By Akoni Olasunkonmi, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu and Gbenga Oke
It was an unusually bold utterance from a traditional ruler on the political direction of the state.Speaking at the launch of a book written on the All Progressives Congress, APC governorship aspirant, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode penultimate Thursday, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu said the elders in Lagos State had met and endorsed the immediate past Accountant-General of the state as the next governor of the state.
“I will not lie to you. The elders of Lagos have met and they have said that Ambode should be governor,” Oba Akiolu was quoted as saying.
“Although Lagos State belongs to all Nigerians and the state will continue to offer opportunities to every Nigerian to actualise the Nigerian dream, Ambode remains the best man with the required pedigree and character to take Lagos to the next level,” the monarch said.
He, however, added that the resolution of the Lagos elders did not mean that others would be stopped from contesting the election.
Once the oba expressed his view, he was immediately flayed by a group, Visioners for a New Lagos who accused the monarch of teaming with his friend, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to foist their personal wish on the people of the state.
The VNL it is believed was piqued by the endorsement given speculations that the group is itself working for one of the governorship aspirants believed to be estranged from Tinubu.
Coordinator of the group, Mr. Bambo Akin-Johnson in rejecting the endorsement said that while it had no issue with Ambode as a person, but that it was seriously concerned at what it claimed as the apparent bias by the leadership of the party and the monarchy in Lagos to favour the aspirant.
“The monarch has clearly out-stepped his bounds; he has bitten more than he can chew and has taken more than he really can contain. He has stepped on the sensibilities of the electorate by usurping their rights to choose through their votes, their choice governor.
The endorsement was also flayed by some other stakeholders including the founder of the Odua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasheun, APC chieftain, Alhaji Ganiyu Oseni, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Lagos State chapter among others.
The endorsement was, however, strongly backed by the APC, Protectors of Lagos’ Legacy, PLL, Senator Olurunnimbe Mamora,
APC chieftain, Alhaji Ganiyu Oseni, in his opinion, urged Akiolu to stay away from politics for now. According to Oseni, the Lagos monarch has no right to dabble into politics, being a public servant paid by the tax payers of the state. “All Obas are public officers because the government is paying their salaries. They are precluded from dabbling into political matters which affect the tax payers”, he said.
Oseni who had earlier kicked against imposition of any candidate in the contest for the governorship position of Lagos State in 2015, reminded the party of the late Femi Agbalajobi,/Dapo Sarumi saga which produced an opposition candidate in the late Sir Michael Otedola as the democratically elected governor of the state in 1991.
Oseni, who stated that the political parties have their procedure for picking their torch bearers, called for a level playing ground for the aspirants. “Whoever emerged the party’s candidate in the primary will be supported as its torch bearer at the polls.
“What is currently going on in the state are political shenanigans, tricks and manipulations.“There is a clear cut difference between the church and the state. Can anybody go to Abia, Imo, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states and say they want a Muslim candidate?
Democracy is a government of the people by the people and for the people. You can’t go to Zamfara, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa states and say you must have a Christian governor,” he asserted.
“I am very, very, very disturbed that people are bringing religion into politics. They know the beginning of the issues but nobody knows the end. Deep down in me, I don’t believe in imposition. The choice must be for the people.”
1.Lagos state is not a state of a particular religion, we have both Muslims, Christians and traditional religion worshipers and all we need is a good leadership that will lead us to our Promise Land,” he said.
Lagos PDP rebukes Oba Akiolu
The Lagos State chapter of the PDP, ?said it will not be distracted by the endorsement by the traditional ruler.The state publicity secretary, Mr Taofik Gani said “on the one hand, we are not going to be distracted because we believe this might be a decoy. We have the history of the emergence of the Lagos State governor?.
They will usually send out a false thing but the candidate will emerge at the last minute. We are not bothered that an Ambode has been mentioned but we are disturbed because the Oba of Lagos, who should be a father figure for us, has descended into the murky waters of politics by affirming what ordinarily should be a rumour that Akin Ambode will be the next governor.”
He said “We think that this is very unbecoming, it is unfortunate of an oba and we want to say that it is also a vindication that our accusations that the Oba’s palace and some other palaces have indeed been used to rig elections for the APC.
What we will admonish the Oba, at this point in time, to do is to know that the stool is a stool representing the integrity and credibility of Lagos indigenes and he should not desecrate that stool. We are also saying that if the palace will compromise free and fair elections, we will mobilise Lagosians and make that palace uninhabitable for anybody who does that.”
OBA HAS HIS BACKERS
PLL backs Akiolu
The Protectors of Lagos’ Legacy, PLL, welcoming Akiolu’s endorsement of Ambode as a worthy successor to Fashola in a statement by it’s coordinator, Barr. Olatunji Williams, PLL recalled that when the Oba of Benin endorsed Comrade Oshiomhole in the last governorship election in Edo State, nobody in Benin Kingdom and the entire Edo State insulted him.
It also cited the several endorsements received by President Goodluck Jonathan from traditional rulers. “Oba Akiolu has only exercised his constitutional right as is the case all over the world.
This should not attract butt of uncultured vituperation by some faceless people in the name of politics. The revered Oba only aired his opinion”, PLL noted.
“Oba Akiolu was following the footsteps of his ancestor when he stood boldly on the side of the people against the invasion of Yorubaland and the injustice against Late Chief M.K.O Abiola by the military junta for the annulment of the June 12 election adjudged the freest and fairest election in Nigeria till date”, they added.
The group also recalled that the then Oba of Lagos at his palace, handed a letter of protest to Chief Ernest Shonekan, Head of the Interim Government and insisted Abiola and SDP won the election.
“Indeed, the endorsement of Ambode by the Oba of Lagos and other traditional rulers in the state has sent jitters down the spine of these political jobbers as he remains the most outstanding and qualified candidate for the job of building on the legacy of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Fashola and moving Lagos to the next level.
“Our resolution is that Lagos will continue to move forward and never be captured by unprogressive forces of darkness”, the statement concluded.
Lagos resident, Prince Kunle Adetule, was of a divergent opinion to Oseni, saying the monarch had the right to back any candidate
“Although, I do not support the way His Royal Majesty went about it, this is not enough to castigate him. I want to tell the politicians if they don’t know that politics starts from palaces and ends in palace
Senator Olorunimbe Mamora
For me, our respected and revered Oba of Lagos is a stakeholder in Lagos and not only by the virtue of royalty but as a major stakeholder in the development of Lagos State. I must say that the Oba of Lagos is entitled to his own opinion as a stakeholder and that is why he is expressing an opinion on this issue.
If several reports going round is anything to go by, the traditional ruler said something very instructive that it is only God that can choose and anoint a candidate. I think that sentence settles it.
When the time comes for a candidate to emerge that will succeed Governor Raji Fashola in Lagos State, the party will conduct primaries and a candidate will emerge. The people of Lagos State will speak and God will surely speak as well. But I must point out that every Lagosian has a right to his or her opinion as a citizen of this state.