Lagos state has been in the grip of the opposition since 1999. As the incumbent governor, Babatunde Fashola. rounds off his two term tenure in 2015, the battle for the state Alausa Government House promises to be fierce as interested aspirants on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state have already begun to flex their political muscles. Aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are equally not left out. Our Lagos Correspondent, Ayodele Samuel writes:
On the platform of the ruling ACN, those interested in succeeding Fashola include: Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji; an ex-Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire; Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; Senator Ganiyu Solomon, representing Lagos West Senatorial District; Senator Gbenga Ashafa, representing Lagos East Senatorial District.
Other aspirants who have shown interest in the number one job include Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives; former Governor Bola Tinubu's aide-de-camp, Mr. Gbolahan Lawal; and the immediate past Accountant-General of the state, Mr. Akin Ambode.
Another possible replacement for Fashola is the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, although he is said not to be interested in the core politics of the state.
It was however gathered that the governorship position might be zoned to the Lagos East Senatorial Zone, taking into cognisance the fact that the serving governor hails from Lagos Central while his predecessor, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, is from Lagos West.
If the governorship slot is eventually zoned to Lagos East, as is being canvassed, the move will put paid to the governorship ambitions of Hamzat (Lagos West), Gbajabiamila (Lagos Central), Lawal (Lagos Central), Banire (Lagos West), and Solomon (Lagos West) as possible contenders, leaving Ashafa, Ambode and Ikuforiji. The Lagos Assembly Speaker is currently facing graft charges, in the race.
Ambode and Ikuforiji also seem to be having an upper hand if the clamor for a Christian governor in the state is key to who represent the party at the poll. But Ikuforiji may have gotten his fingers burnt in the N35 billion scandal which is almost ruining his political dream to govern the state.
Sources close to Tinubu said a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Hakeem Muri Okunola, whose father was a revered Justice in the Court of Appeal in Lagos state before he passed on was also being considered.
Gender twist is being added to the game with the coming of Senator Remi Tinubu, who obviously is nursing the ambition of becoming the first female governor in the state.
Senator Ganiyu Solomon, who is currently the Minority Whip of in the Senate, early this year declared his intention to run for the Oval House by 2015. GOS, as he is fondly called by his admirers, is the first aspirant in the state, irrespective of political party to come out to indicate interest in the Lagos governorship race in 2015.
He believes that with his experience and developmental vision nursed over the years for the state, he is more than prepared to take the state further,"I have the experience and I am convinced that I will take the state further from where it is now," he said.
ACN state Chairman, Otunba Oladele Ajomale, said the party's leaders "are not talking about the governorship election yet," stating that the party was yet to deliberate on such issue.
The chairman, however, expressed strong opposition to the principle of zoning, noting that the principle "is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) formula and not ACN's. We do not believe in such ideas. We believe in picking the best." According to him, the next governor of the state could come from any part of the state as he added, "Our responsibility is to get the best and only the best will be good for the state. Wherever the candidate comes from, it does not matter. It is only those that can perform that will emerge eventually.
He continued "It is not about zoning. Someone who cannot perform cannot govern the state. The state is too discriminatory for that. We always want the best. The only thing the state deserves is a quality candidate. We cannot choose someone who will drag the party backwards. The next governor of the state must be someone who will shatter the records of the incumbent governor. When the time comes, the right candidate will emerge. I have not seen anyone who is interested yet."
On Somolon's declaration to contest for the position, Ajomale explained that all qualified candidates "have the right to say what he or she wants. But I am in the best position to tell the truth. The party is yet to decide who will be the next governor of the state. But when the time comes, we will do that."
On the platform of the opposition PDP in the state, the likes of Ade Dosumu, who was the party's candidate in the 2011 governorship election; Chief Mrs. Remi Adiukwu-Bakare, former Commissioner for Commerce in the State; Adedeji Doherty, who contested the party primary in 2007 and 2011 have indicated interest to contest the Lagos governorship by2015.
Former Nigeria's High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; Afenifere chieftain, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; former House of Representatives member, Hon. Setonji Koshoedo; Mr. Demola Doherty, are also among the politicians warming up for the ticket of the party in the 2015 election. However owing to the unending schism in the state chapter of the party, more gladiators may emerge to contend for the flag of the party in the poll.
Obanikoro and his loyalist in the party have flagged off discreet campaigns for the party's ticket, with his rested political machinery being revived with members daily thronging into his Lagos Island home as well as the homes and offices of his associates across the state.
Obanikoro is also said to be using selected elders of the party in the state to reach out to camps opposed to his candidacy within the PDP. Believed to have the backing of the Presidency, Obanikoro is working hard to win the confidence of the party leadership in the state.Members of the party might still be aggrieved with the former Senator over campaign funds released to him by the Presidency under Olusegun Obasanjo for the 2007 election.
Jimi Agbaje a governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) in the 2007 election, is however favored within the party, though he has not officially joined the fold but serious efforts are being put in place to ensure he get the party's ticket. The party believed
Agbaje could change the negative perception of the party in the state if given the platform,.
Members of the party had severally warned Chief BodeGeorge not to begin another unending problem by imposing any unpopular candidate that might affect its chances in winning the 2015 poll. Several members are still aggrieved over the way Dosunmu emerged at the order of Bode George from his prison room as the party candidate in 2011.
Also all reconciliatory efforts in the party seem not to be yielding positive result for the PDP to face the 2015 task; the party still relies on the power and influence of the Presidency or its national secretariat to capture the state.
With the benefit of hindsight, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had attempted to use the federal might in 2003 and 2007 to "capture" Lagos for the PDP but failed woefully despite his annexation of the rest of the Southwest. 2015 is another test for the Federal Might.
Still, indications are that the PDP under President Goodluck Jonathan is intent on winning Lagos, but first, there is need for the party in the state to close ranks. A member of the party said the Presidency is ensuring that concerted efforts are put in place to pacify all aggrieved party members and bring them together.
Although the Alliance for Democracy (AD) is laying claims to being still politically active in the state, it is yet to be seen how serious the party is in Lagos political calculations in the race to the Oval House in 2015.