How Lagos ‘guber’ race may decide presidential poll’s winner

Agbaje-Ambode-360x239

• Change in Abuja vs change in Lagos 

• Actors in campaigns difficult to track 

• Lagos settlers as critical factors

 • Will Lagos Godfather abandon ex-capital for Abuja? 

• Lagos vs Abuja: Why they always hate each other

IT is getting curiouser and curiouser in Lagos as there have been early warning signals that the Lagos governorship election campaigns will not only be tough and very competitive but may, in fact, be part of the critical factors that will shape the outcome of the presidential election.

  When two major political parties, the ruling APC and the opposition, PDP launched their campaigns late last year in Lagos, it was given that the ruling party that has been in charge of affairs of the economic capital of West Africa (as Nigeria Info FM Radio calls Lagos) was going to have an easy ride again.  

  First, according to our political intelligence unit, Alhaji Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro was widely expected to be the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate in the only state that can survive without oil and Abuja’s monthly Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting where federation revenue is shared among various tiers of government. 

  But the unexpected (to the opposition) happened on December 10 when one of the old allies of the Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu’s political family, Jimi Agbaje emerged as the PDP’s flag bearer.  

  The Guardian gathered from the battlefields in Lagos that the entry of Agbaje has changed the colour of competition for Alausa House in 2015. And curiously, inquiries have revealed that the ruling party in Lagos is not taking the Agbaje challenge as simplistic and meretricious, hence the very aggressive media campaigns on all platforms – digital and traditional.

  In the same vein, the Agbaje’s campaigns strategists are said to be conscious of the fact that dislodging the APC from Alausa House in Lagos will be as difficult as forcing a stream to flow uphill. So they have devised a one-point approach: why change too is needed in Lagos for the city to survive and be a world-class commercial capital such as Hamburg (Germany), London (U.K), New York (U.S), Dubai (UAE).  As we follow the two interesting, contrasting and intensive campaigns in Lagos, Agbaje who was initially fighting shy of using the ruling PDP as a unique selling proposition platform has suddenly regained steam and unusual momentum with his focus on catchword: “Vested Interest in Lagos”.

  Anywhere he goes to campaign, Agbaje stays on the catchphrase, “Vested Interests” as the main trouble with development paradigm in Nigeria’s richest state.            

  The Guardian gathered at the weekend that the message has been resonating with a lot of interest groups in Lagos that at all time have had the reputation of having more absorptive capacity to digest contents of political events than most other parts of the country. There is no other city in Nigeria that is more cosmopolitan than Lagos, where an Igbo man has been Commissioner for Budget and Planning for more than four years. The Lagos State Publicity Secretary of APC too is Joe Igbokwe, from Nnewi in Anambra State.

  Meanwhile, as the battle for change in Abuja’s seat of power intensifies and has been generating heated debates within the polity, the battle for continuity in Lagos appears to be hotter than expected, all in a bid to halt Agbaje’s powerful train. The Royalty in Lagos actually began the campaign shortly after this newspaper’s political intelligence unit hinted the reading public that this time around, Christians in Lagos would not allow continued marginalisation in the state.

  Interestingly, the two major candidates in Lagos, Ambode (APC) and Agbaje (PDP) are Christians.  Immediately after The Guardian publication (July 24, 2013) on the religious dimension to the guber race in Lagos, the powerhouse in Lagos reportedly met with members of its “inner  circle” and took a decision to field a Christian candidate. The king makers manifested Ambode first at the 16 May, 2014 launch of the former Accountant-General of the State’s (Ambode’s) biography entitled, The Art of Selfless Service written by Maria Osoba.  

  It was incredible when the former Police chief and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu at the book’s presentation mentioned Ambode as the likely and suitable successor to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. 

  According to the first class traditional ruler in Lagos who urged other governorship aspirants on the platform of APC to allow Ambode. “When the APC leader, Bola Tinubu chose Fashola in 2007 to succeed him, it was met with stiff opposition but today Tinubu has been justified. We see a similar character like Governor Fashola in Ambode.”   

  Many observers on the occasion felt the Oba obtained some tacit approval from the APC leader for the revelation. Event on 4th December last year confirmed the deal between the traditional ruler and the APC supreme leader when Ambode emerged winner in a keenly contested primary in Lagos.

  But The Guardian that has been following the campaigns keenly in and outside Lagos, has confirmed that the race in Lagos as a process will affect the presidential election’s outcome significantly.  And this is how: the campaign managers and strategists of the main opposition in Lagos, the PDP, have not been focusing their messages on even the candidate, Ambode. They have rather frontally faced the leader of the party, Asiwaju Tinubu who is generally believed to be the man of the moment, the power behind the throne in APC.   

  From the intelligence gathered by our team, the campaign strategy has been deliberate: to prepare Lagos and indeed Southwest for the PDP’s presidential candidate and then win the governorship.

  It was gathered that, that has been the reason the campaign slogan of the opposition in Lagos is anchored on “as they seek change in Abuja, there must be change in Lagos too.”               

