Venue of the primaries after it was disrupted

The violent outcome of the recent local government primaries in the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress is a warning to the party leadership about what to come if candidates are imposed in future primaries, writes Olawale Olaleye

Penultimate weekend, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State held its primary elections for the coming local government poll and for the first time in a very long while, the exercise turned out violent, with the chairman of the exercise, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, nearly mobbed by an angry mob, even though the mob was believed to have been sponsored.

The lead up to the exercise had shown that certain persons and groups in the party were not comfortable with the way the process of the primaries was being handled and in the period that many allegations were flying around, a lot had equally been levied against Afikuyomi, including but not limited to bribery and exploitation of candidates.

But whilst no one had come out to prove the allegations against Afikuyomi, the only senator in the nation’s political history to have served two different senatorial districts in Lagos State (Central and West), the development had built up anger amongst a majority of the people, who alleged imposition and brazen swapping of names of candidates. It was against this backdrop that the people insisted on election as against mere approval that was said to be the agenda of the election committee.

It didn’t take long before the entire process went south. Trouble, reports had it, started after 18 candidates were allegedly returned unopposed and a voice vote was called to choose the remaining candidates for the council poll, slated for July 22, 2017.

Delegates opposed to the idea of voice vote however protested the process, which they claimed would lead to the imposition of candidates. And when the leadership was not going to shift grounds, they allegedly threw caution to the wind, upturned tables and threw away ballot boxes and other materials meant for the election at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, venue of the election. This soon blew out of control as aggrieved party supporters engaged in a free-for-all midway into the election. Scores of delegates and others were forced to flee the venue in different directions as a result, scampering to safety.

Although what happened penultimate Saturday was not alien to the “democratic tradition” of the progressives in the South-west, Lagos being a torchbearer, the oppression had also peaked. Lagos had never been quite democratic in its choice of leadership during primaries. Even though a semblance of it was forced on the party during the governorship primaries of 2015, it was clear to those who knew the undercurrents that it was a settled matter long before the exercise.

In fact, the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who had been rumoured all along as the anointed, once boasted during a meeting of aspirants of the party at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, that no matter how hard the others tried, they already knew the outcome of the election and truly, he won the election, as other aspirants of the party were “technically” edged out of the race with a delegates’ list that no other person knew of.
It is pertinent to note, therefore, that the first time the leadership of Bola Tinubu, which delights in imposing candidates on the people, regardless of their preference and yet fronts the façade of a democrat, was confronted about his Darwinian politics was in 2003, when he re-districted Senator Afikuyomi from Lagos Central to Lagos West, because he wanted to accommodate Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who had been anointed by the former Oba of Lagos, Adeyinka Oyekan, as Senator for Central.

But Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, otherwise called GOS, found the decision preposterous and challenged it. Efforts to cow or convince Solomon, who was at the time the outgoing chairman of Mushin Local Government on the need to toe the path of the leader was rebuffed by the man, who reckoned the decision was more than just switching senatorial districts for Afikuyomi, but was significant in terms of dearth of “representative material” from the West, which he would gladly represent.

Like the outcome of the exercise penultimate Saturday, the primary for Lagos West, which was done separately from other districts in 2003 and at the Women Development Centre, Agege, also turned out violent, with supporters of Solomon, who outnumbered those of his opponents, taking over the venue and environment. It would later require Solomon to address his people to douse tension.

Although Solomon went on from there to the House of Representatives and later Senate, representing the same district twice, there is the belief that his non-consideration for the governorship year in, year out is not unconnected to the fact that he confronted the leader, who detests being challenged in matters he solely considers his prerogative. Perhaps, also, the Solomon experience had stifled a lot of people from looking the leader in the face, even when they would have opted otherwise, because of the repercussion. This disposition further emboldened the leader, who overtime mastered his customised “democratic ideals” different from what anyone else knows in saner climes.

As it is, however, it appears the people have found their collective voice back and are ready to take what is theirs and dare the odds, whatever it takes. This development of two Saturdays ago is very instructive for the politics of Lagos especially its leadership, moving forward. The import is that nothing can be taken for granted again. The people are wiser now and would go all out, not only to exercise their franchise but also ensure that no one steals their right and vote from them anymore.

Indeed, the revolution of that Saturday might have signaled the beginning of the final interment rites of the “Baba so pe” (The leader said) regime, which had deceived, raped, abused, and plundered the collective constitutional rights of the people for nearly two decades. Certainly, it cannot always continue that way.

A time will come when the people will rise against their palpable oppression and demand what is rightfully theirs. Perhaps, that time is nigh and except the leadership turns up a new leaf with these evident foreboding signs, it might be consumed by its own power complex. More importantly, the message from that experience is not for one; it is clearly for all without an exception.