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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Aggrieved APC members stage protest in Lagos

By Wole Oyebade
Cracks in the All Progressives Congress (APC) were again obvious on Monday, as some aggrieved members of the party protest what they described as “stolen mandate” in the last ward congress.
The protesters, from Ward B, C and E, in Ikeja Local Government Area (LGA) of the state appealed to the Lagos State government, especially the Lagos State House of Assembly to investigate the matter and make their votes count “for the sake of peace and tranquility.”
No fewer than 150 members of the party defiled the scourging afternoon heat to storm the Lagos Assembly with placard either calling their Lagos leaders unprintable names or seeking “true change”.
Some posters read: We want true change… APC: We want true congress in Ikeja LGA… Let us use the broom to sweep corners of our room first… APC Ward C Ikeja LGA was clearly won by us…

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The aggrieved protesters alleged that their ward congress, held penultimate Saturday, was fraught with irregularities, alleging that a Chieftain of the party, “Kemi Nelson stole our mandate.”

One of the protesters from Ward C, Yinka Banjoko noted that the congress was to enable party faithful elect their representatives through free and fair election, but it was to their disbelieve that the deciding votes was stolen to force some Ward chairman on the electorates.

She said: “They are not thinking of that ‘change’ as preached by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and it is unfortunate. In good faith, we all went to the ward congress and mobilised our women, but Kemi Nelson stole our vote. That is why we are here.

“We want our mandate back. Enough is enough. We’ve had enough of the same wrong people leading us for 13 years, we want change and it begins from the ward,” Banjoko said.

Another protester, Segun Orji, observed that Ward C congress rekindled rivalry between two factions of the APC – Justice Forum (led by Kemi Nelson) and Mandate Group (which the protesters belong).

According to him, “The election was initially transparent. But by the time the votes were counted, starting with theirs (Justice Forum), they had 196 votes. Ours (Mandate Group) was already 297 and still counting, before it was disrupted by thugs.

“Their police started shooting, forcing everyone to run away. It was later that we heard that Kemi Nelson had won the election. How can that be possible, with 196 votes against 297 and still counting? They are a collection of losers that we no longer want,” he said.

On efforts that had been made to report the matter to top hierarchy of the party, Orji alleged that the APC Chairman in the state had also compromised in the matter.

“We were told to meet Demola Seriki, aide to Asiwaju, and he told us that Asiwaju said status quo must stand. We don’t want to believe that is coming from our leader. It is the hands of Nelson and the Lagos APC chairman at work,” he said.

Women Leader in Ward C, Abiola Balogun insisted on transparent election, adding that they must not be denied of their mandate. She noted that the faction did not participate in last Saturday’s LGA Congress in protest of the outing at the ward congress.

She said: “Until our mandate is restored, we will ensure there is no Ward meeting. We appeal to the Lagos Assembly to come to our aid for the sake of true democratic practice, peace and tranquility in Ikeja.”

Crusader group reignites battle of the caucuses in Lagos APC

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

With the successful completion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) membership registration nationwide, though the total number of Nigerians captured during the recent exercise is still shrouded in secrecy, and the unveiling last week of the party’s roadmap, the stage is now set for the intense and fierce jostle for relevance ahead of its inaugural national convention billed for April 26.

   Since the conclusion of the merger of dominant opposition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) last year, management of the party at the ward, local government, state and national levels had been on an interim arrangement.

   In Lagos, one of the opposition’s legacy states, the emergence of a caucus group within the APC, named the Crusader Group, is drawing bad blood among party leaders and reigniting tension among existing caucuses in the defunct ACN, whose activities had before now been vetoed.

   In 2006, during the dying days of the Bola Tinubu’s administration, because of problems the factions were creating in the party, an attempt was made to collapse all the groups, such as Justice Forum, Mandate, Mega and Asiwaju Unity Forum to work for the success of incumbent governor, Babatunde Fashola, ahead of the 2007 elections.

   Since assuming office, Fashola has operated without the caucuses as much as possible, while trying to run a more efficient administration with less interference from politicians. However, the ambition of the Chief of Staff to Fashola, Mr. Mikhail Olanrewaju Babalola, to succeed his boss has been fingered as the force majeure behind this new group.

   Inside sources revealed to The Guardian that despite repeated denials, the brainbox of the Crusaders is the interim chairman of the APC in Lagos, Chief Henry Ajomale.

ImageFrom right: Interim chairman of Lagos APC, Chief Henry Ajomale; national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Babatunde Fashola and a party chieftain at a recent function.

“The Babalola mandate was given to Ajomale to organize and in doing so, he formed the Crusader Group. This group was launched at his own base, Oshodi-Isolo constituency, last year and members were recruited across the other local government areas in the state. Several people in Justice Forum, where Ajomale belonged to, also moved en mass to Crusader,” the source informed.

   With this development, other groups are now at daggers drawn in the bid to resuscitate their activities. This scenario is, therefore, an irritant to the leadership of the party, as it is sending a wrong signal to other interests in the APC not from the defunct ACN.

   Reports say there have been clandestine meetings of party stalwarts coming from CPC and ANPP in recent times to ensure they have a voice in the APC once a new leadership structure replaces the present interim arrangement.

   “This is the latest challenge within the Lagos APC. Everybody is now meeting in groups and caucuses to start harmonizing their interests, which was ignited by the emergence of Crusader. Though we hear he has denied having anything to do with Crusader, plans are that he wants to push his son forward to run for House of Assembly in Isolo Constituency II,” another party source informed.

   Factions and caucuses in party politics have proved very useful for influential members to negotiate for positions within the party but in the APC’s history, which trailed its Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress (AC) and ACN days, managing the avalanche of interests in the party has been thorny.

   The original faction between 1999 and 2003 was just Justice Forum. All other groups came after. In 2002, the leadership of the Justice Forum felt Tinubu was becoming too powerful and wanted to checkmate him by working against his second term. This was coupled with the intrigues playing out in the then Afenifere leadership.

   This made the governor on the advise of his loyalists and late Mama Mogaji to set up another group that served as Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organization (BATCO). This later metamorphosed into Mandate Group. From 2003 to 2007, Mandate Group was dominant organ in party politics.

   But in 2007, there was a change of guards. Though the Mandate spearheaded Fashola’s emergence, when he got into office, as a way of asserting himself, Fashola withered down the patronage and influence of the Mandate in government.

   At the end of Fashola’s first term, majority of the Justice Forum leadership had become closer to the governor and wanted to use him to upstage the Mandate Group. This was the basis of urging Fashola to go for second term without Asiwaju Tinubu’s consent.

   However, wise counsel prevailed and Commissioner for Works, Kadiri Hamzat’s father, Oba Olatunji Hamzat, was instrumental in mending the fence between Fashola and Tinubu.

   As founder of Justice Forum, he was reported to have told his members that: “it was someone who brought this man to us, we cannot go ahead and endorse him without asking what has happen between him and the person who brought him to us.”

   As a result, a rapprochement was reached between the governor and his godfather as the second ticket was given the green light.