September 9, 2014 – The clock is ticking and in less than nine months a new governor will emerge, bringing an end to the eight year reign of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola in Lagos State.
For now, the fact that the state boosts of enormous human and material resources with an Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) hitting N20 billion monthly – the highest in the country – makes the stakes very high.
The major contending parties are the All Progressive Congress(APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP). On the side of APC, the candidates are Commissioner for Works, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon (GUS), ex-Commissioner for Health, Dr. Leke Pitan, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji and former Accountant General of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
The strong contenders using the PDP as a platform include former Governorship aspirant of the party in Lagos State, Dr. Ade Dosunmu, reputable pharmacist, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musliu Obanikoro. The others are not too influential but could spring surprises given the peculiar nature of politics in Nigeria. They are Dr. Segun Ogundimu, Salis Owolabi and Babatunde Gbadamosi.
However, from candidates who have indicated interest in the race, Akinwunmi Ambode seems to stand a better chance even when his state of origin is currently a subject of debate, with some claiming that he is not from Lagos State and thus unfit to rule the state.
He nevertheless has more probability of picking the APC ticket during the primaries based on where he is coming from – He is the candidate of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who controls majority shares in the APC.
Besides, Option 4 which is known for and likely to be deployed in the primaries easily gives him an edge since no other members of the party could dare to queue behind other candidates except by special arrangement.
Tinubu however has other jokers if he is pressurized to drop the candidate of Akinwunmi over paternity issue. But he could deploy Senator Gbenga Ashafa who was once a czar in land matters in Lagos State. Ashafa was Permanent Secretary Land Bureau during the eight year reign of Tinubu but he is cocky and not media friendly.
His choice could boomerang. The other option that Tinubu could use is the new Permanent Secretary in Land Bureau, Mr. Hakeem Muri Okunola. He is young, friendly and well trusted by Tinubu. He was Tinubu’s aide during the eight year period he ruled the state.
Ironically his name has never come up in political debates, but analyst believe Tinubu could use him as the last joker the way he brought the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola from the rear to make him candidate of the party.
The next candidate that has the chance to pick the APC ticket is Commissioner for Works, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who is the oldest serving commissioner in Lagos State. He was brought into government from Oando by Tinubu and served him for eight years as Commissioner for Science and Technology before he was recycled by the Fashola regime and pushed into the ministry of works.
He is the sole candidate Fashola is pushing to take over from him. Hamzat has a track record of performance and seems to be the most qualified to do the job but he is cocky and not friendly to the media. Besides his backer is known as to have light weight in the party and lacked the financial and moral strength to confront Tinubu in any primary. Besides issue of his state of origin also hangs in the air even when he has taken steps to clear his name. The only option that would be left for Fashola is to take him to Labour Party which some have argued could cost Fashola his unpublicized senatorial ambition.
Analysts however believe that in a free and fair primaries Senator Ganiyu Olarenwaju Solomon (GUS) stands a better chance than any other candidate based on his popularity and grassroots support.
But he is not likely to get the APC ticket unless a secret ballot is adopted by the party. Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji is another challenger who has a thorough knowledge of the state but very unlikely to grasp the ticket. He is presently being prosecuted by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegation of fraud.
Experts in Lagos politics however link his ordeal with powerful figures in the APC, believed to have framed him up in order to get him out of the way.
Former Commissioner for Education and later Health, Dr. Leke Pitan is seen to have good track records of performance when he held sway in those ministries in the Tinubu era. He has the mien and charisma to fly the party’s ticket with his grassroots support in Ikorodu and Epe but seems to lack push from those who could make things happen in APC.
On the long run, experts argue that the APC ticket rest on the shoulder of one of the Tinubu candidates, very likely to be Ambode who has consulted widely among supporters, and editors with tacit support from the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who believe he is the right man to take over the mantle of leadership of the state from Governor Babatunde Fashola come 2015. “He is the best man for the job at a time like this. We are convinced that his is not just another ambition, but a selfless desire to serve the people of Lagos State,” Adeola Mejuyipin, one of the leaders of Team Forthright Lagos (TFL), said of his candidate.
For the Olu-Ilara of Ilara, Oba Okunola Adesanya, one of the paramount rulers of Epe, Akinwunmi Ambode fits it so perfectly to actualising this age long dream of an indigene coming from Epe.
“ He is the jewel of the people of Epe land and as an illustrious son of the land, who used his position as the Accountant- General of Lagos State to better the lot of the people of Epe.”
On the flip side is Dr. Ade Dosunmu who is seeking to run under the PDP. Dosunmu has a track record in academics and ran against Fashola in 2011. He is a very articulate gentleman, who effectively took Fashola on serious debate in the last dispensation but lost in the election. He appears to have more grasp of the Lagos politics for now and could raise issues capable of unsettling the ruling party in the state. But he seems to have lost support among the powers that control the party who seem to have found new love in the pharmacist, Jimi Agbaje who recently moved into the party from Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA).
Agbaje contested against Fashola in 2007 on the platform of DPA but lost in the election. His strength is in his charisma and acceptability most especially among the people of Ikorodu, Epe and across urban Lagos. He is also well abreast of Lagos politics after an initial trial.
Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musliu Obanikoro is also a strong runner in the party. He is from Bakare family of Ita-Ado in Lagos Island, Ikare and Ilashe in Amuwo Odofin Local Government of Lagos State. He contested with Fashola in 2007 but lost in the election. Analysts see him as a man that has a strong grasps of Lagos politics where he served as Local Government chairman before he became a senator. He is also seen to have grassroots support in Lagos.
But pundits see him as not a likely favourite of the party after failing to win the state for his party in 2007. Some even alleged that he failed to properly utilize resources he is allocated to prosecute that election beside the role he is allegedly likely to play for the PDP in Lagos.
However his chances at the election appear slim given his antecedent in Lagos politics, most especially with the fire incident that rocked City Hall while he was chairman of Lagos Island Local Government.
Others are Dr. Segun Ogundimu, Salis Owolabi and Babatunde Gbadamosi. But they are not seen as serious political gladiators in the PDP. But whichever way it goes analyst are sure that the race for the PDP ticket rests with either Jimi Agbaje or Dosunmu as the party prepares for the 2015 general elections.
For Tunji Shelle who is Chairman PDP in Lagos, the party would pick the candidate that would be acceptable to Lagosians during the primaries in the quest to wrest power from the APC in Lagos State.
Contributed by Emmanuel Ukudolo