BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
Could agitations by the people of Ikorodu one of the five divisions in Lagos State for the governorship of Lagos State may upturn the plans envisioned by the political leaders of the state.
The race for Governor Babatunde Fashola’s job in Lagos State has taken new dimension with chieftains, elders and traditional rulers in Ikorodu Division harping on producing the next governor. Apart from using the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), they are ready to throw their support to any party that will actualise their dream.
The 2015 governorship contest in Lagos State is getting tougher by the day, especially in the APC. Apart from the party’s decision to zone the slot to Lagos East Senatorial District and its perceived preference for a Christian candidate, a number of issues are shaping the contest that is about seven months away.
The quest by Ikorodu Division to produce the next governor seems to be gaining support at the grassroots. Already, a number of community-based pressure groups from the division have started networking with the APC and other political parties to pick a credible candidate for the position, which they said, had never been occupied by an Ikorodu indigene.
The major groups that are championing Ikorodu’s agitation include Ikorodu Division Solution Alliance (IDSA), Eminent Persons of Ikorodu Division (EPID) and Ikorodu Division Resource Group (IDGR) among others. Each of these groups has been working at different levels to realise the division’s dream.
The agitation came to the fore penultimate week, when the IDSA staged a rally from one end of Ikorodu to the other. The rationale behind the Ikorodu quest for governorship slot had to do with what an IDSA leader, Hon. Said Ibikunle, described as the outright exclusion of the division from the politics of governorship candidature in the state, particularly since the transition to civil rule on May 29, 1999.
The group’s political calculation, actually, goes beyond the 1999 democratic transition. In reality, the state has five administrative divisions, which include Badagry, Epe, Ikeja, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. Of the five divisions, the group said only Ikorodu and Badagry have been technically excluded from contesting the governorship office from the Second Republic till date.
By its analysis, the group argued that the Ikeja Division had produced the state’s civilian governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande between 1979 and 1983 as well as its third civilian governor, Sen. Bola Tinubu between 1999 and 2007. Also, it cited the case of Epe Division, which it said, produced the state’s second civilian governor, Sir Michael Otedola, who ruled between January 1992 and November 1993.
And in 2007, the group pointed out, Lagos Island produced the governor via Fashola. By this permutation, the group argued, of the five administrative divisions in the state, Ikorodu has not democratically governed Lagos State since the Second Republic in 1979.
Oppose zoning to Epe Division
But the state’s ruling party has already zoned the governorship slot to Lagos East senatorial district. The Ikorodu group opposed the zoning of the position to Epe division, which they said, had once produced Sir Otedola under the botched Third Republic, who ruled for 23 months.
On this note, the group’s chairman, Mr. Rotimi Erogbogbo said: “By this argument, we are all Lagos residents deserving equal access to all offices, the governorship position should be zoned to Lagos East. The Ikorodu Division, being the most populous and the only standing division in Lagos, comprising Imota, Isiu, Ijede, Igbogbo, Bayeku, Egbin, Owutu and Ishawo among others should produce the next governor.”
Erogbogbo justified Ikorodu’s governorship quest, arguing that it “is legitimate, timely and rooted in due principle of equity, justice and fair play. This is a clarion call to all well-meaning people of Ikorodu Division and lovers of democracy and justice to stand up and be counted globally.”
Already, the quest has gained the support of chieftains, elders and traditional rulers from all communities that make up the Ikorodu Division. The monarchs from the division may have dissociated themselves from the standpoint of Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu I that all the traditional rulers in the state “are in support of the ambition of former Lagos State Accountant-General, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.”
Ikorodu monarchs, however, differ saying that they are now looking inwards for credible indigenes from the division to contest the 2015 race irrespective of their political affiliation. On June 12, the Odofin of Ikorodu, Chief Kabiru Sotobi spoke on behalf of traditional rulers from the division, asking eminent indigenes of Ikorodu to join the governorship contest.
Sotobi said the traditional rulers and elders would support the candidacy of any Ikorodu indigene irrespective of his political affiliation. He explained that it was the turn of Ikorodu “to produce the next governor of Lagos State. I am not bothered about the zoning arrangement; the groups coming out now are not politicians. Ikorodu people should ensure that they do not lose their voting rights.
“We want the Ikorodu Division to produce the next governor. The eminent personalities in Ikorodu are not doing this alone. Our mission is to produce a governor who comes from Ikorodu in 2015. If the PDP decides to have its candidate from Ikorodu, we will support it. If the APC decides to have candidate from Ikorodu, we will support it. If it is Labour Party, we will support it.”
Also, other leaders of the division under the aegis of IDGR and EPID lamented that Ikorodu had suffered outright neglect and marginalization under different political dispensations since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999. They issued a communiqué, stating the position of the division.
The communiqué, which was signed by the group Chairman, Chief Babatunde Benson (SAN) and Secretariat Coordinator, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, said consequent upon meeting held with obas, chiefs, elders and prominent indigenes in the state, it resolved that the group should request for letters of intent from persons interested in the 2015 governorship race from all political parties.
But after the meeting, the communiqué added that the groups directed all indigenes and residents of Ikorodu Division “to rally supports for all the aspirants from all political parties in the state so that an indigene of Ikorodu Division would be selected, not only to contest the gubernatorial race in the state, but also to emerge the Governor of the state come 2015.”
The communiqués, therefore, explained that the effort “is directed towards all registered political parties in the state to ensure that an indigene of Ikorodu Division is presented as a gubernatorial candidate for 2015 governorship election by his political party. It is observed that for too long Ikorodu Division has been at the tail end of political benefits of dividend of democracy.”
Disturbed by they described as the politics of exclusion, they leaders asked all governorship aspirants from all registered political parties who are Ikorodu Division indigenes “to heed this clarion call and mobilise support from the grassroots by supporting the activities of the Liaison Group. All aspirants are directed to submit the following to the Secretariat at the Ikorodu Town Hall on or before May 19, 2014.”
The IDSA Women Leader, Mrs. Folashade Oba, agreed that the Ikorodu division aspiration “is legitimate, timely and rooted in due principle of equity, justice and fair play. IDSA’s specific objectives are basically to serve as a vanguard for galvanizing and championing the collective interest and aspirations of our people.”
Hinging the campaign on the principle of fairness, the women leader explained other objectives of the Ikorodu group, which he said, were designed “to promote fair and equitable, political and economic development in the division; elevate the division to its pride of place in the comity of divisions in the state; and serve as a platform for breeding leadership with integrity.