  Again, the specific objective of this strategy, according to The Guardian’s  finding, is to weaken the resolve of so many who follow the genius of Bourdillon, Ikoyi who is also the arrowhead of opposition politics that has thus far shaped remarkable groundswell of opinion and impressions for change in Nigeria. 

  But it is understood that the Agbaje’s strategists too are well aware that the ingenuity and sagacity of the Grand Master of Lagos politics cannot be discounted just like that without paying dearly for it. 

  Since 1999, when this republic began, the ruling party has not  made significant impact in Lagos State in any arm of government. Even in 2003, when the ruling PDP made remarkable inroad into the Southwest and, took over Ondo, Ogun and Ekiti states from the then ruling AD in the zone, Lagos State was saved by the  acclaimed brilliance of the former accountant in Mobil Nigeria.

  The Guardian has, however, gathered from weeks of comprehensive field operations that the followers of the APC leader in Lagos who it is said hardly trusts all the party leaders following Ambode’s campaign trains, does not take things for granted about the possibility of capturing Lagos this time. We gathered that a lot of work is being done from ward to ward in Lagos even as some influential Lagosians have joined the campaign of “Enough is Enough” in Lagos too.

  At the weekend, it was gathered that more and more residents and people of Lagos “are jumping down from the fence where they have been sitting in as a knowledgeable analyst disclosed at the weekend. 

  It was gathered that quite unlike before, operatives from the headquarters of the ruling PDP in Abuja have been strategically supporting campaign efforts in Lagos as they are fully persuaded that this election will be lost and won in the Southwest and Lagos with the highest registered voter population of 5, 905,852,.   

     In this election, Kano is second to Lagos with a voting population of 4, 975,701. Kaduna is third with 3, 407,222 registered voters. 

  Meanwhile, our intelligence unit too has gathered that the think tank within the ruling PDP have reckoned that the more intensified the campaigns to capture Lagos for the first time in 16 years, the more the APC leader will recoil from the national campaign to concentrate on the weightier matter of the politics and economics of Lagos.  The strategic planners in Abuja have been advertising impressions and perception that the strong man of Lagos politics has remarkable investments in Lagos and so he cannot afford to move ‘‘to extend political power to Abuja while enemies plant tares in his lucrative farm in Lagos,” as an insider put it to us at the weekend.

  What is more, even some of the thinkers in Abuja are said to have earlier anticipated that when the campaigns to get Lagos from the Lord of the Manor get to denouement, he will see the light and negotiate to retain Lagos as it was said it happened in 2011. But so far, it was gathered, that has not happened and the strong man’s operations are noticeable in Lagos and Abuja in the campaigns. But we gathered that the Abuja people still have some glimmer of hope that “the Tiger of Lagos will still lose his tigritude, after all, when come comes to become” as another artful analyst  told us in Lagos.

  In the meantime, even the president’s men are everywhere in Lagos and Southwest mobilising the old and the young on all fronts to get remarkable votes in Lagos/Southwest. Among the targets in Lagos and Southwest are Afenifeere/Afenifeere Renewal, Yoruba Elders Forum, factionalised Oduduwa People’s Congress (OPC), etc. Curiously, it has not been determined how many leaders of these socio-cultural groups mobilised in voter registration or even have their cards to vote. 

In the beginning was the Tambuwal trouble for Jonathan, PDP

The president’s men have been battling the stigma of alleged marginalisation of the Yoruba nation by the present administration.   

  Trouble began on this score in 2011 when some chieftains of the then Action Congress (AC) who could see tomorrow and some opposition elements in the North combined efforts in Abuja to deny the Southwest the number four slot in the order of national precedence law. According to the 2001 Act, the Speaker is number four. The office was in 2011 retained and zoned to the Southwest PDP at the time, since the President hails from South South zone, the Vice President is from the Northwest, the Senate President comes from North Central, the Deputy Senate President is of Northeastern extraction, etc. But in a grand conspiracy that has haunted the PDP till date, the ACN elements and some PDP rebels from the North defied the party’s arrangement and voted for Aminu Tambuwal from Sokoto, a northwestern state. So, since 2011, the Southwest does not feature in the order of national precedent up to the number 15th position, the highest being the House Leader, Mulikat Adeola who was nearly removed last week following a Motion that was defused by the same Tambuwal who Chief Olusegun Obasanjo severally called “usurper”. Obasanjo had askedTambuwal to vacate the office in 2011 as soon as he was elected. The 2011 political rebellion in the House of Representatives generally believed to have been masterminded by very artful ACN chieftains including the strong man in Lagos, has since remained an albatross on the neck of the PDP and indeed the President. 

