Posted by News Express | 2 August 2017 | 1,573 times
On May 27 and 29, 2017 the Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi-led Local Government Election Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State chapter, organised primaries for chairmanship and councillorship aspirants for the local government elections to be held on July 22. The primaries, as expected, were not short on drama, protests and even violence. Nothing less was expected from the primaries of a party in government in the state and at the centre and whose leaders have, since the return to democratic rule in 1999, been calling the shots in the politics of Lagos State. The APC and its progenitor parties have, in fact, never lost any election in Lagos State. It was, therefore, not surprising that the party had, in some cases, as much as 30 persons vying to fly the party's flag in the polls to elect the chairman of a single local council. Even after giving automatic tickets to some18 immediate past chairmen, no fewer than 200 party members contested for the chairmanship tickets of the remaining 39 local councils.
In the aftermath of the primaries, there have been petitions, appeals and street protests. Essentially, those who lost out in the primaries claim that the exercise was not free and fair, as winners were predetermined by the party leaders and imposed on the party. It is an indication of the near-omnipotence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC leader, that even as he was nowhere near the venue of the primaries on that day, his name and influence featured and continues to be at the centre-stage in the imbroglio that the primaries have become. He is alleged to be the unseen hand that manoeuvred the emergence of most chairmanship and councillorship candidates. It is no secret that some 18 former local council chairmen of the APC, by prior agreement, were given automatic second-term tickets in appreciation of their sterling performance and contribution to the success of the party at the 2015 general elections. Yet, those who lost out in the other council areas claim that Tinubu, in collaboration with Chief Henry Ajomale, Lagos State chairman of the party, ditched open competitive primaries in favour of imposition of candidates. They dismissed the claim of consensus as a euphemism for imposition. While the APC constitution expressly forbids imposition of candidates, it nevertheless recognises and validates consensus candidacy provided their emergence does not lead to division and bitterness. The concluded primaries did leave a lot of bitterness in its wake, although a lot of reconciliation has taken place already.
In focus here is the god-like stature of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the near permanence of Ajomale in the politics of Lagos State. Love or hate him, the Lion of Bourdillion has played and continues to play a pivotal role in the democratic and political development of Lagos State, the South-west and, indeed, Nigeria. Despite initial hold-outs by some self-acclaimed Awoists, the Asiwaju has successfully wrestled the mantle of leadership of the South-west as vacated by the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo. His rise from a National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) activist to the founder and leader of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) and, now, All Progressives Congress (APC) has marked him out as a consummate politician, astute organiser, bridge-builder and leader. In the course of his rise, Tinubu has identified, trained and positioned a lot of other regional and national leaders who are not only following his footsteps but are capable of stepping up the leadership ladder whenever called upon to do so.
Ajomale is indisputably a long-standing associate of Tinubu. Since they got together in 1990, like siamese twins, they have remained inseparable in the progressive camp. This speaks volumes in an environment where politicians lack vision and conviction, and generally prostitute themselves from left to right and centre of the political spectrum at the drop of a hat. Bucking the trend, Tinubu and Ajomale have been in the trenches together from the days of Alliance for Democracy through Action Congress and Action Congress of Nigeria, to the All Progressives Congress. Between 1999 and 2003, Ajomale served under governor Tinubu as special adviser and commissioner. He was the Lagos State chairman of the Action Congress and later Action Congress of Nigeria from 2003 up till the merger that gave birth to the APC, and still continues as the APC chairman today. It is trite to say that the understanding and trust between Ajomale and Tinubu is legendary. Working together, they have made Lagos a fortress of ‘progressive’ ideals and governance that not even the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) onslaught of 2011 could overcome. Ajomale has become an institution with a lot of clout in Lagos and beyond. So much is to be said and admired about his steadfastness and loyalty to Tinubu. Considering the volatile and mercantilist nature of Nigerian politics and politicians, only one guided by principles can stay true to a cause for so long. Lawyer and administrator, Ajomale has led his party to victory in four general elections into the local governments, State House of Assembly and governorship.
Surely, the story of ‘progressive’ politics and the emergence and victory of the All Progressives Congress can never be told without the names of Tinubu and Ajomale taking centre-stage. Boasting such track record of success, it is foolhardy to think that their alleged actions in respect of the Lagos APC primaries was actuated by anything other than the general interest of the party and the people of Lagos State. Having come out tops in four previous elections as chairman, Lagosians must trust Ajomale to deliver once again. Consensus candidacy was much loved and promoted by the late sage Awolowo in the days of the Unity Party of Nigeria. His was more of a benevolent dictatorship and enabled him to spot and project talents who otherwise could not have made it through the expensive primaries. Unlike the chaos that characterised the rival National Party of Nigeria's primary elections, that of the UPN was always orderly and less rancorous. It left the party stronger and more unified going into an election. If Ajomale and the Asiwaju had endorsed the consensus candidates, it goes without saying that they must have considered all variables before coming up with what they considered to be in the best interest of the party. The duo has produced political stars that have performed beyond people's expectations. Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Babatunde Fowler, Ben Akabueze, Lai Mohammed and Akinwunmi Ambode are just a few of such stars who owe their political ascendancy to the mentorship of Bola Tinubu and by extension, Henry Ajomale. It is wily political moves like these that have made the Jagaban a political genius and the enigma that he has become. The duo has, indeed, earned the right to be trusted by members of the APC and the generality of Lagosians, to make the right decisions in these circumstances.
Of course, with a slew of aspirants jostling for limited number of available tickets, grumbles and disappointment will necessarily accompany whatever list is submitted by the APC to the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC).
•Prince Nwaeze Onu writes from Abuja. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
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