By Femi Aribisala
Just think how many votes can be harvested in Lagos by telling commuters an incoming PDP government will allow Okadas back on the roads.
I did not know how precise my analyses of Bola Tinubu’s misfortunes are, until I saw the barrage of the Lilliputian army sent to attack me. In the last few days, I have been much-maligned and abused by a league of Tinubu’s henchmen. Lagos State cowboys have also descended on my office, asking for building permits when I am not building anything; demanding to know if my office is fire-proof, and threatening to close it down if I show no “satisfaction” within two days.
I remain undaunted by these shenanigans. The bottom line is that I am not the one running for election in 2015: they are. Neither does it matter if I am the buffoon they claim I am. It is a contradiction in terms to spend so much time and effort trying to discredit a fool. If my views are truly inconsequential, those planning to run for office would not be so determined to silence me.
The irony in all this is that I actually consider myself to be more a friend of the APC than a foe. What I offer is wise counsel which, if seriously considered by the APC, would be detrimental to the PDP. There is no doubt that Nigeria deserves a strong opposition to the government. Unfortunately, that strong opposition cannot come from the foolishness of the APC.
As presently constituted, the APC is a very good guarantee of another four years of the PDP, in spite of the ruling party’s many inadequacies. How else are we to explain why an incumbent APC governor lost to a PDP challenger by a landslide in Ekiti? Instead of harnessing its much-vaunted strength, the APC is showing new weaknesses, even in its South-West strongholds. Should it lose Osun in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in August, then Bola Tinubu is toast.
Before it can qualify to reform the polity, the APC needs first to transform itself. Here is another attempt to show it the error of its ways, although there are signs it might already be too late for it to make amends in time for the forthcoming elections.
The APC is an amalgamation of strange bedfellows with conflicting political agendas, all desperate for power at the centre. This explains why it even welcomes former PDP opponents. This marriage of convenience is likely to collapse sooner than later on the very altar of its internal contradictions, the nearer we get to the elections. In any case, bombast don’t create a formidable political party: popular grassroots support does.
Many of the “timber and caliber” of the APC cannot even deliver their local governments. Their rants make for interesting newspaper headlines, while adding precious little to the electoral fortunes of their party. Those were the days when popular support counted for nothing in Nigerian elections. Those days are gone, as the recent election in Ekiti shows. For example, Rotimi Amaechi is very good public relations for the APC. But only a fool believes Rivers State is going to vote APC in 2015. Neither can Rochas Okorocha deliver Imo State to his new party.
Demonising the electorate
I am amused at people who make fun of Patience Jonathan’s down-to-earth style of public-speaking and have turned her “There is God O” into a derogatory slogan. What they fail to appreciate is that the First Lady’s homespun deliveries resonate with a constituency which accounts for the major part of the Nigerian population.
Unlike Patience Jonathan, many of the APC bigwigs are out of touch with the electorate. They have been so blinded by their naked ambitions; they can no longer discern the signs of the times. This accounts for the big shocker of the Ekiti elections, which they are still trying to explain away with all kinds of rationalizations. Their contempt for the wishes of the people led to the current APC romance with the preposterous idea of a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket in this day and age. Therefore, if they are not careful, they are in for further surprises in “INEC 2015.”
Instread of addressing what led to the disaster in Ekiti, the APC have resorted to abusing the electorate. Suddenly, we are made to understand that the people of Ekiti are stupid. They are derided as having voted for “stomach infrastructure” instead of physical infrastructure.
In a release signed by Joe Igbokwe, the APC Publicity Secretary for Lagos State, the party declared: “It should be noted that PDP is now flaunting what is now known as ‘politics of stomach infrastructure’ which targets the borderless hunger it has provoked for fifteen years for exploitation.” “We want to assure the PDP that it is building castles in the air by hallucinating that it will ever capture Lagos by its politics of hunger and mass poverty.”
This is nothing short of delusional. The tide of South-West politics is moving inexorably against the APC. By shouting from the rooftops about how bad things are in Nigeria, the APC seems to have forgotten that it is the one in power in the South-West. Therefore, if things are bad there, it is the APC, and not the PDP, that is held responsible. Accordingly, in Ekiti, the APC governor was thrown out in one of the freest and fairest elections ever conducted by INEC.
