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2015: PDP, APC and battle for Lagos

Ahead of the 2015 general election, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are strategising on how to win the state. NDUBUISI ORJI writes

An epic battle is underway in Lagos State. It is the battle for the governorship seat of the state. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which controls the Federal Govern­ment are engaging in a showdown.

The PDP has one big dream in the 2015 general election and that is to take over the reins of power in Lagos State. The state had always eluded the party since 1999. Four times the party had contested for the governorship seat. Four times, it had lost..

In fact, in the 2011 general election, the party had a very disappointing outing in the state. Apart from polling a paltry 300,450 votes against 1, 507,113 garnered by the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the governorship poll, the PDP lost out in all the 40 seats in the Lagos House of Assembly, 20 federal constituencies and the three senato­rial seats.

Surprisingly, few months after the party recorded a dismal performance in the 2011 general election, the PDP made a strong showing in the October 21 local government election in the state. Apart from winning some councillorship seats, the party claimed to have won the chairmanship seats in about five local government areas, including Ikoyi/ Obal­ende Local Government Development Area (LCDA), the council area of APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu. However, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commis­sion (LASIEC) declared candidates of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), victorious in all the 57 council areas.

The PDP chairmanship candidate in Ikoyi/ Obalande, Mr Jide Obanikoro, was later de­clared winner of the election in the council by the Election Petition Tribunal, before the High Court overturned the tribunal’s verdict.

Consequently, few months to the next general election, PDP thinks 2015 is its year in Lagos. Two factors are responsible for this optimism. First is the perceived disaffection between the ruling APC in the state and a large number of the populace, on account of alleged anti-people policies and the neglect of sev­eral parts of the state, especially in the suburbs.

Second, the recent trouncing of the APC in Ekiti State by the PDP, gave the Lagos chapter of the party the belief that the state is ripe for plucking if only it works hard enough.

Therefore, the PDP is capitalizing on some policies, considered anti- masses to market itself to the populace. Two of the policies the party is using to woo the electorate is the hike in school fees at the state owned Lagos State University (LASU), and the restriction on commercial motorcycle riders in the state.

Recall that shortly after the 2011 general election, the state government had restricted the operations of commercial motor cyclists in the state from some roads in the state. Inciden­tally, prior to the election, the government had provided helmets to most of the motorcyclists popularly called okada. Similarly, the govern­ment announced an astronomical increase in the school fees of students of the state owned Lagos State University (LASU).

The APC leadership in the state is not find­ing it funny. The APC knows that the threat to its continuous reign in Lagos is very impor­tant. Consequently, the government, in recent times have tried to warm its ways back into the heart of Lagosians through policy reversal. Recently, the state government reversed itself on the increase of LASU school fees from over N250, 000 to its original N25,000. Former Minister of State for Defence, Sena­tor Musiliu Obanikoro, says the reduction is political. Obanikoro is a strong contender for the governorship ticket

The Minister said Fashola has done the right thing “but I believe it is a political decision that did not come from the heart. Just as he did with the okada riders before his re-election by riding with them and giving out helmets, only to turn around and run them out of business. Lagosians should not be deceived with this new ploy to woo voters that his administration has consistently victimized the citizens with several anti-masses policies.”

The state woman leader of the PDP, Mrs. Swhola Benson-Oladeinbo told Daily Sun that the APC in the state has deceived the people for so long. Consequently, she said the people will not hesistate to vote them out in the next governorship election. “The state is lacking in so many things. The roads are so bad. They (APC) have deceived people for so long. There is need for change,” she asserted.

But the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Joe Igbokwe stated in a recent interview that the APC would continue to govern Lagos beyond 2015. He said the party is not contest­ing the state with any party.

“Which party is contesting with us? If you say PDP, is there any party like that in Lagos? Does it have roots, tentacles in Lagos? Does it exist and can it stand the heat of APC in the state? There is no place for PDP in Lagos. It will never happen,” he stated emphatically.

Igbokwe’s stance notwithstanding, there are serious indications that the APC is not taking lightly, the threat posed to its rule in Lagos by the PDP. For instance, the state government has put the conduct of the local government election in abeyance until after the general elections, even though the tenure of the current council bosses is expected to expire at the end of this month. This is to ward off any problem the council poll may create for it.

