By Olasunkanmi Akoni
As permutations and political calculations continue to evolve towards the forthcoming general elections, chairman of the campaign committee of All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos State Chapter, Cardinal James Omolaja Odunmbaku has said that God has ordained the progressives to continue to rule Lagos and consolidate on Mega City projects which has distinguished the state.
Odunmbaku said that God has ordained the party’s candidate in Lagos Sate, Akinwunmi Ambode for the exalted Seat.
“Come May 29, 2015, by the special Grace of God, our candidate, Akinwunmi Ambode will be sworn–in as the successor to his brother –in- progress, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN).”
Popularly called Baba Eto by party followers and leaders, Odunmbaku said APC would do everything legally possible to also win all the seats in the national and state assemblies.
However, Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Publicity Secretary Ganiyu Taofik holds a contrary opinion, saying, “2015 is a year of power shift in Lagos. Society is dynamic. It is true that Lagosians have been voting for the AD, the AC and the ACN before. But, the situation will change in 2015. No political bloc can dominate the scene for too long. You will see the results of the senatorial election.”
Puncturing Taofik’s submission, his APC counterpart, Joe Igbokwe, said that the PDP was day-dreaming in Lagos.
“Lagosians and other Nigerians want President Jonathan and the PDP out in 2015. Do you think that these same people will now endorse a PDP senatorial candidate at the poll? The PDP is day-dreaming in Lagos. They will fail again in 2015,” Igbokwe affirmed.
Though, the odds favour the ruling party in the state the strength of the PDP too should not be taken for granted.
It will be recalled that since the Second Republic, Lagosians have always voted for senatorial candidates from progressives parties. Senators Sikiru Shitta-Bey, Ajayi Adeyiga, Durosinmi and Habib Fashinro were elected on the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (SAN). In the Third Republic, the three senators-Bola Tinubu (West), Tony Adefuye (East) and Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor (Central) were chieftains of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). Tinubu, who had the highest number of votes nationwide, defeated Mrs. Kemi Nelson of the proscribed National Republican Convention (NRC). Akerele-Bucknor defeated Chief Demola Seriki with a slim margin.
In this dispensation, the PDP has made efforts, but without success. In 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, its senatorial candidates lost at the polls. In 1999, Prince Adeseye Ogunlewe (East), Tokunbo Afikuyomi (Central) and Dr. Wahab Dosunmu (West) contested and won on the platform of the AD. Ahead of 2003 elections, Dosunmu and Ogunlewe dumped the AD for the PDP, citing the crisis in the party as the reason for ctoss carpeting. They contested for the same position, but lost. Afikuyomi, who moved from the Central to the West, was re-elected. Former Home Affairs Commissioner Musiliu Obanikoro, who ran for the AD succeeded him. When the respected politician, Chief Dapo Sarunmi, rejected the AD ticket in the East District, the Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Olorunnimbe Mamora, filled the vacuum created by Ogunlewe’s defection.
In 2007, Senator Muniru Muse (Central) became an Action Congress (AC) senator. The ticket was initially offered to Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who lost the governorship primaries to Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN). But, the Afenifere chieftain declined to contest for the Senate, saying that he was only interested in serving as governor. He emerged as the governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA). He lost to Fashola.
In the East, Mamora, who made much impact as a vocal senator, was re-elected. In the West, Bola Tinubu, at the tail end of his second term as governor, stepped aside from the senatorial race. According to sources, he took the decision as the coast was not too clear. It was gathered that the Federal Government was bent on denying him the chance to return to the Senate. In the spirit of reconciliation, the slot was offered to an aggrieved governorship aspirant, Ganiyu Solomon, who became senator.
Senator Solomon from Mushin had contested against Afikuyomi in 2003. He protested against the decision of Afikuyomi to relocate to the West, saying that it was in bad faith. He was later placated with the House of Representatives ticket in Mushin, which had been won by Mrs. Kehinde Babalola-Adepoju. In 2011, Solomon was re-elected. But, Mamora and Muse were succeeded by Ashafa and Mrs. Tinubu on consensus arrangement.
This time around the PDP, like never before is mounting an aggressive campaign by embarking on combination of media advertisement and door-to-door campaign. Their candidates have a deep purse, making it easy to oil their campaign machinery. A PDP member who preferred anonymity in Kosofe said: “This mobilisation of members is another empowerment for us, apart from the SURE-P.”. She described the candidates as competent Lagosians who can represent the three districts. But, Igbokwe said none of them can match the pedigree of the APC flag bearers. Alhaji Otunba Ismail Jide Oni, is APC chieftain in the state, he said: “Political parties win elections because of their structures, power base and mass appeal to the electorate. The PDP lacks these three elements. There will be a clear battle now that we have two main parties.”
Central Senatorial District
In the 2015 at the Central District, PDP is already flexing muscles. Dr. Adegboyega Dosunmu, a one time defeated PDP governorship candidate has been cleared by PDP to wrestle with Senator Oluremi Tinubu, former Lagos State First Lady and Founder of New Era Foundation who is seeking re-election into the Senate on the platform of APC which her husband and former governor in the state Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu leads.
