As the two major political parties in Lagos State, the APC and the PDP, hold their governorship primaries this week, analysts say the ruling APC remains on course to continue its dominance in the state.
While the PDP had fixed its governorship primaries for Wednesday, May 25, the APC aspirants will slug theirs out a day later.
With little or no action from the other political parties in the state, the 2023 governorship election in Lagos State will be, as has been the tradition for about two decades, a contest between the two major parties.
In the APC, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will contest for the party’s ticket against two aspirants – Olawale Oluwo and AbdulAhmed Mustapha.
The PDP has more aspirants for the party’s ticket: Ade Dosumu, AbdulAzeez Adediran, David Kolawole, Olanrewaju Jim-Kamal, Adedeji Doherty, and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour.
APC’s ‘three-horse race’
On paper, the ruling party in the state will see three aspirants battle to clinch its ticket.
In reality, Mr Sanwo-Olu might as well be the consensus aspirant. Having received the endorsements of the party’s leader in the state, Bola Tinubu, and the Governance Advisory Council (GAC); it is almost impossible for any of the other aspirants to pull an upset.
“We have a brilliant governor at the helm of affairs, who is supported by his deputy to build an unbreakable team that has raised the bar of excellence in governance in Lagos,” Mr Tinubu said while endorsing the governor and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, earlier this month.
“I specially thank Dr Hamzat, who has been a very good assistant and a pillar of support to the governor.
“Sanwo-Olu with Hamzat has raised an impenetrable team. I commend both of you and all members of the cabinet. You have all done wonderfully well and I must say that I am very proud of you.”
Mr Tinubu and the GAC – which is also controlled by Mr Tinubu – are the most powerful figures in the Lagos APC. And once they take a position, every other party member in the state falls into line.
In 2018, when they endorsed a relatively unknown Mr Sanwo-Olu against a sitting governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, the former won the controversial APC primary with a margin that was embarrassing to the governor: 970,851 to 72,901 votes.
Four years earlier, Mr Tinubu had tacitly supported Mr Ambode, a former accountant-general of the state, before the primaries and he won a landslide, polling about 60 per cent of the delegates’ votes to beat 12 other aspirants.
Political watchers say if the Tinubu-GAC wind could sweep away a sitting governor with the agility of mountain goats; the duo of Messrs Oluwo and Mustapha stands zero chance when the two power brokers have thrown their weight behind a sitting governor.
Yet, the two aspirants remain unperturbed, promising a fight to the finish on the day of the primaries.
Mr Mustapha told journalists at a press conference that he picked the governorship forms because Mr Tinubu was “very explicit that all the positions are open and everybody is free to contest.”
He dismissed Mr Tinubu’s endorsement of the governor and his deputy, saying it was “just in recognition of the work they had done.”
“The national leader is a democrat to the core. He is a man that is receptive to ideas and he will not be a party to stifling new ideas.”
Two days after Mr Mustapha’s press conference, Mr Oluwo held his where he said he would “restore the dignity of Lagos State,” if elected as governor.
Mr Oluwo, a close ally of Mr Ambode, angrily resigned his position as the commissioner for energy and mineral resources in 2018 after the APC dealt the former governor a humiliating defeat at the primaries.
Mr Mustapha also retired from the ministry of energy and mineral resources as a permanent secretary, last year.
But while Mr Mustapha spent nearly an hour after his speech at his press conference, answering questions from journalists; Mr Oluwo declined to field questions from reporters.
PDP’s house of commotion
The PDP in Lagos is notorious for its in-fighting, particularly during election seasons, prompting speculations that the party is populated by APC moles.
For the party to present a formidable fight in 2023, it has to find a solution to its never-ending internal crisis.
As the day of the party’s primaries draws near, some aspirants are concerned about the integrity of the process.
”I have some reservations, to be honest with you, but I can’t speak confidently on them just yet because the ground is still not clear,” Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, one of the aspirants, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“I don’t want to be crying wolf.”
Perhaps, the most interesting part of the Lagos PDP governorship primaries is that a major front-runner defected from the rival APC barely four months ago.
AbdulAzeez Adediran, the convener of the Lagos4Lagos Movement, joined the party last January and two months later, declared his intention to run for governor on the PDP platform.
At his declaration in March, Mr Adediran, popularly known as ‘Jandor,’ said the APC reign in the state had come to a terminal point.
“There is a terminal point for everything and the terminal point of APC in Lagos is 2023. We were the APC, we have created that implosion in APC and we are now in PDP.
“PDP has been doing between 30 per cent and 34 per cent in every election year. So, the 20 per cent which PDP needs to cross that threshold is what we have brought in from APC to PDP.”
Ade Dosunmu, an aspirant, was the party’s candidate in 2011 when they lost to the then incumbent governor, Babatunde Fashola. The margin of loss that year remains the widest margin of defeat in the state’s gubernatorial election since 1999.
Mr Dosunmu represented the party again in 2015 in the Lagos Central senatorial election. He lost to the APC’s Oluremi Tinubu.
Adedeji Doherty, another aspirant and a founding member of the party in the state, was the state chairman in 2019 before a court removed him two years later.
Mr Jim-Kamal, who is also aspiring for the ticket, said the party has been losing elections in the state because of imposition.
“The best way to go in stemming all these problems is for the party to go for elective primaries in Lagos State like we did in the congress,” said Mr Jim-Kamal, the chief executive officer of Arco Petroleum and Petrochemical, during his declaration in March.
“I opted out in 2015 when I discovered somebody was to be imposed on us.”
David Kolawole, popularly known as Dakova, is also aspiring for the party’s ticket.
Analysts say if the PDP in the state can put their house in order, and with a key APC member now in their fold, they might stand a chance of causing an upset at the poll in 2023.
A source within the PDP told PREMIUM TIMES that if Mr Adediran wins the guber ticket, it would throw the party into a crisis.
“It will cause disaffection within the party,” said the source who preferred not to be named because he is not authorised to speak.
“We are talking about someone who came to the party last month. A lot of us will not work for him.”
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