PERSPECTIVE – Lagos 2023 and March 11 messy battle

PERSPECTIVE – Lagos 2023 and March 11 messy battle


By Ehichioya Ezomon

Members and supporters of the All Progressives Congress grapple with fear of losing Lagos to opposition Labour Party in the March 11 governorship and state legislative election in the state.

Labour – buoyed by its stunning defeat of the APC in Lagos that’s home to President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu – is already measuring the drapes at the State House, Marina, for occupation in the next four years.

Labour’s candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour – and the ObIdients followers of Presidential candidate Peter Obi – boasts about the party surpassing the votes that returned Obi on February 25 in Lagos.

At an interactive session with stakeholders, Rhodes-Vivour unveiled Labour’s strategies to winning the contest to unseat the 24-year APC government in Lagos.

“We are talking, we have been in alliance, and we are still talking with the owners of the structures of the PDP; the owners of the structures, the people that matter in the PDP,” Rhodes-Vivour said in answer to a question.

“And we are sure that in the coming days, we are going to come to a full alignment with them, to ensure that we take (over) Lagos in this next election,” Rhodes-Vivour added.

Prior to the presidential poll, speculations pointed to a “working agreement” in which supporters of Peoples Democratic Party would vote for Labour’s Obi, while Labour’s supporters would vote for PDP’s governorship candidate, Abdul-Azeez Adediran, alias Jandor, in Saturday’s election.

Dr Adediran denied such a pact, but canvassers were seen sharing flyers embossed with photographs of Obi and Adediran for President and Governor, respectively.

Has the alleged pact collapsed owing to Obi’s Lagos win, and the realisation that the governor’s seat is a breath away from Labour’s grasp?

Whatever Labour’s permutations, huddles await Rhodes-Vivour, a Lagos indigene, who’s been tagged a “non-Yoruba” due to his mother’s (and wife’s) Igbo extraction.

To demonstrate his affinity to Igbo by birth, Rhodes-Vivour added “Chinedu” to his name when he aspired for Senate in 2019.

The new battle cry for the Yoruba and supporters of the APC is to halt the reported “agenda” of the Igbo to control Lagos that they (Igbo) have labelled a “No man’s land” – a slogan they’ve lately changed to, “Na we Igbo own Lagos,” claiming to’ve contributed to its growth and development.

The Yoruba fear that the February 25 poll has emboldened the large Igbo population in Lagos to believe they can produce a governor of “Igbo extraction” in Rhodes-Vivour.

Rhodes-Vivour has more worries in his alleged sympathy for Biafra, espousal of involvement of outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Lagos affairs, and creation of an Igbo Oba of Lagos. These are traced to Rhodes-Vivour’s social media posts, which have been widely reposted and retweeted in the past week.

Will these allegations impact on the poll prospects for Rhodes-Vivour, considering that Obi’s win in Lagos is an energiser to party supporters that, “We can do it again on March 11?” That’s the dilemma of the Yoruba and APC supporters rooting for re-election of Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, in Saturday’s poll.

One of the conspiracy theories post-February 25 is that while Tinubu was away fighting for President, he opened his flanks for Obi to gain poll access in Lagos.

It’s the first time that a party not controlled by Tinubu would get a foothold in, and win, Lagos – a monumental failure traced to the “sons of the soil,” who even regard Tinubu as a non-indigene.

With his eye on Abuja, Tinubu left Lagos APC for the “real indigenes” (Omo Eko), but they made a mess of the opportunity to showcase their flaunted political prowess, letting another “non-indigene” in Obi to defeat them on their turf.

The “wailing” Yoruba and APC supporters now fight from the rear, “to reclaim our land,” and the battle is nasty, with everything thrown into it.

The election is fought not on the pedestal of character, capacity and competence – which Governor Sanwo-Olu has in abundance, as demonstrated in the past four years.

Neither is the poll on issues that will add value to the livelihoods of suffering Lagosians, but on ethnic sentiments that polarise Lagos – a home to a multitude of ethnic nationalities from across Nigeria.

The fault lines of ethnic mistrust between Yoruba and Igbo in Lagos has widened since the February 25 defeat of Tinubu by Obi in the state.

The Yoruba attribute the loss to their liberal disposition towards “non-indigenes,” particularly the Igbo, whose huge population can dictate the political direction of Lagos going forward.

That’s the trajectory the Yoruba and APC supporters will attempt to reverse on March 11 – to halt election of Rhodes-Vivour they see as the quickest route to an alleged “Igbo domination” plot of Lagos.

To indicate how a “non-indigene” or “non-Yoruba” like Rhodes-Vivour should be treated, the “Lagos for Lagos indigenes” agitators have posted a video of a man addressing a gathering in Enugu.

The speaker asked if the audience would allow a person – whose parents originated from Ebonyi – to be governor of Enugu State. He got a loud “no” in response.

If this reasoning is sustained, why should Tinubu – acclaimed as an indigene of Osun State – come to Lagos, adopt the Tinubu family name, and win elections as Senator, Governor and President?

What about Tinubu’s children, whose mother is Itsekiri? Will they be labelled “non-indigenes” of Lagos? Ditto for Tinubu’s son, Seyi, whose wife is Igbo! Will his children be “non-indigenes” because their mother is Igbo?

Toeing this pigeon-holing of Nigerians is against the 1999 Constitution that forbids bigotry based on gender, race or creed.

Meanwhile, the new reality has resulted in a reversal of roles, as ObIdients – with a surfeit of anti-Tinubu Yoruba – have literally ceded the social media space to Yoruba, to lament Labour’s win of Lagos on February 25, and the potential for yet another loss of the state on March 11.

As Lagosians choose a new governor, will they vote for continuity of Sanwo-Olu or try a new hand in Rhodes-Vivour, to pilot the “State of Excellence” that’s the Fifth Largest Economy in Africa?

Watchers of the polity hope that rationality – which’s a scarce commodity among politicians and supporters – won’t be scarcer on Election Day. The die is cast!

  • Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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