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2019: 41 Parties Jostle To Occupy Alausa Round House

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Jimi Agbaje

As the race to the 2019 gubernatorial election gathers momentum, with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) signaling the commencement of campaigns, OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU writes on the parties and the candidates jostling to occupy the Lagos State seat of government, known as the Alausa Round House.

As the momentum gathers for the 2019 general elections and as political parties and their gubernatorial candidates eagerly await the whistle of the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to kick-start their campaigns today, 41 political parties and their candidates, who has gotten INEC’s nod to contest are jostling to outbid one another for the race to Alausa Round House, the Centre of Excellence seat of government.

Perhaps, this would be the first time that as many as 41 political parties will be contending to occupy the Lagos State Government House, popularly known as Alausa Round House, in the annals of elections in the Centre of Excellence.

However, despite the large number of contenders for the plum seat, the battle has since inception of the present democratic dispensation been a straight two-horse race between two major contending political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All progressives Congress, APC.

In 1999, it was a straight face-off between the Alliance for Democracy, AD, seen in many circles as the socio-cultural pan Yoruba group, Afenifere’s party, which presented former governor of the state, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its candidate and the conservative Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which then had as its candidate Dapo Sarumi. Tinubu won that election.

In 2003, it was a straight fight between Tinubu, who contested on the platform of his new party, the defunct Action Congress, AC, and the late Funso Williams, who flew the PDP flag. Tinubu had won his reelection with a total of 911,613 votes to beat Williams, who polled 740,506 votes.

In 2007, the battle was also a two-horse race between the immediate past governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola, and Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who lost gallantly to Fashola. Fashola polled 828,484 to Obanikoro’s 389,088 votes.

In 2011, it was Fashola, who was seeking reelection and contested on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, which the AC had transformed into, against Ade Dosunmu, a former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, who contested on the platform of the PDP. Fashola polled 1,509,113 votes against Dosunmu’s 300,450 votes.

In 2015, Ambode, who contested on the platform of the APC defeated Agbaje of the PDP to emerge winner of that election. Ambode polled  811,994 votes, while Agbaje, who was the runner-up and PDP candidate polled  659,788 votes.

From the foregoing, expectedly, it is assumed that the gubernatorial election in the Centre of Excellence would be no different, especially that the main opposition party is already in disarray.

The list of candidates to slug it out on election day, according to the release by INEC, include: APC’s Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu; PDP’s Jimi Agbaje; Alliance for Democracy, AD’s Owolabi Salis; Action Democratic Party, ADP’s Babatunde Gbadamosi;  National Conscience Party, NCP’s Olufunsho Awe; Social Democratic Party, SDP’s Adetokunbo Pearse; African Democratic Congres, ADC’s Olumuyiwa Fafowora, Labour Party. LP’s Ifagbemi Awamaridi; Accord Party, AP’s Joseph Beckley; Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD’s Temidayo Onileowo and All Grassroots Alliance, AGA’s Opeyemi Balogun.

Others include Adewale Samson, of the All Grand Alliance Party, AGAP; Musa Mutairu, Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, ANDP; Oluyinka Oyeniyi, Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN; Johnson Lawrence, Alliance National Party, ANP; Felix Owasanoye, Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, APDA; Patience Omeebere, Allied Party Movement, APM; Babatunde Lee, Alliance of Social Democrats, ASD; Adeyemi Dauda, Change Advocacy Party, CAP; Uduak Afangireh, Democratic Alternative, DA; Adeyemi Abiola, Democratic Peoples Congress, DPC; Ika Willie, Democratic Peoples Party, DPP; Joseph Ogebule, Freedom and Justice Party, FJP; Kehinde Orji, Green Party of Nigeria, GPN; Adekunle Abiola, Independent Democrats, ID; Ifedayo Olorungbohunmi, Justice Must Prevail Party, JMPP and Ishola Atoyebi, Mass Action Joint Alliance, MAJA.

