Nature abhors vacuum. Barely a week after the death of Senator Bayo Osinowo, who represented Lagos East District in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, permutations about succession have filled the air.
Osinowo, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was elected last year after serving as a member of the House of Assembly for 16 years. He was a power broker in Kosofe. But, his influence cut across the state as a loyalist of the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He was a dependable actor in who much trust and confidence were reposed.
Lagos East is made up of governments-Somolu, which produced Senator Tony Adefuye in the Third Republic, Ikorodu, which produced Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe; Kosofe, which produced Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora and Osinowo, Ibeju-Lekki, which produced Senator Gbenga Ashafa and Epe, which has not produced any senator.
The district parades many APC gladiators with intimidating credentials. Some of them have begun underground lobbying, consultations and mobilisation ahead of the intra-party selection.
Many factors will likely shape the minor primary for the selection of the flag bearer for the by-election, which will be organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) within 90 days.
Eyes are on last year’s senatorial aspirants-Ashafa, former Permanent Secretary, Mr. Abiru, former Clerk of the House of Assembly and Chief Lanre Rasak, an experienced politician, Balogun of Epe Division and member of Governance Advisory Council (GAC), who stepped down for Osinowo, shortly before the shadow poll.
The party is likely to ask the apex leaders of APC in the zone to deliberate on the vacancy and make some recommendations. If this approach is adopted, the outcome is predictable; a consensus candidate will emerge. However, that does not mean that other stalwarts from Lagos Central and West are not in a vantage position to also influence the choice of the candidate.
Indisputably, the party leader and former Lagos State governor could not be expected to be indifferent to the nature, tendency and idiosyncrasies of the would-be successor.
The party would also have to decide the mode of senatorial primary in Lagos East in post-Osinowo period. Will the party opt for direct and indirect primary? Lagos East is still in a bad mood as many members have not recovered from shock. Therefore, an acrimonious primary will be a disservice to the memory of the departed senator.
If the caucuses or sub-groups had not been banned by the GAC, the jostling for the vacant seat would have been another struggle between the Justice Forum and Mandate, which Osinowo belonged when he was alive.
Party sources said that, apart from last years contenders, others chieftains said to be eyeing the slot include Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of Lagos State; Yemi Ikuforiji, former Speaker; Joko Pelumi, his predecessor; Tola Kasali, former commissioner; Alebiosu, former House of Representatives member; Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of Diaspora Commission and Kunle Soname, former council chairman.
Also, unconfirmed sources said House of Representatives members Ademorin Kuye (Somolu) and Rotimi Agunsoye (Kosofe) and Muyiwa Adedeji, former Kosofe Council boss, are making some moves.
The contest is not an exclusive APC affair, although the APC flag bearer is the candidate to beat. Former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants, particularly Abiodun Oyefusi and Babatunde Gbadamosi, are said to be reviving their ambition.
After an illustrious career in the civil service, Ashafa succeeded Mamora in 2011. He spent two terms in the Senate. Although he aspired for the third time, the pendulum of support swung toward Pepperito Osinowo. He accepted his fate without grumbling, thanking the party for the opportunity to serve in the Senate for eight years.
Had Ambode opted for the slot last year, may be, the ruling party would have given it to him as compensation for losing a second term bid. Many party leaders were taken aback by his reaction to the emergence of Babajide Sanwo-Olu as standard bearer during the novel direct primary, which led to the perception that he was bent on attacking the platform and denting the image of his successor.
Today, there is no cordial relations between top party leaders and the former governor, who is being probed by lawmakers for alleged infractions while in office. Efforts to restrain the legislators through a court order has failed, thereby deepening the gulf and escalating the crisis of confidence. Ambode is a GAC member but it is doubtful if he has been its attending meetings since he left office. The former governor will need to reconcile with the party hierarchy for the purpose of political re-integration.
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It appears that Ikuforiji has found himself in a similar situation. Many in the party had faulted his allegiance shift, especially during last year’s governorship primary when his curious political preference was in conflict with the dominant majority opinion in the party, owing to his support for Ambode. Besides, the former Speaker has unresolved issues with anti-graft bodies.
Ikuforiji was Speaker for 11 years.The former polytechnic teacher and lawyer holds a doctorate degree from a reputable institution abroad. He is from the Eko-Epe section of the ancient town, which he represented before moving to Ikeja Constituency. The House of Assembly member?, Wale Raji, is also from the same section.
The most experienced politician among the contenders is Lanre Rasak, former Epe Council chairman, Lagos State Transportation Commissioner and former National Deputy Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). If political seniority and maturity are factors, Rasak, who was the proscribed Social Democratic Party (SDP) Senatorial Screening Committee Chairman for Lagos State in the Third Republic, should have no rival. He is endowed with excellent verbal facility and persuasive talents; vocal, intelligent and hugely popular.
Although his prospects were bright in 2019, he withdrew from the race on conditions of honour and beauty by wholeheartedly stepping down for Osinowo. Party leaders, who commended him for loyalty to the platform, hailed his politics without bitterness.
Epe leaders who are clamouring for the zoning of the slot to Epe Division have Rasak in mind. He is an Epe community leader, held in high esteem by the divisional political class because of his pedigree.
Kasali is from Ibeju-Lekki where he was a council chairman before he became a commissioner for eight years.
Alebiosu, son of the eminent politician, Alhaji Busura Alebiosu, fondly called the ‘comrade capitalist,’ by the leader, served as Senior Special Assistant for Housing to the former governor before becoming a two-term federal legislator.
Pelumi, a lawyer, is active in the party, particularly at the zonal level, where he serves as secretary of the apex leaders’ forum.
Dabiri-Erewa, who hails from Ikorodu, was a member of the House of Representatives for 12 years before serving as Presidential Senior Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs.