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Lagos gov’ship poll: Who wins the endorsement war?

The victory of Labour Party in penultimate Saturday’s presidential election in Lagos State has changed the dynamics of the forthcoming governorship election, where incumbent Governor…

The victory of Labour Party in penultimate Saturday’s presidential election in Lagos State has changed the dynamics of the forthcoming governorship election, where incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is seeking to retain his seat. Will there be a bandwagon effect on the outcome of the election? Daily Trust reports.

The outcome of the presidential election in the state has triggered panic, apprehension, and anxiety in the camp of the ruling APC. Since the result, there has been an increased tempo of political activities in the state with an aggressive campaign to showcase the achievements of Sanwo-Olu in the last four years of steering the ship of the state. There have also been endorsements and counter-endorsements of candidates.

The election is a three-horse race between Sanwo-Olu on the one hand and the opposition candidates – Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of Labour Party on the other.

Jandor has been in the race from day one. He started a tour of the 246 wards in the state, which he has almost completed in the ongoing electioneering and was largely considered a viable opponent to Sanwo-Olu.

But fate and the Obidients (as supporters of Peter Obi are called) have pushed up Rhodes-Vivour and he is being taunted as the likely successor to Sanwo-Olu if the presidential voting pattern is repeated.

But the Obidients’ movement has only helped to amplify the campaigns of Sanwo-Olu and Jandor, believed to be the leading candidates.

Rhodes-Vivour was in the PDP before defecting to the LP to pick up the governorship ticket after Jandor allegedly reneged in ceding the running mate position to him.

For months, Rhodes-Vivour was off the radar when the electioneering started, but his popularity has been boosted by the outcome of the presidential poll, and he is now seen as the leading candidate in the race.

Political analysts have advanced various arguments for the loss of the APC in the presidential election. Many believe the widespread youths’ disenchantment with the APC leadership, coupled with the massive votes from the Igbo residents in the state, were some of the factors responsible for the APC’s defeat.

But some believe that the dynamics may change ahead of the election, going by the popularity of the incumbent governor, which may alter the ethno-religious voting pattern of last Saturday’s election.

Endorsements galore

There have been endorsements galore across the state ahead of the election. Shortly after the presidential election, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the state pledged their support toward the re-election of Sanwo-Olu, saying Igbo people living in the state will ensure that the governor is re-elected for another term because he represents everything Ndigbo needs to prosper and execute their businesses and professional callings.

President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos State, Chief Sunday Osai, who described Sanwo-Olu as friendly, peace-loving, and accommodating, sued for a continued cordial relationship between the governor, Lagos residents, and Ndigbo.

“As the president of the Lagos State Ohanaeze, I represent the mouthpiece of Ndigbo in Lagos, and I hereby debunk the so-called Ohanaeze Ndigbo asking Governor Sanwo-Olu to resign.

“Governor Sanwo-Olu is a friendly governor to the Ndigbo, hence a very cordial relationship has existed between Ohanaeze and Governor Sanwo-Olu. If Ndigbo is rooting for anybody to become governor of Lagos State, that person is Sanwo-Olu because of the cordial relationship that we have enjoyed together.

“Sanwo-Olu represents everything that Ndigbo needs to prosper and he has been very kind and implemented friendly policies that enable us to execute our businesses and professional callings without fear or favour. So, why should we tell him to resign? Even if the constitution permits a third term, Ndigbo will accept Governor Sanwo-Olu.

“I thank the Lagos State governor and I want to let him know that with Ndigbo, he should go and sleep with his two eyes closed. Ndigbo will gladly vote for him,” Chief Osai said.

Also, the Woman Leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos State, Chief (Mrs) Jane Okoro assured Governor Sanwo-Olu that the entire women’s structure in the 57 local governments and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of the state will be mobilised to support his re-election.

But shortly after Ohanaeze Ndigbo endorsed Sanwo-Olu, another Igbo group under the auspices of the Council of Ezes in Lagos came out to endorse the PDP candidate, Jandor.

Eze David Nwosu, the Eze Ndigbo, Ikorodu North, who spoke on behalf of the Council of Ezes Ndigbo and the Igbo communities in Lagos State at the endorsement ceremony in the Oshodi-Isolo area, said the Igbos had declared support for Adediran.

Nwosu, who raised the hands of Adediran jointly with other ezes in attendance said, “Ezes Ndigbo and Igbo communities in Lagos State endorse Jandor.”

The PDP candidate said with the endorsement, his victory at the poll was certain, adding, “This battle is beyond physical. By this time next week, all of us will be out of that government suppressing us.  The battle before us is about coming out en masse to vote.”

As the Igbo now appear to be divided, another Igbo group also on Monday asked residents of the state to vote for Sanwo-Olu.

Under the umbrella of Concerned Ndigbo Lagos, the group said after it reviewed the credentials of all the governorship candidates, none had what it takes to be governor of Lagos State except the incumbent governor, Sanwo-Olu.

The Concerned Ndigbo Lagos, therefore, appealed to the Igbo living in the state to support Governor Sanwo-Olu and come out en masse to re-elect him, saying Lagos deserves continuity of good governance, which Ndigbo has enjoyed under the current administration.

The coordinator of Concerned Ndigbo Lagos, Chief Chibunna Ubawuike, Patron, Igwe Ikechukwu Ojede and Secretary, Chief Ozoemena Nliam, said the re-election of Governor Sanwo-Olu will be in the interest of the Ndigbo and, therefore, urged Lagos residents, especially Ndigbo, to vote for the APC candidate on Saturday.

Analysts say the Igbo position in the forthcoming election has been reinvigorated with the last presidential election, and they now appear to be the beautiful brides ahead of the governorship election, hence the endorsement and counter-endorsement. But it is still speculative if the endorsement would have any impact on the outcome of the forthcoming election.

The campaign also took on a religious dimension when the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Lagos Chapter, and the Muslim community also endorsed the governor for a second term.

At a meeting last week, the PFN leaders, including Apostle Enyinnaya Okwuonu, Pastor Mahmood Akindejoye, and Bishop Theophilus Ajose, said the church had asked for a Christian governor and it was the duty of Christians to support Sanwo-Olu.

He said: “The church in Lagos State asked for a Christian governor, and Governor Sanwo-Olu has done very well in the last four years. This gubernatorial election is not about any political party but about the candidate. Mr Sanwo-Olu has made Christians very proud and has governed the state without any religious bias.”

But another Christian group, the Apostolic Roundtable, led by Dr Bolaji Akinyemi, described the endorsement as unethical and vowed to report PFN to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

The Muslim community, on the other hand, said they are endorsing Sanwo-Olu for standing by the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The Executive Director of  MURIC, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, said, “A vote for Sanwo-Olu is a vote for Tinubu, his mentor. Nigerian Muslims mobilised support for Tinubu, not because they do not love their Christian neighbours, but because they were frontally challenged with a false narrative of a higher Christian population in the country.”

Appraising the several dimensions and developments ahead of the governorship election, a political scientist, Prof. Sylvester Odion, described the series of endorsements and counter-endorsements as “signs of the times”.

“The February elections shook the hegemonic tapestry of Lagos State. Given the cosmopolitan nature of the state, it is almost impossible to have a dominant party in a free and fair election. That is the February lesson. So, the endorsements and counter-endorsements are a sign of anxiety among the parties, especially the ruling APC. Alliance building is required by any party that wants to win. Otherwise, an upset is possible,” he said.