I have not been privileged to speak or meet with any of the three major candidates challenging for the governorship seat of Lagos state next Saturday but I have read and heard a lot about each and every one of them, the incumbent and the man to beat, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, especially. Apart from being the erstwhile federal capital, Lagos is the country’s commercial nerve centre and, therefore, the primus inter pares among the country’s 36 states, including the new federal capital, Abuja. Therefore, the competition for it has always been keen but the one this time around promises to be an helluva of a battle because it promises to be a three-way battle between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its two foremost challengers: From the perennial opposition in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the new revelation of the 2023 presidential election, the Labour Party (LP). Unfortunately for PDP, the meteoric rise of LP has weakened the once vibrant opposition party and things are not likely to be the way they used to be for it.
The mint-fresh president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has been the master of Lagos politics since 1999 when the current longest-running democratic experience took off. Apart from serving his own two-terms of four years each as governor of the state, Tinubu has firmly ensconced himself in the driver’s seat as the determiner and decider of who gets what, when, and how in the state. Another name for that, which has become very popular in our political lexicon, is godfather. He has installed and removed deputy governors and governors at will. Ask Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor! Ask Olufemi Pedro! Ask Akinwunmi Ambode! In Lagos, Tinubu is the one whose orders must be obeyed. He, however, received a rude shock in the Saturday, 25th February, 2023 presidential election in what many have termed a wake-up call. Others have said it is Nemesis catching up with Tinubu or Karma knocking on the door of the man who had never before been beaten to it in his sure terrain of Lagos. And I remembered the immortal words of the French philosopher, Jean Jacques-Rousseau, to wit: “The strongest is never strong enough to always be master unless he transforms strength into right and obedience into duty”
However, another way to approach the upset of February 25th, in which Peter Obi of the Labour Party floored Tinubu in Lagos of all places, is to see it as a fluke or, quoting Elton John, to describe it as a “candle in the wind” brought about by a number of factors which converged at that auspicious moment to cause the lines to fall unto Obi in pleasant places, to the surprise of many, and unhinging Tinubu in the process. Next Saturday, will affliction rise a second time for Tinubu/APC in Lagos state or will Asiwaju and his boys, like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes of February 25th? To rise like the Phoenix from the ashes means to emerge from a catastrophe stronger, smarter and more powerful. The permutations suggest this can as well be the case for Tinubu/APC next Saturday and that Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu will most likely coast home to victory in the governorship election.
Tinubu and the entire Lagos APC have been jolted out of their lethargy. When APC leaders met with the elected members of the in-coming National Assembly last Monday, Tinubu was represented by the vice president-elect; the reason given for Tinubu’s absence was that he was busy in Lagos preparing for Saturday’s election. It means that he understands the importance of Lagos to his political career, even though he is now the president-elect. Every politics, as they say, is local; so, no politician worth its salt jokes with his home base. With the Jagaban Borgu now taking charge in Lagos, the outcome should be different on Saturday.
A jolted Sanwo-Olu, as a sitting governor who could not deliver his state to his godfather, has also woken up from his slumber. He has created a chat line with residents, among many other similar populist initiatives. We hope they all endure and do not become a candle in the wind after Saturday! The governor has engaged with civil servants, teachers and other broad spectrum of Lagos society. One of the agencies giving the Lagos State Government a bad name and ostracising the people from it is LASTMA. Even at my level and despite that I am a journalist, with all the contacts and connections I have within the LASG, I have had brushes with LASTMA officials up to their highest administrative level. They are a pain in the arse. The frivolous manner in which they impound people’s vehicles; their corruption and impunity will cost any governor a lot of people’s sympathy and votes. It is heart-warming that vehicles impounded by them have been ordered released without (hopefully!) the usual fleecing that accompanies such dubious and wicked exercise – but this must not be limited to Saturday’s election. The entire template and operating manual of LASTMA must be reviewed. Making it a revenue-yielding organisation has afforded it the opportunity to turn itself into Lord of the Manor on Lagos roads.
