The Emerging Colour Of Lagos Politics

By Tope Templer Olaiya

It is 40 days to the dawn of a new era in Lagos. On May 29, the Governor-elect, Akinwunmi Ambode, will be sworn into office as the next Lagos ‘Driver’ to pilot the affairs of the nation’s commercial nerve centre till 2019.
For the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), which has held the reins of power since the fourth Republic in 1999, things may never be the same again in the next dispensation beginning from next month. It was a long-drawn and hard-fought battle for the party since the day its top hierarchy projected Ambode to be the next occupant of Lagos House in Alausa.
From the thorny issue of preparing the grounds for the emergence of a Christian governor to satisfying agitators from the Lagos East Senatorial district, who were yet to be represented at the Lagos ‘Oval Office’ and finally managing the combustible reactions of losers, who had desperately eyed to be on the party’s ticket, it was not a 100-metres dash race.
If the APC thought they were nearing the finish line when against all odds, they shrugged off all internal schisms to sell Ambode’s candidacy to Lagosians, they sooner than expected woke up to the reality that there were many rivers to cross, with their main challenger, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), digging deep to present a formidable match in Jimi Kolawole Agbaje.

LAGOS HOUSE: Front view of the Governor's Office, Alausa

LAGOS HOUSE: Front view of the Governor’s Office, Alausa

Bola Tinubu’s eight-year administration laid the groundwork of modern Lagos as has been rightly termed ‘The Navigator.’ Governor Fashola came on board as ‘The Actualizer’ to implement the development and policy thrust of his predecessor before Ambode comes on stream as ‘The Consolidator.’
Though this was the first time the opposition PDP went into the election without much rifts, the party was for the fifth time unlucky. Many political observers, including leaders of leading political parties in the state have admitted that last week’s election was the fiercest in the history of governorship elections in the state since the return of democracy in 1999.
The campaigns leading to the elections were very tense and fear of violence gripped residents. This was further heightened a week to the elections when the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, threw away the garbs of decency in a hate speech to canvass support for his anointed candidate. He told some non-indegene visitors to his place to vote Ambode or be damned.
He had infamously threatened the Igbo and non-indigenes, who were showing much love for the PDP, to drown them in the lagoon if they fail to vote for Ambode, whom he has chosen.

Ambode (middle) discussing with close associates

Ambode (middle) discussing with close associates

The governor on Wednesday restated the obvious when he described the 2015 election campaigns as the most difficult he has ever participated in. Fashola, in his confession, said never has any political contest divided over 120,000 Lagos civil service than the 2015 general elections did.
The governor, who, however, thanked the workers for giving APC the edge, said it was time to close ranks and give the in-coming administration massive support. “I have been involved in four elections till date. In 2003, I was the Chief of Staff to Governor Bola Tinubu, 2007 and 2011 as candidate while 2015 as governor. But not in any of those elections have I seen a campaign that tried to divide our public service.
Last Monday, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) drew the curtains on the April 11 governorship and House of Assembly elections in Lagos, it was a subdued celebration that greeted the announcement of Ambode as the winner of the election, after polling 811,994 votes to defeat Agbaje who scored 659,788.
This has been the closest and tightest race so far between the two parties. And for the ruling party, it is an election result that is too close for comfort. They cannot sleep easy anymore from now till 2019. In 2003, the late Funsho Williams polled 700,000 votes as against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s 900,000 votes to secure his second term in office.
At the 2007 poll, outgoing governor, Babatunde Fashola, who scored over 800,000 votes, hedged out Musiliu Obanikoro, who was able to secure about 300,000. In 2011, Fashola dusted the PDP’s Ade Dosunmu with over a million votes polling 1,509,113 to 300,450.

From Right: Lagos APC Chairman, Henry Ajomale, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Pa Odunsi

From Right: Lagos APC Chairman, Henry Ajomale, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Pa Odunsi

For the first time since 1999, the ruling party will have to carry on its business of marrying politics and governance, while a keen opposition breathes down their neck. Out of the 40 House of Assembly seats, the PDP has claimed eight. When the Eighth Session of Assembly resumes on May 29, 2015, about half of the faces will be newcomers and some of them members of the opposition PDP.
The eight PDP lawmakers will change the complexion of the House that has in the last eight years been a one-party chamber. Besides the eight, 11 newcomers on the platform of the APC will also join 21 returnees for the coming Assembly that has already been touted to be more competitive and feisty along party line.
Composition of principal officers will be the first acid test. With the current Speaker of the House, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and Deputy Leader, Lola Akande voluntarily quitting the business of law making; Majority Leader, Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye and Chief Whip, Dr. Rasak Balogun losing at the APC primaries; and the last principal officer standing, Deputy Speaker, Taiwo Kolawole, crashing at the polls last Saturday, the Assembly will be walking the tight rope of leadership battle.

