Ahead of the 2023 general elections, major stakeholders in the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have kicked against the rumoured governorship ambition of Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, and Obafemi Hamzat, the state’s deputy governor, Daily Independent has gathered.
Others seeking to replace the incumbent governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in 2023, according to findings by Daily Independent, are Tokunbo Abiru, senator representing Lagos East and Hakeem Muri-Okunola, the Head of Service in Lagos.
Daily Independent gathered that the leaders have told those nursing the ambition of replacing Sanwo-Olu in 2023 to perish the thought as there is no vacancy in Government House.
While Sanwo-Olu will naturally desire a second term as enshrined by the constitution, there is, however, a caveat as a source informed Daily Independent that there was an unwritten agreement that Sanwo-Olu who is a Christian, will only serve one term in order to complete the four-year term which former governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, began in 2015.
He added that by the time Sanwo-Olu completes his tenure in 2023, the two terms allocated for a governor of Christian denomination would have been completed, while a Muslim candidate will continue from there.
While many dismissed the argument as unfounded as no one could ascertain if such agreement exists, Pastor Sam Ogedengbe, a former Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Christian Religion, few weeks ago, said that a Muslim will succeed Sanwo-Olu in 2023.
Ogedengbe, who is the National President of the All Christian Leaders and Ministers Forum, said he was one of those who clamoured for a Christian governor after the end of Governor Babatunde Fashola’s tenure, which later brought about the emergence of ex-Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Governor Sanwo-Olu.
He said without being economical with the truth, he and other Christian ministers and leaders would not be ingrates, but would take the necessary line of action by supporting a Muslim governor.
“We Christian leaders and ministers hail administrations in the state since 1999, but we will insist that Sanwo-Olu’s successor should be a Muslim in the interest of justice and equity,” Ogedengbe had said.
Findings also revealed that Sanwo-Olu’s performance has endeared him to party elders in the state who removed Ambode and ensured his emergence in 2019. They are thus canvassing a second term ticket for him.
Our source, a key member of the defunct Mandate Movement in Lagos APC who does not want his name in print, however, said just like the last minute political maneuverings that threw up former Governor Babajide Fashola, in 2007, Ambode in 2015 and Sanwo-Olu in 2019, a shocker may await those already indicating interest in the number one office in Lagos in 2023.
According to him, Gbajabiamila’s reason for wanting to be governor in 2023 was that even if APC returns as the ruling party, the zoning equation may not favour his return as speaker of the House of Representatives as the position may not be zoned to the South-West.
The other option for Gbajabiamila is to go to the Senate through Lagos Central Senatorial District but the position is currently being occupied by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who may want to extend her reign as the longest serving senator in Lagos State history.
He said the desire to be governor and test his popularity was why Gbajabiamila took active part in the just concluded local government primaries.
On the case of Hamzat, our source said the deputy governor who believes that he would be the favourite to succeed Sanwo-Olu if the one-term agreement was implemented had been seriously involved in politicking as evidenced in the just concluded local government primaries of the party where some of his loyalists emerged as chairmanship aspirants.
He also added that the likelihood that Sanwo-Olu would be returned for another term is very high as “he has tactically avoided some of the pitfalls of Fashola and Ambode by facing governance squarely and allowing those who saw to his emergence as governor to run the political affairs of the state.
“Yes, nothing stops those you have mentioned to aspire to become governor. They have constitutional rights to do so. But one thing is certain, if the party leaders in Lagos led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu didn’t endorse you, then you are just wasting your time.
“People should learn from Fashola and Ambode’s experience. In 2011, it was some of these party elders that stood up for Fashola when Asiwaju decided he won’t get a second term. Asiwaju bowed to them and later endorsed Fashola. For taking sides with Fashola, a popular senator was even denied the opportunity of returning to the Senate.
“In 2015, it was these party leaders who chose Ambode among top politicians in APC and worked for him to emerge as governor. In 2019, it was these same elders who rejected him and brought Sanwo-Olu as his replacement. I don’t think the scenario would change in 2023,” he said.
Our source also said, “Why I said the odds favour Sanwo-Olu is that he has had no issues with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the party elders since assuming office. Many people said he is weak politically and he has no single structure but I tell you that it is this weakness that will be his advantage.
“Tinubu can sleep soundly with his two eyes closed in Bourdillon with Sanwo-Olu in charge of Alausa Government House. I doubt if that can be said about others.”
An aide of Sanwo-Olu who played a key role in his emergence in 2019 said the governor is ready to abide by any decision taken by the party leaders.
“I can’t speak for him but I know he will abide by any decision taken by the party leaders. For now, he is only focused on delivering his electioneering promises to Lagosians.”
When contacted, Seye Oladejo, the APC’s Publicity Secretary, said the party’s effort now is geared towards the forthcoming local government elections and not 2023.
He said, “Not to the best of my knowledge. All present efforts are geared towards the forthcoming local government elections.”
Also speaking on whether there is a one-term agreement, Oladejo said, “I know the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic (as amended) allows for two terms.”
However, speaking with our correspondent, Matthew Akinlose, a public affairs analyst, said there is nothing like a one-term Christian agreement in Lagos politics.
“If truly they said Ambode performed badly and they wanted his replacement, justice demands that they replace him with a Christian from Lagos East where he (Ambode) hailed from. Why did they settle for Sanwo-Olu from Lagos Central? I don’t think that argument of a Christian or Muslim governor holds water in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos,” he said.