Wale Elegbede examines the quest by the people of Epe Division of Lagos East Senatorial District to have one of their own succeed late Senator Bayo Osinowo
The contest for who succeeds the late Senator Bayo Osinowo, who represented Lagos East Senatorial District in the Ninth Senate until demise recently has started in earnest than expected as political gladiators in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been linked to the forthcoming senatorial by-election Lagos East Senatorial District’s seat in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly became vacant on June 15, following the death of its occupant, Senator Bayo Osiniwo.
Osinowo passed on at the age of 64 after a brief illness and was buried in his hometown in Ijebu, Ogun State according to Islamic rights the same day. Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to officially announce the date for a by-election for Lagos East Senatorial district, the contest seem to have started in earnest as many political gladiators are warming up for the poll. Lagos East Senatorial district comprises five local governments areas of Lagos State.
They are Kosofe, Ibeju-Lekki, Epe, Ikorodu and Somolu. The state is made up of five main divisions, namely Epe, Ikorodu, Lagos Island, Ikeja and Badagry. Epe and Ikorodu are under Lagos East Senatorial District. But since the creation of the state and division of the state to three senatorial districts, it is only Epe that is yet to produce a senator for Lagos East Senatorial District. All past efforts by sons and daughters of Epe to occupy the senatorial seat never yielded a positive result.
So far, Lagos East has produced six senators but none of them hailed from Epe. They are Senators Adebanjo from Ibeju-Lekki; Anthony Adefuye from Somolu (1992 to 1993), Adeseye Ogunlewe from Ikorodu (1999 to 2003), Olorunnimbe Mamora from Kosofe (2003 to 2011), Olugbenga Ashafa from Ibeju-Lekki (2011 to 2019) and Bayo Osinnowo from Kosofe (May 2019 till June 2020).
During the 2019 general election, only one Epe indigene and APC chieftain, Chief Lanre Razak showed interest in the senatorial race to represent Lagos East and he was prevailed upon by the party’s leadership to step down and he did in obedience to party’s supremacy. It was the sacrifice he made that paved the way for the emergence of late Osinowo as APC’s flag bearer.
However, Osinnowo death came as a shock to political watchers across the country, especially APC members, his political associates and constituents. This threw Lagos State and in fact, the whole country into a mourning mood for weeks even as many of his associates and constituents are yet to recover from the shocking death of the man they popularly refer to as “Pepper.” The shock that the death must have informed why likely contenders to replace him at the Upper Chamber of the country’s legislative house are keeping mute in line of the Yoruba tradition of keeping calm to mourn the dead. However, since it is imperative to choose a replacement to fill up the vacant seat, analysts have gone to town to sample various opinions on who should succeed the late lawmaker.
During the campaign for the seat last year, not a few contestants showed inter ests on occupying the seat to represent the Lagos East at the highest law-making House. All the aspirants, including the then incumbent, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, showcased their high points that they considered effective political tools that could earn them electoral success at the polls.
While individuals were intensifying their efforts then through mobilisation, sensitisation and consultations towards achievement of their goals, some groups sprung up as campaign mouthpieces either for some particular aspirants or for their catchment areas in their various divisions. In the game of “it is our turn” that ensued, Epe Division was not left out.
But at the end of the day, the slot went to Kosofe Division when the leadership of the party urged other aspirants to step down for the late Osinnowo. And in the spirit of party loyalty and patriotism, when all the aspirants were asked to step down, only Razak complied without minding the resources he had already spent to canvass for support.
It is against this backdrop that some analysts are of the view that compensating Razak with the slot this time, would be a reward for his loyalty to the party and would serve as an incentive to others that may be asked to step down in the future.
They reasoned that out of the five local governments in the district – Somolu, Kosofe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu and Epe, only Epe has not been considered for the seat while a couple of divisions have had the opportunity to be there twice. Out of the six senators that Lagos East Senatorial District has produced, two – Senators Adebanjo and Ashafa are from Ibeju-Lekki, while Senators Mamora and late Osinowo are from Kosofe Local Government Area. Senators Adefuye and Ogunlewe are from Somolu and Ikorodu, respectively.
