By Dickson Onyenekwu
About one month ago, it appeared that there was going to be no contest and no vacancy in the governorship seat of Lagos State as many pundits, the citizens and even a large section of the opposition seemed to align with the notion that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has performed excellently and deserved a second term to complete as many of his projects as possible.
The feeling was so widespread that less than four weeks ago, no major contender from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had officially declared interest to contest.
It seemed almost destined that Governor Ambode would coast home to a sweet and unchallenged victory until something gravely wrong reared its ugly head to upset the apple cart.
Everything seemed to check out such that the ruling APC in the State would not break sweat in campaigning and politicking for its candidate: Governor Ambode was delivering admirably in terms of World Class projects – check; the State APC hierarchy seemed satisfied with his Performance and was looking to consolidate – check; the public had noted his area of strengths and massive performance – check; the pundits and people had also criticized his areas of least achievement that required improvement – check; the Federal Government seemed to align with his policies, developmental strides and progress – check; the International Community showed their support and approval for his admirable performance through visits to the State by their Heads of government – check; other State governments were actively collaborating with Lagos State to tap into its notable strides – check and indeed everything seemed to check out.
And then like a self-inflicted wound that festers to serve no known purpose other than the agenda of a few self-styled leaders, internal political maneuvering created an upheaval that shocked political watchers and keen observers. Internal wrangling and issues threw up a new dimension where the Mandate Group of the Lagos State APC, whose weight when thrown behind any contender for political office, usually swings the pendulum in their favor, decided not to support Governor Ambode’s second term bid. This move completely upturned the applecart as the APC unwittingly strengthened the opposition’s hand and breathed life into their campaign. This set the stage for another tension soaked, grueling and tortuous campaign season.
In the situation that the Lagos State APC decides to stick to its decision to back Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the party will be faced with the prospect of fighting a battle for the soul of Lagos with a fresh candidate. They would have lost the leverage of campaigning with the added advantage of the achievements of a first term governor and will be faced with the ardous task of convincing the populace that the initial rancor that emanated from their decision to field a fresh candidate is in the interest of the people and for their development. At this juncture, the Lagos APC should be very wary of the PDP candidate especially if Mr. Jimi Agbaje who has thrown his hat into the ring wins the PDP primaries as their governorship candidate. He holds the singular record of losing by a slim margin to the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Governor Ambode, in the 2015 election.
Another scenario that may play out is if the APC decides to retain the incumbent and build on the momentum his brand affords them. They will have to mend fences all round, support him to finish ongoing strategic world class projects and endear him afresh to the electorate for the fierce battle ahead. This scenario in the face of the opposition, PDP’s preparedness to do battle with the ruling party stands the APC in stronger stead as it allows them to build on the goodwill and leverage amassed by the governor through massive erection of world class infrastructure and other development projects.
The third and final scenario will see a situation whereby the PDP will take advantage of the ongoing crisis in the APC and leverage on protest votes to get a win at the next governorship elections. This, if allowed to happen, will surely sound the death knell for the APC in Lagos State which may even have far reaching effects on its federal presence. This is due to the strategic position of Lagos in Nigeria as the commercial and economic hub of the nation as well as the fifth largest economy in Africa. This clearly means that any party that is able to upset the apple cart by claiming a win against the can use Lagos State as a foundational and economic base to ruling party, strengthen its party structure and launch into taking more territories.
While this may seem unlikely in Lagos State even as the APC crises festers, it is not impossible as history reminds us. Hopefully the expectation is that the leading APC party will get its act together, urgently start a process of mediating and mending fences with all aggrieved parties within the fold and taking a strategic position from the point of strength as concerns its best candidate, who should build on existing performance and public support.
There are different other scenarios but these are the most critical ones that should be seriously considered as major decisions are taken for the political soul of Lagos State.
Onyenekwu is an ex-banker and public reputation analyst.