The return of ‘Koro’

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Day ‘Owanbe’ shut down Lagos Island

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

It was lockout day in most parts of Lagos Island on Tuesday as three important celebrations paralyzed economic activities in the area.
On a normal weekday in Lagos Island’s commercial business district the place is always the hub of trading activities but Tuesday’s events namely, the Oba of Lagos 70th anniversary, installation of Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, daughter of former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, as the new Iyaloja General of Nigeria and the 70th anniversary of Island Club combined to turn Obalende and Isale Eko into a holiday of some sort while celebrations rent the air at the Oba’s palace and the Island Club.
Even the absence of popular Lagos showstoppers, including father of the new Iyaloja-General, Bola Tinubu, Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, did not remove colour from the installation ceremony.
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Deserted Balogun Market, Lagos Island on Tuesday.

Whereas the Oba of Lagos, Oba Riliwanu Babatunde Akiolu 1, had, in the days preceding his 70th birthday, opted for low-key celebrations and appealed to associates and admirers including corporate organizations not to place advertisements for him in the media, the decision to include the installation of the new Iyaloja-General as part of his birthday’s activities made it a massive event.
Notwithstanding the monarch’s earlier directive that those who wish to honour him should direct the funds earmarked for such purpose to the Iga Idunganran Primary Healthcare Centre because the current atmosphere in the country does not call for any form of merriment but he was wrong.
After returning from the Palace Mosque by 10am, he was surprised to meet a mammoth crowd in colourful Aso Ebi with matching geles, who had besieged the palace to witness the Iyaloja General’s installation ceremony.
As it is customary with such celebrations, major markets in the state were expected to be grounded. So, it was a total shutdown of some sort as virtually all the markets in the Island and other parts of Lagos were closed down because the traders were mandated to head to the venue of the installation ceremony at the Oba’s palace.
At the ceremony, Oba Akiolu, who advised the new Iyaloja to be diligent and committed to the service of humanity, noted that the position was important to the development of market activities in Lagos and the country at large.
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Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu (second left); the Iyaloja General of Nigeria, Mrs. Folasade Tinubu-Ojo (left); Oyetunde Ojo and Senator Oluremi Tinubu during the installation of the Iyaloja-General at the Oba’s palace in Lagos.

… Sambo, royal fathers celebrate Island Club’s 70th anniversary
As the euphoria which heralded the installation of Iyaloja General of Nigeria was dieing down and the sounds of talking drums and dancing were ebbing, policemen and protocol officials of the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, laid another siege on Obalende and Onikan as members and well wishers of Island Club besieged the area to receive the representative of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is the grand patron of the club.
As usual, the roads leading to the club had been blocked to motorists. The chopper that brought the Vice President landed at about 3pm.
The grand occasion for the club was its 70th anniversary and foundation stone laying ceremony of a multi-storey car park.
According to the chairman of the Club, Prince Ademola Dada, the car park project would be beneficial, when completed, not only to members of the club but also to visitors to the island.
He declared: “Apart from providing this worthy civic service to the community, the car park would also generate employment for many people and bring revenue to the club.”
Vice President Namadi Sambo, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the event, extended the president’s congratulatory messages to the club and the Oba of Lagos. He spoke on the process of electing officers of the club, which he said was primarily based on service and what candidates are willing to offer to extend the frontiers of the premier social club.
Dignitaries who graced the occasion included the Obong of Calabar, Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, Amanyanabo of Nembe, Dr. Edmund Daukoru and Olugbo of Ugboland, Oba Fredrick Akinruntan, among others. They all danced to the melodious and sonorous music of the legendary music icon Chief Ebenezer Obey.
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Vice President Namadi Sambo (middle) investing the Amanyanabo of Nembe, Dr. Edmund Daukoru (right) as Vice Patron of Island Club as the club chairman, Prince Ademola Dada (left) looks on at the 70th anniversary of the club in Lagos… on Tuesday.

… how Tinubu-Ojo stepped into grandmother’s shoes
The installation of Folashade Tinubu-Ojo as Iyaloja General of Nigeria alongside Alhaja Bintu Tinubu, mother of Oando’s CEO, Mr. Wale Tinubu, as the Iyalode of Lagos, nailed the coffin of repeated denials from Lagos State government of All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains that Mogaji’s granddaughter has been made the new Iyaloja-General.
Shortly after the death of Abibat Mogaji, the late President-General of Nigerian Market Men and Women, there was a rumour that Mogaji’s granddaughter has been made the new Iyaloja-General.
Succession to the position left by the late Mogaji was expected to be stormy, partly because Lagos is the commercial-nerve centre of the country and the intrigues within each market guild in different parts of Lagos is well known.
This may not be known to most people because the last Iyaloja-General held the market men and women in her grip for over 50 years and while in office, she successfully suppressed, schemed and manipulated the various guild of Lagos markets preparatory to the smooth take over of the post by her successor.
At her transition at 96 on June 15, the stage was set for intense lobbying by foremost market leaders to be in the chase for who succeeds Mama, as the late leader was fondly called.
Unknown to many that the succession arrangement had long been concluded and perfected, as the usual burial traditions were being observed and market men and women paid their last respects to the departed mama; and for three days markets were shut in the state as traders trooped out in Aso Ebi to the third and eight-day fidau prayers, those who were gearing up for the race to succeed mama got the shock of their lives when the rug was pulled off their feet barely a week after Mogaji’s demise and her grand daughter was announced even amid mourning that she was the new successor.
abibatu_mogaji1                                                                Late Abibat Mogaji

Nobody had expected that the coup would be executed so soon and at an inauspicious time, which was during the eight-day prayers for the former Iyaloja.
For the secret aspirers, their thinking was that, usually, when a market leader dies, it was customary to shutdown the market for a day in the neighbourhood where the deceased held the fort and vacuum was expected to last for at least 41 days after the final 40th day prayer must have been held.
They were of the opinion that the six weeks gap was enough time to play underground politics in all the market guilds and factions in the bid to garner support. But all these were not observed.
Sources informed The Guardian that Mogaji appointed her successor before she passed away. A market leader, the Iyaloja of Oyingbo Market, Basirat Balogun, said Folashade Tinubu-Ojo had been unofficially appointed to understudy Mama as the natural successor few years before her death. The first step to actualize this was Tinubu-Ojo’s appointment by Lagos State government as chairman of the state market board.
“Contrary to popular opinion that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu foisted his daughter as the Lagos market leader, it was a consensus agreement by market leaders of all the 57 local councils in the state, including the Babaloja of Lagos, Alhaji Wasiu Balogun to support her since she was the closest to mama in her dying years.”
Political watchers in the state would, however, found it difficult to believe that this arrangement never had the secret backing of Tinubu, who is revered in Lagos and popularly hailed as the Jagaban Borgu.
“What do you expect when market leaders in all the 57 LGAs and LCDAs have consented to Tinubu’s choice, there is little any opposition can do because the stronghold of grassroots mobilization, which is mainly market men and women, road transport workers and their union, and the local councils in Lagos is effectively controlled by Asiwaju,” a market leader said.