The affairs of political parties are managed by executives elected or chosen by their members. However, in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, the highest decision-making body is the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC).
The council was formed and headed by the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which consists of major stakeholders of the party within the state overseeing the affairs of the party. It takes major decisions such as mode of primaries, candidates of the party in elections and even the executives of the party.
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Tinubu, through the council, has maintained a firm grip on the structure of the party since he left the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on whose platform he was elected governor in 1999 and 2003 to form the Action Congress (AC)which metamorphosed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). ACN is one of the legacy parties that formed the APC in 2013.
The members of the Governor’s Advisory Council include the wife of the APC leader and senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, Sen Oluremi Tinubu, and her two colleagues in the red chamber – Solomon Adeola (Lagos West) and Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East). The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; former governor of Lagos State and current minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa; ex-Speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji and former deputy governor Mrs Idiat Oluranti Adebule.
However, apart from these elected politicians who are admitted to the council, the core members with whom Tinubu controls its activities are 85-year-old Prince Tajudeen Olusi; Otunba Henry Ajomale (former Lagos APC chair), Prince Abiodun Ogunleye (ex-deputy to Tinubu), Cardinal James Odunmbaku, Otunba Bashiru Alebiosu, Omooba Murphy Adetoro, Sen Anthony Adefuye, Alhaji S.A Seriki, Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Bashorun and Prince Rabiu Oluwa. Others are Chief M. A Taiwo, Alhaji Mutiu Are, Dr Yomi Finnih, Omooba Muyiwa Sosanya, Prof. Tunde Samuel, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, Mr Wale Edun and a former APC Deputy National Woman Leader, Mrs Kemi Nelson.
By virtue of their positions, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Femi Hamzat are also members of the council.
Akinwumi Ambode is the only former governor excluded from the council when it was reconstituted last year. However, his deputy, Adebule was added to the list. Former deputy governors Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Sarah Adebisi Sosan and Femi Pedro were also not included.
A source disclosed that Ambode was excluded due to the acrimony between him and Tinubu, which led to his early exit from the Alausa House, the Lagos State seat of power.
“Don’t forget that it was the GAC that announced that Ambode had been rejected and was not going to get a second term. It was the Council that spoke even while Ambode was sending emissaries to Asiwaju,” he said.
Another notable name excluded from the list is the minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was a two-time Commissioner for Works in Lagos and was seen as the second in command to Tinubu in the affairs of the party in the state.
The name of the former Osun State governor was removed days after the GAC proscribed all groups – especially the Justice Forum (JF) and the Mandate Group (MG) in the party.
In what was termed as a move to relaunch his relevance in Lagos politics after governing Osun for eight years, Aregebsola had revamped the Mandate Group (MG), a core support group for Tinubu’s election in 1999 and 2003. He appointed Abdullahi Enilolobo as the chairman while Cardinal Odumbaku was elevated to the position of apex leader.
So, when GAC proscribed the Mandate Group and other groups, it was attributed to the alleged cold war between Tinubu and Aregbesola, though both leaders have denied any friction.
The decision of the Council to also impose consensus arrangement during the recent congresses in the state was condemned by some aggrieved members.
A former factional chairman of the party in the state, Fouad Oki, and the Lagos4Lagos group led by Olajide Adediran (Jandor) were among those who countered the council. While Adediran has defected to the opposition’s People Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Oki is still a member of the party.
It is a gathering of elders
However, a member of the Governors’ Advisory Council, Ikorodu Division, Chief Olorunnibe Bashorun, in a chat with Daily Trust on Sunday said GAC comprises elders of the party and provides direction for the party’s leadership in addition to solving knotty issues about the party.
“There is nothing about it other than to call it a group of elders. Without the elders, a community or organisation will be in turmoil. The elders exist to set things right,” he said.
He said the GAC can be likened to the Board of Trustees at the national level, adding that the council ensures that the constitution is followed in the affairs of the party.
He said, “You know at the national level, the party has a BOT (Board of Trustees). So, in Lagos APC, this is like our board of trustees. If you go to other states, there is a name they call it. Apart from the provisions of the constitution, we usually deliberate on matters of importance and use dialogue and wisdom to resolve issues.
“It is members of the public that normally give the impression that it was the handiwork of GAC, blaming GAC for every decision. It was published last year that GAC has decided Sanwo-Olu has done enough, when was that decision made? When last did we hold our meeting that such a decision would be made, that is not our duty.
“We will ensure that the constitution of the party is followed in all our activities. When our members are fighting, we are usually in a position to be arbiter.”
Asked about the factors they put into consideration while making their decision, he retorted, “Progress of the state, the main goal is the overall success of Lagos State and the Chairman is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“As our chairman, we cannot oppose him in his bid to become the President of Nigeria. That is why we have started mobilising for him from the grassroots.”
Bashorun reiterated that the party has made it possible to carry those who matter along in the formation of GAC.
He said this is also reflected in the formation of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) movement working for the realization of Tinubu’s ambition of succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
“GAC is strictly a party organ. It is the gathering of elders of APC. It is made inclusive in the sense that the formation of those who are in the group are from the wards to the state. We have the Directorate headed by Oyin Danmole, the Deputy is Asipa Kaoli Olusanya.
“These coordinators are assisted by six other people who have portfolios. In the 377 wards, there are coordinators assisted by six other people with portfolios,” he said.
GAC: A warehouse of wisdom for Lagos development – APC
Meanwhile, Lagos APC spokesman, Seye Oladejo, said the GAC is a warehouse of wisdom and knowledge for the progress of the state.
“It is a council of advisers, a warehouse of knowledge and wisdom that people in government and the party can tap from. All of them in that council are mentors in their own right. If people are still wondering why Lagos is the shining light of the progressives, the answer cannot be too far from their activities. Some states are adopting the same process by bringing their experienced hands in terms of politics and governance,” he said.
Although their roles might not be recognised in the constitution, Oladejo maintained that it is very important for the success of APC in the state.
He also noted that there is no conflict in their roles and that of the elected executives of the party.
Nothing democratic about it
– PDP chieftain
A chieftain of PDP, Dr. Layi Ogunbambi, said there is nothing democratic about the GAC, saying it was just a smokescreen because it is obvious the APC in Lagos is controlled by one man.
He said, “For me, it becomes glaringly so when you pretend to be democratic, when in fact you are not.
“We can put symbols all around us and the conversation will revolve around symbols. And that perhaps will be what is there in the public domain.
“You can continue to engage yourself in that conversation and that in itself may tell you about the limitation of participatory democracy; where what will be obvious is that there is nothing democratic there.
“APC in Lagos State is controlled, dominated by one man and that is Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who decides who becomes governor, he decides who should be Oba in this particular domain or in that particular domain. He decides who should be Senators, House of Representatives members, he decides the House of Assembly members and he decides the Speaker. What happens is that because of the number, some people have been able to win elections in areas where you have South-South and South-East people. Other than that, he’s the total embodiment of Lagos.
“I do not speak as a member of the PDP; I speak as a bonafide Lagosian. We should not be deceived into the assumption here that the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) is about participatory democracy, or about getting the grassroots involved in decision-making processes, no. It is just a symbolic thing to deceive people. How many of them, with due respect (I have some respected brothers there), can speak against Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu? How many of them can disagree with a policy and say, ‘no, you can’t do it that way?”