Discerning analysts had known right from the time of the election last October that the chairmanship poll in Ikoyi/Obalende LGA in Lagos, as small as the council poll may seem, would be a proxy war of sort between the ACN National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his former associate and PDP leader in the state, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro. Tinubu and Obanikoro are no stranger to each other. Obanikoro was a commissioner then in Tinubu’s cabinet in Lagos around 1999. He later became a Senator on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, the party where Tinubu and most of his associates now in ACN took off from in 1999. But as he fell out with Tinubu, Obanikoro defected from AD to PDP. Obanikoro was to run against Tinubu’s preferred candidate, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, in the 2007 election, which he lost. How and why Obanikoro became estranged with his political leader, Tinubu, is not the focus of this piece and should not detain us here.
The Ikoyi/Obalende constituency, as has been aptly captured by some national dailies including THISDAY, covers Tinubu’s Bourdillion Road residence. Obanikoro’s eldest son, Babajide, was running for the election on PDP platform and was in the race with Adewale Adeniji of the ACN. I guess Adewale is a scion of the popular Adeniji Adele family, also an ally of Tinubu. In the days leading to the election, not a few had reckoned that Obanikoro’s son was the man to beat. Somehow, the results released by the state Independent Electoral Commission showed that Babajide lost. It was the first time PDP was contesting the council election in Lagos since the creation of 37 development centres during the time of Tinubu as governor, which took the number of councils in the state to 57 as it were. Ikoyi/Obalende and perhaps Badagry councils were some of the areas where PDP could be said to be in serious contention in the election. This was why the party officials kept a night vigil when the result of the election in Ikoyi/Obalende was being unduly delayed and why there was also protest when Adeniji was declared the winner of the poll. Obanikoro Jnr challenged the result of the poll at the tribunal, which was the wise thing to do.
Last Thursday, the five-member tribunal headed by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (rtd) in a 4 to 1 decision, after discounting some alleged illegal votes, ruled that Babajide Obanikoro was the winner of the election. The panel said Obanikoro polled 6,780 votes to Adeniji’s 6,248. The declaration led to jubilation in PDP circles in Lagos. If you know the pedigree of Justice Akinsanya as a courageous judicial officer, you would know she is one of the few judges in Lagos, serving or retired, capable of giving such a landmark ruling. She it was who delivered the judgment that sounded the death-knell on the Interim National Government (ING) contraption of former military President Ibrahim Babangida in the wake of the annulment of June 12. Justice Akinsanya ruled that the ING headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan was illegal.
The ACN had said it would appeal the verdict which gave victory to Obanikoro’s son. Meanwhile, in the interim, the million-dollar question: is the tribunal judgement a referendum on Tinubu? I think attempting to draw the ACN leader directly into the fray may seem too far-fetched, despite the fact it was his constituency. The tribunal verdict may not directly be a referendum on Asiwaju Tinubu as it was not his offspring that contested the election against Babajide, though there is no doubt that the ACN leader may have sanctioned Adeniji’s candidacy perhaps in the manner of the imposition of candidates characteristic of ACN’s politics. The court victory, however, should be a wake-up call for Tinubu and ACN that they need to embrace internal democracy and put in place a system that would ensure that justice is done to all, since, as Governor Fashola once openly advised, Asiwaju Tinubu cannot possibly love his associates equally. If that is not done, and urgently too, the day of the ultimate referendum on Tinubu may have been reduced by one week, that is counting from the day Justice Akinsanya delivered her historic judgement.