TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE writes on the controversy trailing the Lagos State nominee for the Federal Character Commission in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
Since the return of democracy to Nigeria on May 29, 1999, Lagos State has been under the control of one political party and same gladiators. Though four political parties have steered the ship of the “Centre of Excellence” as Lagos State is known – Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Progressives Congress (APC) – are from the same root.
From 1999 till date, the state has produced four governors – Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode and Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Tinubu served for two consecutive terms, 1999 to 2007 on the platform of AD and later AC. Fashola also served for eight years on the platforms of AC, ACN and APC between 2007 and 2015. Ambode took over the baton of leadership on May 29, 2015 as APC governor and passed the baton to the incumbent, Sanwo-Olu, on May 29, 2019 on the platform of the same political party.
Though APC is the ruling party in the state, the party still battles with internal wrangling as there are disgruntle members within the party, who are not in total support of the Alhaji Tunde Balogun-led Lagos APC executive. During the 2019 general elections, the party leaders were divided over who flies Lagos APC governorship ticket between Ambode and Sanwo-Olu. While some insisted on Ambode retaining the governorship seat, majority supported Sanwo-Olu and the choice of the majority prevailed during the party’s governorship primary election as Sanwo-Olu floored Ambode.
According to the APC governorship primary election result announced by the state chairman, Alhaji Tunde Balogun at the party’s headquarters in Ogba, Ikeja, Sanwo-Olu emerged winner with 970,851 votes, while Ambode polled a total of 72,901 votes. The outcome of the primary created wide division in the party as some chieftains left the party, while others remained but worked against the party’s interest during the 2019 general election.
But despite the internal wrangling, APC went into the election and won the presidential, governorship and House of Assembly seats, as well as the three senatorial seats and 21 out of the 24 House of Representatives seats in the state.
After the 2019 polls, some chieftains and members of the party were offered political appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Sanwo-Olu. While many of the appointments were celebrated, some generated rancor, but the disagreements were managed by the party’s hierarchy.
But the situation seems to be different at the moment, following the controversy trailing the Lagos State nominee for the Federal Character Commission (FCC). It would be recalled that President Buhari recently sent the list of his nominees for the Federal Character Commission to the Senate for confirmation.
While the nominees from other states scaled through without any controversy, that of Lagos State is currently generating controversy as two people are laying claim to the slot. They are Bolaji Miftah Are and Wasiu Kayode Bawa-Allah. A source within the party disclosed that in the original list released by the presidency, Are’s name was number 25. But there was a report that Are’s name was substituted with Bawa-Allah.
A civil society organisation, Justice for Progress and Development (JPD), alleged that Are was removed as Commissioner-nominee from Lagos State based on the wrongful claim that he had died. “Based on the false information provided, President Buhari erroneously appended his signature and has already written to the Senate seeking confirmation of four new nominees to replace the four earlier appointed from their respective states – including Wasiu Kayode,” the group alleged.
No doubt, the controversy trailing the nomination is the fallout of the 2019 elections in the state, especially the politics that led to emergence of Sanwo-Olu as Lagos APC governorship candidate as against the Ambode, who lost his re-election bid. Though Ambode and some of his loyalists did not leave the party, there were allegations that some of them worked against the party’s interest during the polls by pitching tent with the opposition party.
Many believe this was one of the reasons why the former governor and his core loyalists were not considered for appointments either at the federal or state levels after the elections. In fact, there was allegation that Ambode was denied a ministerial slot because of the role he played during the 2019 polls.
Against the backdrop of the controversy trailing Lagos State nominee for the Federal Character Commission, Justice for Progress and Development (JPD), last Thursday petitioned President Buhari and President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, alleging fraud in the list of the nominees sent by the President for confirmation.
The group further alleged that some Lagos APC leaders perpetuated fraud over the Federal Character Commission list sent by the President to the Senate for confirmation. The group claim that some APC leaders took advantage of the uproar that trailed the nomination of a deceased nominee from Ebonyi State, Tobias Chukwuemeka, to claim that Are is also dead.
JPD in a petition dated May 14 and signed by its spokesperson, Chief Martin Oru-Benson, said while President Buhari listed Miftah Bolaji Are as the Commissioner for Lagos State under the Federal Character Commission, some chieftains of the APC in Lagos went through the backdoor and replaced his name with Wasiu Kayode.
