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Is Tinubu’s political hegemony in Lagos crumbling?

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The crowd at Eko Hotels and Suites, venue of the recent 66th birthday colloquium of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday, March 28, lent credence to his influence on Nigerian political scene.

The guests led by President Muhammadu Buhari, cut across party lines, religious and ethnic divides; from the National Assembly, to the federal executive council, states and local governments.

They came in their numbers to pay respect to a man many would describe as a “god-father with many political sons”.

Tinubu, who dominates the Lagos political landscape like a colossus, rose to stardom in his political career when he contested and won an election into the Nigerian Senate in 1992 to represent the Lagos West Senatorial District.

After the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election presumed to have been won by late MKO Abiola, Tinubu, alongside other like-minded politicians, co-founded the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a platform they used effectively to agitate for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria and recognition of the annulled June 12 presidential election.

Tinubu went into exile in 1994 when the military regime of the late Sani Abacha became furious and posed danger to the NADECO agitators.

He returned to the country in 1998 after the death of Abacha, and in 1999 contested for and won the governorship of Lagos State on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD). He sought for and secured his re-election in 2003, thus making him the only re-elected AD governor in southwest, as others in Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ondo were defeated by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which held power at the federal level.

Upon finishing his second term in office in 2007, Tinubu sponsored his then chief of staff, Babatunde Fashola in the governorship race, in what saw many of his appointees who were interested in succeeding him, defecting to other parties in protest.

It was no surprise that in 2014, many of the aspirants at the federal and state levels including Akinwunmi Ambode, the incumbent governor of Lagos, relied almost entirely on Tinubu to secure party’s nomination and ticket ahead of the 2015 general election. It paid off, as many of the political office holders including serving members of the state House of Assembly rode on the endorsement of Tinubu to secure their current positions.

Since leaving office as governor in 2007, Tinubu has continued to maintain his hegemony on the Lagos politics, with the magic wand of deciding who becomes what in Nigeria’s richest state. Rather than waning, Tinubu’s influence has continued to grow not only at the state and party levels, but also at the grassroots, as aspiring politicians- young and old- look to his blessing and endorsement to get into political office.

Tinubu unilaterally decided the fate of the immediate past state executives of the APC led by Henry Ajomale, when he barred those who had served two to three terms in office from seeking re-election in the recent state congress of the APC, during which two factions: one led by Tinubu’s loyalist/Tunde Balogun on one hand, and another, led by Fouad Oki, who emerged chairman at another different locations.

Since the emergence of parallel executives of the APC in the state, pundits have been asking whether the development signalled a gradual end of Tinubu’s dominance of the Lagos politics.

Until recently, Oki a loyalist of Tinubu and the immediate vice chairman, central of Lagos APC, was also a former campaign director for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s 2015 gubernatorial contest. Oki also acted in that capacity for both Tinubu and former governor Babatunde Fashola.

He had in February, launched the Broom United Movement, a faction of aggrieved party members, to challenge the dominance of Tinubu.

At the APC factional congress which held at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Sanni Oloye and Wole Oshodi became deputy state chairman and secretary, respectively.

But the congress conducted at the party secretariat on Acme Road which had the backing of Tinubu and witnessed by Uche Ekwunife, a national officer APC, saw Tunde Balogun, a former commissioner in Lagos State, emerged as chairman. He has since been sworn in by John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman, APC.

Sunny Ajose, a former head of service in Lagos State, also emerged as the  deputy chairman, with Funsho Ologunde retaining his vice-chairmanship position of Lagos West; Kayode Olusanya as vice-chairman, East and Hakeem Bamigbala as vice-chairman, Central while Wale Ahmed emerged as secretary.

Speaking after the parallel state congress held at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, where he emerged the factional state chairman, Oki had said the lack of internal democracy, lack of justice in the party and the manipulation of the congresses in the state to favour some individuals informed his decision to hold a parallel congress.

 

Oki added that the conduct of the congress in the 35 Local council development areas (LCDA) in the state by the Tinubu’s loyal faction was against the electoral law and election guidelines, adding that his faction was the authentic APC in the state, having staged election in only the twenty local government of the state recognised by law.

“The congress held at Airport Hotel is the only legitimate one. I’m not aware of any parallel congress, what we did here was the election of one party, the APC. This is a coalition of different groups, namely; Justice Forum, the Mandate and United Group,”

“We ask them that election must be conducted in only recognise 20 local government area and they said no it must be 377 and we said ok, and we saw the consequences people have been killed in the last LG congress.

