Lagos politics and dearth of governorship aspirants
Internal democracy will be put to test this month, as political parties prepare to conduct their primaries to select candidates for the 2023 general elections. In Lagos State, contest for the governorship as usual is going to be a straight battle between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite flicker from other parties that are still seeking relevance in the state
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, APC has been winning governorship elections in the state, while PDP remains a runner up. But PDP chieftains in the state said 2023 election would be different as they are working around the clock to solve internal crisis and lack of cohesion and make the party attractive to Lagosians.
Observers are watching developments on the proposed alternative mega platform, if the less popular parties will make good their promises of joining forces to change the political calculation in the state and spring surprises.
But there are growing concerns about the dearth of governorship aspirants in both the APC and PDP, which raises questions about how free members of both parties, are to aspire to contest for any position of their choice.
APC’s cult-like stance on aspirants
WITH the recent endorsement of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for re-election by the apex body of the Lagos APC, the Governor Advisory Council (GAC), critics said the decision might have foreclosed other interested aspirants within the ruling party to vie for the number one job in the state.
The endorsement, as some APC members described it, is antithetical to internal democracy and closed opportunity for party members, who perhaps would have preferred to contest the ticket with Sanwo-Olu.
But those who have been following the political trajectory of the state are not surprised with the cult-like disposition of the APC in choosing its flag bearers. Political watchers in the state see the former governor and Presidential aspirant of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the “Capone”.
Efforts by the Convener of the Lagos4Lagos Movement, Dr Abdul Azeez Adediran and his followers to infiltrate GAC and have a say at that level of the party was not only rebuffed but that saw him defecting to the PDP.
Critics said GAC, which has arrogated to itself, power to clear governorship candidate of the party instead of the State Exco, is not recognised by the Constitution of the party but a creation of Tinubu to sustain his hegemony and control of the party.
The implication, according to the critics is that the loyalty of whoever emerges as the candidate of the party under this arrangement is to the GAC and not to members of the party or the electorate,
But, going by the nature of endorsements, which Sanwo-Olu has garnered in recent times, as well as considering Tinubu’s interest in the 2023 presidential ticket of APC, party members fear that any move to drop the incumbent governor may spell doom for the party.
A party source said, “Already, Tinubu’s attention is primarily focused on how to win the presidential ticket of the party and he will need a stable and loyal home governor to manage his base come 2023.
“It is not going be easy for Tinubu to replace Sanwo-Olu with another person because the circumstances at play now are different from what was at stake in 2019. Sanwo-Olu cannot be easily changed like Ambode without a backlash.”
That is probably one of the chief reasons other interested members of the party, who had expressed interest in the governorship have buried the aspiration, at least for now.
Until GAC ‘s endorsement of Sawo-Olu, party sources had mentioned a former Commissioner for Home Affairs in the state, who recently returned to the party after opting out some years ago, Abdulhakeem Abdullateef; the Senator representing Lagos East senatorial district in the national assembly, who was also Commissioner for Finance in the state between 2011 and 2013 Tokunbo Abiru as party chieftains eying the governorship seat
The current Chief of Staff to Governor Sanwo-Olu, Tayo Ayinde and incumbent Deputy Governor and former Commissioner for Science and Technology Femi Hamzat were also rumoured to be in consideration for the ticket, but they seem to have surrendered to the dictates of GAC
Likewise, the Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, had his name dropped as a potential candidate. But barely three weeks to the primary none of these people mentioned have purchased nomination forms to formally join the race.
But the case of the former governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode may be different. Party sources said the former governor is already consulting with relevant stakeholders within and outside the state on his next move. It was gathered that while some are mounting pressure on him to throw his hat into the ring, some have advised him to join hands with his supporters to sponsor another party members to contest the party primaries against Sanwo-Olu.
A party source told The Guardian that, “I can tell you that Ambode’s group will not fold their hands and watch, the former governor himself may come out or support one of his supporters to contest against Sanwo-Olu. Many Lagosians still believe that Ambode performed better than the incumbent governor, whose interest is to satisfy few party members instead of Lagosians and we believe anybody from our group stands a better chance.
“In the next few days Lagosians will see what is going to happen and they will be happy with the joker we are releasing.”
However, some party members said Lagos APC is already looking beyond the primary and are already working on Sanwo-Olu’s re-election. According to the source, “I can tell you authoritatively that Tinubu has instructed the incumbent to go ahead with campaigns. The national leader may not have the liver this time to move against the desires of some of his friends in the North, who have endorsed Sanwo-Olu.
