TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE writes on the forthcoming Lagos East Senatorial District by-election to fill the seat vacated by late Senator Bayo Osinowo
The contest for who succeeds late Senator Bayo Osinowo, who represented Lagos East Senatorial District in the Ninth Senate till June 15, has started earlier than expected as about 10 personalities across the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been linked to the forthcoming senatorial by-election.
Lagos East is one of the five senatorial districts without a representative due to death of their respective senators. Osinowo, who represented Lagos East in the Upper Chamber from June 8, passed on at the age of 64 in a private hospital in Lagos after a brief illness and was buried in his hometown in Ijebu, Ogun State according to Islamic right the same day.
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to officially announce a date for the by-election, the contest seems to have started in earnest as many political gladiators are warming up for it. Lagos East Senatorial district comprises five local government areas –Kosofe, Ibeju-Lekki, Epe, Ikorodu and Somolu.
No doubt, the contest is going to be a battle among political gladiators and candidates from different political parties, however, internal politicking that will characterise the process of selecting a candidate for the coming by-election by the various parties is going to renew the rivalry between the ruling APC and the opposition parties in the Centre of Excellence.
APC, PDP renewed rivalry
Apart from political gladiators within and outside Lagos East trying to outsmart one another to produce the representative of the district in the Red Chamber, the contest is going to be a renewed rivalry between the ruling APC and main opposition PDP in Lagos State as their members are already locked in political horse-trading.
While APC is strategising to retain the seat, the PDP is not resting on its oars to ensure that it produces thenext senator for Lagos East Senatorial. To many political observers, the contest for the vacant seat in the Senate will not only be used by the both parties to settle political scores, but to register their presence in the state as well.
APC leaders believe that losing the seat to PDP will send a wrong signal to the public, especially ahead of next year’s local government election in Lagos State and the 2023 general election. PDP leaders are also not resting on their oars in ensuring that they win the election to have a member in the Upper Chamber on the platform of the PDP from Lagos State.
Since the return of civilian administration in, 1999, the ruling party in Lagos State, which started as Alliance for Democracy (AD) and later transformed to Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and APC in 2014, has continued to produce the three senators in the state after every election. The only time PDP laid claim to senatorial seats was when Senators Adeseye Ogunlewe, Wahab Dosunmu and Musiliu Obanikoro defected to PDP after winning elections through the ruling party.
Ogunlewe and Dosunmu defected prior to 2003 polls from AD to PDP, while Obanikoro moved from AC to PDP few months to the 2007 general election and emerged as the party’s governorship candidate for Lagos State.
Apart from the senatorial polls, PDP has always lost the governorship, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections to the ruling party. However, the party had a good outing during the 2015 general election, winning five out of the 24 House of Representatives seats in the state and eight out of the 40 seats of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Many people have thought that PDP will build on its 2015 success during the 2019 polls but few months to the election, the party was hit by massive defection as some of its chieftains such as Senators Ogunlewe and Obanikoro, the state chairman of the party, Hon. Moshood Salvador and seven members of the House of Assembly joined the ruling APC.
As expected, PDP’s fortune during the 2019 polls dwindled. The party was only able to win only three House of Representatives as against the five federal and eight state legislative seats it won in 2015.
It is against this backdrop that the contest for the vacant Lagos East seat will provide opportunity for Lagos PDP to increase its number in the National Assembly, This, perhaps, explains why the opposition is not leaving any stone unturned to grab the senatorial seat.
Apart from the APC and PDP, other political parties are also not relenting in their efforts to ensure that they have a member in the Senate from Lagos State.
One of such parties, Action Democratic Party (ADP), through its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Adelaja Adeoye, said it is not leaving any stone unturned to clinch the seat and called on all interested party members, who will like to contest the election to come forward and apply.
“Our party will participate in this election because we have formidable structures in all the five local government areas of Lagos East. We will present the best candidate, whose contribution on the floor of the Senate will reflect the wishes of the district,” he said.
Adeoye added that once INEC rolls out its guidelines for the by-election, it will nominate a credible candidate, with the required competence, character and capacity to deliver for the good people of Lagos East.
