By Ehichioya Ezomon
The settings are similar, but the endorsement of governorship aspirants by pressure groups in Lagos and Delta States is affecting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in differing ways.
In Lagos, the Governance Advisory Council (GAC) has sanctioned the long-awaited second-term bid of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who the PDP had anticipated would defect to its platform should he be given the “Ambode treatment” by the kingmakers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state chapter.
But the governor’s endorsement by the GAC may’ve put the PDP in a fix ahead of the 2023 governorship race it’s projecting to snatch from the APC (and its forerunners) that’s ruled the state since 1999.
Also in Delta, the endorsement of Olorogun David Edebvie by the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), the socio-cultural group of the Urhobo nation, has interfered with statutory rules that aspirants for political offices should pass through party screening processes.
Thus, the Delta Central chapter of the PDP has decried the UPU’s usurping of the “functions of our party in the ongoing electioneering process leading to the party primary election.”
The GAC, a powerful clearing house in the Lagos APC that defers to the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had allegedly considered replacing Sanwo-Olu in the 2023 elections. The “rumours” brought to memory the GAC decline to endorse former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for re-election in 2019, due to his reported “deviation” from the Developmental Agenda of Lagos established during Governor Tinubu’s administration, and “non-appreciation” of APC’s Elders that facilitated Ambode’s aspiration.
Ambode was a performer in governance, which should be the main criterion for qualification for a return ticket he failed to secure, even with the reported interventions of the Presidency and fellow governors from the political divide in the country.
But in politics, performance is mostly relegated to the background. What counts is following the markers laid by “godfathers” or party leaders, and playing well the political game of “if you rub my back, I rub your back.” In that regard, Ambode was accusingly a “failure.” Out of ignorance or attempts to assert his official powers, Ambode allegedly snubbed his enablers, and even challenged them to a duel in the APC primaries that he lost disastrously to Sanwo-Olu. Could Ambode have gotten back to office if he had taken the bait dangled by the PDP and other political parties to test his popularity with Lagosians? It’s doubtful, and perhaps, he knew it.
There’re calls for Ambode to dump the APC for another party, to realize his re-election, such as Governor Godwin Obaseki did in 2020 after the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) disqualified him from the APC primaries.
As for Lagos 2023, the question had been, would the Tinubu-supervised GAC also deny Sanwo-Olu a return ticket as it did to Ambode in 2019, and on what excuse would it be based? Would it be on deviation from the Lagos developmental agenda, non-appreciation of APC’s Elders, or religion by rotating governance of Lagos between Muslims and Christians in every eight years?
Yet, in endorsing Sanwo-Olu for a second-term in office, the GAC and the power behind it must’ve weighed the Obaseki switch to the PDP, and the resultant defeat of the APC in the Edo 2020 poll.
As the PDP schemed to give Sanwo-Olu “automatic ticket” if denied same by the APC, Ambode’s camp reportedly urged Sanwo-Olu’s handlers to warn the governor against repeating Ambode’s mistake after he’s denied a “right of first refusal” for the APC ticket.
Perhaps, the Ambode message got the GAC thinking that Sanwo-Olu could mimic Obaseki and dump the APC for PDP, and put spanner in the works of the APC in Lagos, and also jeopardise the “life-long ambition” of Asiwaju Tinubu to be president of Nigeria. Hence the GAC endorsement of Sanwo-Olu, after a meeting of the Lagos APC elders on April 18, as relayed, via a tweet, by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile.
Akosile tweeted: “Breaking news: Lagos GAC gives nod to Governor @jidesanwoolu’s second term bid. The Governance Advisory Council at a meeting in Lagos today gave pass mark to Sanwo-Olu for staying through to the developmental agenda of Lagos. Congratulations dear boss!”
With this endorsement, Governor Sanwo-Olu is sure of a return ticket of the APC for the 2023 polls, which, from indications in the political terrain of Lagos, the party is leaving nothing to chance.
In Delta, the PDP chapter in Delta Central of mainly Urhobo ethnic stock, is livid that the UPU has usurped its functions by endorsing Olorogun Edebvie as the choice of the Urhobo for the 2023 polls.
On April 17, the UPU, in its unequivocal commitment “to the emergence of an Urhobo as Governor of Delta State in 2023,” released a report of its screening of PDP governorship aspirants.
Promising to “also interact with all Urhobo aspirants in the All Progressives Congress (APC); Social Democratic Party (SDP); Labour Party (LP) or any… other parties, with a view to fielding the most suitable for the primaries in those parties,” the UPU sounded a note of irrevocability in its choice both of Edebvie and the PDP. Saying “we shall be fair and just to all the aspirants because we know that you all are eminently qualified for the office,” the Union stated that “it is just that only one person can go per time.”
The UPU said: “That after thoroughly examining and analysing all the aspirants, we have, however, reached a consensus that Olorogun David Edevbie, is the best person for the job at this time.
“Over time, he has acquired impressive public sector experience, both locally in Delta State and Federal Government, and prior outstanding international development finance experience.
“That we hereby plead with all our sons, and prevail on them all to support and collaborate with the consensus choice of UPU Worldwide, for the collective interest of our dear Urhobo Nation.”
The UPU didn’t stop there, but urged Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa “to kindly allow the Urhobo Nation to choose the candidate of their preference, please.”
“We can assure Your Excellency, that if considered necessary, we, as Urhobos, will act as sureties of Olorogun David Edevbie while in the office, if by the grace of God, he wins the Governorship general elections in 2023,” the UPU said.
That plea to Governor Okowa seems to put a seal of finality on Edebvie as the sole candidate of the Urhobo, and indeed, of the Delta chapter of the PDP that’s steered the state since 1999.
But as the David Edebvie Campaign Office hailed the UPU endorsement of Edebvie, the Delta Central chapter of the PDP, on April 18, declared that, “this obvious external interference by UPU and its leadership cannot in any way be encouraged.”
“It is no longer expedient for socio-cultural organisations and town Unions to, as a group, indulge in… party affairs or endorsements of governorship and other categories of aspirants,” the PDP said.
“This subtle appeal to the leadership of this great socio-cultural organisation is to immediately repudiate and/or nullify the endorsement via another press statement, please.”
The intrigues and scheming for the 2023 governorship polls have begun, and will test the PDP readiness in both Lagos and Delta.
- Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.