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Jimi Agbaje

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Jimi Agbaje

Roll call of the PDP-lawmakers has Fatai Olatunji Oluwa, representing Ajeromi-Ifelodun I Constituency. Oluwa defeated the sitting Deputy Speaker and the longest serving member of the House, Taiwo Kolawole, who has represented the Ajegunle axis of the state in the last 16 years. In Ajeromi-Ifelodun II Constituency, Dayo Famakinwa of the PDP defeated the sitting APC lawmaker, AbdoulBaq Ladi Balogun.
For Surulere II Constituency, Mosunmola Sangodara-Rotimi of PDP won with 33,583 votes against 32,767 pooled by Abiodun Awobotu of the APC. Dipo Olorunrinu and Hakeem Bello, both of the PDP also clinched the tickets for Amuwo Odofin Constituencies I and II seats. Olorunrinu ousted incumbent Sultan Adeniji-Adele of the APC, while Bello also clinched the Amuwo Odofin II seat from sitting Ramota Akinola-Hassan of the APC.
In Oshodi/Isolo Constituency II, the Ndigbos in Ajao Estate and Ejigbo axis ensured that the PDP candidate, Emeka Idimogu, won with 27,423 votes after defeating Olayinka Ajomale, son of the Lagos APC Chairman, Henry Ajomale, at the polls. A PDP candidate also clinched one the constituencies in Ojo area of the state.
If the story of the Lagos 2015 elections will be told in years to come, one of the highlights would be the remarkable success of the non-indigenes in Lagos to make a loud statement about their future stake in the Centre of Excellence.
In one fell swoop, three non-Yoruba including two Ndigbos from the opposition PDP won elections into the House of Representatives from Lagos State. They are Chief Oghene Egboh, Mrs. Rita Orji and Mr. Tony Nwoolu. Egboh won the House of Representatives seat for Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, while Orji won in Ajeromi-Ifelodun LGA and Nwoolu won the Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency.

Governor-elect Akinwunmi Ambode and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akinolu when the former paid the latter a courtesy visit after the election

Governor-elect Akinwunmi Ambode and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akinolu when the former paid the latter a courtesy visit after the election

In the governorship election, PDP won in five out of 20 local government areas. They are Ojo, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Surulere, Amuwo-Odofin and Oshodi/Isolo. These places are suspected to be stronghold of non-indigenes in the state.
Remarkably, all three defeated incumbent holders of seats and they all won in areas heavily populated by the Igbo in Lagos State. The victory of the Igbo candidates in Lagos, according to some observers, is not a surprise as Igbo candidates have in the past won national elections in the state.
They cited the era of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led by the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, when Igbo residing in Lagos won elections into the regional and central legislatures.
The Igbo may have fled Lagos in 1966-67 during the civil war but 2015 has proved the year of their resurgence in Lagos politics. Igbo, by sheer industry, has dominated street commerce in Lagos in the past few decades and as their businesses flourished, their numbers grew. The Igbos’ preferred trade apprenticeship system meant that as Igbo entrepreneurs grew they brought in family and friends from the east as apprentices.

Welcome to Lagos

Welcome to Lagos

Preoccupied with commerce, wary of politics, mindful of the war and their residency status, Igbos helped build and develop Lagos but played only at the fringes politically. The ambitious trader aspired to be the president of the market union or the Eze Ndigbo Lagos for vainglory, but that stereotype has been consigned to the dustbin of history, as a new Lagos emerges, where everyone has a stake.
Gradually, a score that the Nigerian Constitution has been unable to settle as it relates to citizenship and indigeneship is being addressed in light of modern day realities – a system in which citizens can live all their lives in a city, raise children, pay taxes, have constitutionally protected rights to vote and be voted for but are somehow not expected to occupy elective positions.
However, in the light of the 2015 experience, it remains to be seen if in the nearest future, politically ambitious “settlers” would not be looked at as ungrateful usurpers.

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Frantic search for next Lagos driver

•  Will APC play the dark horse joker again?

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

AS the drumbeat of the 2015 general elections reaches a crescendo, the race for the most coveted governorship seat in the country gets intense and fiercer. Curiously, the conspiracy of silence among the ruling party bigwigs is unnerving.
Various names as likely successor to Governor Babatunde Fashola have been thrown up but delay by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to switch on pre-election activities is causing many party stalwarts sleepless nights.
Among those nursing the ambition to be the next occupant of Lagos House, Alausa next year are Commissioner for Works, Obafemi Hamzat; former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Supo Sasore; immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Tokunbo Abiru; his successor, Ayo Gbeleyi; and the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Waheed Enitan Oshodi.
These are the shortlisted five of technocrats perceived to have the capacity to carry on the Fashola legacy, but against the possibility of facing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), who will likely field politically experienced candidates, the APC is tinkering with its options.
The obvious options are two serving Senators, Ganiyu Solomon and Gbenga Ashafa, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and former Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire.
WelcomePolitical watchers in the state are, however, second-guessing where the next governor would emerge from out of the three senatorial districts in the state.
The calculations are pretty straight: Lagos West have had it for two terms of eight years with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from 1999 to 2007; Lagos Central followed with incumbent governor mounting the saddle; which then makes it politically expedient that Lagos East takes its turn from 2015.
This is why contenders from this zone are upbeat about their chances in the race to pick the party’s slot. But what may throw spanner in the works is the strong but subtle agitation by several political and interest groups for a Christian governor in 2015.
This, according to inside sources, is the reason for the party’s vacillation on the post-Fashola project, alongside APC’s fixation on pushing out the PDP from power at the centre. The religious dimension to the dramatis personae of Lagos 2015 project is a growing concern the party cannot wish away.
APC is already being touted as a Muslim party, a tag the national publicity secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, is latching on to, to allege that the party is planning to impose an Islamic agenda in the country like the Egypt Muslim Brotherhood.