I have news for the APC. Its defeat in Ekiti is the strongest indication yet that the PDP has hit on a winning formula that might prove equally devastating to the APC in other areas of the South-West. Indeed, the APC government in Lagos is likely to be swept away by the same politics of “stomach infrastructure” that it derides to its cost in Ekiti.
I am an unrepentant admirer of Babatunde Fashola and his seven-year tenure as governor of Lagos State. He has done a lot to change the face of Lagos for the better by renovating the physical infrastructures. But the Ekiti defeat has exposed the Achilles heel of the APC in their Lagos stronghold. In his seven years as governor, Fashola has been contemptuous of the electorate’s need for “stomach infrastructure.”
While Fashola has been busy tarring roads, building fanciful tolled bridges and planting grass and flowers; he has ignored the need of the people for basic things of life like food, shelter and gainful employment. There is no pipe-borne water in much of Lagos; and yet the state generates over 27 billion in internal revenue every month. When asked why he did not build low-cost housing in Lagos, Fashola replied contemptuously that he could not find any low-cost cement to buy.
Like Fayemi, Fashola speaks primarily for the rich. Under him, the poor in Lagos have been marginalized; oftentimes evicted from their homes without the benefit of rehabilitation. Their menial abodes in places like Mushin, Oluwole, Ojota, Makoko and Ijora-Badia East have been bulldozed. Their markets in Tejuoso, Yaba and Oshodi have been demolished. The new stalls that replaced them were priced beyond their pockets.
Okadas have been banned from most areas of Lagos, denying many of their means of livelihood. Alternative means of transportation were not adequately provided, making it even more difficult for those who don’t have cars to move around. The poor residents of the Eti-osa, Epe and Ibeju-Lekki Local Government areas, now have to pay tolls going to and from the Lagos mainland. The people are well-aware that the road-concessions were to the financial benefit of the “godfather” of the APC.
Street-trading, another means of livelihood for the common man, is also frowned at by the Lagos APC government. As the police chase okada riders down the streets, impounding and inheriting their bikes, so do the “kick against indiscipline” brigadiers confiscate and inherit the goods of hapless petty-traders.
Different task force officials in Lagos derive pleasure in harassing and arresting people indiscriminately, often in order to extort bribes. All this has gone a long way in generating hatred for the government among the rank-and-file. In short, Fashola’s marauding brigadiers have become a terror to the people. They seem to be maliciously intent on squeezing the life out of the man-in-the-street.
I have this theory about Fashola’s Lagos. If a Nigerian Bill Gates were to decide to give away free of charge 100 billion naira of food to poor Lagosians, he would be confronted with a whole army of Lagos State officials who would impede and hinder him at every turn. They would harass him for this permit and that permit. They would throw every possible bit of regulation at him. So much so that the man might get fed up and just cancel the project.
In short, Fashola has run Lagos with disregard for “stomach infrastructure.” Despite being a beneficiary of free education himself, he hiked Lagos State University fees from N25,000 to N360,000. Protesting students descended on his office with cooking-pots and firewood. Even the well-to-do have not been spared from the state’s multiple tax burdens. Nevertheless, Lagos has the highest debt-profile of any state in the federation. The large community of Igbo Lagosians has also been alienated by the APC policy of deporting some poor Igbo back to their home-states in the dead of night.
As a result, the bell tolls for the APC in Lagos. Just think how many votes can be harvested by telling commuters an incoming PDP government will allow okadas back on the roads. Or think how many votes the PDP can get by promising to revoke the hated toll-collection on the Lekki/Ajah expressway.
If you add to all this the imminent implosion that is likely as Tinubu tries yet again to impose his own candidate as APC gubernatorial flag-bearer without the benefit of a democratic election, then the chances are high that APC might be dethroned in Lagos. The irony here is that while APC bigwigs are angling for two birds in the bush in Abuja in 2015, they are likely to lose their bird-in-hand in Lagos. Many Lagosians are increasingly fed up with the APC. After fifteen years of limited “stomach infrastructure,” Lagos is finally ripe for the plucking by the PDP.