Intrigues as factions scramble for Lagos APC chair
The race to mount the seat of the new chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is getting intense as cleavages within the ruling party are working round the clock to control the soul of the party.
Ahead of October 16, when the State Congress of the party will hold, some members are challenging the way and manner the party is being run and are demanding a complete overhaul of the party system.
While the State’s Caretaker Committee chairman, Tunde Balogun, has expressed interest to become substantive chairman of the party, two other contenders from Lagos4Lagos and Democrats believe power must change hands for the party to have a new lease of life.
Lagos4Lagos is presenting Prince Sunday Ajayi, while Democrats chairman, Fouad Oki, is in the race for office.
The Guardian observed during a visit to the state’s party secretariat in Acme Road, Ikeja, that only Balogun’s banner adorned the walls with an inscription, “One good term, deserves another.” The others are yet to display their posters.
Critics are of the opinion that Balogun does not deserve a second chance, stating that, “his tenure as the caretaker committee chair was full of acrimony, bias and division of our great party.”
Also, sources in the party say Balogun’s chances appear slim, alleging that his tenure saw members divided instead of harmonising them.
“Unless he plays his cards well among the party bigwigs, he may not be given the privilege of leading the party again, ” a source said.
Speaking with The Guardian, Ajayi said it is important to have a new state chairman that is capable of mending fences among aggrieved members.
According to him, Balogun has not shown a capacity for the position and as such should be replaced with a better candidate.
He said, “I can’t support Balogun because he was aware when members were paying N2 million, N500, 000 in the last congress for an election he knew wouldn’t hold, he is incompetent. I heard he wants a second term, but he doesn’t deserve it, he does not know the terrain of the party, he was brought from nowhere. He is not a core politician and so he does not know how to handle the party. He might have been appointed but he is not a mainstream politician. A mainstream politician, who knows the ideology of APC should be the one to handle the politics of Lagos State.”
When asked what he would do if the state party insisted on a consensus candidate, Ajayi stated that he has what it takes to be the chairman and awaits the caliber of people that will be put forward for the consensus candidate.
Ajayi who has purchased his intention form to contest for the state chairmanship office said: “I have been telling people that the reason I don’t follow them is that I hate impunity, it’s not working again in Lagos, it worked in the olden days but imposition is no longer working.”
Ajayi who is also the Vice-Chairman, Apex Committee of Lagos4Lagos movement stated that Oki has no clout for the chairmanship position.
On his part, Oki stated that his decision to contest for the position was influenced by his experience as a team player and a unifier as well as a loyal party man who desires the best for the Party.
According to him, “as of today, the party is at a crossroads where experienced people in political administration are needed to mend divisions created by the “inexperienced leadership that currently permeates our political landscape.”
He added that his priority is to see the party bond in unity, preparatory to the next general election; therefore we need to come together as one solid family to secure a resounding victory in 2023.
“I will lead the party with truth and integrity. I call on all delegates to this very important but crucial State Congress to throw your weight behind me, so that together we can rekindle the hope of our members again. I will be there for all APC members especially the grassroots because I am one of you.
“Today, there are grave challenges and pressures facing the Party, and members’ morale has plummeted. Part of the questions we also failed to ask and provide answers to was why our core supporters became unhappy with our party.”
Oki identified indiscipline and impunity, lack of internal democracy, imposition of candidates as well as the dangerous introduction of ticket racketeering to unpopular candidates as the reasons for the division in the party.
“A party which Lagosians expect to be governed by ethos and administered by internal conflict management mechanism based on equity, fairness, transparency and democracy became hostage to impunity and disregard to law and process. Today we bear the scar and wounds from the breakdown in party discipline and order.
“Over the past few months, we have seen increasing anxiety and resentment by party members over the mishandling of the local government election and the last two congresses. It is clear that there is no ‘quick fix to the challenges posed by these events but there are actions that we can take now to begin the journey to save our Party to redeem it and win the trust of voters again.
Oki continued: “We do not have the luxury of another 12 months before we see progress on the ground. Promises are not enough, verbal commitments will not save us from the wrath of voters if we do not start afresh to convince the people that we are, indeed ready to change our ways and means to meet the yearning of the populace.
“With an election looming around the corner, the need to elect an honest and dedicated executive who could deliver is so compelling and highly imperative. This is not the time to start passing the buck; enough of the blame games. It is time to move on, up and forward. It is time to start afresh! I believe we can take our Party there together.”
Oki added that the challenge for the party right now is not to lament the abuse of power that led to the destruction of the spirit of unity and inclusiveness among members but to commit the incoming leadership to rebuild the camaraderie again to earn the trust and respect of teeming supporters and put it to practical use in the shortest possible time.
“It will also create a credible platform for conducting direct primaries, which will afford every member of the party opportunity to participate in the primaries at all levels rather than the current situation of selection and imposition, which is susceptible to manipulation, abuse and corruption by desperate aspirants at all levels.”
Balogun on his part believes his track records and loyalty to the party will speak for him as he encourages party members to choose whoever they think would take the party to a great height in the state.
According to him, some members are within their rights to be aggrieved, as there are tendencies of different approaches and response to issues.
“Politics is about conflict and conflict resolution. I am not surprised that there are many people who are contesting for the position, but you must know those who are jokers and those who are contenders. There is a clear difference between the two. With my record in the last two years, I give glory to God, I have endeared APC to Lagosians and the electorate, who are today standing for the party.
“I try to reconcile members because it is the plan of the party to ensure that all our members are working together. Our party is progressive, so we don’t want anyone out. They might be aggrieved which is normal in democracy because of our differences in approach to things.
He added: “The fact that other people are vying for the position shows there is democracy within the party. We have to submit ourselves to the leaders of the party to choose the best man. I am standing on the platform of APC. Our party has its own manifesto and I will make sure the manifesto is implemented. The government of Lagos State has a development agenda and it is my intention to ensure that the agenda of the governor becomes a reality.
“I am working for the party and I want to ensure that the government of Lagos, which is headed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu succeeds. I want to ensure that all the political developmental agenda is implemented.
“I don’t have a personal manifesto but to follow that of the APC which is progressive. I want to ensure that people have the dividend of democracy, I want to ensure that politics at the grassroots assist the governor of the state to ensure that the development agenda of the governor is implemented.”
The leader of the Lagos4Lagos movement, Dr. Olajide Adediran, popularly called “Jandor,” said the party allows for consensus but where it fails, there must be an elective congress.
“There is no need to force people into the idea. The party’s Constitution and guidelines are clear, there is nothing wrong in us sitting together and saying this is how we want it done.”