Dr Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat

Dr Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat

The consequence of this agitation is that by the time the governorship slot goes to Lagos East, it should be a Christian ticket, if the party is thinking correctly.
“The Christian community is beginning to feel disenfranchised and there is a serious search for a Christian ticket from Lagos East, which will knock off the ambitions of many front-liners like Ashafa, Ikuforiji, Hamzat, GOS and Banire,” a party chieftain, who doesn’t want to be named, noted.
Until Senator Oluremi Tinubu last year openly debunked being in the running for Fashola’s seat, rumour mills had gone agog with the story that the penetrative campaign for a Christian governor may not be unconnected with the move to push Tinubu’s wife forward.
Close aides of the national leader say it was never the plan for her to run, as the move would have hit a brick wall since she is representing Lagos Central at the Senate, the same zone the incumbent governor is from.
“Even the Senate thing didn’t just happen like that. It took a lot of work for Asiwaju to agree to the ticket. You know how women have a way of getting what they want no matter how difficult. Asiwaju just succumbed.
“The lull in the build-up to who clinches the party ticket is leaving everyone guessing who Asiwaju is going to throw up again like he did in 2007 with Fashola. All I can say is that there are lots of candidates waiting to get into the ring. They are only studying the situation before declaring their interest.”
Members of the Tinubu inner caucus revealed to The Guardian that after the five names of possible successors drawn up by Fashola leaked to the public last year, Tinubu drew up his own list of technocrats as a counter balance and arrived at the following: Dr. Leke Pitan, former Commissioner of Health; Prince Gbolahan Lawal, Commissioner of Agriculture and Cooperatives; and the immediate past Accountant-General of the state, Mr. Akin Ambode.

Dr. Leke Pitan

Dr. Leke Pitan

Tokunbo Abiru, who was recently appointed an Executive Director in First Bank, was dropped from consideration, as there are chances he could succeed the current managing director of the bank, Bisi Onasanya, and ensure the MD position remains in the southwest.
Religious consideration notwithstanding, there is a dark horse being primed in Fashola’s inner circle as a last minute joker should the leading contenders be forced to drop their bid and the surprise package, which is being discussed in hush tones, is the Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr. Mikhail Olanrewaju Babalola.
The list of strong contenders the party is presently working on has now been narrowed to two – Obafemi Hamzat and Leke Pitan, who are both from Epe, Lagos East Senatorial District. Of the two, Hamzat is well positioned because of the enormous resources at his disposal and volume of contracts that had passed through his ministry in the last three years.
Also, Hamzat’s father, Oba Olatunji Hamzat, is a well-known formidable grassroots mobilizer and colossus in Lagos politics. His father did Asiwaju a huge favour by stepping down in the running for Senate during the SDP days in 1992. Hamzat senior is also the founder of the Justice Forum, an influential group within the ranks of the Lagos APC.

Dr. Muiz Banire (left); in a handshake across the Niger with Dr. Leke Pitan (right) ... at a recent event

Dr. Muiz Banire (left); in a handshake across the Niger with Dr. Leke Pitan (right) … at a recent event

But the decision by Oba Hamzat to become a traditional ruler in Ogun State is working against his son, Obafemi. The indigeneship issue is what traditional rulers in Lagos are holding against party leaders and the major hurdle to cross is convincing Lagosians to vote an Ogun prince into office as governor.
Pitan is waiting in the wings to benefit from this contradiction. The template for the actualization of his ticket is the resurgence of groups and factions within the APC. Suddenly, groups, which were before now banned in the old Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), have been revved back to life to project and counter balance the interests of aspirants.
Dominant among these groups are Justice Forum, Mandate Group, and Mega Group. As it stands, Mandate Group leads with a 70 percent membership in the defunct ACN, followed by Justice Forum with 25 percent and Mega with five percent. Within the Mandate faction, Leke Pitan is the main element, and he is aided by his senatorial constituency.
But the man who holds the key in the Mandate Group is Asiwaju as he has the last say. For the other groups, Tinubu still has to convince its leaders on major decisions before some consensus are reached.

Akin Ambode

Akin Ambode

Gbolahan Lawal

Gbolahan Lawal

Those in the know in party politics of Lagos State attest to this fact and leaders of the other groups are seriously mobilizing members and shopping for new ones ahead of the APC’s national membership registration in all wards and local government areas of the country to enhance their bargaining power in the party.
This was how an influential party leader sums up the dicey chase to clinching the APC ticket: “Nothing is given yet. Anything can still happen. The agitations for Christian governor is strong but it depends on how much noise the Christians are able to make. The noise has died down, but if the noise persists, the leaders of the party would be forced to rethink on their position. It may then switch from Hamzat to Pitan or Ambode. For now, Hamzat is on the frontline.”