  Recently, at the Ooni of Ife palace where the President was a special guest to boost his campaign in the Southwest, he was quoted as regretting the politics that shaped retention of Tambuwal as Speaker. Both the Vice President and the Speaker are from the same (Northwest) zone just as the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker are also from the same (Southeast) zone.  Emeka Ihedioha (Imo State, Southeast) was a fellow conspirator with Tambuwal (Northwest) that upset the PDP’s apple cart in 2011. The Deputy Speaker was to come from Northeast. In fact, while the predecessor to Tambuwal, Dimeji Bankole hails from Ogun State (Southwest) the predecessor to Ihedioha, Usman, Bayero Nafada, is from Gombe State, (Northeast). In other words, by condoning the Tambuwal challenge that has paid off for APC after all, the same is troublesome for PDP in Southwest and Northeast. This political conspiracy that was hatched and executed when the president travelled to New York for a United Nations Conference on HIV and AIDS the day the National Assembly was inaugurated, has today become a huge challenge in the Southwest, especially. There is a bigger challenge in the Northeast than political quota to fill. There is insurgency in the area.

  In contrast, the APC that was instrumental in the fixing of the Tambuwal conspiracy against his party (PDP) in 2011 has chosen a candidate from Southwest as running mate to Muhammadu Buhari. So, if they win election, a Yoruba man will be number two. That itself is a factor in this presidential election campaign, which reminds us that Lagos and Abuja will always hate each other, especially in power and revenue sharing. 

  In the United States, where the presidential system of government is practised, it is often said that New York makes the money that Washington spends, a regular reference to the commercial value that New York, the Empire City represents as opposed to the spending profile of the nation’s capital. In 1988, New York Times outlined this in an article entitled, New York vs Washington: why they hate each other.   Other factors that will determine outcome of the presidential polls

 The Northern aristocrats

In its January 24, 2015 issue, The Economist, in a cover entitled, Education and class: America’s new aristocracy, quoted how Thomas Jefferson was drawing a distinction between a natural aristocracy of the virtuous and talented, which was a blessing to the United States, and an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, which would slowly strangle it.

  There have been indications that there are “artificial aristocrats” in all regions in Nigeria and they are always tagged the elite that appear docile politically, but they are not in strict sense. They seek to influence outcomes of elections and thereafter seek to benefit when governments are formed. They have appeared in what the media used to call the “Kaduna Mafia” in military regimes. They now appear through membership of socio-cultural groups including Afenifeere, Ohanaeze, Arewa Consultative Forum, etc. They are everywhere even as some of them, masquerade as rent seekers and king makers, etc.

  The Guardian gathered at the weekend that some of the aristocrats in the far North in Nigeria are still uncomfortable with the politics that has shaped and still shaping the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) from Katsina State. It is said that though the grudges are largely muted, the elite who are supported by some traditional rulers are complaining that: 

Buhari’s emergence will upset the original plan for 2019 that they have had their eyes on

Buhari emerged the same way Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was manifested in 2007. They are alleging that Asiwaju Tinubu brought him and he (GMB) is not a candidate of the northern establishment just as Obasanjo unilaterally ‘headhunted’ Yar’Adua who was generally believed to be unhealthy at the time and later died in office.   

  Some knowledgeable northerners are said to be worried that even if Buhari is not unhealthy (some say he is ill), he is already close to 73 and if he wins the election next month, he will be 77/8 at the end of the first term in office and so he may be too weak to continue into a second term. And so it is feared that if GMB cannot continue, the hawks in the APC may not allow the slot to be transferred to another candidate in the North. 

  The Guardian has confirmed that some of the privileged ones in the far North are part of the hidden agenda setters for the so-called Interim National Government (ING). It is said that the hawks for power for eight straight years in the North are of the same minds with some self-serving elements in the National Assembly that failed to get tickets for the next session of the National Assembly. 

  In the same vein, it has been revealed that some elements in the ruling PDP that are not sure of the outcome of the presidential election are reaching out to the reactionaries in the National Assembly and the concerned elite in the North that would not like a short-lived Buhari’s presidency, to concoct a democratic absurdity called the Interim Government. 

  These ING quiet campaigners are said to be worried, however, that the Buhari-for-president campaign has taken a life of its own and the artificial aristocrats may be helpless at the moment. Besides, it is understood that some governors in the APC-controlled states in the North share the sentiments of the concerned elite who think that Buhari is a ‘spoiler’ for the 2019 agenda. It is not certain yet how these concerned elite will swing their votes

  In the same vein, The Guardian encountered another group of believers in the same North who would like Jonathan to complete his term in 2019 because of the likely consequences of defeating him at this time. However, another set of people believe that genuine democrats should not run away from facing facts of consequences of democratic struggles at this time. As a young intellectual from the North told The Guardian in a telephone conversation at the weekend, “why would the oldies talk about running away from consequences of defeating a candidate in a free and fair election? I think, that is a defeatist approach. If crisis emerges after the election, let the law be law, let law breakers face the wrath of the law. It is our culture of impunity that has brought us to this shameful valley where we have declined in almost everything and the only subject of debate in presidential election campaigns is how to fight stealing or corruption. It is a shame. 

  “A free and fair election that results in a crisis should be managed to teach lessons. If an election is conducted and the incumbent wins fair and square, why would anyone be fighting? And if an incumbent loses to an opponent in a free and fair election, how will the incumbent stay to stage-manage crisis and undermine peace in the country? I think we should not be analysing politics this way. We should learn to face consequences of our actions or inactions.”



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