The senatorial hopefuls
Since the demise of Osinowo, some names have kept popping up as the likely successors to the late lawmaker. New Telegraph gathered that names of possible replacement from APC and PDP linked to the senatorial race are the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode; former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji; Osinowo’s predecessor, Senator Gbenga Ashafa; Director-General of Nigeria in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; member of Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the apex leadership body of Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Lanre Rasak; former Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Tola Kasali and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dayo Bush-Alebiosu, who represented Kosofe Federal Constituency between 2007 and 2015.
Others are member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency, Hon. Jimi Benson; Osinowo’s PDP opponent in 2019 elections, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi; Action Democratic Party (ADP) 2019 governorship candidate, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi and PDP senatorial candidate in 2015, Mrs. Olabisi Salis.
Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that while some of the gladiators are still silent over their respective aspirations, some party leaders and supporters have already commenced plans to draft them into the race. However, there is the belief that new people may likely join the race in the days ahead.
Ambode, Rasak, Ashafa, others in contention for APC ticket
It was gathered from multiple sources that some APC chieftains have already dragged Ambode, Ashafa and Ikuforiji into the senatorial contest. The contest, some say, will renew the inter-party rivalries witnessed during the 2015 and 2019 elections.
It was further gathered that Ambode and Ikuforiji, who battled for APC governorship ticket during the 2015 primaries are among the top contenders for the Lagos East senatorial race. Though both of them are yet to speak on their aspiration, there loyalists and foot soldiers have already linked them to the race.
Ambode and Ikuforiji as well as Rasak, who is also linked to the race, are from Epe Local Government Area of Lagos East. It was gathered that some people are pushing for Epe to produce Osinowo’s replacement to pacify the local government for denying the people of the area the opportunity of having their son (Ambode) to serve as governor for two terms. The former governor lost the APC governorship ticket to the incumbent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, due to internal wrangling in APC prior to 2019 elections.
Those rooting for Ambode are of the view that the former governor should be compensated with the senatorial slot having been denied a second term ticket and also lost out in getting a ministerial or federal appointment after leaving office in 2019.
Despite arguments of some political analysts in favour of Epe being given the opportunity to produce the APC’s candidate for the by-election, some party leaders in Kosofe Local Government Area, where Osinowo hails from are also putting pressure that the local government should be given the opportunity to produce the late senator’s successor.
Their argument is that the council should be given the opportunity to complete the tenure of late Senator Osinowo. Among those being considered for the contest in Kosofe is Hon. Bush-Alebiosu, a former member of the House of Representatives and son of GAC member, Otunba Busurat Alebiosu. Others are, however, rooting for a core loyalist of Osinowo to be given the slot.
As APC leaders in Epe and Kosofe are strategically positioning someone from their respective councils, politicians from the other three local governments of the district – Ibeju-Lekki, Somolu and Ikorodu, have also been linked to the senatorial race. They include Ashafa and Kasali (Ibeju-Lekki), Dabiri-Erewa and Benson (Ikorodu).
A source who spoke on the development, said: “There is pressure from different quarters in APC over Osinowo’s successor. People in Kosofe Local Government Area are insisting that the local government should be given the opportunity to produce his successor and one of those being considered is Dayo Alebiosu.
“Some people are also pushing for Ambode. They are of the view that the senatorial seat should be used to compensate the former governor for not securing a second term ticket and for not getting any appointment since he left office. Ikuforiji is also being linked to the race. Politicians from other local governments are also showing interest in the race.
“It is going to be a tough fight in APC and the contest may likely be a repeat of the battle and rivalry of the 2015 and 2019 in the ruling party.”
The permutations, notwithstanding, it is believed that APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will have a final say on the matter. The former Lagos State governor is more likely to support the candidacy of a thoroughbred and experienced politician; someone who is astute and popular across the five councils of the senatorial district.
Gbadamosi, Oyefusi eye PDP’s ticket
For PDP, New Telegraph gathered that both Oyefusi and Gbadamosi have already declared interests for the senatorial poll.
“Princess Oyefusi is going to run for the senatorial election. She was the PDP candidate in 2019. She has already indicated her interest and informed some of the party’s leaders. However, some people are pressurising Gbadamosi to join the race because they believe he is popular.
“Some people in PDP are also going to show interest in the election and they will definitely contest against Oyefusi and Gbadamosi for the party;s ticket,” a close associate of Oyefusi told New Telegraph.
