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Scramble that might impede Sanwo-Olu’s government


Obafemi Hamzat

The governorship election in Lagos State has come and gone with the All Progressives Congress (APC) winning convincingly across the state, especially with the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

To many, this came as a surprise considering the outcome of the elections held two weeks before then. This is in addition to the fact that many political watchers felt that the Lagos APC was going into the election a divided house.

But the outcome of the election showed that they went into the election a united house. It was learnt that it was a last minute fence mending that produced the result, when the party’s national leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu called a meeting of major stakeholders on the need to work together as a united team to be able to produce the next governor.

However, even before the governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat are sworn in, the cracks in the party are rearing their ugly heads. And an insider said that it would become more pronounced when the governor-elect and the deputy-elect are sworn in.

This is because the sharing of commissioners and special advisers and other appointees is already causing friction, especially with a former governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola reportedly given the task to compile a list.

The uproar among party loyalists are that those being pushed forward are from the Mandate Group, the political structure of Tinubu while the Justice Forum, another powerful block, which sees itself as a equal partner being relegated in the scheme of things.

Some feelers however said that even if the party was able to overcome the hurdle of the appointment of commissioners and special advisers, when the machinery of government kicks off, the friction would be more pronounced as the two candidates representing the two most powerful political blocks in the state would want to consolidate the dominance of their blocks in the party.

At present, the Mandate group is having not just an upper hand, it is having a near monopoly and the Justice Forum which Hamzat represents may want to have a come back and strong inroad into the Lagos APC political circle.

The group, it was learnt lost substantial ground after Babatunde Fashola left as governor, especially as he failed to produce a successor that is a member of the group or has sympathy for the Justice Forum.

Though Fashola ensured that members of Justice Forum got compensated at the federal level, especially as they were seen more Abuja boys until that alliance was formed to oust Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

And the gang-up that ousted Ambode was not the first time the two groups would attempt an alliance. The first time was during the era of Alliance of Democracy (AD) when Bola Tinubu had issues with Afenifere. Justice Forum and Afenifere were the two major blocks in the party then.

Tinubu had the support of Justice Forum for second term, while some Afenifere leaders were against his ambition. It was during the clamour for a second term ticket for Tinubu that Mandate Group was formed to help mobilise support for Tinubu along with Justice Forum and others.

[FILE PHOTO] Bola Tinubu, former Lagos state governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, speaks at a party meeting in Abuja Febuary 17, 2015. To supporters Tinubu, a Yoruba Muslim, is a wily political operator with a passion for getting the job done and a knack for picking bright, committed technocrats to do it. To critics he is a ruthless godfather who doles out lucrative contracts to his friends’ firms, insists on installing his man in office and is capable of sending in street thugs if he fails to get his way. Picture taken Febuary 17, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Some said it was on the basis of the support for Tinubu that the group was compensated with a governorship candidate in Babatunde Fashola, while another source said Fashola was a neutral person to the two blocks, but had to tilt towards Justice Forum because the group mobilised support for him when he was about being denied second term. It was learnt that some persons in the Mandate Group were behind the plot to deny him the second term.

Since the father of the deputy-governor elect who was the leader of the Justice Forum became a traditional ruler in Ogun State, the man saddled with the leadership of the Alhaji Bashura Alebiosu was unable to provide visible influence for the forum in the Lagos APC and in the government of Lagos State.

For that reason, neither he or nor members of the group occupied a strategic position in the party and in the state government to be able to win favour for members of the group. But Fashola helped the group and compensated members for what Lagos ‘denied’ them, as some were robustly compensated with federal appointments without much input from Tinubu.

Also, it was gathered that some members of the Mandate Group feel that they are losing ground in the state. This is because most of the federal appointments went to members of Justice Forum, while they were also being gradually shuffled out of scheme of things in Lagos by Ambode, who was more incline to professionals, aside blocking holes where some party leaders and members were milking the state. Majority of those affected were Mandate Group members.

So, they felt they needed to act fast. Reason, they launched the Ambode must go campaign, which they achieved with the governor not getting a return ticket. It was also gathered that they also ensured one of the strong pillars of Mandate Group was seconded to the Senate to drive more prominence for the group at the federal, especially if they did not get the ministerial slot.

The source revealed that Aregbesola and a member of the house of assembly are the ones driving the agenda. According to the source, the ultimate is for them to be the man to go to for anything political in Lagos and be able to wield influence for one of them to be the natural successor to Tinubu, if he leaves through natural means or any other means. He said it was the reason the former governor had a special adviser on Lagos to keep a tab on Lagos politics when he was away.

Justice Forum members are kicking and are not comfortable that the Mandate Group is in the driver’s seat, as it has now become the political behemoth, a kingmaker of sorts for anyone wishing to hold public office under APC in Lagos.

The belief among members of the Justice Forum, according to the source, is that the incoming deputy governor, Hamzat would supervise the ministry of works, which is the most powerful ministry, and could be used to win patronage, especially because of the huge contracts that would be awarded. This, he said, would naturally make the deputy governor very influential in the scheme of things.

This, it is feared, might pit him against the governor, if an obvious lopsidedness is noticed. This, the source said might lead to the Mandate Group protesting. They may not want the governor to be an onlooker, especially as he might be interested in a second term.

The source further said that it might likely become fierce, if Fashola returns as a minister, because the Mandate Group might then feel that they should fully take Lagos, while Fashola and Justice Forum should continue to take federal slots and appointments. This, he said, might work against the deputy governor being in charge of ministry of works and having less of influence to peddle.

A member of the Justice Forum nonetheless disclosed that discussions are ongoing to pacify members of the group, and ensure fairness. He said this is more so because they were almost shut out during the primaries, as nearly all their candidates lost out.

He said, in some local governments, it was the turn of members of Justice Forum to present candidates, but they were denied by the Mandate Group, which held those slots, whereas the understanding was that, it would be rotated after every two terms.

He said he would not be surprised if at the end, members of the Justice Forum are schemed out again when the cabinet is formed in Lagos, because the idea of mending fences being pushed forward now is to calm fray nerves.

A member of the Mandate Group, however, feels that Justice Forum is just crying wolf. He said though Justice Forum was a strong political block but its membership has dwindled over the years. He said this is aside that they do not have membership across every local government in the state like Mandate Group.

Some of them like Musiliu Obanikoro left the party and when they returned, they had lost ground and cannot wield the same influence before they left the party. He added that some Justice Forum members had pledged their loyalty to Tinubu and switched loyalty to the Mandate Group, abandoning the Justice Forum Structure.

Party members are not bold to talk about it, though they agreed that there are issues that could tear the party apart.

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