Posted by By AUGUSTINE AVWODE email@example.com on
Again, the storm is gathering in Lagos. And visible on the horizon is what promises to be another round of political roforofo fight. The gladiators, of course, are familiar old political customers – the Action Congress (AC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Again, the storm is gathering in Lagos. And visible on the horizon is what promises to be another round of political roforofo fight.
The gladiators, of course, are familiar old political customers – the Action Congress (AC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The bone of contention is authority over the political soul of Lagos State. While one continues to maintain its iron grip on power in the former federal capital, the other is relentlessly doing everything humanly possible to ‘capture’ the state.
And both parties have signaled their preparedness to achieve their avowed objectives, perhaps, through fair or foul means. The forth-coming local government election in the state has already been marked out as the first point to do battle preparatory to 2011 general elections.
Opening old wounds
House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, penultimate Saturday opened what many political analysts have called ‘Old wounds’. He was in Lagos and in the course of his interaction with members of his PDP at the state’s secretariat, dented the new found rapport between Lagos State and the Federal Government since the inauguration of the President Umaru Yar’Adua administration.
Before then, specifically, during the tenure of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, the relationship between the two tiers of government was at its lowest ebb, with the Federal Government withholding about 30 billion naira of federal allocation due to the state. But Yar’Adua, on assumption of office, had ordered the release of the remaining N10 billion and that gesture was actually melting the frosty relationship between the two, turning it into a progressively warm and almost cordial one until Bankole in his speech touched on very sensitive issues that have set the two old foes against each other once again.
According to the Speaker, the idea of conducting the still being awaited local government election in the state in 57 local government areas would be an illegality, a position the AC sees differently. More so, he also touched on the desire of the party to ‘capture’ Lagos State from the AC come 2011 general election, a very dear issue to the AC. For the record, AC controls only Lagos State out of 36 states of the country at the moment. It can therefore be seen why the speaker must have touched a very sensitive vein of the powers that be in Lagos.
He had stated that any attempt to conduct election into 57 Local Government Areas would be treated as illegal at the federal level and it would be addressed appropriately.
Speaking to PDP stalwarts, Bankole declared that the conduct of election into the 57 local government areas in the state would run contrary to what the constitution recognizes and that the National Assembly would not fold its arms and watch Lagos State commit any illegality.
His words: “The power of determining local government councils that exists in Lagos lies with the National Assembly, and PDP is in control of it. Whether they conduct elections into 200 local government areas, it is the National Assembly that will consider that. God has given us the power at the National Assembly and we shall use it to support Lagos (PDP). I am not threatening anyone, but they must respect the rule of law. Only 20 local governments will be recognised by the Federal Government.”
Urging the state government and state AC to follow the rule of law in deciding where to conduct the council polls, the Speaker reminded AC that it lacked the requisite strength at the National Assembly to pursue or achieve its desire in respect of the unlisted councils.
“Where is their (AC's) National Assembly? Where are their police? If they like, let them conduct it (the election) in 100 local governments; if they like, let them conduct it in 500 local governments, that is their problem. No law backs them. We want them to remember the position of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, which is that everything must be subjected to the rule of law.”
He added with an air of determination that, beyond the conduct of local government poll, the party at the national level would assist the state chapter to re-strategise so as to take control of the state in the 2011 election.
As if that was not enough, one of those on the entourage of the Speaker and an officer of the House, specifically, the Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, reaffirmed the party’s determination to take over Lagos State at the next round of general election in the country.
He insisted that the same method that was adopted by the ruling party in ‘capturing’ other less strategic states like Sokoto, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states that were formerly in the hands of opposition parties would be brought to bear on the project to take over Lagos from AC.
“Somebody somewhere in Sokoto was dictating the pace, but we went ahead to re-strategize and we captured the state. That is what is going to happen to Lagos in 2011.”
It would not be the first time that PDP would deploy its entire arsenal to ensure that it took over Lagos. But with every attempt, the fortunes of the party had always plummeted. In 1999 when the first election took place, the PDP had just about 14 percent of the votes cast. In 2003, its fortunes shored up to 38 percent, but in 2007, it scored less than 20 percent.
Obasanjo made serious attempts to wrest power at all cost from the Alliance for Democracy, the substantial chunk of which transformed to the AC.
Those who had followed the relationship between the PDP-led Federal Government and the opposition-led Lagos would not gloss over Bankole’s statement. It is in the light of this that the media have been literally been awash with reactions.
Expectedly, verbal missiles have been flying left, right and centre as reactions continue to trail Bankole’s ‘audacious’ declaration. From the state chairman of the AC, Chief Henry Ajomale, to the publicity secretary of the party in Lagos State, Joe Igbokwe, and the Executive Secretary of Agboyi/Ketu Local Government Development Area, Chief (Mrs.) Yetunde Arobieke, the talk is a firm promise of fire for fire.
Ajomale, who spoke to Sunday Sun on phone, said there was no going back on the plans to use 57 councils for the polls. According to Ajomale, the additional 37 councils were duly created by the State House of Assembly with the power vested in it by the 1999 Constitution. The AC chairman said this position was well affirmed by the Supreme Court while ruling against the illegal seizure of Lagos council funds.
“The Nigerian Constitution has vested the power of council creation in the state Houses of Assembly. The Supreme Court has also affirmed this. If anybody is talking about rule of law, that is rule of law. That is the position of the law and the Constitution.
Those who are against it are against the interest of the people of Lagos State. Take the old Alimosho for instance, if you are living in Alagbado where you have AIT/Ray Power, it will take you a day before you get the headquarters of your council to see your chairman, what kind of life is that? What are local government areas for if not to bring government and development to the people?” he asked.
