Following ugly events that played out across Lagos State during All Progressives Congress (APC) council chairmanship primary elections held over the weekend, political leaders from the state’s chapter of the party, particularly in Shomolu Local Government, have threatened that they would be quitting politics completely should will of people become ignored and incumbent chairman of the council, Abdulhameed Salawu, who is from Kogi State, is lorded over them.
They said that leaders at the state level must come to terms with reality and consider not ruining the commitments and efforts of the party’s national leaders who have been working tirelessly to keep APC atop of all other parties in Nigeria.
They claimed that body language of leaders at the state’s level of the party may jeopardize goodwill of these national leaders should they fail to go in terms with the will of people and their preferred aspirant, Bowale Sosimi, in Shomolu LG where residents, including card-carrying members of APC, had rejected candidacy and continuous stay of the incumbent chairman in office.
The leaders promised not to reverse their statements and that they were ready to pay whatever sacrifice needed to ensure Shomolu people voices were not been shut from public hearing as against rumors that people from the Lagos state’s Governor office and strong members of the party at the state level were trying to hijack election process in favour of incumbent chairman in Shomolu.
Meanwhile, The Guild learnt that prior to the weekend’s APC council primary elections, three aspirants initially contesting against the incumbent boss of the council, including Secretary to Shomolu Local Government, Taiwo Adesanya, Niyi Ogunade, and Abiodun Mustapha had stepped down and endorsed Sosimi, who is currently serving as Shomolu’s LG Vice Chairman under Salawu.
One of the leaders, Gbenga Abdulai, who spoke with The Guild on the crisis rocking the party within Shomolu, told our correspondent of how entire people of Shomolu stood against re-election of Salawu over the weekend and that indigene and residents within the local government were ready to prevent event that led to election of the incumbent council boss in 2017 to repeat itself.
He said that Shomulu is an Ijebu constituency and it would be wrong to allow an Igbira man from Kogi State to rule as council chairman over Yoruba people and that should the party and its leaders fail to listen to residents of the community, himself, and other prominent members of APC in Shomolu were ready to sacrifice their political careers and bid politics farewell.
He disclosed that Salawu was lorded over Shomolu and its people three days before the election in 2017 and his emergence as the party’s flagbearer for the council’s chairman seat election was against the will of people and that the resentment remains with the community to date.
Abdulai hinted that leaders in Shomolu have concluded plans to leave politics for people who do not have respect for the will and voice of people and since grassroots is important, himself and other concerned politicians cannot fold their hands and look away from glaring irregularities.
Abdulai explained that turnout of Shomolu communities’ people in their large numbers to vote their preferred aspirant during the weekend was evidence on rejection of Salawu been an Igbira man lorded over Yoruba race, warning that, the party needs to address the issue so as for it not to linger into tribal crisis.
According to him, Shomolu is an Ijebu settling community in Lagos and it is uncalled for to allow an Igbira man to rule over these people.
The Shomolu APC leader said that people across communities within the local government had indicated where they belong and who they prefer as their aspirant by coming out en masse during the weekend to demonstrate their powers in their unanimous way.
Their actions, according to him, were on basis of the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, announcement that entire aspirants across 20 Local Government Councils, 37 Local Council Development Areas, and 377 wards in Lagos should be given equal rights to elections.
“As a school owner, I happened to be Salawu and his siblings’ teacher when they were young and that means I know more about his origin by virtue of tutoring him and his brothers. Now, we indigenous people have come out and said enough is enough and it is time our voices are heard and respected.
“Going down memory lane, Salawu was not the choice of Shomolu people in 2017 because he was foisted on us as the anointed candidate three days before the election. While the people across the communities rejected his candidacy then, they later agreed with the party leaders that he would only be serving one term and that the peoples’ choice would take over from him after four years.
“The people held on to the agreement and waited patiently for his tenure to lapse in hope that he would leave the scene without any rancour since there is an agreement. It was in respect of the agreement that indigenes and residents of Shomolu troop out en masse in electing their preferred candidate on during the weekend before Salawu declared that the election would not be held because he could not guarantee security of lives and property.
