Why Sanwo-Olu got party’s nod for second term
Last Monday, the Governance Advisory Council (GAC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, approved a second term bid in office for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Before then, there had been several endorsements for Sanwo-Olu’s re-election but they seem not to have resonated across party rank. This, in part, also kept the governor and his supporters on their toes as they dithered on kick-starting full re-election campaigns.
The GAC is regarded as the apex decision-making body within the state APC, with past governors, deputies, speakers of the House of Assembly, and selected key party stalwarts, as members. Though chaired by Alhaji Tajudeen Olusi, it is believed that the body panders to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s dictates.
Some members of the GAC include the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; the Deputy Governor, Mr. Obafemi Hamzat; Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; serving Lagos State senators Oluremi Tinubu, Solomon Adeola and Tokunbo Abiru; Prince Tajudeen Olusi; a former Chairman of the state chapter of the party, Otunba Henry Ajomale; Otunba Bashiru Alebiosu; a former Deputy Governor, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye; Omooba Murphy Adetoro; Cardinal James Odunbaku; Senator Anthony Adefuye; Alhaji S. A. Seriki and Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Bashorun.
Also part of the GAC is Prince Rabiu Oluwa, Chief M. A. Taiwo; Alhaji Mutiu Are; Dr Yomi Finnih; Omooba Muyiwa Sosanya; former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji; incumbent Speaker of the Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; Mr. Wale Edun; immediate past Deputy Governor of the state, Idiat Adebule, and Chief Kemi Nelson.
The apprehension within the governor’s camp was not unconnected with the experience of the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who got endorsed by virtually all the critical stakeholders within the party and several other socio-political and ethnic groups within the state, but was not returned as governor for a second term. Ambode’s non-return was later, largely, attributed to the failure of the GAC to endorse him for re-election.
As such, some critical stakeholders within the party held back their endorsement for Sanwo-Olu because the GAC was yet to endorse him for re-election. With the delay by the GAC, there had been some anxiety about the re-election of the governor with many party faithful harbouring feelings that he might be denied a second term. In fact, there was some disquiet among party members and loyalists of the governor when a report on social media alleged that the GAC was not going to endorse Sanwo-Olu for a second term and that plans were afoot to replace him with the Lagos State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola. The GAC debunked the report.
While the body noted that Governor Sanwo-Olu was doing a wonderful job delivering infrastructure projects for Lagos and working daily on making the state better for residents, it urged those behind the dangerous, dysfunctional and misguided post to desist from peddling such falsehood.
Some stakeholders have, however, argued that the endorsement of Sanwo-Olu by GAC was not based purely on performance in office or fulfilling electoral promises to the electorate. They suggested that it must have been based on other yardsticks that are principally political.
For stakeholders who sense some underpinnings to Sanwo-Olu’s GAC endorsement, they easily refer to the fact that months before Ambode was denied a second term, many critical party stakeholders, including Tinubu and some GAC members, had praised Ambode to high heavens. Many of them took turns to applaud him and his performance as the state governor with Tinubu calling him a thinker and doer at the commissioning of 26 roads in Alimosho local council to mark Ambode’s third year in office.
Weeks after the event, however, things started changing, with the narrative about how Ambode has not been a good party man dominating discussions within party ranks. That later degenerated into him being denied the return ticket.
On the other hand, Sanwo-Olu is said to have displayed a good grasp of the party’s structure as well as given himself to servicing the structure well. This is believed to have helped him a great deal in currying the favour of the GAC members.
A source said: “With what happened to Ambode, it was natural for Sanwo-Olu to learn and improve on stakeholders’ engagement since he was a direct beneficiary of the anti-Ambode tendencies. It was not surprising that Sanwo-Olu did a lot to court the friendship of the GAC members including holding regular meetings with them to build goodwill aside public relations gestures embedded into such meetings.”
The source added that while Sanwo-Olu worked to be in the good books of the GAC members, Tinubu had no choice but to approve him for a second term because of his presidential ambition, which might naturally hit the rocks if Sanwo-Olu was not given a re-election ticket by APC in the state.
According to him, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) wields a lot of influence within the party and if Tinubu denies Sanwo-Olu re-election, he would not get a loyal person to push his agenda and feed him with the necessary feedback to work with when it comes to happenings within the Governor’s Forum. This is aside from the fact that Tinubu needs resources from the governor to get along in his presidential campaign, which would come in handy if the governor gets a re-election ticket from APC.
In a telephone interview with The Guardian, a member of the GAC, Cardinal James Odunbaku, speaking on why Sanwo-Olu was endorsed for re-election, said a good term deserves another, maintaining that “Sanwo-Olu, Mr Governor, has done marvellously well. He is a party man, a government man; he has the ideas and what it takes to be who he is now. So, we want him to continue; that is the language of the entire elders and leaders of the party.”
On what he meant by Sanwo-Olu being a party man, he said that the government respects the party and has never done anything to put the party to shame. “That is why I said he is a party man.”
Another member of the GAC, Alhaji Mutiu Are, also provided some insight into why Sanwo-Olu got GAC’s endorsement for re-election. He said: “We do not need to beat around the bush on the issue. We set a manifesto and programme for him when he was taking over as the governor and he has implemented it to the letter, scoring about 90 to 95 per cent. As far as our party is concerned, we believe that he is performing aside from following the programme of the party to the letter.”
Are further said that Sanwo-Olu is a listening governor. “He is very accessible and carries the leadership of the party along in all he does. And we are proud of him.”
To some party members, the endorsement from GAC should have come before now. Explaining why the endorsement came a bit late, Are said that there was no time endorsement cannot come, stating that the party has its way and style of doing things.
“As at the time we did the endorsement, have you seen anybody with a strong interest in contesting for governorship of the state? So, we do not want anybody to come out to say we shut him or her out of the race. The party’s primary is next month and we waited till now for those interested to come out so we could hear them out. But none came out. With that, people can say and know that we have been fair to all, as we waited till the last minute before the governor was endorsed for re-election. We also waited for the party’s national executive to decide that election is at the corner and we are ready before we did the endorsement.”
He said there were never attempts to deny Sanwo-Olu a second term by GAC, as being speculated. Are also disclosed that within the next two weeks, the GAC would be calling a stakeholder meeting to address party members on a number of steps to be taken next ahead of the electioneering processes.