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Beyond winning and losing

Published by The Nation on Tue, 09 Dec 2014

The Lagos All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial primaries have been won and lost, with Akin Ambode emerging victorious. But why does it evoke eerie parallels from the Femi Agbalajobi-Dapo Sarumi titanic primary of 1991'Dr. Agbalajobi (of blessed memory) was the undisputed favourite of the then Alhaji Lateef Jakande Lagos political establishment. Then, the 2nd Republic Action Governor of Lagos word was law. But the Sarumi camp was bent on resisting any Baba so pe (Baba has decreed) alleged imposition.Mr. Sarumi, on the other hand, was the Lagos face of Gen. Ibrahim Babangidas new breedfresh, nimble and dynamic Olympians on Nigerias political firmament; come to run, out of town, the stale, awkward and rickety Titans, veteran politicians of the 1st and 2nd Republics, who little realised their epoch was over!For Agbalajobi and Sarumi, the primary was a hideous stalemate, resolved only by their party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), disqualifying them both. But the battle continued by proxy.Yomi Edu, the eventual SDP candidate, who faced Sir Michael Otedola (God bless his soul) of the National Republican Convention (NRC) was perceived, by the Jakande camp, of the Sarumi provenance.Both camps banded together to win the legislative election with a near-clean sweep. But on the governorship, the Baba sope camp triggered mutual destruction as combat tactics.They allied with Otedolas NRC and gave their own candidate a terrible electoral hiding. When the dust cleared, the political progressives, for the first time in Lagos history, had lost the governorship to the conservative NRC.Now, the eerie parallels between 1991 and now.In 1991, Lagos East Senatorial District was theatre of war. It is also now. After Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos West) 1999-2007 and Governor Babatunde Fashola (Lagos Central), 2007-2015, APC has zoned its governorship, from 2015, to Lagos East.Like in 1991, a pre-primary din alleged imposition of a favoured candidate, thus leading to horrific bad blood among the contestants. Like in 1991, though the governorship primary delivered a candidate, there is probably no guarantee that candidate would be acceptable to all the feuding camps.That must explain why, before the primary that eventually produced Mr. Ambode, Asiwaju Tinubu, the partys leader, had pleaded with everyone to accept the result. It is also heart-warming that, after, Governor Babatunde Fashola has asked Lagosians to vote Ambode for continuity.But much more than a historical parallel, a direct link, between 1991 and now.The anti-Jakande crusading boys of yesteryear have become men. Mr. Sarumi, no thanks to series of bad political decisions, may have vanished from the horizon. But Asiwaju Tinubu has taken his place, thus replacing the Jakande political hegemony with their own.And, to be sure, they would appear to have done Lagos some hefty good.Whereas the Olusegun Obasanjo-Umaru YarAdua-Goodluck Jonathan Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continuum at the centre appears to have bankrupted Nigeria, with the present fiscal panic over crashing prices of crude, the Tinubu-Fashola Alliance for Democracy-Action Congress-Action Congress of Nigeria-APC continuum in Lagos has led the state from a revenue profile of N600 million a month in 1999 to about N23 billion in 2014.On the balance, Lagos appears clearly to have moved from point A to B; signalling progress in enhanced security, infrastructure renewal, a greener environment and a far cleaner LagosLagos, hitherto among the dirtiest on the globe. There is always, of course, a lot more to do.Conversely, on the balance, the centre would appear to have regressed from B to A, with a harvest of decayed infrastructure nationwide, though President Jonathan, in his 2015 declaration speech, claimed stats that suggested he was fixing that.Still, there is legitimate feeling that, had post-1999 Nigeria (with its quantum of funds) been blessed with the leadership of post-1999 Lagos, the country would have been better.But success does have its hassles! After the halcyon days of collective success, it appears now the era of what is in it for me! That would explain the fierce contestall the contestants Tinubus close protgsto succeed Governor Fashola, who has boasted, from all objective accounts, superlative governance.Now, back to a peep at 1991! At the start of the Ambode phenomenon, a band of demonstrators stormed the Ikeja seat of the Lagos government: first, at the precincts of the Lagos House of Assembly and later, at the adjoining Lagos House. The message: No more Oga sope!If Oga sope echoes the Jakande era Baba sope, it is because the wished-for Utopian, all-equal Animal Farm of the anti-Jakande crusaders of yesteryear has morphed into something more earthly, of some animals more equal than others, to parody George Orwell.Lets not beat about the bushto use Soyinka-speak in his Jonathan Nebuchadnezzar putdownthough the battle has been lost and won, too many are aggrieved. If things were not to degenerate to the Agbalajobi-Sarumi tragedy of 1991, then urgent, conscious and deliberate efforts must be made to placate the aggrieved.But first, both winners and losers must agree: theirs is a milieu that needs urgent reformation. Starkly put, reform or die!The APC and its forebears may have got governancebrilliant governance at thatright. But not their internal politics, which is always in a shambles, with todays beneficiariesand tomorrows victimsshouting fairness!, only later to scream imposition! when the table gets turned.The party must work some consensus on its internal business, without threatening to bring down the roof each time. Since consensus is simply imposition to not a few, APC should deepen its primary elections, and make them a fresh start at deepening its own internal democracy.If the combatants wont embrace entente for charity, they must, out of sheer enlightened self-interest. They must not destroy the house they built.In 1991, a dominant segment of the SDP got Edu as candidate, in lieu of Sarumi. But the Jakande faction, dominant in the electoral streets, deployed the ultimate hammerthe classic Yoruba Kaka keku maje sese, a fi sawa danu [virtually in English: my private loss must turn a collective disaster].Lagos was the worse for it: Sir Michael was an excellent elder and citizen. But as governor, he was far from excellent; and his electoral war cry, That Lagos may excel turned a hollow joke, as Lagos nearly stagnated.In 1991, the progressives were a shoo-in; even in 1999. But in 2015, not so: no thanks to haemorrhaging over the years, despite proving their mettle.Again, no thanks to President Jonathans playing the end against the middle: Christians against Muslims, Igbo against Yoruba, subverting state coercion for partisan gains; and vicious Tinubu demonization by embittered Yoruba enemies, 2015 will be a far tougher proposition.That is why Tinubu himself should reach out and placate those who lost out on December 4. Anything short may just replicate the Agbalajobi-Sarumi tragedy.With how PDP has beggared the nation at the centreand that party stands to benefit most from any ensuing crisisLagos would be the worse for it.The post Beyond winning and losing appeared first on The Nation.]]>
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