Other candidates and their parties are: Moses Okintilu, Mass Movement of Nigeria, MMN; Babatunde Aiyeola, Mega Party of Nigeria, MPN; Samuel Odudiran, Nigeria Community Movement Party, NCMP; Akintola Bello, Nigeria Peoples Congress, NPC; Pauline Adegbe, Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA; Omolara Adesanya, Providence Peoples Congress, PPC; Victor Adeniji, Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN;

Babatunde Sarumi, Peoples Redemption Party, PRP; Yakubu Olateju, Re-build Nigeria Party, RBNP; Uchena Anyamele, United Democratic Party, UDP; Michael Okereke, United Progressive Party, UPP; Francis Ajayi, Young Democratic Party, YDP; Adebisi Ogunsanya, Young Progressive Party, YPP and Olorunfemi Onikoyi of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP.

Without prejudice and with due respect, many of the candidates and their parties are in the race just to make up the numbers, as the battle this time around like before is a straight fight between the APC and PDP candidates, Sanwo-Olu and Agbaje respectively. Few other parties would surely spring up some surprises here and there, but not enough to upset the apple cart in the election.

Of the contenders, Agbaje is returning to the ring for the third time, having slugged it out for the first time in 2007 with Fashola under the Democratic People’s Alliance, DPA. Then he slugged it out with the incumbent governor Akinwunmi Ambode in the 2015 general elections, where he came second behind Ambode.

It is however yet to be seen how he would fare this time around whether he would fare better than 2015 or worse. The reason behind this is that the factors in 2015 which gave him some edge are no longer at play today.

There are allegations that each time he loses election, he fizzles out of the public glare, only to return when it is time for another electioneering process. This is a minus for him rather than a plus.

What he therefore should start doing if he wants to be taken serious, if he loses election is to remain relevant and keep himself in the people’s face and remain relevant in political conversation; remain vocal as an opposition figure and outline alternative policies to unpopular policies of the government of the day and keep the government on its toes by his constructive criticism.

Analysts also said that he has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is not ‘one of them’, not just by words of mouth; this becomes imperative as he is still seen by many as ‘one of them,’ another politician who is seeking power for the sake of it.

In an interview, Agbaje had said his motivation to join politics was the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. He had said then, “I saw the annulment (of the 1993 election) as a personal insult and an assault on the Nigerian people. This led to my first entry into what I would call activism, working with other concerned professionals.”

Since joining politics, Agbaje has ran for governorship of Lagos twice on two different platforms – DPA in 2007 and PDP in 2015, with his present adventure his third time in the race.

Before his first stint in 2007, the PDP candidate was a member of the defunct AC, a party he abandoned alongside others when it became clear to him that Tinubu had anointed Fashola the AC governorship ticket in the Centre of Excellence. The outcome of that adventure is of course, history.

There are allegations that each time he loses election, like in 2007 and 2015, he fizzles out of the public glare, only to return when it is time for another electioneering process. This is a minus for him rather than a plus.

What he therefore should start doing if he wants to be taken serious, if he loses election is to remain relevant and keep himself in the people’s face and remain relevant in political conversation; remain vocal as an opposition figure and outline alternative policies to unpopular policies of the government of the day and keep the government on its toes by his constructive criticism.

Analysts also said that he has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is not ‘one of them’, not just by words of mouth; this becomes imperative as he is still seen by many as ‘one of them,’ another politician who is seeking power for the sake of it.

In an interview, Agbaje had said his motivation to join politics was the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. He had said then, “I saw the annulment (of the 1993 election) as a personal insult and an assault on the Nigerian people. This led to my first entry into what I would call activism, working with other concerned professionals.”

Since joining politics, Agbaje has ran for governorship of Lagos twice on two different platforms – DPA in 2007 and PDP in 2015, with his present adventure his third time in the race.

Before his first stint in 2007, the PDP candidate was a member of the defunct AC, a party he abandoned alongside others when it became clear to him that Tinubu had anointed Fashola the AC governorship ticket in the Centre of Excellence. The outcome of that adventure is of course, history.

Other factors may also come to play. For example, the Igbo voting populace in Lagos rooted for the PDP in 2015, because of their affinity with the Goodluck Jonathan candidacy, which made them to vote massively for the PDP in the 2015 general election and which helped Agbaje to make a strong statement in that election. But today, such affinity and support is no longer available, not even with one of their own, former governor of Anambra State, peter Obi, running as a vice presidential candidate of the PDP.

