By Comrade Mayowa Napoleon Chigozie
I can attest that palpable anxiety has enveloped the political firmament in Lagos following the upset of the Labour Party against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February, 25 Presidential Election. In fact the shockwaves have permeated the hinterland as some of my friends and family from Ekiti, Osun, Ondo, Oyo and elsewhere in the country have called to ascertain if Lagos was up for grab in the March 11 gubernatorial election. My good friend, Jide, from Ado-Ekiti specifically asked if there was a “credible threat” against Sanwo’Olu’s re-election bid as in his words “reports reaching us in Ilu-Oke don’t bode well for him” (Sanwo’Olu)
It was a shinny moment for Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party who had not only won the candidate of the rulling All Progressives Congress (APC), and now President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in Lagos State but also defeated him in his Ikeja Local Government Area where Mr. Tinubu voted as well as his Ikoyi home base. I watched in consternation how the supporters of the “triumphant” Labour Party hysterically hoisted their flag at Allen, the heart of Lagos Capital, around Alausa Ikeja which prompted many political observers to fear that the soul of Lagos has now been dangerously laid in the cleavage of opposition forces and the ruling party, headed by incumbent Babajide Olusola Sanwo’Olu. Many die-hards have expressed concern that the flag of the Labour Party has some striking semblance with that of outlawed and blood-sucking Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and when you turn the word OBI on the flag upside down, it turns out to be IBO. In the heart of Alausa! This indeed was a historic moment which must not be dismissed with the waive of a left hand. Never before had the Progressive Party been humiliated in its own fortress of Lagos. If anything, it should not even be when its “generalissimo”, the “City Boy”, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is in contest that the party should suffer such a disgraceful loss. When PDP won Lagos in 2003 and 2011, it was construed to be a gentlemanly agreement entered by the party echelon for political diplomacy.
What is the Real Soul of Lagos
By March 11, 2023, when the gubernatorial elections will take place, the battle for the soul of Lagos shall open with Sanwo’Olu at the centre of the windstorm. The rulling All Progressives Congress (APC) had been morphing since 1999 from AD to AC, later to ACN and now to APC. In all of these periods, Lagos has recorded tremendous progress. From Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was regarded as the pathfinder and architect of modern Lagos to Babatunde Raji Fashola, the “actualizer”, Akinwumi Ambode, the “consolidator” and now the incumbent Babajide Olusola Sanwo’Olu who, in his THEMES Agenda, Lagos has not only remained the economic, commercial and industrial nerve centre of Nigeria but has also become a model Mega City which is functional, productive, sustainable, secure and safe. The IGR generated in Lagos State since the Progressives were in charge, from a paltry N600 million monthly (N8b annually) in 1999 to a monthly N62.1 billion, (an annual tally of N753.3billion,) had made the state to be self-reliant and resilient to any external financial onslaught which manifested during the “evil” regime of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo when he withheld Lagos allocation to “teach” the then Governor (and now President-Elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu) a political lesson over his stubbornness to create additional LGAs. The soul of Lagos waxed stronger and the State could survive such lethal attack without owing workers salaries nor lagging behind in terms of development. That is the true soul of Lagos.
At the outbreak of the ravaging global pandemic, the COVID-19, Lagos was the epicenter of the pandemic. The soul of Lagos rose high and was able to survive the telling effects of the lockdown and economic ravages. It was like a fairy tale, but actually real, that the incumbent Governor, Babajide Sanwo’Olu rather than sacking workers like his counterparts continued to employ more and paying workers salaries as and when due even when they were working from home and the entire Alausa Secretariat was desolate. That is the soul of Lagos. The Lagos Governor did not only pay N35,000 as minimum wage which was above the national minimum wage benchmark of N30,000 but also happened to be the first Governor in history of Nigeria to review workers salaries upward, 2 times in just 3 years. He equally allocated hectares of land to build workers village just as he allocated land for the building of Secretariat for TUC and NLC in the heart of Ikeja Central Business District. This is the same Governor who bought several vehicles for Directors in the public service without tacking them to any condition and provided 35 new BRT Buses in addition to the existing ones to transport Civil Servants to and from work everyday. These and many more labour-friendly, pro-people policies have brought about unprecedented industrial harmony between the Governor and the State’s Labour Union which led to his endorsement in Lagos for a second term in office. In the midst of all these, Mr. Governor, as Sanwo’Olu is fondly called, continued to register his presence in every other sector including infrastructural developments such as the commissioning of the blue rail and other legacy projects that defiantly register their presence across the entire city from the Island to the Mainland and suburban. A noiseless achiever!
