By Dayo Benson,Â Political Editor
Last Saturday Ibeju-Lekki Federal Constituency bye-election in which Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) won has further amplified the arch rivalry between Action Congress AC and PDP in Lagos. AC did not participate in the poll following its candidateâ€™s disqualification by the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos over certificate scam. With AC candidate who was until the court judgment member of the House of Representatives, out of contest, it was a straight battle between PDP and Alliance for Democracy, AD.
If left alone to confront PDP, AD might have been easily over-run considering its strength presently in Lagos politics. Since its factionalisation which saw the emergence of AC, AD was throughly depleted and probably exists only in name considering AC octopodal spread in Lagos. It is certainly not the same AD that swept the South-West clean in the 1999 general election. A combination of National Democratic Coalition NADECO cum Afenifere and anti-military sentiments that pervaded the South-West had AD a popular party in the zone.
The party had indeed emerged from the ashes of NADECO ably promoted by Afenifere leaders such as late Pa Abraham Adesanya, late Chief Bola Ige (SAN), late Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Laniu Ajayi, Chief Olu Falae and Mrs. Kofo Bucknor Akerele etc.
It was on the crest wave if this groundswell popularity that Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Alhaji Lam Adesina, late Chief Adebayo Adesoranti, Chief Bisi Akande and Otunba Niyi Adebayo vote to power as governors in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states in 1999 general elections. By 2003.
All is suzerainty in the South West had waned considerably to the extent that it was only able to retain Lagos out of the six states in its control. It â€”â€” with former President Olusegun Obasanjo which earned him all governors support for his second term had gone awry as the governors realised too late that Obasanjo had played a fast one on them with a military tactics.
The non-performance of some of the governors also accounted for why they were easily routed by PDP. Left alone as the only AD governor, Tinubu soon fell out with the Afenifere leaders when he refused to succumb to their dictates. Before the internal power struggle lead to an implosion in AD, Tinubu had successfully taken over the party machinery which he moved to AC when parting its ways with AD leadership became inevitable.
The last straw was the party chairmanship tussle between Senator Mojisoluwa Akintenwa and Chief Bisi Akande. When the Tinubu faction left AD, Akande followed and he later emerged as AC national chairman. Today, former Secretary to Oyo State government Chief Michael Koleoso is AD national chairman.
Since its political fortune nosedived, AD has not secured any electoral victory. The Ibeju-Lekki House of Representative seat therefore provided an opportunity for the party to relaunch itself into electorate consciousness. But it could not go it alone.
Vanguard gathered that despite going their separate ways, some remnants of Tinubu loyalists were still in AD. He is also said to be funding the party by proxy. Even if the candidate Hon. Tunde Isiak from re-contesting, AC would not sit back and watch PDP take over Ibeju-Lekki; hence the need for re-alignment with AD. In build-up to the poll, a grand rally if AC and PDP supporters was held in the area.
Tinubu led other AC chieftains in Lagos to drum up support for AD candidate Jamiu Eletu. Among those who attended the rally were Senator Olorunmbe Mamora, Hon. Abike Dabiri Eruwa, AD national chairman Chief Michael Koleoso, Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, his deputy, Funmi Tejuosho and Dr. Tola Kasali etc. At a pre-rally press briefing last Monday, Lagos AD chairman Alhaji Lateef Raji said the party wanted to use the bye-election to begin a gradual process of reclaiming the lost grounds in AD in the nationâ€™s political equation. According to him â€œ
The Alliance for Democracy was one of the three major political parties and the only platform for the progressives at the onset of our democratic experience in 1999 and the first outing of the party at the 1999 general elections was effective as the party had the control of six states of the South-West before the infamous capture of the region in 2003, but the party remain grateful to Almighty God for witnessing the legendary transformation of Lagos State by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the AD who laid a foundation upon which his successor, Governor Babatunde Fashola of the Action Congress is currently buildingâ€.
He further stated, â€œIn Ibeju-Lekki, our footprints in the course of development have become irreversible and all infrastructure have been properly put in place and we make bold to say that all these began under the government of AD under the indefatigable leader of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but we are not unmindful of the enormous challenges that stare the people of the community in the face, but we shall use our collaborative efforts with the party in government to find an amicable resolution to this lingering problemsâ€.
Sen. Bola Tinubu said â€œsince the Action Congress is not participating in this election, we are calling on our people to vote for the AD candidateâ€ just as he added â€œthe Saturday election is a vote for independence and it is not about Ibeju-Lekki alone, it is about Lagos stateâ€.
â€œIn 1999 and 2003, we contested on the platform of this party, AD and we defeated them, and on Saturday, history will repeat itself as we are prepared to defeat them again, but I appeal to our people not to be afraidâ€ he argued.
Further, the commissioner for special duties in Lagos state, Dr Tola Kasali, expressed confidence that AD will achieve its desired result by clinching the vacant seat.
His words â€œEletu, the candidate of AD is a worthy candidate who would give adequate and fair representation, although, we do not have a candidate in Action Congress, but as a community leader, I must tell our electorates the right thing by voting for the AD because our counterpart, PDP has no plan for this constituencyâ€.
â€œThe PDP decided to hold an emergency rally in panic when their leaders realised that CNPP leaders were coming to Ibeju-Lekki and the failed rally would herald their failure.â€
Apparently jittery by AC mass support for AD candidate, the PDP had castigated AC for backing AD. However, in a swift reaction, AD berated the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over its comments on AC, support for AD in bye-election.
