Why APC might take the heat in Lagos East next year
Despite the storm in the teacup regarding Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s second term ambition, there are indicators that the heat might be hotter for the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the Lagos East Senatorial district’s seat.
Already the signs of upheaval have started emerging which point to the fact that the ruling party would do well to watch it as the 2019 general election approaches. And one of the factors APC might need to consider is that Governor Ambode, who has been embroiled in political disputations with a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu and the Mandate Group, is from that senatorial zone.
While some party members are becoming apprehensive that Ambode might ultimately be denied a second term ticket in 2019, they argue that since previous governors, Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola from the Lagos west and Lagos central respectively served for two terms, to deny the incumbent a second term ticket would amount to short-changing the zone.
APC leaders from Lagos East also express misgivings, saying that even if Ambode has personal issues with the party leadership, the idea of using the former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Jide Sanwo-Olu, from Lagos Central as his replacement is unacceptable and unfair to them.
There is therefore the likelihood that should Tinubu eventually deny Ambode a second term ticket, APC might be in for a backlash from the East in next year’s poll.
However, hopes that the differences between Ambode and his political benefactor might be amicably resolved came on the heels of the testy challenge APC faced in the Osun gubernatorial election, which APC was losing before it deployed all arsenals available to it as the ruling party.
However, there are moves by the party to compensate Lagos East with the position of a deputy governor, who would be put in charge of three key ministries if Tinubu succeeds in stopping Ambode. But whether the zonal leadership and APC members in the area would accept that option is yet unclear.
Last Tuesday, The Guardian authoritatively learnt that spirited moves were being made to resolve the impasse between the governor and Tinubu. A meeting of party elders was said to have held with the governor, even as the likes of former Commissioner for Tourism, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi and the lawmaker representing Kosofe1 in the State House of Assembly, Mr. Bayo Osinowo, among others were alleged to be making spirited moves to ensure a quick resolution of the face-off and pave the way for Ambode’s return next year.
A source within the party disclosed that a committee was set up to sample general opinion whether Ambode should be returned or not. The report was said to have favoured a retention of the incumbent as the flag bearer.
Specifically, part of the committee’s findings was that APC Lagos chapter must be careful not to burn its fingers like the Social Democratic Party (SDP) did in 1990 between Chief Dapo Sarunmi and Dr. Femi Agbalajobi during its governorship primary, which backlash paved way for the candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), late Sir Michael Otedola, to win the governorship race.
It was said that the committee also pointed to the Osun State election, as another essential point the Lagos chapter must not overlook.
But as at the time of going to press yesterday, there were no concrete signs that Tinubu and the Mandate Group were ready to back out of the Sanwo-Olu agenda. As a matter of fact, a strong member of the party said Governor Ambode is a goner based on the calculations on ground.
“If the Jagaban backs out what would he then say to Sanwo-Olu and the Mandate Group or how would they relate with the governor in the next four years? A source said.
“There is no iota of truth the governor is being reconsidered for reelection.”
In the long run, Lagos East zone might become the whipping zone in the process in spite of delivering for the party. Unfortunately too, it was only in the district that the ruling party won all its elective positions in the 2015 general election, while it lost some in Lagos West and Central to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Unease over the senatorial seat
A cursory look at developments in the Lagos East zone ahead of the 2019 senatorial election, compared with what is currently going on in the Central and West Districts, it could be said that APC has got itself into some problems in Lagos East unlike what it would encounter in other areas.
For instance, in the Central, where Tinubu’s wife, Senator Remi, is vying for a third term, no other APC member obtained the senatorial nomination form to contest against her.
The direct primary for the Lagos Central Senatorial ticket will be more like a coronation for Remi. In the West, former Minister of Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who could have been a strong contender for the party’s ticket with the incumbent senator, Mr. Olalekan Solomon Adeola, did not obtain nomination form thereby ruling himself out of contention. It was, however, alleged that one of Koro’s sons is being considered for the House of Representatives as compensation.
The only contestant, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, a former Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, is considered a weak rival for Adeola, who is not only popular and financially buoyant, but also has the backing of the APC leadership in the state.
Most party members believe that Lagos West Senatorial ticket is more of a settlement deal to appease Adeola, since he was compelled to back out of his Ogun State gubernatorial ambition, where he stood a good chance of succeeding Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Yet, the situation in Lagos East is different. Three aspirants are already vying for the APC ticket, including the incumbent, Mr. Gbenga Ashafa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Osinowo and former Lagos Commissioner for Transport, Chief Lanre Rasak.
Although, it was recently alleged that Tinubu preferred Osinowo to Ashafa based on certain reasons, the insinuation could not be substantiated as other sources claimed that it was the national leader that insisted on the incumbent returning to the senate, based on his experience, performance and the possible dynamics that would characterize the Ninth Senate in 2019, where exposure and ranking would matter.
Sources confided in The Guardian that Ashafa being a loyal and committed party member, would not have disobeyed Tinubu if truly the national leader told him to step down.
“The incumbent Senator is very faithful to the national leader,” the source said. “Those saying that he was hobnobbing with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, against Tinubu were engaged in empty propaganda.”
Secondly, Osinowo, who is considered a threat may return to the State Assembly if the ongoing impasse between Ambode and Tinubu is eventually resolved, while Rasak has allegedly relaxed his senatorial ambition.
Recently, while recounting his record of achievements and plans for the future to his constituents, Ashafa recalled the excellent performance laid down in the senatorial district by his predecessors, Senators Adeseye Ogunlewe, Olorunimbe Mamora and himself. According to him: “Our zone deserve nothing short of excellent representation, which I am best positioned to continue delivering.”
He noted that Lagos East has continued to stand tall since1999, adding, “In the past seven years, through your support, I have been able to deliver 96 verifiable and functional projects, 26 Bills, and 12 Motions of local and National importance.
“Together, we have been able to deliver poverty alleviation programmes that have benefitted over 50,000 of our constituents directly and through them, even more. Together we have constructed and rehabilitated schools across our zone we have provided ambulances for some hospitals and embarked on various free healthcare initiatives for our people.
“Together we have instituted a back-to-school programme that annually benefits our children in public schools across all the local government councils and local council development areas of the greater Lagos East. Together, we have made haste calmly to deliver potable water projects as well as rural electrification projects to improve the living conditions of our people in the township and suburbs as well.
“Our dear state has never missed an opportunity for international funding and support because, together with my colleagues, we have ensured that Lagos secures the approval of the Senate for every such intervention. The Lagos State Development Policy Operation from the World Bank in the sum of $200 million is an example.”
Narrowing down the choice to be made by his people, Ashafa said, “The choice before us in 2019 is a choice between consolidating on the legacy of qualitative and excellent representation with proof or taking a blind gamble on a path with no proven reward. The track record of each and everyone in the race for the ticket is right before you. It is therefore only wise that our choice is made based on the strength of character, track record of service, competence and trust.”
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