On the determination o PDP to capture Lagos Ajomale said his party will shock the PDP.
“We know them inside out. The problem is not in talking, the problem is in making good your promise. The young man forgot that it is easier said than done. I can assure you that we will shock PDP. You can quote me, we’ll shock them. Let them assemble all their soldiers and see who will capture the other person. Their leader, a trained Army General could no do it, so we are not bothered”, he assured.
Igbokwe on his on told Sunday Sun that “Bankole’s comments were an out burst of a peevish schoolboy politician, an overwhelmed mediocre that is clearly carried away by the office he is occupying, who certainly is lost in a blaze of assumed self importance.
You can see clearly that his type is the price we all have to pay for PDP’s elevation of mediocre to a height that is intoxicating. Let me tell you, all Nigerians know that the AC has the capacity to fight for what belongs to Lagosians. Bankole is by far too insignificant and so anonymous that he cannot stop the legitimate rights of the people of Lagos State. What other trick do they have in their kitty? If they could, if they are able, they ought to have captured Lagos since but they don’t have what it takes. AC is in charge here”, he declared.
Arobieke condemned what she called Bankole’s “malicious position”. She argued that the Speaker was not privy to what happened in Lagos when those council areas were created and as such he ought to have kept quite especially when the state is not asking for a kobo extra from the federation account.
“He does not know anything and he cannot justify his malicious position, which must be condemned by all well meaning Nigerians.
The processes of creating all the new councils were complied with and what was left is for the National assembly to list them in the constitution. But if the national Assembly has not done that, it should not mean that the processes were not complied with, on the contrary, those councils were legitimately created and as long as this is the wish of the people of Lagos State, those local government areas stay. As for capture or no capture, he was not the originator of that word, somebody used it before and I will advised him to go an ask the person, who was a military officer, how far he was able to execute that project?”
Curiously, while a section of the PDP in Lagos agrees with Bankole, another section disagreed with him and in fact advised him to steer clear of the politics of the state of the party. This simply underscores the level of acrimony rocking the Lagos State chapter. And with a divided house, it becomes a thing of debate, if what the Honourable Speaker has promised would be achieved or not.
While the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Dr Wale Ahmed agreed with Bankole that the processes of creating new councils were yet to be completed and that ‘with time’ PDP with capture Lagos, two eminent members of the party, who were former chairman and secretary of the party in the state thought otherwise. Alhaji Wale Mogaji, a former scribe, described the talk about capturing Lagos as ‘wishful thinking’, and Alhaji Murtala Ashorobi said the party in Lagos just now is in the hand ‘infidels’ and ‘faithless’ people who cannot achieve anything for the party in the state.
According to Ahmed, Bankole has only expressed the position of the law and the constitution. He said it is the wish of everybody to have 57 or even 100 local government council areas for Lagos but that their creation must follow the due process of the law. He argued that the PDP voted 100 percent for more councils when the referendum took place and that he was in the State House of Assembly then. He condemned the idea of branding some people as being against the wellbeing of Lagosians.
“The speaker is correct. The processes of creating those local councils, which all of us started because I was in the state House of assembly then, and which PDP members voted for en mass, have not been concluded. That is the position of the law and the constitution. They are yet to be listed in the constitution, so why on earthy would you conduct elections in those councils.
That was why Obasanjo seized their funds and even the Supreme Court judgment said categorically that those councils are ‘inchoate’, that is, not yet complete. So there is no case with that. The other issue of capturing Lagos, I think we can do it. We have been with them three times now and we are getting wiser by the day, who says that by 2011 we cannot win. For a long time the Labour party in Britain was like not existing but Tony Blair came and took it to a great height and they have been ruling for the last 12 years or so. We will get our acts together and before you know it we have captured Lagos. But one thing we do is that we do not just criticize for the sake of it. Our criticism is a constructive one.”
Ashorobi, however, see things differently. He would not talk about the local governments but the issue of winning Lagos is of interest to him. In his words: “The young man is my son. I was in the same party (NPN) with his father in those days. I earnestly wish him a successful tenure as he leads the House of Representatives. But to talk of capturing Lagos is an illusion. The reason is that Lagos PDP is in the hands of infidels, people who have not faith in Allah. He should concentrate on the leadership of the House and politics of Ogun state and steer clear of what is happening in Lagos.
When Bashorun was chairman, the party scored 14 percent. In my time, it was 38 percent, what is it today? He should be advised to steer clear. We are not in war situation, so to capture Lagos may not be possible, not with the situation on ground. If we work hard as a united family we will win our election, you get me? We should contest and win elections not capture states as if we are in a war situation”, he stated.
Speaking in the same vein, Mogaji said the idea of capturing Lagos State is nothing but day dreaming. “In a party where we find it difficult to work together, the idea of capturing Lagos is just wishful thinking.
I consider such statements as playing to the gallery when one does not know the current strength of the party in the state. Why is it that nobody is talking of the fact that the party has been bastardized in the state? Was this the party that we all laboured to build? Can we justifiably say that we can capture Lagos State? he asked.
But with a divided, fragmented and obviously disjointed house, it is hard to see how the PDP would capture Lagos.
The 2011 is far but it is also very near, and except the PDP gets its acts together, the AC, would once again, shock the ruling party in Africa. And to imagine that, that would be the fourth time in a row would be too much for the PDP to bear. It is on this score that the battle in Lagos would be a titanic one. For all you care, the bat5tle might have started in earnest.
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