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Lagos 2019: Still a tightrope for frontline candidates

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Jimi Agbaje, PDP Lagos candidate


The outcome of the February 16 presidential election, likely to be a battle between the candidates of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari and that of major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar might determine what happens in Lagos, between APC’s Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Mr. Jimi Agbaje of PDP in the March 2 gubernatorial poll in Lagos State.
 
Just as the results of the 2015 presidential election won by the incumbent President had a significant bandwagon effect on some governorships elections across the country, observers think whoever wins the presidential would influence who becomes the governor of Lagos in March.
 
Although, glaring calculations and dynamics of Lagos politics tend to favour the ruling party and its candidate, Sanwo-Olu, there are however some slight changes, unlike in 2015, which the PDP may capitalize on to snatch victory.
  
Meanwhile, the two ‘underdog’ contestants, Babajide Gbadamosi of Action Democratic Party (ADP) and Chief Owolabi Salis of Alliance for Democracy (AD) may put up surprises in their respective spheres, but their weak structures and platforms do not place them in any vantage position.
 
The two weeks interval between the presidential poll of February 16 and the governorship election, March 2 are not only enough to change the dynamics of the guber race across the country, it can also change the voting directions and mindset of voters.For instance, in 2015 Agbaje’s of benefitting from the victory of President Goodluck Jonathan was dashed the moment Buhari, coasted home to victory.
 
There is the possibility of same scenario happening to either side, especially as internal discord was planted in the APC following the contentious primary in October 2015, which saw Governor Akinwunmi Ambode being shoved aside for Sanwo-Olu by leaders of the party. Should Atiku defeat Buhari, Agbaje may get a boost to battle Sanwo-Olu one on one.
 
On another hand, the ripple effects of the disconnection between the electorate, who as at last week were rushing to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to enable participate in the polls and the ruling party because of the prevalence poverty and harsh economic policies of the Buhari-led government may also influence the governorship poll in favour of Agbaje, if the incumbent president is defeated.

Ambode’s Body Language
IF anything puts Sanwo-Olu and the APC more at risk, it is the indisposition of the incumbent governor. For the first time in a long while, APC under the leadership of Tinubu denied an incumbent return ticket, not on the excuse of lack of performance but that he (Ambode) is not a party man.
 
That has bred insinuations that Ambode is apathetic to his party and its candidate. Although, the governor and his loyalist continue to dismiss the allegations, there are worries that the impact of the campaigns would have been felt more if it were to have the full endorsement of the governor. Reports from the party’s first rally held at Police College Ikeja where hoodlums (Agberos) engaged in a free for all and eventually disrupted the exercise leaving two people dead and others injured speaks a lot about the rancour in the party.
 
A member of the party told The Guardian that intelligence gathered so far does not support the ruling party winning the next governorship poll in Lagos without a fight. According to him,  “I want to tell you that the national leader himself is aware of the danger and he is strategizing seriously to address it. Tinubu is even reaching out to some of his estranged election loyalists to prevent the imminent danger of losing Lagos to the opposition.”
 
A traditional ruler in the state recently confided in The Guardian that appeal is being made for the incumbent not to play any anti-party game that would cost his party victory. The stakes are very high for APC and its leaders. According to the source, “It is like a case of heavens will fall, everybody including the governor himself would be victims. As a matter of fact, Ambode being a former Accountant General of the state and then governor would be the major casualty if his party loses to Agbaje. So he has no choice than to play along and accept his fate.”

 
For this reason, APC is not leaving anything to chance. Of the 41 governorship candidates, only APC’s Sanwo-Olu has a solid and well-oiled campaign structure across the state.From what The Guardian gathered, only the APC candidate has massive campaign organs across the 20 local governments and 37 Local Government Development Areas (LCDAs). 

Politics Of Police Redeployment In Lagos
WHEN Lagos Commissioner of Police Edgar Imohinmi was to be redeployed after the APC governorship campaign rally that ended in fiasco, it was insinuated that some powers in the state instigated that move. Perception in some quarters was that Edgar was collaborating with the Governor Ambode to undermine Sanwo-Olu’s chances of wining the election. They also added that Ambode is funding Agbaje.
 
When Ambode got to know of Edgar’s removal, (Edgar was his Secondary School classmate in Warri) he reportedly rushed to Abuja to complain, that being the number one security officer in the state, he must be aware of the redeployment of commissioner of police in his state. Moreover, he was said to have vehemently opposed the positing of Kayode Egbetokun, who was a former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to Tinubu.
 
Part of the argument the governor raised against Egbeokun was that he had served as CSO, which invariably is a political appointment and his loyalty may likely go to his former boss instead of him (Ambode). It was based on this that the Presidency reportedly gave a counter order that Edgar should remain.
 
The face-off between Governor Ambode and the State House of Assembly has not been resolved since the legislators joined other party members to deny him ticket for a second term. Part of the plans for the deployment of CP Edgar was that members of Assembly were to commence impeachment process of the governor. The strategy was to use Egbetokun to quell any uprising against the lawmakers.In the last couples of weeks, the governor appears to be more visible in the Buhari, Osinbajo reelection campaign, compared to his visibility in the Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat campaign. This may not be unconnected with the fact that hawks in the party deliberately wanted it that way.  

Choice Of Deputies And How It May Influence Votes
THERE is a serious, yet unnoticed issue of the choice of deputies and how that may boost the votes for the two major contenders in the election. The running mate to Sanwo-Olu, former Commissioner of Works, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat comes from Lagos West and a governorship hopeful in 2015. He contested the 2015 governorship ticket of APC from Lagos East but lost to Ambode, who then enjoyed Tinubu’s support.

 
Hamzat brings visibility and track record to the table. He was a notable commissioner in the last government and a close ally of Babatunde Raji Fashola, Works, Power and Housing minister. Agbaje’s running mate, Mrs. Haleemat Oluwayemisi Busari from Epe, is expected to appeal to the women voters who might want to have a female deputy to continue the trend in the state. Hamzat, on his own is a potential governorship material with substantial electoral value that cut across Lagos West and East. He enjoys the support of the sophisticated Justice Forum under the leadership of immediate past governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. He is also going to enjoy the benefit of his father’s political hegemony that spread across Lagos West. In terms of electoral value, while Busari simply stands to gain the support of women, that might not be enough, compared to what Hamzat, a technocrat, two times commissioner and former governorship aspirant presents.
 
Besides, the APC has a solid women group led and coordinated by the national Women Leader of the party, Mrs. Kemi Nelson and the Lagos APC Women Leader, Mrs. Jumoke Okoya Thomas. For Busari and the PDP, they have a lot to do to win more female voters to their side.

Role Of Professional Bodies
UNLIKE the hoodlums whose nuisance value is felt more at rowdy campaigns and pasting of posters, professional bodies have a more useful and unseen role to play when it comes to choosing who governs Lagos. They feel the heat of government’s business policies and have a say in candidates’ blueprints. Some policies of the incumbent administration were not favourable to the business community. Some think those were parts of Ambode’s sins, for which he was denied the ticket of the party. How candidates of both parties have related to and assured the business community of how they will operate after May 29 will also determine the response they get.

 


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