“We have endured the denial of majority’s aspirations in the interest of a few who consider themselves the custodians of our electoral rights”.
Scores of members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos chapter, Monday, stormed the office of Governor Babatunde Fashola protesting their dissatisfaction with the party’s activities.
While the first group of protesters agitated for the introduction of internal democracy in adopting the party’s candidates for elections; the second group said they were yet to receive their severance benefits.
Niyi Akinsiju, the leader of the first group, the New Lagos Movement, said that imposition of candidates for electoral position “is no longer acceptable to us.”
“We have tolerated sufficiently, and for too long, the unenviable and anti-democratic culture of imposition of party leaders and political leaders on our people as practised in Lagos State in the past eleven years,” said Mr. Akinsiju, the group’s president.
“We have endured the denial of majority’s aspirations in the interest of a few who consider themselves the custodians of our electoral rights and to whom our electoral decisions matter not.
“It is this tendency that we have been complaining against in the past few weeks that the outcomes of our congresses which held between the 5th and the 26th days of April, 2014, were nothing but serial impositions by our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as he annulled genuine electoral results and planted his men in party offices,” Mr. Akinsiju added.
The group, who marched in red clothes from the party’s Lagos office to the state governor’s office, bore placards with inscriptions such as ‘We want direct primaries,’ ‘We demand internal democracy,’ ‘No to imposition,’ Leaders are not rulers,’ ‘No to autocracy,’ among others.
Mr. Akinsiju said that the party’s candidates should, henceforth, emerge by direct primaries as enshrined in the constitution of APC.
“We would no longer accept consensus. Democracy is all about competition,” he said.
“We also find abominable the recent declaration in which Asiwaju Tinubu unilaterally zoned the 2015 gubernatorial ticket of our great party to one religion and one part of the state thereby denying us the opportunity of electing the most qualified in the state.
“It is incontrovertible that the best aspirant from one faith or zone might be the least qualified when the people have the opportunity to determine their governor from the entire state,” he added.
In their two point demand addressed to Bisi Akande, the National Chairman of the party, the group demanded a “full guarantee” of internal democracy in Lagos APC without imposition of candidates as well as an immediate reversal of the “unfortunate zoning” declaration.
Responding on behalf of Mr. Fashola, the state governor, Tunji Bello assured the protesters that the party would begin to ensure that primaries are held.
“The governor asked me to tell you that every man or woman that has the right to contest within our party will be allowed to contest,” said Mr. Bello, the Commissioner for Environment.
“That there is no need to worry. He has given u his words that there is no need to cause confusion. Nothing will be done underground. Everything will be done openly,” he added.
‘PAY OUR SEVERANCE BENEFITS’
While the New Lagos Movement calmed down at the Commissioner’s response, the second group of protesters, under the aegis of Amalgamation of Local Government Political Functionaries, were much more belligerent.
The latter were protesting the non-payment of their severance benefits since 2011, and, initially, they insisted that it must be the governor who would address them.
Dayo Adefuye, one of the protesters, told PREMIUM TIMES that the tenure of the next batch of functionaries would elapse in four months, “yet they haven’t paid the 2008-2011 set.”
“Ogun State members were paid about three weeks ago. We just want them to give us a specific date,” he added.
The group said that they had lost 22 of their members since they began agitation for their benefits, adding that they had written 28 acknowledged letters to the governor.
“Before he was re-elected in 2011, the governor came and pleaded with us to work for him,” said one of the leaders.
“Ever since the governor was returned in 2011, we have not set our eyes on him.
It was gathered that the Lagos State House of Assembly had passed a resolution a few months ago directing the executive arm to pay the group, comprising of Council Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, Secretaries to the Local Governments, Supervisors and Councillors.
Mr. Bello, while admitting the executive arm’s knowledge of the resolution, told the group that their efforts to pay were hit with a setback.
“The governor is willing to accede to the resolution but the problem is when the money for the local government comes, the governor has no power to withdraw from the money, the Local Government chairmen have to…”
The Commissioner’s response infuriated the protesters who shouted him down.
“The governor can use money from the Excess Crude Account, SURE P, or send an appropriation budget to the House. We’ll make them pass it in 2 weeks,” a leader of the group told Mr. Bello.
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