By Dapo Akinrefon
SINCE the advent of the 4th Republic in 1999, Lagos State has been successfully kept in the control of the political machine of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. First through the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, AD then the Action Congress, AC and recently the Action Congress of Nigeria.
Using Lagos as a launching pad, Tinubu has after some initial setback between 2003 and 2007 been able to position his political machine as the dominant political operation in the Southwest. Out of the six States in the Southwest, Tinubu’s ACN is in control of three namely, Lagos, Ekiti and Osun and is also in a comfortable fraternity with the Labour government in Ondo State.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which controlled five of the six States in the region between 2003 and 2007 has now become a second player in the region, following successive court judgments upturning the party’s control of Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States.
However, Thursday, December 24, 2010, was a major turning point in the political roller coaster that has been the lot of the ACN in the recent past. On that day, the Lagos State chapter of the ACN recorded a major defeat when it lost the bye_election in the Ikorodu Constituency II in the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The defeat of ACN, took the party and its supporters by surprise, but threw the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, into a joyous mood.
The result of the election showed that Mr Gbenga Oshin of the PDP polled a total vote of 3,438, which was 416 votes higher than the total vote scored by the Action Congress of Nigeria’s candidate, Olusayo David Alagbe, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s returning officer, Kenneth Obianyi, who accordingly declared Mr. Oshin as the winner of the bye-election.
The constituency seat became vacant on November 2, 2010 when the former occupier, Mr Rotimi Sotomiwa of the ACN died.
Mr. Obianyi while announcing the total votes polled by each of the 14 candidates in the election said, “having scored the highest votes, I hereby declare Olugbenga Akinwale Oshin as the winner of the bye_election of Ikorodu Constituency II.”
The results as declared by INEC has, however, thrown up contrary claims by the PDP and ACN. While the PDP is declaring the result as an indication of its readiness to sweep future polls in the State, the ACN has declared the victory as a pyhrric effort on the part of the PDP which it claimed was orchestrated through rigging.
The Lagos State chairman of the PDP Mr. Setonji Koshedo in declaring the party’s readiness to win future elections including the gubernatorial election traced its past failures on the rigging machine of the ACN.
Mr Koshedo, who was in high spirit following the result said the outcome of the bye-election was an indication that the PDP would win future elections in Lagos in a free and fair contest.
He described the party’s victory in an ACN controlled area of Ikorodu as a sign of better things to come for the party saying “the result of the election has shown that in a free and fair election, PDP will always win. The point is that ACN has never won the state honestly.”
Besides, he enthused that “we have always believed in the PDP that the past election has been fraudulent. In most of the election we have had since the beginning of democracy in Nigeria about t12 years, if Lagos state has been having free and fair election, PDP would have been on top. But the result of this election has shown that if free and fair election is held in Lagos state, PDP will always come top, which mean that the can, the ruling party in Lagos state has not always been winning elections naturally.”
The party chieftain further expressed confidence that with all hands on deck, there is the possibility of the party getting electoral victory at the polls.
Also, he enjoined members of the party to put all hands on deck saying “we need to work harder now than before. We need everybody on board. We need team work now. Our chances of winning the gubernatorial election in Lagos cannot be brighter than now. We will want to seize this opportunity to deliver. All hands must be on deck.”
The ACN on its part has vowed to head to the tribunal to challenge what it claims to be the phyrric victory won by the PDP in the election.
The ACN in a statement last Sunday said the way and manner the PDP won the election has sent a wrong signal as to whether the 2011 general elections can be free and fair, despite repeated assurances by the President.
The ACN statement nonetheless, there were allegations that the ACN was equally hindered ahead of the elections by internal divisions within its local leadership in Ikorodu leading to the unexpected victory of the PDP in the local election.
The ACN in a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is, however, blaming its defeat on what it claimed was the PDP’s resort to intimidation and violence
‘’Violence was reported in Ijede, Ginti, Igbogbo and Ewuelepe. There was no voter’s register in Surulere Estate and Offing in Igbogbo, known strongholds of ACN. Shooting and snatching of ballot boxes were reported at Ginti and Ewuelepe. There was over-militarization of the Constituency, with the invasion of mobile policemen, Immigration and Custom officers.
‘’There was also a massive influx of unregistered voters from neighbouring Ogun state, with the connivance of the heavily-compromised INEC officials. Overall, there was a massive disenfranchisement of registered voters in all strongholds of the ACN during the by-election,’’ ACN said.
The party said President Jonathan set the stage for the election malfeasance and violence by his public statement urging the PDP to make sure it wins Lagos in 2011 -a code word for do-or-die politics patented by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
‘’That statement by the President laid the foundation for what transpired in Ikorodu, and is a sign of growing desperation by the PDP after seeing its stranglehold on the South-west broken by our party.
‘’It is unfortunate that President Jonathan, who has continued to assure Nigerians and the international community of the willingness of his administration to organise free, fair and credible polls in 2011, has allowed himself to be pushed off course by the desperation of his fast imploding party,’’ ACN said.
The party appealed to its supporters to be calm, as it would definitely seek a legal redress.
‘’In the true and tested tradition of our party, ACN, we will be mounting a robust legal challenge against the so-called PDP victory in the Ikorodu 2 Constituency by-election. It is a truism that none of the victories so far won by our party has come easy and cheap. But it is also true that justice has almost always prevailed for us. We have no reason to doubt that just will prevail again in the Ikorodu 2 Constituency election.’’