Written by Femi Akinola, Lagos
Going by the final result of the presidential and National Assembly elections in Lagos, the governorship race in Lagos State on Saturday promises to be mainly between the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and Mr. Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Lagos is one of the few states in the country that has not been ruled by the PDP though the party has fought tooth and nail particularly in 2007 and 2011, to wrest power from the ruling party in the state.
The just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections narrowly won by APC with a total score of 792,460 as against PDP’s 632,327 has put the ruling party in Lagos in a tight corner and back to the drawing board.
APC in Lagos became jittery after the presidential and NASS elections particularly when PDP cleared five House of Representatives seats while the Accord Party won a seat. This result turned out to be one of the significant upsets in this year’s general elections. The Igbos living in Lagos made a significant statement during the election by clearing at least three House of Representatives seats out of the five won by the PDP. The APC lost six seats to the opposition in the state and this has not gone down well with the leadership of the party including the traditional rulers led by Oba Rilwan Akiolu 1, the Oba of Lagos.
The seats lost by the APC are in the Igbo-dominated local government areas of the state.
In Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, which has a high South-Eastern population, particularly in areas like Kirikiri, Satellite Town and Festac Town, the PDP candidate, Oghene Egboh; who is from Delta State, defeated Mr. Ganiyu Olukolu of the APC.
The same scenario played out in Ajeromi/Ifelodun, another densely-populated area in Lagos State, which is home to Ajegunle (an Igbo-dominated area), as the PDP candidate, Mrs. Rita Orji, a South-easterner and lawyer, defeated Taiwo Adenekan of the APC. In Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency 2, the incumbent, Mr. Akeem Munir, lost to Mr. Tony Nwoolu of the PDP, also an Igbo man.
Still for the PDP, the story was not different in another Igbo-dominated Ojo council area, where the PDP candidate, this time a Yoruba man, Mr. Tajudeen Obasa, won the seat.
Also, in Surulere Federal Constituency 2, in which Aguda is situated and a few other Igbo settlements, Mr. Tunji Soyinka of the PDP defeated Mr. Hakeem Bamgbala of the APC.
The “Igbo factor” is believed to have given the PDP the leverage in Lagos during the just concluded elections and, if the Igbo residents in the state repeated their bloc voting pattern for the PDP this Saturday, it may result in Lagos State ending up being controlled by the PDP.
As the governorship election draws nearer, there have been palpable fear among APC leaders in the state, including the party’s stakeholders as the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Agbaje reassured Igbos in the state of ‘opportunities’ in his government, if he wins the election.
The tacit agreement between Agbaje and the Igbo residents in Lagos coupled with the result of NASS election in Lagos has made this weekend’s polls in Lagos tension soaked for members of both parties. Political analysts too appeared to be lost regarding who has the upper hand between the two leading governorship candidates.
Prospective voters have been beaming their searchlight on the two candidates, based on their pedigree and previous experiences in government.
Ambode, while campaigning across the 20 local government areas in Lagos State, promised Lagosians continuity of good governance as initiated by Governor Babatunde Fashola. He went as far as promising to complete all the projects embarked on by Fashola.
He also told the people not to vote for PDP in Lagos.
He said “the PDP-led Federal Government has abandoned Lagos with its numerous challenges like traffic gridlock at places like Apapa, the Sea Port and the agony unleashed on Lagosians by thousands of fuel tanker drivers on daily basis.”
He also enjoined Lagosians not to give PDP a chance to govern Lagos, noting that the party opposed the creation of additional 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA’s) that brought further development to the grassroots.
Agbaje on the other hand was among those referred to as ‘Tinubu Boys’ when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was governor of Lagos. He left Tinubu’s camp prior to the 2007 governorship elections, after Fashola was chosen as the ACN governorship candidate and moved to the Democratic Party Alliance (DPA) in 2007 where he contested as the party’s governorship candidate.
He lost to Fashola during the election and came third behind Senator Musiliu Obanikoro who contested on the PDP platform.
During his campaign rallies across the state, Agbaje kept reminding Lagosians that his opponent will keep on making insinuations and attempt to pre-empt how he would govern because he has never been in government before.
However, Agbaje often prides himself saying, “I have bold ideas. I ran a pretty robust, disciplined and inclusive campaign where people from all walks of life have supported our efforts -technocrats, party members, non-party members, youth volunteers, indigenes and non-indigenes alike. We’ve led by example and remained honourable even in the face of intimidation.
The most asked question in Lagos today is, who wins the governorship race in Lagos this Saturday between APC and PDP? Political watchers’ calculation and observation shows that the pendulum is more likely to swing towards the APC. As the party is far ahead of the PDP in terms of mobilisation.
The defeat of President Goodluck in the just concluded presidential elections will undoubtedly have effect on Agbaje’s chances at the poll this weekend.
In terms of structure, APC also appears to have an edge over PDP in Lagos. The ruling party will lean more on the power of incumbency and an enlightened public, coupled with the fact that APC has majority in the State House of Assembly, the immediate past 57 council chairmen, the present 57 Executive Secretaries, Councillors , market men and women including artisans.
From close observations, Ambode has succeeded in warming himself into the hearts of all in the state, particularly the non-indigenes, when he promised to run an all-inclusive administration that will carry all the ethnic groups in Lagos along. He used to tell the crowd at his campaign rallies that he will not run a discriminatory government, but an administration that will cater for the welfare of all Lagosians, irrespective of religion and tribe.
However, the inflammatory statement made on Sunday against Igbo residents in Lagos may make Ambode’s success a little difficult.
Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu 1 on Sunday, read the riot act to non-indigenes, particularly the Igbo resident in the state. He threatened fire and brimstone, should the Igbos sabotage efforts being made to ensure that the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is elected as the next governor in Lagos.
Meanwhile, while responding to the Oba’s statement that Lagos will benefit immensely from the next government to be formed at the centre if the state is controlled by APC, the PDP governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje, said, at first, he wondered about the soundness of this argument especially after listening to President-elect General Buhari’s acceptance speech.
As the state prepares for Saturday’s election, one thing will work for APC and Ambode, the President-elect’s remarks at a mega rally at Orile area of the metropolis, where General Muhammadu Buhari assured Lagosians that if Ambode eventually wins the race, he would sufficiently honour all the promises he made to give Lagos special status.
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