Ko si Koro, ko si ibo
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
Tuesday’s clearance of Senator Musiliu Olatunde Ishola Obanikoro and nine other President Jonathan’s ministerial nominees by the Senate has established the reemergence of Obanikoro into Lagos politics.
As expected, the former High Commissioner to Ghana got a soft landing from his colleagues as he enjoyed the ‘bow and go’ treatment, but was after briefing his audience and the nation on some details about his life.
Obanikoro narrated his humble beginnings: From being a newspaper vendor in the streets of Lagos, to an apoti trader and a former cleaner, to his rise as a council chairman, commissioner, promotion to the Senate, an ambassador and now, a minister.
No doubt, the listing of Obanikoro as a ministerial nominee didn’t come as good news to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in Lagos State, who have been forced to return to its strategy room for a proper analysis of the implications of a ‘Koro, as the minister-designate is called, coming onboard the federal cabinet, a year to the general elections.
For the Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Obanikoro’s new national assignment is an acknowledgment of his previous excellent services to the nation.
In a statement, PDP stated that it is very proud of the former Ambassador and Senator.
“We thank Mr. President for nominating Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as Minister. We particularly commend the president for allowing the state to have the benefit of the Southwest ministerial slot. Indeed, Senator Obanikoro is a tested and trusted public servant, whose ability to deliver is not in doubt,” statement reads.
The PDP also commended the Senate for rising above partisan politics by confirming the nomination of Obanikoro and nine others as ministers. The party noted that all the Senators unanimously suspended further debates on the issue of defection in order to confirm the nominees, thereby putting national interest over partisan politics.
While the APC vacillates on its choice of who succeeds Governor Babatunde Fashola, it is glaringly clear that the PDP would put its best foot forward and all indications point to Koro.
Many who witnessed the feverish 2007 governorship campaign involving Fashola, Obanikoro and Jimi Agbaje will not forget in a hurry the many violent scenes on the political fields across the state and would gladly not look forward to a repeat of such.
Of the many Obanikoro’s catch-phrase campaign slogans, Ko si Koro, ko si ibo, meaning ‘No Koro, no vote,’ comes to mind.
Tracing his long career in politics, which began in 1989 as a Caretaker Committee Chairman of Surulere Local Government under the National Republican Convention (NRC) and Chairman, Lagos Island Local Government, he was able to win Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s heart in 1999 because of his Lagos Island followership, when he was appointed Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture.
He was elected Senator for Lagos Central in April 2003, running for the Alliance for Democracy (AD), but later defected to the PDP. According to an APC stalwart, one reason he has not been able to come back to the progressives’ fold is that the manner in which he betrayed Asiwaju was drastic.
“He swore to Asiwaju even in Kabba, Mecca, that he will not go anywhere only for him to return to Nigeria and defect. It was a very difficult time for the party because that was the period former President Obasanjo seized Lagos council funds. Good for him that he has found a sort of solace in the PDP structure, from an ambassador to becoming a minister, but will he achieve his aim of ruling Lagos, it will be fight to finish,” said the stalwart.
Another APC chieftain at the Acme Ikeja secretariat recalls that Obanikoro’s campaigns are always violent. “You recall the incident at Oregun during his 2007 campaign where several women were shot at. His coming as minister at this time is strategic. Already, there is a Lagosian in the cabinet in person of Aganga. We understand that the only reason they giving him the chance is strictly politics.”
PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, MUSILIU OBANIKORO (LEFT) AND DR. ADE DOSUNMU.
Feelers from party men confided in The Guardian that Obanikoro’s nomination has made APC edgy in Lagos, as this is happening at a time there are some restiveness in Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). FERMA has been hiring new recruits that are being drilled daily at their office at the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway old tollgate area in Lagos.
First to sound a note of warning on this development was the chief security officer of the state, Governor Fashola, who told newsmen recently that he doesn’t know the purpose of such mass recruitment by a parastatal under the Ministry of Works.
“If they are recruiting, what is the purpose? If they want to police federal highways, what is now the role of the FRSC? Have they appropriated funding for it because you can’t have an agency in a constitutional democracy without having appropriation for it in the budget? Or are you funding them with slush fund? Is it SURE-P money, meant for the development of Lagos State that is being used to do this?
“Again, you ask yourself, ‘what is the need for such a task force?’ There are about 10,000 roads in the state, out of which 6,000 belong to the state government. A little over 3,000 belong to the local government. Less than 120 belong to the Federal Government. So what do you need such a large army for, unless there are some ulterior motives? I hope we are not going back to the days of machetes,” Fashola said.
One of the theories flying around is that Chief Federick Faseun’s Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) is behind the FERMA-trainee project, considering his relationship with the Federal Government and the recent contract he won to police pipeline installations nationwide.
“The impression is that already, foot soldiers are being created for Obanikoro to use to engage Lagos in the next election. It has forced the APC to start getting prepared; that with the emergence of Obanikoro, we should expect more violence, more of pedestrian talk and cheap propaganda,” a source said.
The immediate hurdle to cross for the APC is the choice of a candidate on the basis of religion, which is a worry for party leaders. “If we choose a Christian candidate and Obanikoro enters the mosque, APC may kiss the election goodbye. On the issue of violence, we believe that the APC can take care of him.
“What may not be so clear is whether a Muslim versus Christian ticket would be decisive in Lagos. Christians within the APC have been saying that they have been voting for all our Muslim candidates in Lagos over the years.
“But in a year whereby you have a Jonathan also running as president, who is a Christian, there may be a way the Muslims may feel alienated in the state, having a Christian run at the centre and in Lagos,” another source concluded.