The affirmation of the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) chairmanship candidate for Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area last Thursday by a Lagos tribunal has far-reaching implication for the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), writes Olawale Olaleye
Immediately Ibrahim Babajide Obanikoro lost his election for a seat in the Lagos State House of Assembly during the April 2011 general election, he went back to the drawing board with his father, Musiliu, a former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana and his younger brother, Omogbolahan, who was his campaign manager. The trio had subjected the result of the exercise to thorough analysis, having allegedly done their homework months before going into the election.
From their findings as well as result of the exercise, the Obanikoro family was said to have discovered that their scion, Babajide actually did well in the election but was stopped from representing Eti-Osa State Constituency II by their agents for Obalende polling centre who allegedly sold out. According to the tales that later passed around, the said agent had left his beat on account of going to exercise his own constitutional right to vote, but before he got back to beat, the “acts had been perfected.”
Thus, when subjected to further scrutiny, the Obanikoro discovered it was from the Obalende centre that the opposition was able to change what would have initially turned out an upset in that election, following the intense campaigns that had preceded it. They noted at their strategy meeting that such fraud was impossible at other centres because they had reliable agents who manned their votes and ensured they counted.
At the end of the day, Jide believed he had nothing concrete to hold on to and therefore went ahead to congratulate the winner, Hon. Gbolahan Olugbenga Yishawu. But he did not give up completely.
It was, therefore, agreed at the meeting that Babajide should give the chairmanship a shot since the election was to come up later the same year. They resolved to work ahead, recruit reliable and cable agents and ensure that their votes count in all the wards within the council area. To further give Babajide’s candidacy a boost, the Obanikoro in agreement with the party leadership resolved to have a young man of Hausa origin, Jubril Muhammed Miringa, as his vice-chairman. That decision, observers believed, truly enhanced Babajide’s chances at the poll.
For the Obanikoro, merely experimenting with the local government election was designed to give a good reading on how to tackle the ACN in the 2015 election which the party has resolved to give its all “and rescue Lagos from its captors,” as it is wont to say.
That Saturday, as the October 22, 2011 local government election raced to a close, preliminary results as well as exit poll had hinted that Babajide won the election. As a matter of fact, some of the television stations had announced the results, relying on the collation so far done from the various wards.
The excitement, unfortunately, was fleeting as the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) under the leadership of Justice Abdul-Fatai Adeyinka, declined to announce results of the election. For three consecutive days from the close of the election, agents and supporters of both parties kept vigil at the council’s secretariat in Ikoyi where the collation was originally meant to hold and results announced with breakdown.
When it was obvious that PDP and the Obanikoro supporters would not give up what they thought was theirs, the LASIEC boss went on television and announced results without any breakdown. He just declared on air that the ACN had cleared all the chairmanship seats in the state while conceding a few councillorship seats to the PDP across the state. This was after the three-day stalemate had degenerated into violent clashes among supporters of both parties.
At first, Senator Obanikoro was not inclined to seeking redress because he thought his son would never secure justice in a Lagos arrangement. His excuse was that if LASIEC could handle the election so brazenly, then, the judiciary which is also under the whims of the state would do even worse. But he was consoled by the success of his experiment that if the polling centres were well manned, genuine result is feasible in an election conducted by federal agents in the state, thus subtly pondering the 2015 governorship poll.
But his two sons differed. Much as they agreed with him that a degree of success had been recorded by discovering the tricks of the opposition, they elected to go a step further to seek justice. Besides, they were convinced they would secure justice because the evidence with them was overwhelming. To that end, their father gave his consent but grudgingly.
As proceedings continued, Senator Obanikoro reiterated his reservation and described his sons’ decision as sheer waste of time and money. But they proved him wrong last Thursday when Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, affirmed in her ruling that Babajide actually won the election and subsequently ordered LASIEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier issued the ACN candidate, Mr. Adewale Adeniji and issue another to Babajide as the validly elected council chairman for Ikoyi/Obalende.
In many ways than one, the judgment portends great significance and may have demystified the subsisting permutations about the political standing in the state. One, the fact that the local government houses two of the national leaders of the ACN, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State means a lot to the equation on ground because of its psychological import. Two, the fight was never that of Babajide and Adeniji but one between Senator Obanikoro and Tinubu on the one hand and between the PDP and ACN on the other hand.
Three, the local government, apart from being the only one whose address is with the Federal Government as a substantive council in that part of the state, it is believed to control about 85 percent of the employees in the state, given the array of blue chip companies and other multi-nationals that are situated there. And because Ikoyi is essentially an elite area, it also speaks a lot to the disposition of the elite against the leadership of the ACN in the state.
Four, by that judgment, the misplaced notion that Lagos was permanently under the siege of a certain clique may as well be some myth designed to instill fear and recreate the true essence of the polity. It also underscores the fact that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babtunde Raji Fashola, being a lawyer of repute, has immense respect for the rule of law and may have ensured that the somewhat arbitrariness that held sway in the past remains in the past. More instructively, it is a reflection of the independence of the Lagos State judiciary, notwithstanding the attendant misgivings.
Five and most importantly is the fact that the judgment has vindicated some critical analysts that anything is possible in a dynamic age, provided it is within the precinct of the law. Thus, observers are of the view that the beliefs about Lagos being impenetrable by the opposition may as well remain in the imagination of those mooting it, as this development had punctured that assertion.
In other words, what this means, according to them, is that 2015 in Lagos is a free for all and that the party with the best and acceptable candidate with resounding programmes and ability to convince the sophisticated Lagos voters will emerge victorious.
Consequently, the judgment has also confirmed the position of the PDP that results of the presidential election in the state in which the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, defeated even the ACN candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, was a function of their effort and had nothing to do with rumoured understanding between the President and the opposition.
The import of the judgment is legion and a danger sign for the ACN in Lagos. It is also an indication that beyond Lagos, which is the strongest hold of the ACN, should the opposition organises itself properly towards the next election, the wonders of 2003 election is possible and that Lagos may not be spared this time.