“They said we want to do state congress and we said no; you cannot do that when there are issues pending from the last Local government exercise. And when they are electing the national delegates they reverted to the 20 local governments why did they do that if they know they are not wrong?

“The people that were send from Abuja was chase away with teargas We made several attempt to do reconciliation but it was met with brick wall it is only the NEC of the party that can resolve this.

“Under our watch as state chairman, internal democracy will be strictly adhered to with a deliberate policy to return ‘real’ power to the people. No more imposition, no more impunity. Every member of this party can from this moment, consider him or herself, an equal shareholder in our common destiny. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians of goodwill, to embrace and support this new Executive Committee in this quest for a new APC. In particular, I reach out to our old members who for one reason or the other are deeply aggrieved to please be rest assured that a new dawn is here”.

“The thrust of this assignment therefore, is to Rebuild and Rekindle the Progressive energy of our members with the freedom to choose their leaders, fair play, equity and justice as the principle to move the Party forward.  Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party, that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, we shall take the Party to greater height transparently without let, fear or favour.  We have it the ground running determined that genuine reconciliation of all members”.

But the state Chairman of the Tinubu’s led faction, Tunde Balogun said in an interview with newsmen that whichever congress held outside the party office was null and void, adding that only congress held in the secretariat of the party and supervise by the national officers of the party was legitimate.

“This is the only recognise congress in the state any individual or group holding congress outside this venue is null and void, you can see the present of officials from the head quarter of the party and INEC”.

However, Political observers have questioned if the factionalisation of the Lagos APC which was unprecedented in the state, was an indication of a receding political influence of the Asiwaju of Lagos and the national leader of the APC in the state and indeed the southwest.

Analysts expressed divergent views, while some noted that Tinubu had built a strong political empire in Lagos that would take a long time to erase, adding that the current crisis in Lagos APC may have been instigated to embarrass him.

Some were of the view that political dominance in any society does not last forever and was bound to be challenged at a certain point by the citizenry, stressing that Lagosians and even Nigerians were becoming more politically conscious.

Kayode Ojikutu, a political analyst and politician doubts if the leaders in the Oki-led APC faction in the state had the political clout to rival Tinubu’s political dominance in the state.

“I don’t think what is happening in Lagos APC is much of Tinubu’s influence waning or whatever you call it. Don’t forget that all these boys, either you call them federal or Abuja boys were made by Tinubu. What is the political strength of Fashola structure in Lagos? Does he have any? None of them can challenge Tinubu in the next eight years I can assure you that,” Ojikutu said..

Tinu Olaoye, a politician, however, said that the current crisis may have been instigated to shame the APC national leader, admitting the intrigues that had rocked the APC for several months now on who becomes the national chairman.
“Of course when you even look at history, political empires around the world do not last forever; where is Lamidi Adedibu in Ibadan with all his influence? But if I think Tinubu is still in charge here, he may not weigh that much influence in the southwest again, but I want to think that what is currently happening in Lagos is meant to embarrass him, considering what is happening within the APC at the national level for some time now,” Olaoye said.

But lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) David Bayesha stressed that Nigerians were becoming more politically-conscious, wondering if the APC faction could sustain the current rebellion against Tinubu.

“Well, nothing lasts forever, in such places they should be looking for challenges people are looking for self-expression too, even the dominant influence of America in world politics is been reduced. Personalities with such political power should be looking for such because the people are now becoming conscious they want to express themselves that is what is playing out. But again we need to ask the question; can they survive on the current reality? This is what we should consider, people would fight for independent but how far they would go is left to be seen,” Bayesha stressed.

Emmanuel Oreke, a political scientist, noted that Tinubu had deep-rooted political structure in Lagos that would take some time to erase, stressing that the current move by the Oki faction would however, give other politicians the courage to challenge his dominance of Lagos politics.

“Yea, it may be; he cannot be there forever, but don’t forget that having been in charge of politics in this state for long he is in control of the political structure in Lagos; he made most of them, but I think by having the courage to challenge Tinubu in the state alone would give other politicians the courage to rise up in the shortest period,” Oreke said.

 

JOSHUA BASSEY, Iniobong Iwok

The post Is Tinubu’s political hegemony in Lagos crumbling? appeared first on BusinessDay : News you can trust.

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