Next to LASTMA – or perhaps even worse – are the touts, “area boys and girls”, the “twale” and “alright sir” boys and girls that have become law unto themselves on Lagos roads, streets, and corners. Virtually all Lagos youths have been so depraved unlike, say, Igbo youths who are to be found at Alaba, Computer Village, Ladipo spare parts markets, etc gainfully employed in one business activity or the other or the Aboki boys pushing wheelbarrows and selling foodstuffs, vegetables and other what-have-you stuffs all over the place. The menace that these undesirable elements constitute to law-abiding citizens is hung on the neck of Tinubu/APC. After this election – and he wins – Sanwo-Olu will have to fashion out a way to take these boys and girls off the street and make them gainfully employed.
Fortunately now that Tinubu is president, Lagos needs Federal help to tackle the migration into it in geometrical progression while its income only increases at arithmetical progression. The promise of Federal help that was made to Lagos in 1991 when the federal capital was being moved to Abuja must be fulfilled now. The injustice in the number of local governments, which Tinubu himself tried to address in his tenure as governor with the creation of additional local governments in the state, triggering his head-on-collision with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, must also now be addressed frontally. If Lagos as a mega city is not to become a glorified/mega slum, federal help is needed. The Lagos state government, too, must deliver more dividends of democracy than it is doing at the moment. The days of taking the people, even ardent supporters, for granted is gone for good!
Once bitten, twice shy! The evidence of massive rigging of the election that surfaced on social media, contributing significantly to the Tinubu loss of 25th February, must not be allowed to repeat itself on Saturday. Many of the factors that worked against Tinubu are not likely to work against Sanwo-Olu whose ticket is not Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian. Sanwo-Olu is Christian while his deputy/running mate, Obafemi Hamzat, is Muslim. In other words, the Sanwo-Olu/Hamzat ticket is religion compliant! The rage of the youths which also worked against Tinubu may have been tempered by the olive branch held out to the youths after the presidential election by Tinubu. Having lost the presidency, the zeal of the youths may have dropped – and expectedly so. Many of them may not be as much interested in who becomes the governor of a state, which they may reckon does not have a direct bearing on them. So, their participation next Saturday may not be anywhere near what we witnessed on February 25th. Importantly also, elections in Nigeria usually respect what is called the bandwagon effect. Once the in-coming president is known, the next thing is that people begin to align to be in the winning party. Very few politicians love to be in the opposition. Hence, many of those who lost their polling units and wards on February 25th will want to do everything possible to win them on Saturday to confirm their loyalty to the president-elect.
One major factor that may also shape Saturday’s election is the intemperate, disrespectful and rambunctious celebration of the Obidients, rubbing it in the face of everyone, the Yoruba especially. That way, the Obidients rubbished and desecrated what would have been a pan-Nigerian movement and appropriated to themselves alone the efforts and hard work of a rainbow coalition made up, perhaps, of more non-Igbo than Igbo, like Peter Obi himself admitted days ago, although belatedly. The harm has been done. The Yoruba and other non-Igbo youths who worked their arses out for Obi felt short-changed. The intelligentsia who voted for Obi were gutted. Everyone felt betrayed; they felt used and dumped! Is this, then, a reflection of what would have been the colour and outlook of a Peter Obi presidency? It was an Igbo victory! Yeah, it was an Igbo conquest, even of those who had laboured side-by-side with the same Igbo to make the victory possible!
And we learnt from that incident how difficult it is for the leopard to change its skin. Those with the impulse to dominate others will always expose their hubris when it matters most. What will they ever be able to do about their Achilles heel? Have they learnt anything from their own recent history? Their celebration after Saturday, February 25th was obscene and provocative. Their lack of the spirit of sportsmanship speaks volumes about their lack of character. Even in football, players learn to celebrate responsibly. Those who cross the line are penalised – even in football! It is a call to decorum, decency, civilized conduct and respect for others. I suspect the Obidients will begin to pay a price for their indecent, rude and arrogant behaviour beginning from this Saturday’s election.
* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.
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