While Ibeju-Lekki has enjoyed a second chance and Kosofe also started its second term before its representative’s sudden death, Epe is yet to have a chance to occupy the coveted seat, hence the analysts say there is the need for consideration for Epe in the spirit of fair play and principle of power rotation.
There is no doubt that Epe Division is never in short supply of experienced and eminently qualified personalities to replace Osinnowo, looking at the political gladiators who hail from the local government as well as eminent politicians and administrators, who have demonstrated their worth in past public offices they occupied. At present a lot of Epe indigenes have been linked to the forthcoming senatorial poll.
The three prominent names among the speculated aspirants are former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode; former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji and former Lagos State Public Transportation Commissioner and member of the Lagos State APC Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Chief Lanre Razak. While some of the names being put to the front for the senatorial poll are yet to make public their intentions, investigations revealed that Razak’s name severally came up as a suitable aspirant to take up the seat vacated by Senator Osinnowo.
The reason for this, according to checks, was that apart from considering him as an Epe representative, the three years remaining could serve as a retirement parting gift for the politician for his loyalty and patriotism. Political commentators are of the opinion that such an arrangement would save the party hassles of a primary election to nominate its candidate. They pointed out that, a formidable, experienced and eminently qualified chieftain of the APC like Razak, would not be a hard sell. At the moment, the demand for Razak’s candidature is presently being pushed by different groups and individuals in Epe and the entire senatorial district.
In fact, his name was mentioned as likely successor to Osinowo by some political associates of the late senators during his internment in Ijebu. This without any iota of doubt is a clear indication that Razak will be a good candidate for the ruling party if considered for the senatorial poll. On Tuesday, a group, Concerned Indigenes of Epe Division, appealed to the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and traditional rulers from Epe to consider Razak as the APC flag bearer for the vacant Lagos East Senatorial District seat. They made the call during a stakeholders meeting in Epe. The president of the group, Bola Oguniyi, said Osinowo left a huge vacuum, which needs to be filled in a very short time since government is a continuum.
His words: “We know that our party will desire to maintain progressive virtues by ensuring a capable and outstanding candidate succeeds the late Osinowo in order for the people to continue to enjoy good governance and dividends of democracy.
It is on this premise that we humbly present to you our best and most preferred candidate, in the person of Chief Lanre Razak.” Oguniyi added that the group aligns its support and loyalty to Razak in his quest and desire to represent Lagos East Senatorial District, noting that he stepped down for Osinowo to be the APC flag bearer and has been a unifying figure in the state chapter of the party whose commitment to its ideals are not in doubt. “KLM as Razak is popularly called is a symbol of what APC stands for. He is most qualified to represent us in the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly. He has served in various capacities and he’s still ready to serve. His capacity building and community developments over the years still speaks volume for him and he will not relent in ensuring that programmes, projects and measures that will enhance the development and growth of Lagos East Senatorial District in particular and Lagos State in general are put in place by the Federal Government,” he added.
No doubt, Razak is an experienced politician, who is very passionate about his people and Lagos State in general. This is why his philanthropic gesture has given hope to many people in Epe and outside the local government. His passion for Lagos State came to fore when declared his interest in the Lagos East senatorial seat in 2018 as he promised to intensify the fight for a special status for the former federal capital, if elected.
He then said he would ensure the relisting and the passage of the special status bill for the state at the National Assembly, noting that the passage of the bill would enable the Federal Government to cater more for its infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and drainages, many of which are now in deplorable condition. His words: “I have no doubt in my mind that I will be able to use my knowledge, connections and experience to lobby my colleagues in the Senate and officials of various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), I have known over the years, to attract more federal presence to Lagos State, besides ensuring regular maintenance of existing federal infrastructure.
“Apart from promising adequate and quality representation, my immediate priority in the Senate, if elected, will be to join forces with my fellow senators from the state to resuscitate the bill which will make the Federal Government accord a special status to Lagos State as a former federal capital and Nigeria’s current commercial and financial capital to sustain its position as the driver of the nation’s economic growth.” As Lagos East electorate prepare to elect their representatives in the Senate, there are many questions begging for answers, which only the people will provide answers to as only time will tell if history will repeat itself or whether Epe will break the senatorial jinx.