It is difficult to understand a situation, let alone change it, when the opportunity for serious study of it had not first been understood. This axiom aptly describes the present political crossroads of Ikorodu community.
Ikorodu has been shouting of marginalization since the inception of this democratic dispensation in 1999, especially as regards political patronage and distribution of values which is simply because, unlike other parts of the state, Ikorodu has not been strategically positioned. Thus, the period between 1999 and 2011 when the late Alhaji Mufutau Ajisebutu dictated the direction of Ikorodu political affairs with his direct dealing with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, could be referred to as ‘golden era’ of this dispensation. Ironically, the developmental projects attracted to Ikorodu now surpasses the ‘golden era’ despite the numbers of representations within the state cabinet then.
But why is Ikorodu synonymous with the drama of losing one to gain another? This has been a question that has remained unanswered even to the so called political actors. Several factors can explain this, but a major one is the non-strategic nature of Ikorodu politics, which gives more credence to individualistic aspiration, rather than group or collective interests.
Many observers argued that, there is absolute lack of planning and coordination of affairs and when it is done, it is usually sentimental and for immediate purposes. This is why after the “Ikorodu for Governorship” agenda of 2007, the unity music has dwindled into a funeral dirge. Then, to political strategists, “Ikorodu for Governorship” was unrealistic, but the euphoria should have been sustained through 2011 for its actualization in 2015. A case of agitating when one should have been a strategic observer, and just observing when one should have raised the game.
Going back in time, Ikorodu has been self-destructive and this has made several opportunities slip off. During the era of National Republican Convention and Social Democratic Party which eventually produced Sir Michael Otedola as civilian Governor of Lagos State, it was Alhaji Salisu Alogba (an indigene of Ikorodu) that led campaign that it was not Ikorodu’s turn, even when Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, a former Commissioner and respectable individual was interested in the race. In 2007, when Ikorodu paraded political heavy weights in both Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and at the same period when Conference of Leaders in Ikorodu Division (COLID) made a concerted effort to make sure that the division was considered for the number one position in the state, it was another Ikorodu personality in person of Asipa Kaoli Olusanya, former Commissioner for Agriculture & Cooperatives and then a governorship aspirant too that raised the hand of the incumbent Mr Raji Babatunde Fashola (SAN) at the Ayangburen palace during Ikorodu-Oga Day Celebrations as the preferred candidate. That singular action changed the course of history and today that has been history itself.
Now, elections are here again and the “Ikorodu for Governorship” drum is gradually sounding in discordant tunes, and it is probable that COLID then has transformed into Eminent Persons of Ikorodu Division (EPID), which is a strategic and good idea considering how COLID’s image was badly dented aftermath the 2007 elections. Dr Owolabi Salis, who emerged as COLID’s preferred candidate was only able to garner about 8000 votes for the governorship election with only a thousand plus from Ikorodu. In fact, Dr Owolabi Salis does not reflect the fact that he was governorship candidate of COLID/APN in his current handbills circulated to herald his 2015 governorship pursuit. The 2007 Governorship pursuit turns out to be a nightmare from which Ikorodu is still trying to awake, you will say.
As at the last count, about ten aspirants have emerged from Ikorodu gunning for Governorship position and more is expected with the pronouncement of the APC that the position has been zoned to Lagos East Senatorial District. These are, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Member Federal House of Representatives; Sen. Ganiu Olarewaju Solomon, Senator representing Lagos West Senatorial District; Hon. (Otunba) Saheed Oladapo Ibikunle, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Raji Fashola on Education Management; and Arch. Taiwo Kara, an architect and former member, LASPOTECH Council.
The recent Entrants still on the platform of APC include; The former Commissioner for Finance, Mr Tokunbo Abiru and former Head of Service, Prince Adesegun Ogunlewe who also declared their governorship aspirations to All Progressive Congress (APC), Ikorodu Apex leaders. IMPACT gathered that , the Legal Secretary of Lagos State Development and Property Corporations (LSDPC), Barrister Jimmy Benson has also joined the race. On the platform of PDP are Mr Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi, a businessman and public analyst and Dr (Chief) Owolabi Salis, a chartered accountant and lawyer.
As a matter of right, other parts of East Senatorial District too have produced formidable aspirants in persons of Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Sabitu Ikuforiji, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly; Mr Akin Ambode, former Accountant General of Lagos State and Sen. Gbenga Bareehu Ashafa, former Permanent Secretary Ministry of Lands & current Senator representing Lagos East at the National Assembly.
The actualization of “Ikorodu for Governor” is now so near and at the same time, so far away depending on where you are standing or looking at the unfolding scenarios. This is serious situation that must be carefully considered base on the fact that once Ikorodu misses the opportunity now, it has to wait till 2035, going by two terms calculation each for whoever emerges in 2015 and thereafter, from Lagos West and Central.
The Ikorodu political players may need to learn from the wisdom of an Irish master, Eugene O’neil, who says, “there is no present or future. Only the past happening over and over again, now”. Though, politics is never a hard science that is rigidly pursued, but there is a dire need to be consistent and persistent in the face of political dynamism.
