Who will succeed BRF in Lagos 2015 Governorship election?

Who takes over from Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola in 2015 as another new political dispensation gradually draws nearer with political gladiators sharpening their weaponry for the soul of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos State? Lagosians are eager to know who will step into this giant shoes.  

It is often said that the election or selection of the flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the 2015 election may not be different from previous elections in Lagos State, but the emerging fact in the state gubernatorial race is that many factors will be considered before determining who flies the APC flag when the party finally decides.

National Mirror reliably gathered that some of the criteria to be considered include: the need to balance the senatorial zoning equation, indegenship, candidates’ political influence and ability to surpass Governor Babatunde Fashola’s achievements, before the final pronouncement of the party leadership.

Religion may also play a role as Christians in the state are demanding for a Christian governor in 2015. 

Ironically, most of those who have indicated interest in the Lagos State are Muslims. But jokingly, former Governor Bola Tinubu has said his wife, Senator Remi Tinubu, is a Christian and may fit in, in the political calculation. This statement has fuelled speculation that Mrs. Tinubu may be nursing a governorship ambition.

While several factors will come into play in the choice of candidate, two major personalities must agree to produce the APC governorship candidate either through consensus or primaries. They are Fashola and his predecessor and leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Both must concede. The likely scenario is that Tinubu cannot, unlike in the past, single-handedly pick Fashola’s successor without the input of the incumbent. According to pundits, Tinubu may pick the governorship candidate while Fashola produces the running mate.

One interesting thing about those aspiring for the exalted seat is the fact that virtually all of them are occupying public offices and have either served in the Fashola or Tinubu administration. Among the potential aspirants are two serving senators, Lagos State House of Assembly members and serving and past commissioners

National Mirror’s investigation reveals that some of the major contenders include the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, two serving senators; Senators Ganiyu Solomon and Gbenga Ashafa. Others are Dr. Muniz Banire, Dr.Hamzat Kadiri, Gbolahan Lawal, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, Mr. Tunji Bello and Comrade Kayode Opeifa.

Although, they are all eminently qualified to take over from Fashola, but the bitter reality is that it takes more than merit or fair play, zoning or ability to beat the current record already set by Fashola, who many now see as icon of good governance, judging by the transformation of the state, to emerge the APC flagbearer in the Centre of Excellence.

To prove this, former governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, a highly revered political kingmaker in the state, who many fondly called ‘the oracle’ due to his supreme power over who becomes what in Lagos politics, while responding to the question of fair play and justice at a public forum, once told those who care to know that there is nothing like fair play in politics.

To him, there is more to who emerges the party’s flag bearer than the question of fair play or justice. He had categorically said if the question of fair play is what dictates who takes what in politics; the current occupant of the Alausa Government House would not have been chosen or favoured.

But what is certain is that after the whole politicking, intrigues, accusations and disagreements, somebody who is so dear to the heart of the party kingmakers would be picked among the contenders and the whole house will have no option but to chorus “I concur in the interest of the party”.

Although many cynics believed that the choice of the party’s flagbearer could adversely affect political fortunes of the APC in the state come 2015, the reality is that going by the party’s strong structures across the state which no other party has, there is no doubt that the APC may still carry the day in Lagos.

Here is a critical analysis of the chances of the contenders for the Alausa Round House, among whom a clear candidate would emerge at the appropriate time, to slug it out with the candidates of other political parties.

Ganiyu Olarenwanju Solomon
GOS, as he is fondly called by his admirers, leaves no one in doubt that he is the first aspirant in the state, irrespective of political party, to come out to indicate interest in the Lagos governorship race in 2015.

He had announced his ambition in the media, while others were still studying the political atmosphere, conscious of the likely consequences of revealing their aspiration early. He believes that with his experience and developmental vision, nursed over the years for the state, he is more than prepared to take the state further. “I have the experience and I am convinced that I will take the state further from where it is now,” he said.

To GOS, zoning should not be part of the criteria for choosing the next occupant of the Alausa Round House; rather, he thinks it is about the capability, experience and the track record of the candidate.

He had said: “It is not about zoning. Someone who cannot perform cannot govern the state. We always want the best. The only thing the state deserves is a quality candidate. We cannot choose someone who will drag the party backwards. The next governor of the state must be someone who will shatter the records of the incumbent governor. 

