The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State held its primaries for the forthcoming local government polls, setting the stage for a clash with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this report, GEORGE OKOJIE takes a look at the factors that will shape the contest.
That the political climate in Lagos State has been charged ever since the whistle for the commencement of the next council election in the state was blown by retired Justice Ayotunde Phillips, chairman of Lagos State Independence Electoral Commission (LASIEC) is no longer in dispute.
The LASIEC boss had declared that elections into the offices of chairman, vice chairman and councilors in all the 20 local councils and 37 LCDAs in the state would be held on July 24, saying the commission is committed to conducting a free, fair, credible and inclusive election.
This laid to rest speculations, insinuations, accusations and counter accusations between the ruling APC and the PDP – the main opposition party in the state – about readiness of the government to conduct the poll since the four-year term of the current elected council officials in the state will end soon.
The PDP spokesman in the state, Taofik Gani had accused the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of planning to fester anarchy at the grassroots, saying the major opposition party will resist it legally.
Gani said: “The voice of the major opposition party in the state is coming on the heels of statements credited to some chieftains of the APC in the state that local government elections will not hold and that caretaker committees shall be set up at the levels.
“Section 7 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution as amended “guarantees democratically elected local government councils.
“We are informed that the APC Plans not to conduct local elections this year. The tenure of the councils expire in about three months.’’
But his counterpart in the APC Seye Oladejo said the allegation that Sanwo-Olu was planning to entrench undemocratic structures is unfounded, infantile and highly jejune.
Oladejo said there will be an election and PDP will be defeated like the previous polls.
He added:”The needless ranting about the local government elections that are not even due and for which we await an official pronouncement shows the idleness and needless rabble rousing of its confused leadership.
“The baseless allegation or suspicion to entrench undemocratic governance at the local government level in the state is not in tandem with the fact that Lagos State has always had democratically elected leaders at the grassroots since the inception of this dispensation.
“There’s absolutely no need to cry wolves where there’s none.”
But as the parties return to the trenches, the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for weeks has had to deal with the disagreement within the ruling APC in the state over fielding of candidates for the forthcoming polls.
He was compelled to come out to deny the rumour making the rounds that he has picked his preferred candidates for the forthcoming local government poll in Lagos State.
The former governor of Lagos State said there was no time he endorsed any candidate for the election.
According to him, people with the intention of sowing discord and undermining democracy within the party have begun to spread lies and rumours that he and other members of Governance Advisory Council have a list of preferred candidates for the upcoming primary elections and that the party will skew the primaries to benefit these people.
Tinubu added that, ‘’The Lagos All Progressives Congress Governance Advisory Council meeting of Friday, 21 May 2021 discussed ways to ensure the fairness of the party primaries for the upcoming Local Government Elections in Lagos State.
‘’We state, categorically, there is no such list nor are there any plans to influence the primaries in any manner. These stories are false and mean-spirited attempts to hurt the party.”
He categorically stated that he has no intention to endorse any of the people contesting for the party nomination in any election, whether for chairmanship or councillor positions.
‘’Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the other GAC leaders seek a free, fair and transparent process in which the candidates who emerge are those who gather the most support among the party rank and file. Only in this manner, do we best prepare ourselves for the general election.”
He affirmed that the integrity of the primary process is of the highest priority, saying all efforts must be geared towards the realisation of a free, fair and transparent process.
‘’However, where consensus is not possible, fair and clean primaries must be held so that party members have a chance to choose the candidate they want from among the competing aspirants. All aspirants, however, must realize that only one person can win any given contest.”
Tinubu appealed to party leaders in all the local governments to allow democracy to flourish, urging them to do everything humanly possible to protect and promote the democratic process.
However, this did not stop the intense battles for APC tickets, perhaps because it is open secret that whoever gets the APC ticket automatically wins the election.LEADERSHIP checks show that Lagos State has always had democratically elected leaders at the grassroots since the inception of the present democratic dispensation and the APC had always cleared all the available seats in the 20LGs and 37LCDAs in the state following the exemplary performance of the APC administration in the state.
In the 2017 local government polls, APC recorded landslide victory, a development political pundits said was an eloquent affirmation that Lagosians have confidence in the party.
It was a clean sweep for all the 57 chairmanship candidates of the APC as they were all declared winners by LASIEC having defeated rivals in the election.
However, on the party’s preparation for the forthcoming polls, secretary of the APC in the state, Hon. Lanre Ogunyemi, assured that the party is well prepared for the local government elections.
According to him, amid the skirmishes recorded in the party’s primaries that led to the deaths of two youths, APC would clear all the available seats in the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas in the state following the exemplary performance of the APC administration in the state.
Some political pundits are of the opinion that the opposition parties could actually take advantage of the current crisis in the APC which was aggravated by imposition of candidates for the poll by party bigwigs.
Such analysts aver that PDP could outsmart the ruling party by wooing popular aggrieved aspirants whose tickets have been hijacked and given to “preferred candidates” by the powers that be in APC.
The PDP stalwarts in the state have stated clearly that the party now has what it takes to dislodge the ruling party starting with the forthcoming council polls.
According to the PDP chairman in Lagos State, Engr. Deji Doherty, the party is not only ready to participate in the exercise but also to win chairmanship and councillor positions this time around.
Doherty said his party is now better positioned to challenge the APC in the various constituencies and councils across the state having mobilised supporters at the grassroot to vote for PDP candidates.
Doherty affirmed that the political machinery of the party would deliver good results provided the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, ensured that the election was free, fair and credible in all ramifications.
He however expressed worry over the outcome of APC primaries which led to the death of two youths.
Doherty said the report of those killed during the primaries and the fact that the victims were members of the APC family was worrisome.
He also admitted that the incident has sent jitters down the spines of PDP members across the state, and made the opposition parties to be worried about what would happen in the election proper.
“The PDP in Lagos State categorically states that the recent killing of innocent youths within the APC only exposes their desperation to rule by force and at all cost the more.’’
However the race for the positions is poised to be tough.