Dosunmu is an administrator. He holds a doctorate degree in management. He worked in the civil service, rising to the position of the chief executive of one of the parastatals in the aviation sector. He became a politician in 2011, when he was drafted into the governorship race by the PDP leader, Commodore Olabode George (rtd). Lagos residents did not give him any chance as he lost woefully to Fashola.
In 2011, Tinubu in a landslide victory defeated her challenger, Mr. Animasahun, a retired civil servant.
In three and half years, Mrs. Tinubu has emerged as a tested and trusted politician, who can make and redeem her pledges to constituents. A former teacher, she came into the limelight as the first lady, when her husband assumed the reigns as the governor. The New Era Foundation, which she founded gave succour to the needy and indigent students. It also engaged in a talent hunt. Its Spelling Bee competition threw up egg heads, who are now graduates of various disciplines across the federation.
Senator Tinubu made a lot of promises to the Central District in 2011. In the view of the APC leader, Prince Oluyole Olusi, she has fulfilled the promises. “We have had many senators in the Lagos Central-Oba Musediku Adeniji-Adele, Senator Adeyiga Ajayi, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Muniru Muse and Senator Oluremi Tinubu. But, none has performed like Senator Oluremi Tinubu,” he said.
It is an understatement. Since 2011, Mrs. Tinubu has always rendered accounts at town hall meetings organised every three months. The senator has also instituted a scholarship scheme for students. Indigent traders and widows have benefited from her empowerment schemes. She is not a bench warmer in the Senate. Apart from effectively participating in deliberations and passage of bills and resolutions, Tinubu is also effective in the performance of oversight functions. She has proposed a bill on special status for Lagos, although it met obstacles.
East senatorial District
The battle for the East senatorial District is between Senator Bareehu Olugbenga Ashafa, and a relatively obscure woman politician from Kosofe area, Mrs. Olabisi Owolabi Salis-Fakos, wife of the veteran PDP governorship aspirant, Owolabi Salis, a lawyer and financial expert.
No doubt, Mrs. Salis is intensifying her mobilisation in Kosofe, Ikorodu, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe in order to woo support for her ambition against Ashafa whose party has endorsed for a second term in this district. The ruling party has a formidable structure in the area. People feel that Ashafa, a Lagosian with functional and strategic experience in both public and private sectors is capable of defeating any contestant in the area.
Ashafa who set aside his governorship aspiration for the current APC candidate, has played leadership role as the Executive Secretary and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands of Lagos State for almost a decade. He created five and resuscitated nine moribund Government Schemes. He pioneered the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) in the Land Registry and initiated the electronic Certificate of Occupancy (e-C of O) recently launched by the Lagos State Government.
He raised the revenue base of the Lands Ministry from N1 Billion in Year 2001 to N13.23 Billion in Year 2010 before he was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Lagos East Senatorial District in April, 2011 till date.
Since his inauguration as a member of the 7th Session of the National Assembly on June 6th, 2011, Senator Ashafa has sponsored 13 Bills and three Motions; Language Bill, Income Tax Holiday Bill, Treaty (Amendment) Bill, Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, National Directorate of Employment (Amendment) Bill, Harmful waste (Amendment) Bill, Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, Minerals & Mining (Amendment) Bill, among others.
Ashafa is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Lands, Housing & Urban Development and a Member of the Senate Committee on Gas Resources, Senate Committee on Environment & Ecology, Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs and Senate Committee on Senate Services. He was the Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, now APC, Senate Caucus leader at the National Assembly. He was also a member of the Screening Committee at the 1st National APC Convention held in Abuja between 12th – 13th June, 2014.
He was instrumental to the execution of Federal Constituency Projects worth over N803 Million in his Senatorial District between June 2011 and October, 2014.
In addition to this, as at October, 2014 over N697, 353, 000.00 has been channelled through the vehicle of his constituency empowerment, ‘Gbenga Ashafa Trust Fund Endowment (G.A.T.E), which has succeeded in touching the lives of members of his constituency in the following specific areas: Education, Youth Empowerment, Agriculture, Health and Community Development.
These programmes and projects revolve round his 4-Cardinal Point Agenda for the Senatorial District namely; Effective Peoples’ Representation, Youth Empowerment, Educational Enhancement and Sustainable Agricultural Development.
West Senatorial District
In the West, it is going to be a another fight between old foxes of House of Representatives member Hon. Solomon Adeola Olamilekan of the APC and his 2011 challenger, Mr. Segun Adewale, an astute grassroots politician from Alimosho, on the platform of the PDP. Adewale who was believed to have won in Alimosho Federal Constituency for the House of Representatives in 2011, vehemently, contested the result of the election.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, insisted that the candidate of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Adeola, won the election.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Adekunle Ogunmola, said that “the ACN candidate was declared the winner of the polls.” Also, an electoral officer, who simply identified himself as Ganiyu, said that Mr. Adeola clinched the seat. According to Adewale, the result announced was fictitious and an open robbery.