s portal, not to talk of releasing information on how another bye-election will be conducted. Apart from the ruling APC, there is not another party in Lagos that has heard anything from INEC about the bye-election.”
On plans by the party to participate in the bye-election whenever it holds, Gani said, “For now, we are planning but it is not yet for media consumption. However, the only person we still have on ground is Princes Abiodun Olufusi from Ikorodu, who contested against Oshinowo on PDP platform but lost in 2019. Others are definitely going to show interest as time goes on and we are hoping to also capitalize on the possible implosion APC might face in the process of selecting their candidate, which, of course, will give us an edge.”
The Guardian also learnt that the wife of the governorship candidate of AD in the 2019 election, Mr. Owolabi Salis, Mrs. Olabisi Salis from Ikorodu, might also be drafted into the senatorial race. She contested in 2015 against Ashafa and lost. It is not yet clear if she will run on the platform of PDP or AD, but the pressure is being mounted on her to contest.
But a credible source from INEC chided Gani over the insinuation that the commission was unnecessarily keeping silence over the Lagos East Senatorial bye-election allegedly to the advantage of the ruling party.
According to the source, “It is unfortunate that Lagos PDP is saying this because it is the same set of politicians that insisted INEC should not conduct election because of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. We had initially planned to conduct all the bye-elections in about 10 states but for the pandemic, which forced us to cancel the arrangement. Recalled that politicians insisted INEC should shift Edo and Ondo States’ governorship elections but we refused.
“INEC is just regrouping and strategizing on how to conduct all the outstanding bye-elections. Moreover, we are still awaiting the notification from the Senate President about the demise of the lawmaker in question, just as we are strategizing seriously to conduct the elections.”
The source also disclosed that the commission was yet to decide when to fix the various bye-elections but that it has released COVID-19 policy in respect to the conduct of elections putting into consideration the pandemic of which all the stakeholders including political parties were all happy with.
“It is therefore not true that INEC is unnecessarily silent over Lagos East bye-election to replace late Osinowo,” it continued, “there are other such elections we are looking to conduct across the country.”