Lagos has accommodated multifarious interests of the indigenes and strangers alike. Divergent political interests, cultures, traditions, religions and social orientations have formed the fulcrum of the soul of Lagos. It is striking to understand that the cabinet of Mr. Governor wears multi-ethnic and pan-Nigerian outlook with Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo forming the rank of the cabinet members. Also Mr. Governor is the only State Administrator with 32 percent women in his Cabinet starting from the Secretary to the State Government (SSG,), Mrs Folashade Jaji, and with the largest number of women heading Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). March 11, gubernatorial election has presented yet another opportunity for different political interests to aspire for the most functional and productive state of the federation.
The Political Odds in the Presidential Election
Many people wondered why the APC lost Lagos State to the candidate of the Labour Party. I will present three broad reasons which are a corollary of my next position. Essentially, let me crystalize the three major voting patterns in the last election. Firstly, there were the traditional party votes cast by members of each party including the opposition in their own bases. These votes were for the party stalwarts. Secondly, we had swing votes which were hanging on the balance for party canvassers to pluck. They were low hanging fruits which improved electoral fortune.of the winner. Thirdly, we have what a Distinguished Professor of History, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju has described in a conversation as the “insurgent votes” cast by those calling for change from the traditional politicians to a breath of fresh air. These votes equally included the votes of those who were, and still are, angry over the misfired cashless policy and fuel scarcity of President Mohammadu Buhari as spearheaded by Emefiele-led Central Bank but they wished to vent their anger on APC Candidate,(now President-elect) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his role in ushering in this current government. These insurgent votes equally emerged from the thumbs of some Christians who had defiantly not forgiven the APC and its Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ( now the President-elect)for flying a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The “insurgent votes” largely twisted the electoral atmosphere of Lagos. Also, while the Labour Party were reaping from all fronts ranging from the traditional PDP party votes and swing votes, they equally enjoyed exclusive luxury of the insurgent votes. APC depended heavily on traditional party votes. A costly political error!
Some political commentators have placed the insurgent votes largely on the threshold of voters of Eastern Origin. I say NO! Many Yorubas were parts and parcel of the swing and insurgent votes, threatening fire and brimstones. They formed over 50% of the insurgent votes. Some have read ethnic meaning into it and this became credible on the premise that not even a single state was won by the APC’s Tinubu, a Yoruba man or PDP in the South-east States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo; not even a required 25% spread! This is where the incumbent Babajide Olusola Sanwo’Olu has to stamp his feet. I laughed in Chinese when the Candidate of Labour Party, “Chinedu” Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour gloatingly and hysterically claimed he was ready to take over the rein of Lagos based on the outcome of the Presidential Election. From his public engagements since then, It was not difficult for anyone to discern his political naivety. His supposed alliance talk with the PDP’s Jandor seems to me as a proposed marriage of inconvenience and the copulation of strange bedfellows. PDP is a pollutant for the reasons Labour Party had an impressive outing in Lagos during the last Saturday’s presidential election. Their coming together bears sinister intent for the 5th largest economy in Africa.
How Can the Soul of Lagos be Rescued?
As Match 11, draws nearer, there is every need for Sanwo’Olu to rejig his strategies to secure Lagos. The centre of Excellence is too important than for it to be swept by a group of angry voters whose main agenda is to truncate the sustainable development of the State over the years. Lagos is the most enviable civilization in Yorubaland, nay Africa, and the bastion of democratic experience in Nigeria, it would be wrong for strangers to determine the course of our political trajectories in the same land where everyone is accommodated without discrimination. The best way for the APC is to galvanize every traditional party voter to storm their polling units and cast their votes for the party and rescue the soul of the State from the claws of envious intruders who are hell bent on stampeding the progress recorded in the state so far. There is no more need for political aparthy or lethargy on the parts of those whose main duties it is to galvanize votes from all fronts. The Cabinet Members, Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Agencies, parrastatals, market women, students, youths, religious leaders, civil servants, artisans, businessmen and women, of all ethnicity and tribes should be mobilized to rescue the Soul of Lagos. Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo’Olu must brace up and raise his political game to ensure a resounding victory having learnt from the experience of last Saturday. This is not a time for cooling off and complacency must be eschewed while everyone must roll up their sleeves for the battle royale. The time to act is NOW!
Comrade Mayowa Napoleon is a Public Analyst and Political Commentator