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LAGOS: Fashola alters AC calculations

Posted by By KEHINDE AKINLOTAN on 2006/11/19 | Views: 1051 |

LAGOS: Fashola alters AC calculations

The intensity of the struggle for the gubernatorial ticket of the Action Congress (AC) in Lagos state for the 2007 election is no doubt a function of the massive grassroots support that the party enjoys in the state.

The intensity of the struggle for the gubernatorial ticket of the Action Congress (AC) in Lagos state for the 2007 election is no doubt a function of the massive grassroots support that the party enjoys in the state.

It is quite obvious that any one who emerges as the flag bearer of the AC is as good as being the next governor of the Centre of Excellence. That the AC in Lagos state is a veritable mass movement that enjoys unprecedented popular support was graphically demonstrated during the formal launching of the party at Onikan stadium.

A key factor in the strength of the AC in Lagos state is clearly the incumbent governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has presided over the affairs of the mega city state with uncommon astuteness and sagacity in the last seven years.

The exemplary performance of his administration that has recorded indelible land mark achievements in diverse sectors is the greatest electoral asset of the AC in the state and indeed across the South West. Asiwaju Tinubu has indeed attained a folk hero status among the ordinary masses because of his capacity to remain focused and achieve so much in governance despite the undisguised and incessant persecution of the state by the PDP-controlled Federal Government. Furthermore, his consistency in defending the rule of law, constitutionalism and the rights of states in a federal set up like Nigeria has endeared him to millions of Nigerians as the ď last man standingĒ in defense of the progressive Awoist values that are so much cherished in the South West.
He has also been careful to carry along and sustain the confidence of the party leadership at all levels since 1999.

Although he has repeatedly assured that all the aspirants will have a level playing ground to test their electoral strength in the party primaries, Asiwaju Tinubu's influence will unquestionably be a major determinant factor in the exercise. As the incumbent governor, he naturally cannot afford to be uninterested in the choice of his successor even though as a democrat he has the responsibility of ensuring that whoever emerges as the partyís flag bearer does so through a free, fair and credible intra party democratic process. The governorís Mandate Group, formerly BATCO, is one of the most cohesive and vibrant political machines operating within the AC today with its presence felt throughout the state. The Mandate Group will lean virtually unanimously in any direction indicated by the Governor.

Another formidable group that will equally play a critical role in the outcome of the primaries is the Justice Forum, which also has its political tentacles spread throughout the state. Any aspirant tacitly endorsed by the Governor will enjoy significant support within the Justice Forum even though this support is likely to be shared with other aspirants such as Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Dr Tola Kasali and Engineer Hakeem Gbajabiamila. It will be recalled that the Justice Forum threw its weight behind Senator Tinubu in the 1998 AD primaries and the governorís support base is still strong within the group.

Chief Dapo Sarumiís PRIMROSE group, which has come back to the mainstream of progressive politics by joining the newly formed Action Congress, had hitherto been considerably weakened in the politics of Lagos state by its alienation from the progressive fold with the democratic restoration of 1999. The reality is that the group will have to work towards the future as it is not significantly on ground to play a decisive role in the outcome of the forthcoming primaries.

It is however significant to note that the governor has his political roots in the PRIMROSE group during the SDP days when he emerged as a senator representing the Lagos West Senatorial District with the highest votes scored by any senator nationwide. Apart from the enormous power and authority of incumbency, Tinubuís political influence, which cuts across the most formidable groups on the progressive political terrain of Lagos politics, can certainly not be discounted in the outcome of the primaries.

It can therefore be understood why several of the aspirants have at one time or the other tried to anchor their campaign on the governorís support claiming to be his anointed choice to succeed him in office. The Governor has tactfully not disowned any of the aspirants while at the same time not openly endorsing any one. His strategy seems to be to give any aspirant his blessing but leaving them to go and test their strength on the field.

However, the dramatic and unexpected entry of Tinubuís Chief of Staff, Barrister Babatunde Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), into the race has shaken the political terrain to its foundation and fundamentally altered the various permutations and calculations in the struggle for the AC ticket. Perhaps because of his perceived closeness to the Governor, Fasholaís opponents believe that he could not have joined the race without the endorsement of his erstwhile boss. There has thus been the outcry in some quarters that Fasholaís emergence as an aspirant is a ploy by Tinubu to impose a candidate on the party contrary to his democratic credentials.

Ironically, those who make this unsubstantiated claim have unwittingly made Fashola the issue in the campaign thus making the latest entrant the front runner in the race!
But even if Tinubu has a soft spot for Fashola and throws his weight behind his former Chief of Staff, does that necessarily tantamount to his imposing a candidate on the party? I think not. The Governor as a member of the party certainly has the moral and constitutional right to endorse any aspirant so long as the letters and the spirit of the party constitution are not perverted and the primaries are not only free and fair but manifestly seen to be so.

Again, the governor was not only a central and pivotal factor in the formation of the AC, he was equally one of the most trenchant and vocal advocates of the option A4 open ballot system adopted for the party primaries in the AC constitution. He had always insisted that the option A4 system is adopted both for intra and inter party elections to ensure the credibility and integrity of the electoral process as well as electoral outcomes that genuinely reflect the will of the majority. Again, this is certainly not the attitude of someone bent on imposing any candidate on the party. If he had such a hidden agenda, the governor could have used the clout of his office to champion a more restrictive and less transparent method of picking the partyís candidate.

