Although endorsement of candidates is not alien in Nigeria’s political space, the lingering notions trailing Femi Otedola and political parties’ endorsement of All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu cannot be easily wished away, writes GEORGE OKOJIE
The chain of endorsements from political parties and most recently the one from the nation’s successful businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, for governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is the latest in the series of concerns caused Lagosians by the unfolding political development in the state.
Otedola had recently shared a picture on his Instagram where he was seen posing with Sanwo-Olu, a frontline governorship candidate in Lagos ahead of the 2019 elections.
Without mincing words, he went ahead to say, ‘Dinner at my residence yesterday evening with my childhood friend, APC governorship candidate, Jide Sanwo-Olu; the governor in waiting’.
As the endorsements come in quick succession, there is no doubt that strategists in other political parties, especially the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would review their game plan to retain the confidence of the electorate and get their votes in the state after being gored by Otedola’s endorsement of Sanwo-olu.
The irony is not lost on political observers that Otedola’s endorsement is a plus for the APC that has held sway in the state for over a decade since the return of current democratic dispensation in the country.
With the unfolding scenario, it is widely believed that the coming election will be a walk over for APC in the state, given the fact that the rancour caused by the refusal of the ruling party to give the governorship ticket to the incumbent governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, for a second term has been amicably resolved.
This explained why the PDP chieftain, Bode George, painted a gloomy picture and expressed shock at Otedola’s endorsement of the APC candidate.
A bewildered former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP said: “That is news to me. That is very interesting. Wonders will never cease. It is very shocking”.
George, who is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) added that, “He has always been with us (PDP). I will call him. I will find. That is strange”.
As Otedola takes side with yhe APC candidate, George maintained that Otedola’s support won’t affect the electoral dynamics of the PDP in Lagos.
Although still emotionally dazed, he told journalists that, “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 Babajide 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.
Commenting on the series of endorsement in the state, the founder of Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko Foundation, Mr. Seyi Bamigbade noted that it is part of the political dynamics of the state.
The grassroots mobilizer noted that the torrent of endorsements is part of the political dynamics of Lagos state.
He said, “Don’t forget APC is the party to beat in Lagos State . Otedola for instance is a thoroughbred 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 with all their dollars rain, and they lost the election.
“Don’t take Femi Otedola’s endorsement for granted, apart from being wealthy, his father, Chief Michael Otedola, was once the governor of Lagos State on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC). They have strong political structure in Lagos.
Before now, the Coalition of Progressives Political Parties (CPPP), had endorsed the APC candidate, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
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 chieftain of the coalition 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, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The coast is clear for him to win next year’s election.”
Not perturbed by the endorsement, the Lagos PDP said 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.
‘’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.”
According to him, ‘’Sanwoolu is an emergency candidate that is unprepared for the job compared to the PDP candidate whose blueprint to free Lagos has been since 2006; Hence, laughable that some parties have adopted an unprepared candidate.
‘’It is not true that 40 political parties have adopted Sanwo-Olu. The claim is propagandists and mere prodigal as indeed it is the APC candidate who is giving out huge sums of monies to get parties adopt him. Laughable is that he is paying factional leaders of the political parties.
“We are not shocked because we know Sanwo-Olu and his nominator are desperate to hold on to Lagos state. Lagosians are, thus, alerted that should Sanwo-Olu be mistakenly elected as governor, his urge will be to recuperate the election expenses.
“At the appropriate time, we shall expose Sanwo-Olu as truly not fit and proper to be elected governor of Lagos State.
“We don’t see Sanwo-Olu as a threat at all in the forthcoming governorship election. In fact, we will beat him and the APC black and blue. Our candidate will win him hands down because we know that the only reason why he has been presented is to be used as a conduit pipe to syphon Lagos money.’’
For the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in Lagos State, Chief Owolabi Salis the endorsement of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu, by some leaders of 40 political parties is fraudulent.
Salis 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 AD, which still retains the pricing philosophy of its founding fathers which is purely masses oriented.”
As far as the former Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress Chief Lanre Razak is concerned the endorsements are not flukes, describing Sanwo-Olu as a public sector expert in manpower development and policy formulation with capacity to consolidate on the people-oriented policies and programmes of the state government.
Razak said given Sanwo-Olu’s track record of service both as former astute banker and rich experience in the public sector for many years, the candidate has the capacity, experience and integrity to render selfless service for the greater welfare of the people.
“I am encouraged by the fact that our candidate had promised to accord priority attention to education, health, sanitation, proper tax levels, infrastructure, economic development, job creation, improved public services and to implement policies and programmes that will raise the quality of lives of the people.
‘’There is no doubt that he has what it takes to succeed in governance since he has been a major player in the development architecture of the state since the administration of former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”