When the time comes, the right candidate will emerge.” Solomon is optimistic that he will get his party’s nod to fly its banner at the end of the day. He is a former local government chairman, onetime member of the House of Representatives and now a two-term senator. 

GOS is a grassroots politician and comes from Lagos West Senatorial District.

Gbenga Ashafa
An astute loyal and committed member of the APC, Ashafa is most likely to emerge the party’s candidate if the agitation to zone the next governorship candidate to the Lagos East Senatorial District eventually gets the nod of the party’s leadership.

Currently, he is a serving senator representing Lagos East in the National Assembly. Ashafa has since been penciled down as one of the candidates to succeed Fashola. Many ascribed his qualification and ability to steer the ship of the Centre of Excellence to his experience as the former Permanent Secretary, Lands Bureau in the state.

The Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Housing, Lands and Urban Development has experience which spanned about three decades in the service of the state. He is said to have the magic wand that will take the state to the next level after Fashola.

Having served meritoriously as the Permanent Secretary, Lagos Lands Bureau under the former governor Tinubu, the soft spoken senator may be the party’s favourite among the contenders. Some political pundits are of the view that Ashafa is very closed to the heart of the party leadership.

An insider source once told National Mirror that, “if the vociferous and glamorous Senator Olorunimbe Mamowora could be asked to step down for Ashafa to be in the Senate to represent Lagos East Senatorial District, then who says he may not be given the party’s ticket if the governorship ticket is zoned to the Lagos East senatorial district?”

With his antecedent and the fact that his senatorial district has not produced the governor of the state, he may have an edge over other aspirants come 2015.

When asked if he is interested to contest in 2015, he said: “I don’t know if I will be alive tomorrow not to talk of 2015. But if my people want me to and the party leadership say so, why not?”

Financially, he is deep in pocket to prosecute the election.

Muiz Banire
Pragmatic and brilliant legal practitioner, Banire is one of the inner caucus of Lagos politics, especially in the APC family. Currently, he is the interim National Legal Adviser of the party, a position he held in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. He is one of the candidates believed to be very loyal to the former governor of Lagos State, Tinubu.

The PhD holder in law is also believed to posses what it takes to steer the ship of Lagos. Politically, Banire is said to be grounded in grassroots politics. Intellectually, the former lecturer at the University of Lagos is sound, leaving no one in doubt that he could engage political opponent when matter arises.

He is the immediate past Commissioner for Environment. His legal acumen, is widely believed could sustain the tempo of the reformation in the justice administration in the state. He is from Lagos West Senatorial District. But will the party tip Banire for Fashola’s job? Time will tell.

Kadiri Hamzat
Seen as the ‘anointed’ candidate, having served as the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructural Development under Governor Fashola, Dr. Hamzat is believed to have what it takes to sustain the tempo of infrastructural renewal embarked upon by Governor Fashola.

He was said to be part and parcel of the giant strides recorded by Fashola administration in the construction of bridges and inner city roads. The PhD holder in System Process Engineering is widely believed to have been tipped to succeed Fashola as he was said to “understand the workings of the government better” if given the opportunity or favoured by the party leader.

Hamzat has also served as the state Commissioner for Science and Technology under Tinubu before he was appointed to head the Ministry Works and Infrastructural Development after the former governor’s tenure expired.

But the snag in his candidacy is that in spite of his merit and outstanding qualifications, Hamzat may needs more than good luck to get the party’s ticket as rumours are rife that he might be denied the ticket based on question of indigeneship. The commissioner, just like his many colleagues, is said to be a non-indigene of Lagos; he is from Ogun State.

Although his father, Chief Olatunji Hamzat (now Oba of Afowowa community in Ogun State) is a chieftain of the party, but it would take the grace of God for young Hamzat to emerge the candidate of the APC talk less of becoming the next governor of the state.

Adeyemi Ikuforiji
Ikuforiji is the incumbent Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Like GOS, the speaker seems not to be hiding his ambition to succeed Fashola in the 2015 as the next governor of the state.

Ikuforiji has unequivocally advocated that the next governor of the state should emerge from the Lagos East Senatorial District, which he argues, has not been given the opportunity to govern the state for a very long time.

His loyalty to the national leaders of the party, especially Tinubu, is not in doubt. The ‘Speaking Speaker’, as fondly called by his colleagues in the state House of Assembly, believes he has garnered enough experience and possesses the needed qualities to take the state to the next level. But many political pundits are of the view that his ambition might be hampered by allegations of money laundering constantly levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Ikuforiji and his aide are currently facing trial in court over charges of corrupt practices being pressed against him by the EFCC.

