Lagos 2023: The Amber Light Flashes

In 2023, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s re-election, is the issue. Olawale Olaleye writes

There are speculations that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, might be stopped from seeking re-election. It’s not false. But, this time, it’s not going to be a walkover for the “architects” of this otherwise venal and destructive politics.

Some of the factors that will determine the tide of events in Lagos in 2023 will not make it easy for fascism. It’s going to be a different ball game, this time. After all, Edo’s recent governorship run, has taught all that possibilities are limitless in politics.

Quite naturally, Lagos, in the 2023 elections, promises an interesting spectacle. It always does. Since the nation’s return to civil rule in 1999, Lagos has never abdicated its place for another in terms of pacesetting – politically and development-wise.

As the commercial nerve centre of the country, former capital city and Nigeria’s most viable state – economically – it is not by mere coincidental reference that Lagos is monikered the “Centre of Excellence”; it earned it. Lagos is truly mega in all considerations.

This is also why its politics is nothing compared to any other. Lethally civil and treacherously exciting, it always leaves behind many takeaways and in the end, gives soothing bruises. With a perfected winning template – somewhat – that has survived over two decades, the tendency to brag and claim control by the operators of her politics and self-styled leadership, may not be misplaced. They, too, earned it.

Not even with the multitude of supporters that have come to accept their fate in terms of whatever the leadership dishes out to them as political direction. Lagos, as it is today, is politically regimented with diehard discipleship.

They’d rather pander to what they often refer to as the ‘bigger picture’ even if and when their interests might have been canceled out of the new but obviously manipulated projections. The culture is Darwinian and a cycle typified by schooled corruption. Welcome to Eko for show!

To activate this thriving template in 2007, choosing a successor was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s biggest challenge as he prepared to leave office. He was governor of the state between 1999 and 2007. But he chose to gamble and that gamble, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who was then his chief of staff, paid off.

Suffice it to say that Tinubu is not a very tolerant politician, not even the dissenting views of persons considered subservient could move him. This, perhaps, can explain why in the period he served as governor, ended up with three deputies: Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Otunba Femi Pedro and Prince Abiodun Ogunleye.

While the need to dominate the political turf, control the levers of power and continue to decide a successor of choice could have been partly responsible for why Tinubu fought and outran three deputies, all of his successors have always had a difficulty returning for a second term, also on the same account.

Fashola, interestingly, scaled the re-election hurdle. Although the current minister of works and housing refused to meddle in the politics of the state at the time he was governor, he managed relationships with other equally critical interests in the state very well whilst minding the business of governance and administration, strictly.

Thus, the attempt to undo his rise and stop his re-election failed on the strength of the groundswell of supports he had secured over time. He has since remained the face of progressive politics in terms of performance and the understanding of governance issues. Unfortunately, Fashola’s successor, Akinwunmi Ambode, another gamble by Tinubu, was not as lucky. Ambode’s inability to properly manage extant relationships and failing to use smart back-channels, were his major undoing as he thought having Tinubu alone was all that was needed to survive the minefield of the politics of re-election.

But Tinubu, expectedly, caved-in to the pressure of his long ignored followers, who moved against the former governor and showed Ambode the way out. Ambode remains the one sitting governor in this part of the country not allowed the opportunity of seeking re-election and not that he failed to return at the polls.

Again, to replace Ambode, Tinubu, yet gambled and dragged into the race, the current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a man, who seized the momentum of Ambode’s missteps to come into office – boasting sweeping goodwill amid promises to douse then growing discontents.

With a well-off profile, fit enough for the job and paired with another sound mind, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Sanwo-Olu came into office and landed into multiple crises of governance, leadership and administration. As though he had been prepped for the job, Sanwo-Olu has continued to handle the job well to the best of his ability – currently posting above average results.

It goes without saying that Sanwo-Olu cannot finish the work of the developments of the state. But, the fact cannot also be denied that he is doing as much as possible within the timeframe and resources available, with the hope that a re-election might help to consolidate.

And boom, the amber light flashed.

The speculation is rife now and no longer a big deal amongst the political elite of the state that Sanwo-Olu might be served the Ambode treatment. First, he was said to have agreed to an understanding that he would only serve a term. Whether or not that is true, the speculation is now a matter of public discourse.

Second, being a Christian, he is said to have been ‘hired’ to serve out the second term of the Christian slot, which Ambode was denied. Unfortunately, that excuse belies logic in all its forms. While it is true that they are both Christians, Sanwo-Olu, from Lagos Central, cannot – politically and strategically – complete the tenure of Ambode, who represented Lagos East.

And third, his returning to office is being seen as likely to unsettle the plan to allegedly drag Tinubu’s son, Seyi, into the political terrain in a capacity not clear or defined yet. This supposition has also gone on for a while and it appears all things are beginning to work together for the conspiracy theory to excel and as well, materialise.

However, if there had been doubts that there were plans to stop Sanwo-Olu in 2023, two developments – deliberate political machinations though – have successfully funneled authenticity into the suspicions.

One, to prevent anyone in the core of the party leadership from speaking against whatever decisions Tinubu takes at the end of the day, especially, with respect to his son, Tinubu has allegedly ‘fixed’ at least one child of all the members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC). So, when the time comes, no one in the all-important group would be able to speak in that direction. Political morality has been compromised, first off.

Two and very noteworthy, the treatment meted out to Sanwo-Olu in the recently held local government primary elections was a clear and unmistaken message that stated: “I’m done with you”. Not one local government chairmanship slot was conceded to a sitting governor. This is aside muscling other major interests in the party.

The only chairmanship slot initially yielded to the governor out of the 57 was later retrieved from him and handed to someone believed to have come from Kwara State. Yet, his son, Seyi, was said to have cornered over 10 of the slots across the state.

This is beside other indignations the governor was alleged to have endured in order not to be distracted from his current mandate, knowing that his name is at stake and would ultimately take responsibility.

As it is now, the amber light is on and except the monolithic leadership of Lagos politics is able to interpret the signs very well and tread cautiously this time, there’s nothing about the much touted political template in the state that is irreversible. It may be delusional to assume so. Indeed, there may not be enough ‘loyal foot soldiers’ to prosecute the Lagos 2023 battle.

The idea that anyone, even though constitutionally entitled to a re-election, who allegedly agreed to an ‘ungodly’ understanding to serve just a term in the state, must uphold same, would be addressed by the public, when the time comes.

And, of course, it would be subjected to both legal and constitutional interrogations with all the tenets of democracy thrown up for a fair debate.

Importantly, too, if the rumoured presidential bid of Tinubu is true, then, the amber light directly flashes in his face. It is yet to be seen how he’d set his house on fire and at the same time, continues to chase a bigger dream on the same turf. The contradictions, without a doubt, speak to his capacity to have a rethink and review the subsisting equation. This will enable him make the smartest choice in the circumstances.

But, to deny the fact that the amber light is on and flashes steady, is to continue to live a devastating lie, not even when Mr. Olajide Adeniran, a much younger, energetic and formidable member of their party, is an irrepressible option waiting to happen. To dismiss and underestimate Adeniran’s political machine is to toy with an obvious danger lurking in the corner of Lagos politics in 2023.

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