Perhaps, it was his strong showing in that election that informed PDP’s decision to give him the ticket a second time, making his the first to be given such opportunity in the party.

Again, the ranks of the PDP are already depleted. Key PDP members in the state are either in the ruling APC or have pitched their tents with other political parties.

For example, the erstwhile chairman of the party, Moshood Salvador in August defected with over 10,000 members of the party to the APC. Although the PDP tried to play down the effect of that defection, political analysts averred that it was a big blow to the party’s preparation for the 2019 gubernatorial poll. Today, Salvador is a deputy Director-General of the APC’s Independent Campaign Group.

Again, the recent allegation by the stakeholders of the party against its senatorial, House of Representatives’ and House of Assembly candidates, that they are working with the APC for the party’s defeat in Lagos is another pointer to the fact that all is not well within the opposition party.

For the APC candidate, Sanwo-Olu, there is a lot going for him in the state. First, his party still enjoys the power of incumbency and in Nigerian politics, the power of incumbency is a very potent weapon. Not only that, the APC, the platform on which he is running, controls power at the centre.

Again, the expected implosion in the party in the aftermath of the gubernatorial primary never came, as Ambode, who was denied a second term ticket has since collapsed his structure into the Sanwo-Olu structure, which has now metamorphosed into the ICG.

Also, the array of endorsements from different groups and tribes for the candidature of Sanwo-Olu have remained intimidating and the candidate is not leaving anything to chance as he has been consulting every critical segment of the populace in the state giving them assurances of what they stand to gain from his success at the polls.

And the recent endorsement of Sanwo-Olu by business man and oil magnate, a known member of the PDP, Femi Otedola, who in a tweet described Sanwo-Olu as “the next governor of Lagos State” has also sent jitters down the spine of PDP stakeholders in the state.

Otedola had recently shared a picture on his Instagram, where he was seen posing with Sanwo-Olu. Without mincing words, he said, “Dinner at my residence yesterday evening with my childhood friend, the APC governorship candidate, Jide Sanwo-Olu; the governor in waiting.”

To political observers, Otedola’s endorsement of Sanwo-Olu is not only ironic but a big plus for the APC, which had held sway in the state for almost two decades running, since the commencement if the present democratic experiment, and the candidate.

Miffed by Otedola’s action former Deputy National Chairman, South, of the PDP, Chief Bode George, painted a gloomy picture and expressed shock.

A bewildered George said, “That is news to me. That is very interesting. Wonders will never cease. It is very shocking.”

The member of the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, added, “He has always been with us (PDP). I will call him. I will find out that ‘Ki lo ri? Ki lo se? (What did you see? What did you do?)’ That is strange.”

However, he was quick to say that the support of the chairman of Forte Oil for the APC and its candidate won’t affect the electoral dynamics of the PDP in Lagos.

He added, “It doesn’t affect our strategies towards 2019 because he is not in our camp. But it is shocking. He is my aburo (junior) and I am going to find out from him what made him (endorse Sanwo-Olu).

“But he is a thoroughbred Lagosian and the people Bola (Tinubu) is handpicking are all from Ogun State. Is that what he wants for his state? I will ask him.”

While some observers are satisfied with Otedola’s explanation that Sanwo-Olu is his childhood friend and thus deserves his support, others feel that the oil mogul simply displayed his clairvoyance by pitching tent with the winning team ahead of imminent victory.

While commenting on the series of endorsement of the APC candidate in the state, the founder of Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko Foundation, Mr. Seyi Bamigbade, a grassroot mobiliser, said such endorsements are part of the political dynamics of Lagos State. He said, “Don’t forget the APC is the party to beat in Lagos State. Otedola, for instance, is a thorough breed Lagosian, smart and intelligent man. His endorsement I believe is from a position of knowledge and thorough assessment. He knows all the candidates and would want to back what is best for Lagos. Though a PDP chieftain, he would support the best for the love of Lagos. That is the way I look at it. Why throw away his billions for a candidate and party he knows won’t win. Let us take it from this other angle that for old times’ sake, as a childhood friend; he had no choice but to support Sanwo-Olu.

