Koro’s politics of op-positioning

Musiliu Obanikoro

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Koro for short, has once again come into the political semi-circle of Lagos State, with his recent defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is plausible to think, with the benefit of hindsight, that Koro’s latest political move could be a long settled decision that was delayed by his appointment as minister of state for defence by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

Yet coming two years after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on which he served as cabinet minister and ran a failed governorship ambition lost the 2015 general election, it is left to be seen whether his recent odyssey is to strategically position himself for 2019.

However, whether Obanikoro will condescend to seek another term at the Senate or work for the political interest of other Tinubu loyalists in 2019, he has completed his metamorphosis as a Phoenix or Peacock. The former minister has been associated with many political parties as far as Nigeria’s path through democracy could describe.

During the President Ibrahim Babangida transition to civil rule, Obanikoro served as the caretaker committee chairman of Surulere local council chapter of National Republican Convention, from where he was later elected as deputy chairman of the party. He was also a member of Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) during the General Sani Abacha version of democratic transition.

Governorship Gambles
Losing the PDP ticket to Jimi Agbaje in the run up to the 2015 governorship in Lagos State, was not the first failed attempt to become governor. After he ran successfully for the Lagos Central Senatorial Seat in 2003 on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Koro remained a constant contender for the governorship seat.

He was to tangle with the late Funsho Williams among other aspirants for the PDP ticket. It was a mixed outing for the Senator in that although he secured the ticket, one of the aspirants, Williams, was murdered, a development that compelled the police to arrest all governorship aspirants. They were later given clean bill and released.

It was an outing that tried and tested Koro’s strength for Lagos politics. Right from the governorship primary, which was reportedly won by the widow of Engineer Funsho Williams, Hilda, Koro was handed the ticket by PDP leaders. He was later to survive an assassination or armed robber attack.

After losing the election to the candidate of Action Congress (AC), Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Koro was compensated with an ambassadorial appointment as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana. Obanikoro sustained his interest in the governorship, but later side-stepped to support Jimi Agbaje, who became the PDP flag bearer for the 2015 poll. As happened after the 2007 election, Koro was rewarded, but this time with cabinet appointment, as minister of defence.

With the incumbent Adewunmi Ambode still in the good books of acclaimed Lagos godfather, Tinubu, it is not clear yet what role or position Koro is coming into APC to await, but it would definitely not be governorship.

Defection Doublespeak Amid Corruption Cobwebs
After months of conjecture and denials, the Phoenix of Lagos politics must have decided to pick up his brooms and sweep for change. Just as the motive for his defection is still shrouded in speculations, Koro’s latest political moves have been eliciting interest for some time now.

Around May 2016, sources close to the Isale Eko-born politician revealed that he was contemplating dumping PDP for the APC. It was also gathered then that the former minister had been hobnobbing with leaders of the ruling party and exploring the possibility of shifting base.

Shortly after the 2015 general election, Obanikoro relocated to the United States. Also, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had declared him wanted, even as the Department of State Services (DSS) later swooped on his wife and two sons for allegedly laundering N4.7b.

As at the time Koro’s wife was arrested in Lagos, she was said to have sneaked into the country to make away with documents relating to the suspicious transfers. Perhaps, it was on account of many policemen protecting her that the EFCC sought the collaboration of DSS to arrest the former minister’s wife.

EFCC claimed that there were several transfers from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) account domiciled at the Central Bank to the Diamond Bank account of Sylvan McNamara Limited, which Obanikoro had interest. Two sons of the former minister were also alleged to be directors and signatories to the account.

Three months after the issue of money laundering and action by EFCC, Obanikoro returned to Nigeria and reported himself at the commission. Koro’s return imbued some measure of credibility to his claim earlier that he never received any invitation from EFCC adding, “the invasion and raid of my residence by agents of the state is a sad throwback to a tyrannical past that is better forgotten.”

The former minister had in his written statement from US declared: “We have absolute confidence in the judiciary and we hope to get justice in the courts with the proviso that they obey the rule of Law and avoid arbitrariness that we are seeing on daily basis.”

Surprisingly, after his return the hullaballoo died down. Consequently at the onset of speculations that he was considering a move to APC, most people suspected that Koro might have decided to join them so as to get his peace, and respite from harassments.

Or, believing that the anti-corruption fight is politicised, he must have decided to give political solution to the issue surrounding the alleged dubious transfers of huge sums of money.

But, refusing to be upstaged, Koro decided to deflect the speculations, denying that no such plan was afoot. For instance, last June when the ‘rumours’ resurfaced, Koro twitted his denials, explaining that he merely attended a Town Hall meeting organised by Senator Remi Tinubu as a “constituent.”

Leaving a room for future explanation the former minister added: “Whatever the future holds politically for us, it will be openly done by us and seen by all, but right now, please disregard those rumours.”

But given that the PDP is taking steady steps to rebound, Koro has more explanations to do as he openly does what the future holds for him. What remains to be ‘seen by all’ is whether he will be replacing Senator Remi Tinubu in the Senate. But for now, it seems the rumours may no longer be disregarded.



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