Lagos State chairman of AD in a the telephone chat with Vanguard, said PDP is crying foul because it has nothing to offer just as AC said it is free to support any party of its choice.
According to Lateef Raji, â€œIt is because the PDP has no moral values as far as democracy is concerned, that is why they are crying foulâ€.
â€œSince inception of democracy from 1999 till date, the PDP has never supported any other party and they shouldnâ€™t have cried foul over this because apart from Action Congress that is supporting AD, other progressive parties like CNPP, PRP and others are lending their supportâ€.
He further explained, that PDP are supposed to go back to their house and re-examine themselves because Nigerians are tired of their violent orientationâ€.
Speaking in the same vein, the state secretary of Action Congress, AC, Mr Charles Odugbesan said that the party is free to support any party of its choice.
â€œWhen ex-president Obasanjo contested under PDP in 1999, some of us supported him abandoning our various parties while some voted him because he is a Yoruba man, so anybody can vote the candidate of his choiceâ€.
In its own reaction, a source from the PDP secretariat who craved anonymity stated â€œweâ€™re an autonomous party and we are supposed to go into the election and win on our own, it does not mean we donâ€™t have any relationship with other parties, but what the Action Congress has done is wrongâ€.
PDP has claimed that AC no moral rights to openly support AD in bye-elections.
As it turned out AC massive support for AD was not enough to stop PDP candidate, Okanlawo Soniyi from winning the poll. Indeed the election was extension a contest between AC and PDP. The defeat has prompted observers to wonder why AC backed AD candidate could not win the area. The struggle for the soul of Ibeju-Leki dates back to Tinubu era as governor.
There have been running battles between traditional land owners in the area and the former governor. The one that attracted public attention was that of Oluwegbon family which was aggrieved over government land acquisation during Tinubu era. This might have alienated people in the area from AD and later AC led governments. Another factor is the perceived heavy charges imposed on property owners in the axis.
In the whole of Lagos State, property located in Ibeju- Lekki have higher value and this probably governmentâ€™s interest in the area. Analysts are of the opinion these and other factors may make it difficult for AC to win election in Ibeju-Lekki. aHon Musilu Alogba, representing Ibeju Lekki 11, â€œ The victory is as a result of hardwork, we campaigned hard and achieved victory. We are grateful to God for that.
I will attribute it to the strength of the PDP, the other parties combined are not as strong as the PDP in Ibeju Lekki. If you recall that in this house of assembly, there three members of the PDP and two of them are from Ibeju Lekki. That will give you an idea of the acceptance of the PDP in the areaâ€. He however said that the issue of land could not have been a factor..
â€œThat one is there, but it cannot be a factor, if you call that a factor then you are saying the people donâ€™t have a mind of their own. You see those of us who have been in this game, this government for those of us that are members of this house, you can never see us make a critical condemnation of the government because if we do that we are even condemning ourselves.
This is an electoral issue and of course the people believe they have their will and will exercise that will, they have to consider many things before deciding on the best course of action to take and how to go about it.â€
Speaking in the same vein, Hon Hodewu Suru Avoseh, Minority leader representing Badagry 1 said: By the nature of Ibeju Lekki, it is a local town with local people who know themselves and they know and and listen and obey their leaders. From the time election was annulled and the rerun announced, Iknew that no matter what the PDP will win the election. If the contest had been between AC and PDP, it would have been stiffer.
The two honourable members in the house are from the PDP, that goes to show that Ibeju- Lekki is a PDP stronghold. Another factor is the candidate, Okanlawon Soniyi presented by the PDP is the one the people want, those of us from the rural asres know ourselves and we know who can represent us better, if things are not manipulated.â€
Reacting to the outcome of the election, Lagos AD chairman disputedÂ PDP victory and vowed that his party will challenge it in court, saying â€œif going to court remains the last option, we shall seek redress in a court of lawâ€
However, in his own reaction Tinubu conceded victory to PDP which he said won fair and square.
â€œWith the reports that I got, PDP won the elections fair and square. I recommend that all parties should accept the results of the election. We must have zero tolerance for violence during elections. What I will recommend is that everybody should accept the results of the election.
We only endorsed the Alliance for Democracy candidate, we did not participate in the elections and despite this, I was told that over 2,000 votes were voided because people voted for AC. All democrats should accept the results. Otherwise, you donâ€™t deserve the joy of victory.â€
Congratulating Okanlawon Soniyi, the PDP candidate on his victory, PDP National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor said â€œThis victory, in the midst of intimidation and vain propaganda by agents of the meddlesome Action Congress whose discredited candidate was rightly disqualified from the elections once more proves that the fortunes of our great party are on a steady rise in Lagos . It also successfully breaks the myth built around some cult personalities who have now been exposed as the proverbial empty vessels who make the loudest noise.
â€œWe are encouraged by this feat to push harder and liberate all of Lagos from demigods and their stooges who have turned the nationâ€™s commercial capital into their private estate. This indeed have sent a clear message that Lagos is on the way to uniting with the rest of Nigeria under the great umbrella of the PDP.â€
Now that the Ibeju- Lekki bye-election has been won and lost will the rapproachment between AC and AD subsists? Will PDP be able to retain the area in 2011 and probably conquer otherÂ AC strongholds in the state? Time indeed will tell.