Ikorodu intensifies lobby to produce Fashola’s successor

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
The prelude to the 2015 governorship contest in Lagos State is getting interesting by the day, especially in the rank of All Progressives Congress (APC). Apart from the party’s decision to zone the governorship position to Lagos East senatorial district and its preference for a Christian candidate, different issues have been shaping the contest in the state with less than eight months to the 2015 elections.
Of the major divisions in Lagos East, the most dominant area canvassing for grassroots mobilization to produce Governor Fashola’s successor is the Ikorodu Division.
Already, a number of community-based pressure groups from the division have started networking with the APC and other political parties to pick a credible candidate for the position, which they said, had not been occupied by an Ikorodu indigene before.
The major groups that are championing Ikorodu’s agitation for governorship candidacy in 2015 include Ikorodu Division Solution Alliance (IDSA), Eminent Persons of Ikorodu Division (EPID) as well as Ikorodu Division Resource Group (IDGR) among others. Each of the groups has been working at different levels to realise the division’s dream to produce the next governor of Lagos.

Governor Babatunde Fashola

Governor Babatunde Fashola

This agitation came to the fore recently when the IDSA staged a rally from one end of Ikorodu to the other. The rationale behind Ikorodu’s quest for governorship slot had to do with what an IDSA leader, Hon. Said Ibikunle, described as the outright exclusion of the division from the state’s politics of governorship candidacy, particularly since the transition to civil rule in 1999.

The group’s political calculation, actually, goes beyond the 1999 democratic transition. The state has five administrative divisions, which are Badagry, Epe, Ikeja, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. Of the five divisions, the group said only Ikorodu and Badagry have been technically excluded from contesting the governorship office from the Second Republic to the Fourth Republic.

Ibikunle argued that the Ikeja Division had produced the state’s civilian governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande between 1979 and 1983 as well as its third civilian governor, Sen. Bola Tinubu between 1999 and 2007. Also, it cited the case of Epe Division, which it said, produced the state’s second civilian governor, Sir Michael Otedola, who ruled between January 1992 and November 1993. Likewise, the group pointed out the emergence of Fashola in 2007, who it said, came from the Lagos Island Division.

Ganiyu Solomon

Ganiyu Solomon

Jimi Agbaje

Jimi Agbaje

For the 2015 contest, though the state’s ruling party has already zoned the governorship slot to the Lagos East senatorial district, the Ikorodu groups are agitating against perceived scheming to favour candidates from Epe division, which had once produced Sir Otedola.

The group’s chairman, Mr. Japheth Odesanya, said: “By this argument, we are all Lagos residents deserving equal access to all offices, the governorship position should be zoned to Lagos East. The Ikorodu Division, being the most populous and the standing division in Lagos, comprising Imota, Isiu, Ijede, Igbogbo, Bayeku, Egbin, Owutu and Ishawo among others should produce the next governor.

“The agitation of the people of Ikorodu Division is legitimate, timely and rooted in due principle of equity, justice and fair play. This is a clarion call to all well-meaning people of Ikorodu Division and lovers of democracy and justice to stand up and be counted globally.”

Already, the quest has gained the support of chieftains, elders and traditional rulers from all communities that make up the Ikorodu Division. The monarchs from the division have subtly dissociated themselves from the standpoint of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu that all the traditional rulers in the state are in support of the ambition of former Lagos State Accountant-General, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Rather than supporting Ambode’s governorship ambition, the Ikorodu monarchs are now looking inwards for a credible indigene from the division to contest the 2015 race irrespective of their political affiliations. This is following the Odofin of Ikorodu, Chief Kabiru Sotobi’s recent declaration calling on all eminent indigenes of Ikorodu to join the governorship contest.

Sotobi made it known that the traditional rulers and elders would support the candidacy of any Ikorodu indigene irrespective of his political affiliations. “We want the Ikorodu Division to produce the next governor. The eminent personalities in Ikorodu are not doing this alone. If the PDP decides to have its candidate from Ikorodu, we will support him. If the APC decides to have candidate from Ikorodu, we will support him. If it is Labour Party, we will support him.”

Adesegun Ogunlewe

Adesegun Ogunlewe

Abike Dabiri

Abike Dabiri

As a result, some aspirants from the divisions have started indicating interest in the race. They include Senator Ganiyu Solomon; former Lagos State Head of Service, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe; Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) candidate in the 2007 governorship election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; and Abike Dabiri-Erewa, among others.

Another pressure group, Ikorodu Division Resource Group (IDGR) lamented that Ikorodu had suffered outright neglect and marginalization under different political dispensation since the country’s return to civil rule in May 29, 1999.

In a communiqué issued by the group and signed by its chairman, Chief Babatunde Benson (SAN) and Secretariat Coordinator, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, it resolved that the group should request for letters of intent from persons interested in the 2015 governorship race from all political parties.

The communiqué explained that the effort “is directed towards all registered political parties in the state to ensure that an indigene of Ikorodu Division is presented as a gubernatorial candidate for 2015 governorship election by his political party.”

Disturbed by what the group described as the politics of exclusion, the communiqué emphasised the groups’ observation that for too long, Ikorodu Division has been at the tail end of political benefits of dividend of democracy.

 

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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.”