Apart from this, the demeanor and approach of Fashola in the pursuit of his aspiration is not that of a complacent anointed candidate who can go to sleep because he has the formidable machinery of an incumbent governor at his disposal. Rather, he is easily the hardest working aspirant on the field today running a virtual 24 hour schedule as he sells himself to stakeholders and interest groups within and outside the party in the count down to the primaries and the elections proper.

The allegation that he is being imposed on the party can, therefore, not be substantiated by the facts on the ground. If the primaries are freely, fairly and transparently conducted such that they reflect the true will of the majority, any aspirant that refuses to play the gallant sportsman and insists on alleging imposition will most certainly be on his or her own.

It is instructive that no one has questioned the qualification of Fashola for the job or impugned his integrity.
Prior to his coming on board the Tinubu Administration as Chief of Staff in 2003, Fashola had been part of the Administrationís policy think tank operating from the background.

He played an active role in the transition committees that drew up the policy blue print implemented by the administration between 1999 and 2003. Fasholaís critics are quick to argue that he does not come across as a typical politician. They contend that he is often too serious minded, brisk, too blunt and non- smiling. He would rather call a spade a spade than engage in diplomatic niceties. He tends to set exceedingly high standards of performance, is too impatient with mediocrity and too rigid in disallowing people from cutting corners.

Interestingly, the scenario is the very opposite when it comes to the case of the Deputy Governor, Otunba Femi Pedro, another prominent aspirant in the race for the AC ticket. Otunba Pedro, sources close to Alausa say, was picked as Deputy Governor because of his sterling credentials as an economist and banker who distinguished himself in the private sector. Tinubuís decision to pick Pedro as his deputy was reportedly taken after his former commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Olayemi Cardosso, also a banker and economist, had turned down the offer despite the intense pressure mounted on him to accept. The understanding following the unsavory experience with Chief Mrs. Kofoworola Bucknor, the former Deputy Governor was that Pedro would add value to governance by playing a strictly technocratic role and giving a wide berth to partisan politics.

No sooner had he become Deputy Governor, it is alleged, than Pedro began to work towards emerging as Tinubuís successor in 2007. Although widely respected as a brilliant and industrious man, he was reportedly distracted by his preoccupation with politics such that he was not able to meet some of the targets set for him by the governor in the area of the stateís revenue generation, for instance. This may be a major reason why Pedro has not received the automatic endorsement of his boss, which should normally be the case. Again, despite his undisguised political ambition, those who watch him at close quarters say that the Deputy Governor tends too often to be distant and aloof from people including his close aides; an attitude that could easily be mistaken for snobbishness and constitute a serious liability to the party if he emerges as its flag- bearer.

Furthermore, the ruthlessness with which he quickly distanced himself from and even disowned some of those (including Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi) who played a role in his emergence as Deputy Governor raised doubts in party circles about his predictability and reliability if he occupies the powerful position of governor. Nevertheless, it is believed that he still enjoys very cordial relationship with the governor and the latter still has a high opinion of him while not being enthusiastic about his candidacy.

Without any substantial grounding or support within the major power groups in the AC nor a formidable structure of his own, it is doubtful if Pedro can make much impact in the primaries. Yet there are indications that he may be in the reckoning for important political roles in future if he plays his politics right even if he loses at the primaries.
Another aspirant to watch out for in the primaries is Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi. Analysts believe that he is one aspirant very close to the governorís heart.

Not only were they together in the Social Democratic Party ( SDP), they were both in exile where they participated actively in the pro democracy struggle against the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election. Like Asiwaju Tinubu, Senator Afikuyomui is a relentless fighter for federalism and the rule of law. He has been very consistent and loyal as an AD Senator particularly given the betrayal of the likes of Senators Wahab Dosumu. Adeseye Ogunlewe and Musliu Obanikoro, who ditched the party after winning elections on its platform.

Indeed some analysts believe that if he were to listen to his heart rather than his head, Asiwaju Tinubu would not hesitate in throwing his weight behind Afikuyomi. Yet it is also believed that would be a gross and very costly strategic error. This is for the simple reason that many people had long ago assumed that was exactly what he would do. Indeed, someone like Musliu Obanikoro is believed to have left the AD for the PDP partly because he believed the governor had already made up his mind to back Afikuyomi. The emerging scenario whereby the governor has not openly endorsed anyone and Afikuyomi has to fight for the ticket like others has no doubt upset the political calculations of those who had earlier predicted that Afikuyomi was the anointed candidate.

Their game plan if Afikuyomi was picked as the AC candidate was to anchor the campaign against him on the fact that he is not an indigene of Lagos state thus mobilizing the indigenous vote in favor of an indigene picked by the PDP. Although Afikuyomiís strategists contend that Lagos is a peculiar state where the indigenes are in the minority, it would be a costly gamble for any party to take the enormous political influence of the indigenes for granted especially if they decide to vote en bloc for or against a particular party.

The array of accomplished aspirants within the ranks of the AC is an indication of the quality of human material in the party particularly within Tinubuís cabinet. Some of the other highly rated aspirants in the race include Dr Tola Kasali, Chief Mrs. Oluremi Adikwu, Engineer Hakeem Gbajabiamila, Honourable Ganiu Solomon, Alhaji Rahman Owokoniran, Honorable Aro Lambo and Mr. Jimi Agbaje. Close watchers of the political scene believe that the way out for the AC is to pick a candidate who is not an orthodox politician so that it will be easier for the veteran politicians in the race, who are unwilling to concede to each other, to rally round such a candidate as the powers behind the throne.

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Comments (6)

Joel Efiong(Calabar, Nigeria)says...

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Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...


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