Others stakeholders are of the view that if Ikuforiji could use Ikeja to secure a slot at the state House of Assembly, how can he suddenly claim to have come from Epe, when matter of zoning governorship candidate to the Lagos East Senatorial district arise? Well, he first got elected into the House from Epe constituency, but had to relocate when opposition was growing against him. Only time will tell if his candidacy will be considered.

Gbolahan Lawal
Bold and reserved, best capture Lawal’s personality; he is another surprise candidate that may replace Fashola when his tenure comes to an end in 2015.

He is currently the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperative, he was the former Aide De Camp to Tinubu as governor. Although, he has not categorically told anyone either publicly or in private of his interest in the number one job of the state, but National Mirror gathered that Lawal is another sure candidate that may replace Governor Fashola in office. His loyalty to Tinubu could earn him the party’s ticket just as it did for the incumbent Governor Fashola in 2007.

Going by the unfolding drama and what has appeared to be the style of Nigerian politics or Lagos politics in particular, he may also be the joker in the political game. Who knows? Somebody like Lawal may end up being the party flag bearer. The dramatic emergence of incumbent Governor Fashola amid other gladiators in the defunct Action Congress, AC in 2007 is a pointer to this assertion.

Many political analysts said they would not be too surprised if Lawal emerges the flag bearer of the APC in 2015, they argued that if Fashola could be ‘handpicked’ and given the necessary support to win the party’s ticket and clinch victory at the state gubernatorial poll, who says the same game cannot play out in Lawal’s case. 

His candidacy is known and limited to insiders within the political camp of Tinubu. He may also be favoured by the oracle.

Hakeem Muri-Okunola
Muri-Okunola’s emergence may spring surprises as many see him as toddler in Lagos politics. The current Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Lands Bureau, was never in politics until his appointment. But his father, Justice Muri-Okunola, justice in the Court of Appeal in Lagos State before he passed on, enjoys first class relationship with the incumbent Governor Fashola and Tinubu.

Who knows, the relationship may pay off at the party level, considering the circumstances surrounding his appointment as the Permanent Secretary of the most-sought after agency in the state, Lands Bureau.

His younger brother is also a close aide of Governor Fashola. He might also be used to settle scores amongst the powerful gladiators gunning for the number one seat in the state, should there be rancour among the gladiators.

Tunji Bello
Although, Bello, the Commissioner for the Environment has not told anyone whether or not he has ambition for the state’s number one seat, political pundits are of the view that Bello may be the last man standing for the governorship seat.

He is, no doubt, one of the loyalists of the APC national leader, Tinubu. He also enjoys good rapport with the incumbent governor. The former Managing Director of the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA, is also believed to be a member of the inner caucus of the party with unalloyed credibility.

No doubt, if favoured by the party leadership, the candidacy of Bello may not be difficult to sell to millions of electorate in the state of the journalist-turned-politician.

A political scientist, journalist and lawyer, Bello, like Fashola in 2007, may be the candidate that may spring surprise for the political jumbo office.

His major undoing is the indigenous factor which reportedly denied his wife the position of Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, which she held in acting capacity as Deputy Vice Chancellor of the institution. Bello is from Ogun State.

Kayode Opeifa
Opeifa, the incumbent Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation is yet to reveal his gubernatorial ambition but National Mirror authoritatively gathered that the commissioner is making silent moves to position himself in order to clinch the ticket.

While some believe that the commissioner is qualified to govern the state, having redefined the transportation system through arrays of innovations in the sector to the admiration of many Lagosians, others said the development in the transportation sector is enough to debar him from the governorship race. 

They believe that several poor masses were affected by the reform in the transportation sector; a development some political pundits said could affect the candidacy of Opeifa, if endorsed by the party hierarchy.

His achievements include, among other innovations, the installation of traffic signal light in all the major roads and the hitherto controversial Lagos Traffic Law which was enacted under his watch and believed to have drastically reduced crimes and accidents’ rate.

Although, National Mirror could not categorically tell if he would be favoured by the party leadership, the fact remains that beyond receiving the party’s blessings, Opeifa still has one hurdle to scale which is acceptability by millions of Lagos voters. But would he ever be considered? Time will tell.

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