National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, might be faced with intricate political challenges in the Lagos State chapter of the party following alleged plans by a former Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro, to throw his hat in the ring for the Lagos West senatorial district seat.
Obanikoro recently moved to APC from the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after allegedly negotiating with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to return some misappropriated funds while serving under the erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
It is not whether there was any pact with him prior to his joining APC, but his decision to go ahead with the declaration to run in spite of the party’s position is heating up the state chapter.
The Guardian gathered that some leaders of Lagos APC had earlier warned Tinubu against allowing Obanikoro to come and foment trouble in the party, given his political antecedents and unbridled ambition for political office.But with the clout he commands in the state, Tinubu was said to have set aside the red flags and went ahead to embrace the former minister on the proposition that “he (Obanikoro) is best with us than against us.”
However, with recent development, Tinubu may have to come to terms with the skepticisms of the party’s elders, especially against the background of Obanikoro’s determination to contest the Lagos West senatorial election in 2019, in spite of the party’s position.
Although it was not as if any member of the Lagos APC is against the former minister’s ambition on its platform, but concerns are being raised about Obanikoro’s penchant for playing his politics in Lagos Central, where he was elected chairman of Lagos Island local government.
He was also elected senator for Lagos Central in April 2003 on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD), before he defected to PDP due to irreconcilable differences with Tinubu, the then governor. He re-contested for the seat on the platform of PDP, but lost to the candidate of AD, Munirudeen Adekunle Muse.
Since his departure from the ruling party in Lagos, Obanikoro is said to have done a lot of things to end the reign of APC in the state, including his alleged collaboration with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who introduced the garrison politics of ‘Operation Capture South West’, the seizure of allocation for Lagos councils and his serious contest for the governorship election in 2007 against former Governor Babatunde Fashola.
While it earlier appeared that the return of the incumbent senator representing Lagos West, Mr. Soloman Olamilekan Adeola, to the state after botched attempt to contest the Ogun gubernatorial poll has dispelled rumours that Tinubu was pushing Obanikoro to contest the seat, the former minister’s decision may have changed the narrative.
Speculations about Obanikoro’s likely interest in the senatorial seat followed the shouting match between his supporters and those of Adeola during an event organised early in the year by the zone to endorse Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for reelection.
Supporters of the two politicians bombarded the event with placards bearing messages such as: ‘Obanikoro for 2019 Senate,’ while Adeola’s loyalists countered with slogans like “No vacancy in Lagos West.’
It took the intervention of the leaders of the party present to quell the fracas.Another narrative about the minister’s ambition in APC is his alleged affinity to the “Abuja boys’, believed to be working assiduously to reduce Tinubu’s political clout in Lagos, aside the fact that some party stalwarts are also not too comfortable as to whether he is recruiting mostly PDP elements, to wrest the senatorial ticket from Adeola.
Another insinuation is that if Obanikoro is allowed to bulldoze his way, his ultimate ambition may be to contest the gubernatorial poll in 2023 when the slot would return to Lagos west. It is believed that should he succeed in taking the Lagos west senate seat now, he would have used the position to oil his political machinery for the 2023 election.
If his calculation works as speculated, three things would work for him, One, like the incumbent president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who also crossed from the PDP to APC in 2015 and used his PDP’s background to shore up support from the ruling party to emerge as the senate president against the designs of his party, Obanikoro may apply similar strategy.
Secondly, he is most likely to take advantage of the Lagos west as the largest constituency in the country, added to his background in the central to trash whosoever might want to confront him then. On the other hand the former minister may take advantage of whatever may have happened to the national leader politically, who is at present facing many battlefronts with some of his political beneficiaries.
The Guardian could not get reaction from the party’s spokesman on its disposition to Obanikoro’s ambition to contest. He only replied through text that he was in a meeting.Nonetheless, a reliable party source disclosed that Tinubu has reached out to Obanikoro to explain why Adeola was recalled from Ogun on the promise that the incumbent senator should be allowed automatic ticket in 2019. It is not known how Obanikoro took the national leader’s clarification or what he plans to do next. (Guardian)