“Let me tell you, the foul cry in the PDP is because they were banking on him to roll out dollars to support their candidate. Last time in 2015 the PDP had federal support and with all their dollars rain they lost the election.

“Don’t take Otedola’s endorsement for granted, apart from being wealthy, his father, late Chief Michael Otedola, was once the governor of Lagos State on the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC. They have strong political structure in Lagos.”

Also not left out of the endorsement of the APC candidate is the Coalition of Progressives Political Parties, CPPP.

The leader of the coalition, Otunba Aderemi Fatukasi, said, “The next 50 years of the state must cut a path to create a framework for leaders that are not only visionary, but also inspirational with a passion for development.”

Another CPPP chieftain, Akinola Obadia, corroborated Fatukasi when he said, “This is historic. It has never happened before in Lagos State. Forty five of 58 opposition parties in the state are supporting the APC candidate, Sanwo-Olu. The coast is clear for him to win next year’s election.”

But the Lagos PDP has said that the endorsements will not translate to electoral victory, given the hurried and controversial emergence of the APC candidate.

The Lagos State PDP publicity secretary, Mr Taofik Gani explained that such endorsements were wasted efforts because, “his emergence is tainted with desperation to have someone as governor who will rather fund the APC leaders. Lagosians will not forget that this is the reason the Lagos APC dropped Governor Ambode.

“To us, the consequence of the Sanwo-Olu imposition is the terminal acrimony, defections and anti-party in the Lagos APC, which we shall duly capitalise on to end the reign of APC in Lagos State.”

He also debunked the endorsement by 40 political parties, describing it as propagandist and mere prodigal, alleging that it is indeed the APC candidate who is giving out huge sums of monies to get parties to adopt him.

To the AD governorship candidate, Salis, the endorsement by some leaders of 40 political parties is fraudulent. He said, “It was a fraud and those who you saw there only went to collect money. They tried to penetrate us with money and you could see that was part of the financial intimidation perpetrated by APC.

“The reason the APC deserved to be changed in 2019 is because the party has failed to implement a concise policy to uplift education standard. This is deliberate to keep the children of the masses perpetually in poverty. If you take a walk around public schools in Lagos today, the state of those schools is not different from what they were when military disengaged from power.”

Pointing to way forward, he urged the electorate to vote for the AD, which still retains the pricing philosophy of its founding fathers which is purely masses oriented.

How he will fare in the gubernatorial poll is yet to be ascertained, as he is also one of people who left the PDP when it became clear that their ambition will not see the light of the day in the opposition party. The question political analysts are asking is: does he have the financial wherewithal and structure to wrestle power from the formidable machinery of the APC in Lagos State?

The ADP candidate, Gbadamosi, is also testing the waters for the first time, having tried severally in the PDP to fly the banner of the opposition party in the governorship elections.

Now that his ambition to run has finally come to fruition under the ADP, just like Salis, it is doubtful whether he has the financial muscle and the general acceptability across the state to make an appreciable impact in the governorship election in 2019.

An APC chieftain, Mr Peter Ajayi, told LEADERSHIP Sunday, “Without prejudice, next year’s governorship election is a done deal for Sanwo-Olu. Every segment of Lagos has bought into the project and there is no stopping the Sanwo-Olu hurricane in Lagos next year. I have not even seen any strong opposition candidate that can withstand our candidate.”

And if the result of the APC primary election, where the APC candidate polled almost one million votes is anything to go by, then Sanwo-Olu can be described as ‘governor-in-waiting,’ if that also translates to real votes at the election proper.

Meanwhile, one of the campaign point the opposition intends to use against the APC is that its candidates are non-Lagosians, but the question has always remained that Lagosians who hold important positions, whether elective or appointed in the PDP while the party was in power for 16 years, what contributions have they made to the growth and development of Lagos State.

The days ahead would be very interesting as the parties and their candidates continue to strategise on how to carry the day in the gubernatorial election, but the fact still remains that it is a two-horse race between the APC and the PDP.

 

 


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