The Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has one political objective in 2011. It is to displace the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as the ruling party.
The party has not hidden its desire to govern Lagos. In the past 11 years, the party has done everything to actualize this desire, but as much as the PDP tries, the occupation of the Government House had for long remained an elusive dream.
At the inception of the current political dispensation in the country in 1999, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), one of the three political parties registered for the 1999 elections defeated the PDP in the Lagos State governorship election, thereby making it the ruling party.
The PDP equally lost in the 2003 and 2007 governorship elections.
This was to the consternation of the PDP which won the presidential election and majority of the governorship seats across the country.
Thus, while the PDP controlled the central government with majority of seats in the two chambers of the National Assembly, it has remained in opposition in Lagos State, a development that has not gone down well with the party which prides itself as the largest political party in Africa.
The inability of the PDP to win the governorship elections in the state has been partly due to internal wrangling within its fold. And the party is not unaware of this. Consequently, as part of its efforts to have a more impressive outing in the 2011 general elections, the party has been trying to mend fences and build a consensus among its members.
Earlier in the year, it held a summit as part of efforts to heal the wounds of the past, and chart a path for political victory in 2011. Speaking at the summit, former state chairman, Alhaji Muritala Ashorobi, enjoined PDP faithful to forget the past and work for what is good for the attainment of success in future elections. “We can still recreate our past glory in the Lagos PDP, but we would all have to be decisive on our course of action to be able to determine where we are going and how to get there. We must begin to believe in the party again, an important message we must communicate to our members in particular, because many of them are really disillusioned due to our inability to fulfill our mission as a political party,” he declared.
But in spite of its efforts to put its house, in order ahead next year’s election, Daily Sun can authoritatively report that the party still has a lot of challenges in its quest to win the 2011 governorship election.
The major challenge confronting the PDP in its quest for power in Lagos State is the immediate past governor, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, who is a national leader of the ACN, has become a phenomenon of sorts in Lagos politics. Apart from roundly defeating PDP governorship candidates in the state twice , he has been able to effectively advance the PDP in the state. It would be recalled that when the rampaging PDP political machinery led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo swept through the South -West in the 2003 general elections, it was only Tinubu that survived the tsunami. The other five South-West states of Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun and Osun hitherto controlled by AD, fell.
On his completion of his two terms of eight years, Tinubu installed his Chief of Staff , Mr Babatunde Fashola(SAN), a relatively unknown politician as his successor. Another factor the PDP would have to contend with in 2011 is the famed performance of the Fashola government. Fashola is seen as a performing governor who Lagosians would want to stand by any time any day. But the PDP Publicity Secretary in Lagos State, Dr Wale Ahmed, said Fashola cannot actually pose any threat to his party in next year’s election.
Ahmed said he agrees that Fashola has an impressive resume. However, he says the governor’s albatross in the forthcoming election is that he belongs to the wrong party. The PDP scribe argued that since the people will be voting for party , they will be casting their votes for the PDP as, according to him, the AC now ACN, has failed them.
Ahmed told Daily Sun, “don’t forget that it is the party that is in power. I see the governor as a honest Nigerian, who just wants to work. Unfortunately, his party does not believe in service delivery to the people. In that party, they only play politics. But too bad, he is governor on the platform of that party. So whatever is the shortcoming of that party he would directly answer for it. How I wish he would make up his mind and come to the PDP where he will really have the latitude to really show himself as Babatunde Raji Fashola”.
He added that “ It is better for him if he is on the platform of the PDP because, we are credible. I acknowledge that he has a good personality that may translate to asset on a good platform. The fact is that this ACN government is not doing well, but it is using propaganda to create a false impression and deceive Lagosians that it is doing well, but Lagosians have been able to see through that smokescreen”.
Another chieftain of the PDP in the state, Chief Lanre Razak, shares a similar view. He said though Fashola has done well for the state no doubt , but that the PDP can equally produce a governorship candidate, who can do more than him. “What I am saying is that Fashola has performed more than his predecessor. But we have people who can provide better governance than what the gentleman is doing. Lets take a look at the whole structure in place.”
One area that has posed serious problems for the Lagos PDP has been internal wrangling. Recently, a group of PDP chieftains led by Dr. Wahab Dosunmu announced the suspension of the State Working Committee of the party, thereby signalling the return of factionalization in the party. Dosunmu told Daily Sun that the action of his group is to signify the fact that the party is not intact.
It is believed that the recent development would pose problems for the party, especially in the selection of its governorship candidate. The selection of governorship standardbearer(s) for the party has often times generated bad blood among the members of the party, thereby making them approach the main election as a divided house. For instance, it would be recalled that the process that threw up Senator Musilu Obanikoro as the candidate of the party in the 2007 general elections led to the exit of the late Funsho Williams political family from the PDP. The Williams group which believed that the process was not fair joined forces with the Tinubu’s political family against their party. The result was the loss of the PDP in that poll.
It is believed that if the PDP must make an impact in the 2011 elections, it should ensure that its governorship candidate emerged through a process that will be seen as free and fair to all the interest groups. Anything short of that will spell political doom for the party in the main election.
Rays of hope
As daunting as winning the next governorship election in Lagos State may seem for the PDP, the party is confident that it would have the last laugh 2011 election. Its confidence is buoyed by the recent decampment of ACN leaders and other notable politicians in the state into its fold. Those who have decamped to the party in recent times include Chief Dapo Sarumi and former Secretary to the Lagos State government(SSG), Mr Omotilewa Aro-lambo .
The Lagos PDP believes that the coming of this former ACN stalwarts into its fold would add fillip to its electoral plan for next year. .
The party is also optimistic that the rumoured rift between the state governor and Tinubu and Fashola would work in its favour. The rumour mill has in recent times been agog about plans by Tinubu to dump Fashola in next year’s election. The PDP believes if that rumour is true, then Lagosians who are known to be in love with Fashola would vote against whoever the ACN presents as its gubernatorial standardbearer.
Besides, the PDP is banking on what it calls the not too impressive performance of the ACN to win the state. It is the view of the party that the ruling party in the state has not done enough for the people. Ahmed said there are many reasons why Lagos would want to vote PDP next year. “Lagosians have now been able to see through the smokescreen of ACN dictatorship and propaganda. Another reason is that Lagosians are looking for a credible alternative, and PDP is that credible alternative that Lagosians are yearning for”.
Razak thinks so too. He told Daily Sun that “what is constant is change. If they have been there for 12 years, let’s have a change and a better government”. With the 2011 elections by the corner, it is up to the PDP to convince the people of Lagos State that it is a better alternative.