The statement read in part: “As a staunch APC member and loyal supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari who vigorously worked for his emergence as President both in 2015 and 2019, the only offence committed by Are, according to these leaders was not because of incompetence but due to the fact that he was nominated for the position by former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
“What these APC leaders did is to obtain the signature of Mr. President fraudulently that the original nominee Miftah Bolaji Are is dead. The man is not dead; he is still much alive. The question we are asking now is why was he replaced? Is it that he is not qualified? Is it that he is not from Lagos or he was not properly nominated? Those are the three questions we are asking Mr. President and the Senate President to investigate.”
But in a swift reaction to JPD’s statement, Lagos APC called for an investigation into how Are’s name got to the Federal Character Commission board list, stating that the allegations by the civil society group are false.
The party, in a statement by its chairman, Balogun, stated that it nominated Bawa-Allah for the position of Commissioner-nominee of the Federal Character Commission for Lagos State and not Are as mentioned by the JPD.
Balogun said Lagos APC was surprised how Are’s name got into the list despite the fact that he worked against the interest of the party in the build-up and even after the 2019 general election.
The party chairman said Are worked to prevent President Buhari’s re-election and also worked with political adversaries in Lagos State to prevent the emergence of Sanwo-Olu in the governorship election.
Balogun statement read in part: “For the sake of clarity, I want to declare categorically that the allegations levied by the JPD statement are false in all material aspects. There is no truth to them. A statement of such extreme falsity could not be rendered by innocent mistake or accident. Its errors were fully intentional.
“In Lagos State, there is a well-established and transparent mechanism the party employs to select state nominees for federal appointments. This mechanism was used by the state leadership committee in this instance to pick the FCC nominee for Lagos State.
“During that process, stakeholders have an open and fair opportunity to express their opinion, good or bad, about any particular candidate. At the end of this deliberative process, Lagos State did indeed select its preferred nominee for the FCC slot. That nominee is Alhaji Wasiu Kayode Bawa-Allah. Mr. Are did not figure as a good let alone the best choice.
“Thus, if any chicanery or deviation from fair play arose during this process, it was not in removing Are’s name from the list of nominees. If there was any misconduct or mistake, it was that Are’s name was somehow placed on the list despite the clear and consensus decision made by Lagos State.
“However, I must emphasize that we wish Mr. Are well and hope that he enjoys a long and healthy life. We hold no ill will toward him but the record reflects that he holds much ill will toward the party.”
While commenting on why Lagos APC nominated Bawa-Allah as its nominee for the Federal Character Commission, Balogun declared that Bawa-Allah is highly qualified and was chosen through an accepted process, adding that Lagos APC is committed to truth, justice, fair play and good governance, and therefore would not mislead the Federal Government.
“The contrast between the two men is stark. Not only does he have strong professional credentials, Alhaji Bawa-Allah has proven to be a diligent, loyal APC member who worked tirelessly for the success of the party at all level of elections in the state.
“Conversely, Are and his ilk worked to prevent President Buhari’s reelection and to thwart the emergence of Governor Sanwo-Olu by lending his support to their electoral foes. Again, while we respect his democratic right to oppose us, it would be absurd to suggest that we owe him a federal appointment because he opposed us. Mr. Are and his ilk are brazen. Behind scheming to reap from where they did not sow, they are actually trying to reap that which they tried so hard to uproot.
“We commend the Federal Government and its officials for understanding what had happened and for correcting the wrong that was attempted against the federal and Lagos State governments as well as against the party.
“Are really has no firm standing here. He was neither nominated by the APC in Lagos, nor by Governor Sanwo-Olu. He somehow tried to slip his name through and failed because his name simply does not belong among us. End of that story.
“To begin the rightful story, we state that we are very pleased that Alhaji Bawa-Allah will occupy the Lagos position in the FCC. He will serve admirably and make us proud. As such, he will help the FCC fulfill its important mandate and in this way make a meaningful contribution to national governance and to our federalism.
“As a party, we open our arms to all who sincerely want to be a part of this progressive journey. But we will not allow those who oppose us and what we stand for to occupy the driver’s seat. We can drive ourselves.
“I want to take this opportunity to state the Lagos State chapter of the APC will not stand idly by as known political opponents or opportunists seek to assume important governmental roles and duties better left for competent party members who believe in the progressive ideals of the party and support our people-oriented policy agenda. This is not only to protect and bolster the party. But only in this way can we assure that the nation advances to become what it is meant to be.”