The last time Lagosians witnessed anything close to the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries of Thursday/Friday was in 1999 when Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the party, engaged the late Funsho Williams in a battle for the governorship ticket of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD). Tinubu won the primaries and won the gubernatorial election as well.
In 2003 when he sought reelection, there was no one else in contention for the party’s ticket, so he coasted to victory, steering the wheels of the state for another four years.
At the expiration of his tenure, his successor, Babatunde Fashola, emerged the consensus candidate of the Action Congress (AC) and subsequently won the election, too. Fashola is six months away from completing his second term but his own successor was never going to emerge through a similar process; and this led to the electoral exercise at the main bowl of the Onikan stadium, Ikoyi, lagos.
The primaries for 13 aspirants have now been concluded and although Akinwunmi Ambode is the happy one, there are lessons for everyone.
TINUBU STILL THE ULTIMATE KINGMAKER
Many of his colleagues lost political relevance at the end of their governorship tenures, but eight years on, Tinubu, who the Borgu Kingdom in faraway Niger state bestowed with the chieftaincy title ‘Jagaban’, is by every inch decisively active not only in Lagos but nationally. Being the founder of the Action Congress (AC), which constituted the backbone of APC, Tinubu has been the national leader of the main opposition party.
When he publicly backed his chief of staff in 2007, some aggrieved candidates tried to pursue their ambitions via other party platforms but none of them could stop Tinubu’s anointed candidate, Babatunde Fashola. It is now seven years and very little seems to have changed. Since it became public that Akinwunmi Ambode had the backing of the man he served as accountant-general of Lagos, only other aspirants and their most loyal supporters must have harboured thoughts of the ticket going elsewhere.
Had the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) not joined the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and others to form the APC, Tinubu would never have allowed a primaries just like it happened in Fashola’s era. Having to take his candidate through the primaries was a true test of his grip on the party. Now, he has emerged unscathed.
Who knew Ambode at the beginning of the year? Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the first man in the history of the state to be elected as speaker of the state assembly twice, was certainly more popular. Ganiyu Solomon, a former local government chairman, former member of the state assembly and a serving senator, was expected to provide a sterner test than the result showed. With 3, 735 votes to Obafemi Hamzat’s 1,201, Ambode could afford to forfeit two-thirds of his vote – and he would still have emerged winner! It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of Tinubu’s hardline brand of politicking, he is still the undisputed kingmaker of Lagos. For now, yes. For a long time to come, too? Maybe.
THERE’S MORE TO ELECTIONS THAN INCUMBENCY SUPPORT
The ‘incumbency factor’ is a lexicon that the tickles the average politician. An incumbent governor seeking reelection is literally guaranteed a return; and if he has a candidate, someone has already become governor before the election date! In states such as Kano, Sokoto and Rivers, the incumbency calculation worked; the governors helped their favourites to the party’s governorship ticket. Not in Lagos.
Olasupo Shasore, erstwhile Lagos state attorney-general and commissioner for justice, must have silently told himself he stood a real chance to be governor in 2015, being the favourite of outgoing governor, Babatunde Fashola. Mention the incumbency factor to Shasore from now and expect a different reaction this time. “So what?” he could say!