Also, apparently worried that the PDP may be succeeding in its bid to use the ban on okada against it, the state chapter of APC ac­cused the former of politicizing the restriction of okada riders in the state.

Speaking at a recent press conference at the state secretariat of the party, the chairman, Otunba Henry Ajomale alleged that the PDP in the state is encouraging okada riders to dis­obey the Lagos Traffic Law 2012, that restricts okada from certain roads in the state, hoping to get some political mileage from it. The APC chairman noted that “Our opponents are turning it into a political issue, without thinking of the well being of the people. Nobody has banned okada, but restricted them from certain roads, which is less than 5 % of total roads in the state.” Ajomale said the government will continue to enforce the traffic law, pointing out that “if we reverse it our party and government will be in trouble. We are going to go ahead to enforce it. We will encourage our government to imple­ment the law to the letters. We will continue to support the Lagos State government for doing everything sensible to save the lives of our people.” However, contrary to the position of the APC chairman, the government seems to have relaxed the enforcement of the law on the restriction of Okada riders. Recently, the commercial motorcyclists have returned to the expressways and other roads they were forbid­den from plying with reckless abandon, while those saddled with enforcing the restriction look the other way.

The aspirants

At the last count, no fewer than 21 persons have indicated interest to govern the state on the platform of the two parties.

The aspirants from the PDP include former Minister of Defence(state), Senator Musilu Obanikoro; the party’s governorship can­didate in the 2011 general election, Dr Ade Dosunmu; the Nigeria Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Ambassador Tokumbo Kamson; former Lagos State commissioner for Health, Dr Segun Ogundimu; the 2011 governor­ship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance(APGA), Dr Dominic Adegbola and two other governorship aspirants of the PDP in 2011, Messrs Babatunde Gbadamosi and Owolabi Salis.

Others are the 2011 governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Alliance(DPA), in the state, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; Messrs Branco Rhodes, Segun Adabayo, Gabriel Perse, and Deji Doherty

The former governorship candidate of the 2011 Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in the state, Chief (Mrs) Adikwu Bakare is also speculated to be interested in the governorship ticket of the party for the February 28, 2015 governorship election.

On the other hand, those jostling to govern the state on the platform of the APC are: the state commissioner for Works, Dr Kadri Hamzat; a former Accountant General in the state, Akinwunmi Ambode; senator represent­ing Lagos West Senatorial zone, Senator Gani­yu Solomon; member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency, Abike Dabiri-Eruwa; former commissioner for Health, Dr Leke Pitan; former Commissioner for Environment and current National Legal Adviser of the APC, Dr. Muiz Banire and the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Adeyemi Ikuforiji.

Factors that will define the contest

However, one factor that will influence which of the two parties gain the upper hand in the battle for Alausa is the choice of their governorship candidates and the way and manner the candidates emerge.

Already, within the two parties, tension is building up ahead of the parties’ primaries. This is amid subtle protestations by some of the aspirants within the two parties about alleged plans by their leadership to skew the process in favour of some aspirants.

In the PDP, most of the aspirants are not comfortable with alleged plans to foist Agbaje on the party as its governorship candidate. The former DPA governorship candidate in the 2007 election is being speculated to have the backing of some powerful forces in the party in his bid to get the PDP ticket.

Inside sources said the other aspirants alongside other prominent members of the party are mobilising to ensure to stop Agbaje. Therefore, PDP ability to have a rancour free primaries will have far reaching implications in its quest to govern the state. That will enable the party approach the election as united front. The bane of the party in the past elections had been internal wrangling.

Similarly, APC aspirants are spoiling for war over alleged plans to impose Ambode as the party’s governorship candidate. The for­mer state Account General is speculated to be the anointed candidate of the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu.

Inspite of the alleged adoption of Ambode, other aspirants have continued with their campaigns, an indication it did not go down well with them.

Two other factors that will influence the performance of the two major parties in the battle for Lagos are religion and zoning. In the build up to next year’s election, there have been agitations by a section of the Christian community in the state that the next governor must be a Christian. In the same vein, there is also agitations by some interest groups that next governor should come from Lagos East senatorial zone.

Although, both the PDP and the APC have not taken an open position on the issues, there is no doubt the ability of the parties to navigate through these thorny issues will work for or against them at the polls.

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