“For instance, any attempt to embarrass the governor now may pitch Tinubu against the incumbent Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who spoke glowingly about the governor recently at a function in Lagos where he (Lawan) also endorsed him for second term.
“The lesson from Ambode’s removal must have taught the national leader some lessons, more so Tinubu is also counting on the North to get the party’s presidential ticket next month.”
A member of the GAC, Otunba Olorunfunmi Bashorun, said with various groups works Sanwo-Olu’s has done and huge endorsements by the various, the Lagos APC clearing house has no choice but to harkening to the voice of the people. He said, “One of the credits to Sanwo-Olu is that the young and humble man never deviated from the party’s manifesto, neither has he abandoned any project of his predecessors, including that of Ambode. But Ambode abandoned many, if not, all projects he met. The former governor cancelled many and re-awarded several projects, which was a big mistake.
On his part, the immediate past chairman of Lagos APC, Chief Tunde Balogun, said, “No one can compare the incumbent and his immediate past predecessor. Sanwo-Olu is different I must be honest. There may be one or two challenges, but you never see any form of bitterness against the governor among party members unlike what happened during the era of the immediate past governor.
“I know you will disagree but even in terms of effectiveness, Sanwo-Olu is better and he adhered strictly to party manifesto. I can assure you that in the next few months, you will begin to see massive projects this administration will bring out. What you least expected to see in 21st Century Lagos will surface.”
A former member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and outdoor advertising giant, Mr. Ipoola Omisore, said, “You may agree or disagree, leadership position is about conflict management. Sanwo-Olu has been able to manage conflict very well close to three years. He does not have issues with the party leadership unlike Ambode, who at a point had altercations with his former boss, Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works.”
PDP chances of producing acceptable candidate
UNLIKE what obtains in the ruling APC where its primary may not be a tough contest, PDP’s mode of electing its flag bearer promises to be an open contest where delegates will decide the fate of its governorship aspirants.
Already the Southwest leadership of the party has invited former Director General of NIMASA, Shamsideen Ade Dosumu, AbdulAzeez Adediran (Jandor), David Kolawole, Adedeji Doherty and Rhodes Gbadebo for screening.
One of the aspirants, Wale Gomez, who was not invited for the screening, told The Guardian that he stepped down from the race to contest for Lagos Central senatorial district.
Some party members have canvassed for a transparent, free and fair direct primary and ruled out consensus option in electing the governorship candidate if the Lagos PDP is desirous of winning the election.
They blamed previous failed attempts by the party to win Lagos State on fielding unpopular candidates and internal wrangling among members. It is believed that the primary election is going to be a straight contest between Dosunmu and Jandor, who recently joined the party from the APC.
Dosunmu is not a new comer in Lagos PDP; he was the governorship candidate of the party in 2011 and contested against former governor Babatunde Fashola, who trounced him with a wide margin.
Doherty was said to have made several attempts to get the party’s governorship ticket more than three times but he was not successful. From all indications, Jandor appears to be an aspirant to beat. The physical presence of about ten PDP governors and prominent national leaders of the party, including Senator Iyorchia Ayu at the occasion of his defection to PDP recently, has been referenced as an indication of his acceptability in the PDP family.
Former PDP state chairman, Navy Captain Tunji Shelle; Jimi Agbaje; Pearse and former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George spoke glowingly about the party’s chances next year with someone like Jandor being on the ballot.
They called on members and citizens of Lagos to encourage the boldness and determination of Jandor to win Lagos for PDP this time around.
Pearse said: “Jandor actually represents what the citizens and PDP need to rescue Lagos from the claws of APC since 1999. It is obvious that the ruling party has nothing more to offer. And its handlers are now like Goliath, terrorising the state.
“This young man is coming up with a lot of courage, like David, whom we all need to support. Shelle, on his part, said Jandor has been a symbol of unity since he joined PDP. He pleaded with all PDP members to join forces with the new entrant to win Lagos.
Agbaje said: “This is another big opportunity coming to PDP, to win Lagos. I hope to see a stronger PDP, well-positioned to take over Lagos State in 2023.”
George said there is hope for the future of the state, as “all that matters is Lagos and its population.”
The immediate past Publicity Secretary of the party, Barrister Taofik Gani expressed optimism that PDP is currently well-positioned to take over Lagos, especially as all stakeholders within and outside the party have now come to realise that the 23-year-APC rule in Lagos has not benefitted the state in terms of progress and development.
MEANWHILE, it is not clear if time will allow planners of the mega alternative platform to jointly present a candidate but in the absence of that, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) are waiting on the wings to harvest disgruntled aspirants from APC and PDP to make impressive outing come 2023.