“Be it as it may, it would be in the interest of peace for the incumbent chairman and other party leaders to respect the 2017 agreement and allow the will of the people to prevail. If nothing, Salawu should pause and reflect in asking himself that what could have prompted his Vice Chairman, Local Government Secretary and others to obtain forms and contests the party ticket against him? The answer is simple. The people want someone else and they have spoken in clear terms,” he said.
Another leader, who preferred his name not to be mentioned in print, lamented against efforts of some party leaders at the state level to frustrate and disenfranchise people from carrying out their electoral function right by selecting their choice aspirants.
He claimed that the aim of these leaders was to lord Salawu on people of Shomolu same way it happened three days to primary elections in 2017 during which Bowale was persuaded to step down and take vice chairmanship position as an option for agreeing to allow the incumbent chairman seat as Shomolu council boss.
The leader said that voices of thousands of people that came out en masse across communities in Shomolu to vote Bowale during the weekend must be respected and that the residents and indigenes of these areas should not be discouraged by few individuals’ interest.
“People came out as early as 9 am and only for them to learn several hours later that the exercise would not be held after the chairman announced that the primary would not be holding. The chairman’s decision to cancel the primary was solely in his interest.
“We as leaders want justice for chairman aspirants as well as councilors who have shown interest to run for political offices at the council level in Shomolu. Denying them their rights is denying people of Shomolu their voices and their right to their interests.
“These communities are Yoruba communities and it is a disrespect to have an Igbira man rule over us as our council chairman. We should not forget that we have traditional rulers and other chiefs within the community and how can an Igbira man rule over them without disrespecting them?
“This is why the entire community is saying no to his reelection because Salawu has in the last four years dominated the council with Igbira-speaking people against Yoruba race. Even the council workers have been praying against his return to office,” the leader said.
On his part, Salawu clarified that contrary to insinuation that he was trying to manipulate results, he canceled the exrceise when the atmosphere became tensed and it was obvious that security of lives and property cannot be guaranteed.
Salawu, who spoke on Monday through his spokesperson, Oseni Owolabi, said: “The truth of the matter is that the area was not conducive for election and as the principal security officer of the local government, the chairman cannot allow what should be an in house affairs degenerate into crisis with reports of violence been heard from other local governments across the state.
“I was attacked and I have video evidence to back my claim. Not only me, the returning officers present at that time were also assaulted by thugs. The current vice-chairman and SLG who are aspirants came to the local government with their supporters are tried to hijack election materials and in that process, the returning officer lost her phone. Aside from that, youths from Fadeyi who were led by Japron at that time have started assaulting residents, beating people with canes, and asked them to remain indoors. With the development, the chairman has no choice but to cancel the process as part of measure to prevent the breakdown of law and order.”
On allegations that Salawu was from Kogi State and not Lagos, Oseni admitted that his boss was truly an Igbira man and that he has been in Shomolu community for all his life serving and impacting people since his childhood.
“Hon. Salawu’s mother is from Ilesha and his father is truly from Kogi. His father is a retired soldier who settled in Shomolu with his wife. In fact, the popular Equal Rights restaurant was owned by his mother. The truth of the matter is that the council chairman has been in Shomolu all his life, schooled here, and has contributed his part to the growth and development of the council.
“This is not the first time he is contesting. He had contested for the House of Representatives to represent Shomolu. He has impacted and empowers women, widows, and the youths in the area. I do not know why they are just bringing up the issue of where he is from. And I am sure that the strategy is only been used by his political opponents who have failed in bringing him down by all means. His stewardship reports are there for all to see,” he added.
Furthermore, the spokesperson debunked rumors that his principal agreed to an unwritten arrangement that he would step down for his vice-chairman or another aspirant after his first tenure, saying the reports were being peddled by detractors who are afraid of free, fair, and credible primary election in the local government.