From Banking to Politics, is Abiru on a Roller Coaster to Govern Lagos?

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Segun James writes that Senator Bola Tinubu, the political Kingmaker of Lagos may have set the stage for a power struggle between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Mr. Tokunbo Abiru who was recently affirmed as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the impending Lagos East Senatorial by-election

When the Chief Executive Officer of a blue chip bank suddenly resigns from his position without warning, it raises an eyebrow. It is even more surprising when he emerges the senatorial candidate of a major political party like the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a competitive state like Lagos and a contest that many eminent gladiators had indicated interest. It becomes all too glaring that he is the choice of the political Kingmaker of Lagos.

That is the present circumstance of the immediate past Managing Director of Polaris Bank Limited, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru who is the APC candidate for the October 31 by-election into Lagos East Senatorial District seat.

Abiru, a former Lagos State Commissioner of Finance, was elected unopposed as the sole candidate. His candidature was affirmed by 111,551 party members who were delegates during the APC direct primary election said to have been conducted in all the 72 wards across the senatorial district.

The five local government areas in Lagos East Senatorial election where the primary elections took place are Kosofe, Ikorodu, Somolu, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe.

Declaring Abiru as the winner of the Lagos East Senatorial primary at Somolu Local Government Area, the Returning Officer and chairman of the APC Primary Election for Lagos State by-election, Hon. Ibrahim Masari, said Abiru won through affirmation as the sole aspirant through direct primary system.

Before the coming of Abiru, several political heavyweights in the state had signified their interest in the seat. They were all encouraged by the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But things soon changed when the power members of the Governance Advisory Council, the highest political organ in the state paid a visit to Tinubu to intimate him of their recommendation for the seat.

The leader was said to have categorically rejected their recommendation, saying that he has made up his mind on his preferred candidate. He pointedly told them that he has decided on Abiru, a banker. He also said that he would not accept their recommendations again as they had forced the late Senator Adebayo Osinowo on him and he was not ready for that anymore.

Tinubu therefore told them to work with Abiru who would be resigning the following week from his designationas the MD of Polaris Bank.

Tinubu’s decision took the GAC members by surprise. Why would anyone resign from a high profile banking job for a political position that is less glamorous and risky. They suspected that there was more to the move than meet the eye.

Their reason for being suspicious is understandable given that business people are often cynical about the politics. It is after all, hard to stomach the goings-on associated with politics in the country. They rather give it a wide berth and stand aloft than be seen to belong to any of the political divide.

So what is propelling Abiru? The prevailing view within the APC in Lagos is that Tinubu is just angling Abiru towards Government House, Alausa. To them, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The value of that aphorism has just been shown following the way all aspirants opposed to Abiru were persuaded to step down for the banker.

There are arguably only that Lagosians may readily support with their generous goodwill and on time; one, whoever is the sitting president and the other is Bola Tinubu. This is because of his stranglehold on the state’s political pulse. In the political firmament of the state, Tinubu is the lone Iroko tree that makes a forest. So, they senatorial aspirants accepted his decision withouta whimper.

For many of the disgruntled aspirants who were not allowed to test their popularity, Lagos political situation is, to say the least, difficult; and the problem? Decisions forced on the party by just one man. They lamented that this problem is not about to go away anytime soon. As a result, they feel uncertain about the future, especially about the future after the leader.

Is the coming of Abiru a signal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that all he has at the helm of affairs in Lagos state is one term? This notion had been rife from the beginning of his tenure. And once Tinubu had his way with the immediate past Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, he can very serve thesame dish to anyone else. So, where does that Sanwo-Olu’s deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, whose ambition to rule Lagos is not hidden?

“If you are not the first, you are last,” so goes a catch-phrase in politics. This epithet might be true of politics but not necessarily in the race to control a man in power; even though you may have engineered his coming power as a godfather. There is a saying that lame duck periods can last for only so long. When the time comes, it will burst into the open. Tinubu has probably learnt that to retain his hold on power in Lagos, it may not advisable to allow the lame duck burst into the open.

In the meantime, Abiru has stated that the nomination was the most significant in his personal journey and in the history of the APC, especially in Lagos East Senatorial District. “My deep gratitude and humble appreciation goes out to our leaders and members across the district who have trooped out en masse to ratify my candidature as the APC flag bearer for the Lagos East senatorial bye election scheduled to hold on October 31, 2020.”

In the statement which was signed by the Lagos state spokesman of the party, Mr. Seye Oladejo, Abiru said the decision to nominate him “is no doubt an expression of confidence in me, a confidence and trust which as a loyal party man, I will live day and night to earn, justify and protect. Given this great expression of trust, let me first appreciate all our members for coming out in good number to affirm me as the party flag-bearer.

“This is an attestation to your firm belief in our great party and its leadership.

“Even though all other aspirants graciously withdrew from the senatorial contest in the interest of our party, our members in Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu, Kosofe and Somolu could still choose to vote against me. That is the power the people hold in a democracy. Overwhelmingly, however, they decided to affirm me, thus attesting to their belief in the APC.

“From what transpired in the last few weeks, I have learnt a lot of things about our party members. I have seen their unshakable belief in the values our party stands for. I have also seen teeming support for the direction our leaders at all levels have been providing to bring about much-needed development. I have witnessed their desire to elect leaders, who can avidly deploy their offices to seek the common good of all.

“I must therefore say this ratification is your victory. We must bear in mind that this is the first phase in the senatorial contest. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled the second phase of the contest for October 31, 2020. Let me plead with you all that we must all come out in good number on this date in support of our party and me, your candidate for the senatorial election in Lagos East.”
Lagos East Senatorial District has also witnessed relative stability in choice of federal legislators like Lagos West and Lagos Central. The only senator representing Lagos East who was unfortunate to serve only one term is Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe. Senators Adeleke Mamora and Gbenga Ashafa both served two tenures, while Seantor Bayo Osinowo died in office. When this dispensation of political cycle began in 1979, Adeseye Ogunlewe represented Lagos East in the Senate. Dr. Adeleke Mamora took over from him in 2003. He was returned for another tenure between 2007 and 2011. Mamora, a longstanding ally of Tunubu had previously served as Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Today, he represents Lagos on the Federal Executive Council as Minister of State in the Ministry of Health. He shares the distinction of serving Lagos East in the Seante twice with Gbenga Ashafa.