Gbadamosi in what seemed to be a confirmation of his intention to contest the senatorial poll, recently displayed a poster on his Facebook page. Apart from Oyefusi and Gbadamosi, there are perceptions in some quarters that Mrs. Salis, wife of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate in the 2019 gubernatorial poll, Chief Owolabi Salis, may also throw her hat into the ring. However, the platform she is going to use for the election is yet to be known as many are at crossroads whether she will contest on PDP platform or use another platform to realise her aspiration.
New Telegraph gathered PDP leaders are presently divided over who to support for the senatorial poll between Gbadamosi and Oyefusi. Some are rooting for Oyefusi on account that her performance in the last election was commendable and therefore they are of the view that she should be supported to fly the PDP’s flag in the senatorial by-election.
During the 2019 polls, Oyefusi who polled 13,075 votes lost the senatorial election to Osinowo, who garnered 18,713 votes. To many people, Oyefusi’s performance in the election showed that she is not a push over given the margin of difference.
It is also believed that she knows the terrain and has a viable structure to work with to deliver for PDP. Her candidature has even been endorsed by many party chieftains, including Gbadamosi, who reportedly told some Lagos PDP leaders and stakeholders on a WhatsApp platform on June 15 that based on her performance in the last election, she should be returned unopposed.
Gbadamosi, on his part, is not a push over in Lagos politics, having showed interest in the state governorship on three occasions. He contested twice on PDP’s platform but couldn’t get the party’s ticket. He defected to ADP and contested the last governorship poll but came a distant third to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Gbadamosi defected to PDP last year and barring any last minute change of mind, he is expected to take part in PDP’s primaries for Lagos East by-election.
Factors that will shape the election
Irrespective of number of candidates that may be nominated by the parties for the by-election, political observers believe that the contest is majorly going to be between the APC and PDP and a lot of factors will determine who will be victorious.
Some of the factors that will shape the election are party structure, power of incumbency, state might and crisis within the political parties, among other issues.
Presently in Lagos, only APC and PDP have viable structures in all the nooks and crannies of the state and the two parties are expected to flex their muscles in the by-election, considering the political structure and personalities in the two dominant parties in the state.
However, if the present state of the two parties is anything to be put into consideration, the APC has more visible and viable structures in Lagos East Senatorial District than the PDP and other parties in the state, considering that the ruling party swept all the seats contested for in the last general elections.
The stronghold of APC in Lagos politics, notwithstanding, some political analysts are of the view that PDP could capitalise on the present upheavals within the ruling party to emerge victorious in the forthcoming by-election though there is no doubt that power of incumbency would be a major factor in the by-election.
The late Senator Osinowo, popularly known as ‘Pepperito’ has a formidable political structure, not only in Lagos East but also across the other two senatorial districts of the state as one of Tinubu’s loyalists and trusted allies. So, APC will be going into the poll with power of incumbency since the party is the ruling party at the local government, state and national levels.
While party structure is very crucial in every election, both APC and PDP cannot claim to be totally united, as there are some traces of disunity within the two. The parties are divided along political groups and factions, which might likely affect their chances if necessary steps are not taken by their respective leaders to put their houses in order before the poll.
The issue of zoning may also determine the outcome of the by-election, as politicians in the five local governments that make up Lagos East are doing everything possible to ensure that they outsmart one another in producing Osinowo’s successor.
iElection as litmus test for Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat
The Lagos East by-election is the first major election in Lagos State after the election of Governor Sanwo-Olu and therefore the governor will not relent to ensure that his party wins the poll.
Apart from Governor Sanwo-Olu, his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, is another major stakeholder in the election and he is definitely going to work hard in ensuring that his party retains the seat. Coming from Epe Local Government Area in Lagos East Senatorial District, Hamzat like his principal is expected to put all he has into the senatorial by-election without creating room for any loophole within or outside the APC that may deny the ruling party to retain the seat.
Considering the internal wrangling and politicking that led to the emergence of Osinowo as APC candidate in 2019 as against then incumbent Senator Ashafa, and inability of Ambode to secure a second term, some members of the party are still aggrieved over the matter, therefore, Governor Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat are expected to rally leaders in the senatorial zone and Lagos State at large to ensure that all knotty issues are resolved before the by-election as failure to do so migh affect the ruling party’s chances in the forthcoming election.