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*the year before the elections

By Bisi Lawrence
It’s going to be a long ,long year. I can see it coming. From this point to election time next year, we shall surely have exciting times. The handwriting is on the wall, and on the ground, and even in the sky. A merry time is sure to be had by all.

What looked like developing into a conflagration of immense adverse consequences to the Action Congress is now only sputtering like a little fire in Lagos State. The State House of Assembly was undeterred by the court ruling that constituted only a hiccup in the effort to probe some aspects of Governor Babatunde Fashola’s activities.

The court’s ruling that stopped the process earlier was based on procedural issues that may have been rectified, leaving the way open for a resumption of  the affair. If  the probe should result in an indictable offence, it could lead to a subsequent impeachment of the Governor, and that can only be viewed as tragic at a personal level for the gentleman, and perhaps no less disastrous to the fortunes of the Action Congress in political terms.

It has happened before in Lagos State. You well remember the saga of the conflict between Dapo Sarumi and the late Femi Agbalajobi, which split their party, the Social Democratic Party, SDP, right down the middle. The governorship of  the State was virtually tossed into the lap of the NRC candidate, Michael Otedola, who could hardly believe his good fortune.

It later took the SDP no great effort  to re-emerge as the Alliance for Democracy, because it was the second-generation rump of the old Action Group sprouting up again. And when again a leadership struggle appeared within that political camp, it led to the defection of late Funsho Williams to the PDP. His candidacy on that platform was in full flight before he was murdered.

But no one particularly seemed to have benefitted much from the fall-out of  that ghastly incident as accusing fingers began to point in all directions. The AD simply metamorphosed into the Action Congress, and now seems headed for another tussle.

This present confrontation, however, is somewhat unusual. It is not between two declared contestants for the gubernatorial chair. It is presented as a pure power struggle between the incumbent State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, and his immediate predecessor, Bola Tinubu. It would appear that Tinubu wants his former protege out of office for fiercely held reasons. Every strategy, including flat denials, was devised and employed to hide the disagreement.

In that vein, the Governor grabbed every opportunity to proclaim his appreciation of  his predecessor’s assistance and support, which was not a well-concealed fact anyway. Tinubu, on the other hand, spared no occasion to publicly hug his successor like a love-starved bear. All the same, the suppressed smoke eventually broke out revealing the fire beneath.

Who wants this disagreement to be resolved? Well, definitely not the PPP. They galloped through the South West in the last elections without as much as a backward glance, but left Lagos State of  Tinubu as “the last man standing.” They are looking forward to a total rout next year. Of course, they lost one or two of the governorship seats they won to court judgements but, even at that, it was almost a peerless performance from “zero” almost to “hero”.

Whatever might have been responsible, and unwholesome as that may be, they are poised to really get to grips with it again – and possible as “a matter of life and death.” And here we have Lagos State, “the last one standing,” beginning to grope in what looks like a dense mist of mindless controversy.

However, someone had predicted it would all fizzle out in the end. It had better. State Governors don’t come better-qualified or more conscientious than Babatunde Fashola. He is a credit, not only to his party, or even State, but also to the whole country in general. His brilliant brand of leadership has been widely acknowledged throughout the nation.

And yet, here before our eyes, he is being flagrantly indicted of offences that made one gasp with disbelief. But the bubble of the accusations may be ready to pop any moment from now since the “faceless” accusers are loath to present facts to support their figures.

It is said that His Royal Highness, Oba Akiolu of  Lagos, had attempted to pour oil on the troubled waters of this disagreement a while back, but his efforts were rebuffed. It is heartwarming, though, that none other than Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, the Asoju Oba of Lagos, has at last given vent to what are clearly the feelings of the people of the State – and that is: “For goodness sake, leave Fashola alone to carry on with his good work.”

If the conflict should continue, however, unlikely that seems, one might have been almost inclined to lose hope on Lagos State. They would once again have offered themselves as cheap meat to the teeth of their adversaries. But the PDP, in their own turn, have raised the curtain for the country to witness hair-raising episodes from a theatre of  the absurd, probably induced by a surfeit of power.

Faced with a lack of vibrant opposition, the internal power structures have felt little need for a coalition of their forces and are disposed to dissipate their strengths. This is the opportunity for a viable opposition to create more dissension and erode their unity. But where is that opposition?

Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, the PDP Chairman, had been in much the same position as, or slightly worse than Governor Fashola. He had implacable wolves baying at his heels. He thus lined up a battalion of  SAN’s to defend him from various charges of impropriety abutting on misuse of office.

But he has probably not helped himself  by sponsoring, or supporting, the suspension of nineteen important members of his party, including the former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani. The celestial reputation of that astute parliamentarian, based on his impeccable conduct in office, may prove somewhat untouchable now and in the near future. Prince Vincent would have perhaps chosen an easier number. But Nnamani?

Already, the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, has expressed qualified disagreement about the Nnamani issue. He wondered why the gentleman and so many others had been suspended before he was informed of the dispute. In any case he would not appear to go along with that kind of massive upheaval within the party at this time. Remember a stake is also being built for him, probably not without his tacit consent it would seem, for the highest elective position of the land.

And no matter the obstacles, an unsettled political organization would be unlikely to enhance his chances in any way. All the same, he has indicated that, in his opinion, it is too early in the day to put on full war-paint for an election that is due to take place next year – which makes him at one in his vocal expressions with the leading politicians of the day.

The Acting President was said to have been speaking at a meeting of PDP bigwigs, which had been proscribed by law. That would appear to demonstrate a regrettable contempt of a court order but, also more particularly to fall foul of  the golden tenet of “the rule of law” so barefacedly espoused by the current leadership of the PDP.

It was at that meeting that the Acting President was said to have saved Ogbulafor from instant removal from the chairmanship of the party, and it must have been the exigency of the situation that moved Jonathan to act so desperately to save his party from a monumental crisis. In any case, he is protected from any censure by the immunity granted through the provisions of the Constitution, and so were the host of  State Governors also present at the meeting.

On the other hand, it was the PDP Chairman who went out to bat for the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, whose return to the PDP was acceptable but not in every aspect to the equation of the PDP in Adamawa State. This being Atiku’s own constituency, the situation would appear to present an awful stench directly from the kettle.

The sheer embarrassment of it has been staved off to some extent by the charming Prince who, unfortunately, seems to have been too pre-occupied to attend to the similarly awkward mater regarding Dimeji Bankole (isn’t he yet a chief, by the way), Speaker of the House of Representatives. It is the old issue of impeachment again. Although no easy nut to crack, it would appear that his unveiled ambition to transit back home as the Ogun State Governor next year, now inhabits his habitual disposition towards a prickly arrogance and hubristic demeanor.

A fine young man when you get to know him, he is said to have apologised for his past misdeeds, both actual and perceived, and craved for unconditional pardon. Well, it is the year before elections. And everything is in a state of flux.

Echoes: (07030561852): I believe that Nigeria is bigger than PDP whose so-called “zoning” arrangement is an affront to our democracy. Nigeria (unfortunately) has refused to come out of ethnic and regional jingoism that characterized post-colonial period. There is tension in the land. Who can free us from this mess?

Echoes: (08063162002): It is wrong to assume that PDP will win next Presidential election. Remember that even with OBJ’s “do-or-die”, Yar’Adua didn’t win the last one, Iwu as the Returning Officer just pronounced him winner. (Dele John).

Echoes: (08034006598): I must describe your attempt to sell the “evil genius” as a “sell-out”. How much did he pay you?

Echoes: (08023299976): The fact that IBB waved your life during the Dimka coup does not in any way erase his atrocious legacies in other vital spheres of governance during his eight-year rule. In any case, I don’t believe Nigeria needs an unreliable, wicked and callous ruler like him at this stage of its existence. (Abiodun).

Echoes: (08033040304): I had come to the sad conclusion that dispassionate and analytical journalism is a dying art. Your article is a bresh of fresh air. I pray we are blessed with many, many more years of sharing in your gift… (Ibraheem, Lagos).

Echoes: (08035906916): May God bless you for speaking the truth, no matter the ranting of those opposed to IBB’s quest for the Presidency of Nigeria. The Almighty God knows where He is leading IBB to, and it is certainly for the common good of Nigerians, in Jesus name. (Sen. Rowland Stephen Owie).
Time Out.


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