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Lagos East bye-election on INEC’s radar as candidates, parties plot winning tactics

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The rivalry between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the 2023 general elections has shifted from the recent Edo and Ondo governorship elections to pending bye-elections across the country. Particularly, the Lagos East bye-election, some observers believe, would be the most competitive among such elections to be held by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) scheduled for October 31.

The outcomes of the two recent governorship elections have even heightened the rivalry between the two dominant parties, with PDP winning in Edo but dusted by the ruling party in Ondo.

Obviously, the Lagos East Senatorial bye-election has Mr. Tokunbo Abiru of APC and Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi of PDP slugging it out, but the real battle goes beyond the two candidates. It is rather a battle of wits between two political godfathers, a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George.

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Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule, Tinubu, through his well-oiled political platforms from the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) to Action Congress (AC), then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now APC, has dominated the politics of the state while George is struggling to gain a foothold.

In the coming October 31 contest, Tinubu is alleged to have foisted Abiru on the party and, in a similar vein, some aggrieved members of PDP are of the view that the primary that produced Gbadamosi, who recently defected from Action Democratic Party (ADP), where he contested the state’s 2019 governorship election as ADP candidate, was allegedly programmed by George and the state’s Chairman, Ade Doherty.

But while Abiru of APC is having campaigns and meetings with stakeholders across the district, Gbadamosi and his party seem to have opted for different tactics to achieve victory, either through the poll or court.

One of the moves is to seek the disqualification of the former Managing Director of Polaris Bank, Abiru, from the senatorial race, as orchestrated by the Media Director/Spokesperson of the Gbadamosi Senatorial Campaign, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse.

Puzzle over multiple registrations
GBADAMOSI has dragged Abiru before a Federal High Court in Lagos seeking his (Abiru) disqualification on two counts. First is that the APC candidate has two Permanent Voters cards, (PVC) numbers: 90F5BO5EEB295604194 and 90F5AFEA90418213518. He also claimed that Abiru is not registered to vote in Lagos East Senatorial District, claiming that the evidence for the first case against Abiru could be verified from the Voter Register, as it exists on the server of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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In the second case, the PDP candidate referred to a letter purportedly written by Abiru on August 14, 2020 to INEC, requesting a transfer of his address from Road A2 HSE Ago, Carlton Gate Estate, off Chevron Drive, Lekki, Lagos, to 38 Oriwu Road, Ita Elewa, Ikorodu, Lagos, but claimed that the APC candidate’s request was not granted on the ground that Continuous Voter Registration Exercise was suspended. The party also claimed that Abiru never registered in Lagos East and therefore has no business to vote or be voted for in the zone.

According to Pearse; “It is clear that Abiru cannot vote in the October 31st Lagos East Senatorial bye-election. According to the constitution, a citizen who cannot vote cannot be voted for. The facts are clear on INEC server and that was reason we placed it in an advertorial to tell the people of Lagos what is at stake before the election.”

Pearse also urged the electorate in Lagos East to reject Abiru, saying that the APC candidate failed in his responsibility to manage Polaris Bank well, where he recently retired. He said rejecting him would be in the best interest of the bank’s customers, alleging that Abiru committed a series of financial infractions as helmsman.

But reacting to the suit filed by Gbadamosi seeking Abiru’s disqualification, the Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Seye Oladejo, said; “As we speak, our party has not received any court summon over the suit mentioned and there is nothing like double registration as claimed by Gbadamosi and his campaign manager.

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“PDP is just whipping unnecessary sentiments, having realised it stands no chance to win the contest. The propaganda of double registration is false and cannot deter our candidate from winning the contest come October 31.”

Oladejo accused PDP of chasing shadows and completely ill-informed, misguided and deluded about its chances in the elections. The Media Office of Tokunbo Abiru Constituency Team (TACT), headed by Otunba Kaoli Olusanya, however, dismissed the financial infraction propaganda against Abiru and also vowed to file N1 billion suit against the Media Director of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senatorial Campaign Council, Pearse, for alleged character defamation.

Abiru also asked PDP media director to retract all defamatory publications against his person within seven days or he might consider legal proceedings against him. He gave the conditions in a letter of claims his legal counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, wrote to the media director of Pearsel, where he faulted statements credited to him.

Threats of internal crisis in APC, PDP
THE desperation being shown by both parties towards the election is understandable. The Southwest zone would likely be a key battlefield in 2023 presidency election. The PDP, on one hand, needs to re-establish itself in the zone beyond Oyo State, where it currently controls, having lost in Ondo last Saturday. A foothold in Lagos East ahead of 2023 would boost the party’s chances.

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But one of the factors that may work against the party is the unresolved internal crisis, which actually started even before it conducted its primary. It was gathered that those who contested the senatorial ticket with Gbadamosi were uncommitted to the race, because of the way the partly leadership conducted itself during the exercise. Several allegations have been made against Doherty, who was accused of giving the ticket away to the candidate at the expense of others, because of his (Doherty) governorship ambition in 2023.

A source within the party said; “Doherty deliberately gave the senatorial ticket to Gbadamosi to distract him ahead of 2022 when PDP will conduct its governorship primary.”

It was also learnt that the PDP candidate is finding it difficult to also get financial support from governors on PDP platform after the party lost in Ondo. In actual fact, paucity of funds to execute and coordinate his campaign may work against Gbadamosi’s success.

Also, the ongoing face-off between George and the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, over remarks that George should be retired from politics is also not helping the party’s candidate. Doherty is also not helping matters, as George recently accused him of playing double standards, as the election is approaching.

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However, crucial to Gbadamosi and PDP’s cause is the ongoing mass revolt against the APC style of governance at the national level that culminated in the #EndSARS protests and other obnoxious policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

According to Gbadamosi; “We are confident that we would take this seat because of the special dynamics that exist in Lagos East. Lagos East is one of the most deprived in terms of infrastructure, a lot of investment from people like Alhaji Aliko Dangote, others and me are situated in Ikorodu, but all these investment have not been accompanied by infrastructure by the government.

“There is governance absence in the whole of Lagos East, but the governors have been restricted by the godfather, who is the real governor of Lagos State. The governors have not been able to make decisions without his input and when they do, it is often reversed.”

The situation is not different in APC. Some members of the ruling party are also not happy about Abiru, who they say was never part of the political family. A source confirmed to The Guardian that some of the tactics Gbadamosi and his team are adopting to fight the APC candidate are being revealed by some aggrieved members in the ruling party.

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