Two vacant seats in Lagos East Senatorial District have unsettled the internal affairs of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). How will the parties resolve the motley of aspiration for their respective tickets? WALE ELEGBEDE writes
Lagos State, the nation’s melting point, has never been the same since late February when it became the index state for the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria. Since then, the nation’s commercial capital has become a shadow of its bubbling self. As the epicenter of the virus, the state had to battle community transmission of the disease, especially in over 10 local governments identified as hotspots of the COVID-19.
Perhaps, it will be safe to say that Kosofe Local Government Area of the state experienced the brutal part of the virus more than others when it comes to casualties among political office holders. From the blues, reports of the passage of Senator Bayo Osinowo, who represented Lagos East Senatorial District in the Ninth Senate on June 15, jolted not a few people, especially his constituents who see him as their God-sent benefactor.
The ebullient Osinowo 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 rites the same day.
Of course, the talking point around the cause of his death wasn’t explicit enough, but the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo- Olu, in his condolence statement, said, “The death of Senator Bayo Osinowo is painful. He died at a time when we have just begun to consolidate on our successes and see a ray of hope in our fight against the COVID-19.
We must not allow the death of Senator Osinowo to deter us from forging ahead in our quest to finding a lasting solution to the dreaded disease.”
Before his demise, Senator Osinowo, who was elected in 2019 after serving as a member of the State House of Assembly for 16 years was a power broker and political heavyweight in Kosofe. He was a close ally of former governor Bola Tinubu.
Just when the tear from the demise of Osinowo was just drying up, the cold hands of death struck again and this time, a strong ally of the former senator, Hon. Tunde Braimoh, who represents Kosofe Constituency II at the Lagos State House of Assembly, was reported dead on July 10, thereby bringing to record, two major deaths of elected officials in the Lagos East senatorial district.
Expectedly, with the vacuum, the jostle to replace the two lawmakers in the National and State Assembly got intense within the ranks of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to officially announce a date for the two polls, 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.
It is one of the five senatorial districts without a representative due to the death of their respective senators. Aside from individual contest for the tickets of the respective parties, gladiators from the two divides, APC and PDP, see the elections as a rematch of their rivalry in the politics of the Centre of Excellence, especially ahead of the 2023 contest.
But before the major contest to be decided by INEC, the internal horse-trading and skirmishes are in full throttles within the two parties.
While the discussions in the APC is all about rotation among the five local governments or retention of Kosofe where Osinowo came out from as the custodian of the senatorial ticket, it is a different kettle of fish in PDP where fresh entrants insist the party’s candidate at the general election should not be considered again.
Meanwhile, some political analysts opine that the APC remains a frontrunner and stands a better chance to retain the seat, but others insist that if PDP put its house in order, it can take advantage of the political disruptions in the APC at the national level to make its presence counts in the state. However, across the two parties, the concern is about Epe district.
All the councils in the senatorial district have produced a senator to represent the zone and many opine that this must be put into consideration by both parties, while choosing their representation ahead of the yetto— be announced election date. APC For the ruling party, the number of aspirants keeps swelling by the day.
In fact, the new norm among aspirants of the ruling party is name-dropping of endorsements and support by the state leadership of the party. Despite the effort of the state’s Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Seye Oladejo, to dismiss the insinuation that the leadership of the party has begun the process of replacing the late lawmakers and has already narrowed their choices, some of the aspirants insist they already have the backing of necessary party structure to emerge as candidates for the elections.
“Our attention has been drawn to the various speculations as regards the emergence of a candidate for the yetto- be scheduled Lagos-East senatorial by-election. Lagos State APC will like to state emphatically that the process of selecting a candidate has yet to commence for a number of reasons.
“First, our party is still mourning the demise of Senator Sikiru Adebayo Osinowo whose sudden departure sent shock waves through the fabrics of the party. The Independent National Electoral Commission has yet to officially notify the party of the scheduled by-election,” Oladejo said.
Some of the names being bandied around as likely candidate of the party for the senatorial election 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 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 include a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Jimi Benson; former two-term Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Asipa Kaoli Olusanya; former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Tokunbo Abiru; former Clerk of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Otunba Ganiu Olusegun Abiru and Hon. Sunmi Odesanya, a former member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, among others.
While some have rejected their being drafted into the race at some points, the interests of others have been literally overtaken by events. Declining any interest in the race, Abiru, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Polaris Bank said that while he holds the public service in high esteem, his time and energy at this time is primarily devoted to building a world-class financial brand that will serve the interest of all stakeholders of the Bank.
On his part, Ashafa’s speculated interest appeared rested following his appointment last week by President Muhammadu Buhari as Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). He was the immediate past senator of the district.
Already, the APC appears to be in a quagmire on whether to allow Kosofe to continue with Osinowo’s tenure by picking a representative from there or look the way of both Epe and Ikorodu which appear to be making a bold move with strong personalities.
Of course, Asiwaju Tinubu will be the final arbiter after all said and done, but how it will eventually pans out is in the belly of time. PDP For the opposition party, the senatorial race is chord for the party’s strength and accord ahead of the 2023 election.
For a party that got badly battered at the 2019 elections, the only tonic needed for electoral strength is the victory at the by-election. As at the last count, no fewer than seven members of the opposition party have reportedly indicated an interest in contesting the by-election.
Notable among the leading aspirants included a former governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party, Babatunde Gbadamosi; the last PDP flag bearer for the position, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi; a public relations expert, Adedipe Shobajo, among others.
While some members of the party are contending that Oyefusi should be returned to slug it out with the APC again, others averred that Gbadamosi, who has a deep pocket and quite popular should be given the ticket for the PDP to have any chance at all.
During the 2019 polls, Oyefusi polled 13,075 votes to late Osinowo’s l18,713 votes. But the spokesperson for the Lagos PDP, Taofik Ganiu, said his party would ensure it fielded the best candidate. Clearly, it is going to be a tough call for both the PDP and APC in picking their candidates ahead of the elections, but how they will fare in the election proper is another kettle of fish.