Prosecuting governorship ambition is not an easy task. It calls for credibility, deep pockets, wide network of connections, managerial acumen, strategic capacity, party acceptability, general acceptance or popularity and bi-partisanship nature. Apart from Senator Ganiu Olanrewaju Solomon and possibly Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and Mr Tokunbo Abiru, who among all the aspirants from Ikorodu can boast of N500,000,000 in his/her account, and at the same time have wide business network and associates who would be willing and ready to donate generously to his/her political campaign? Who among the aspirants has 50% of other factors enumerated going in his/her advantage? Despite the fact that they are all very credible, is Ikorodu ready to make available other factors to the aspirants? This is the time the likes of Oriwu Club, Ikorodu Club and other millionaires and business moguls in Ikorodu would have to re-enact the Ikorodu of T.O.S. Benson, Otunba Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief S.O. Gbadamosi and host of others. The prestigious Oriwu Club, some of its members also belong to great clubs like Island and Yoruba Tennis Club, more than before needs to start practicing those qualities that have made clubs outside Ikorodu turn from mere social clubs to Institutions. More is expected from Oriwu Club at this critical time, and Ikorodu request of its members to provide their individual resources and connections for its glory. Like Island and Yoruba Tennis Clubs, Oriwu Club is expected to step up and start having a say in Lagos State affairs politically and economically. If these clubs could have nominees in the state cabinet, while not Oriwu Club? Likewise, members of The Exclusive Club and other clubs with senior citizens in Ikorodu are expected to put their experiences and connections into more use by bringing various interest groups irrespective of their political affiliations together for the greatness of Ikorodu. These are roles being played by the likes of Chief Femi Okunnu (SAN) and others on the Island.
More importantly, the traditional institutions need to close ranks more than before because they are in better position to bring various interests together as revered institutions. In addition to that, is the fact that Ikorodu must work as a team and not as antagonistic entities perpetually at war with itself. The six councils, especially the constituencies must see themselves as part of bigger socio-economic and political system. The spirit of principles of sharing, give and take, fairness and equity must prevail if the existing distrust is to be done away with.
Beyond Governorship ambition, how is Ikorodu placing itself for the challenges ahead? It is a must that the party must pick the next governor from Ikorodu and it could come from any part of the districts. This is where the situation calls for caution, planning, serious thought process and realistic disposition. If Ikorodu does not get the number one position, what is the alternative? Deputy Governor, Speaker, more Commissioners or principal offices at the Lagos State House of Assembly? It is also possible that the division may not get any of these and not even improvement in Commissionership positions. ‘Power does not serve ala carte’, rather it involves struggle, resources and strategies. Why not also look in other direction and plan ahead? Why putting all the eggs in a basket, when it is dangerous to do so now?
At present, there is no Ikorodu person in the Lagos State House of Assembly principal offices and major committees which were about twelve in number- Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip, Chairman, House Committee on Finance; Chairman, House Committee on Budget & Appropriation; Chairman, House Committee on Works &Infrastructure; Chairman, House Committee on Lands &Housing, Chairman, House Committee on Public Account (State) and Chairman, House Committee on Public Account (Local).
Since 1999, no Ikorodu representative has occupied any of the principal offices or chairs any of the major committees mainly because the leaders do not know their importance to socio-economic and political development of the division, rather their pursuit has always been for governorship and more commissioners. The enumerated legislative positions and committees are as powerful as any position in the state, and in conjunction with Governor’s team, determine who get what and what is allocated in the state through the appropriation and budgetary system. Without these legislative offices in agreement with the executive, nothing happens and yet nobody is looking in that direction and if care is not taken, Ikorodu’s cry of marginalization would go beyond 2015.
Since 1999, both Ikorodu Constituency I and II have been represented by eight representatives at the Lagos State House of Assembly, a turn-by-turn situation which must be discouraged. Strategically, it does more harm to the division than good, because to emerge as principal officer or chair any of the important committees or any committee for that matter, you must be a ranking honourable and for you to be a ranking member you must have returned more than the others and not just a returnee. Such returnee must have returned five, four or three times by 2015. In the Lagos State House of Assembly today, the most important representative is not the Speaker, but the Deputy Speaker who has been there since 1999. Hon. Kolawole Taiwo popularly called ‘Barometer’ he is on his fourth term. He serves as the Assembly’s encyclopedia and gives direction whenever the legislators are at cross-roads, and when there is conflict between the legislature and the executive. His influence with the legislative and executive arm is enormous. Same goes for Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Speaker; Hon. Funmi Tejuosho, Chairperson, House Committee on Finance and others who were on third term.
Hon. Sanai Oyeniran O. Agunbiade representing Ikorodu Constituency I is on second term, while Hon. (Chief) Mrs Nosimot Adebimpe Akinsola representing Constituency II is on first term. Before the two, Ikorodu Constituency I has had Hon. (Barr.) Ola Animashaun (1999-2003); Hon. Sunmi Odesanya (2003-2007); and Hon. Sanai O.B. Agunbiade (2007 till present). In Ikorodu Constituency II, there has been Hon. Saheed Hassan Adefarasin (1999-2007), late Hon. (Chief) Olasiji Rotimi Sotomiwa (2007-2009); Hon. Gbenga Oshin (2010 to 2011) and Hon. Adebimpe Akinsola (2011 till present). Representatives from Ikorodu were removed even before they consolidate on legislative work and not to talk about being allowed to develop influence that will aid them in bringing dividends of democracy home. While Ikorodu’s principle of turn-by-turn is very detrimental and devastating to the division, it allows other divisions to dominate the legislative arm because Ikorodu has not been able to produce ranking honourable, and once new honourable emerges, such would rather concern his or herself with personal gains, than look at the bigger picture. More so, that the internal arrangement of the legislature has even prevented him from aspiring beyond membership of the house.
In Ikorodu Constituency I, several aspirants have emerged wanting to take over from the current representative who has been a major force in the house despite not occupying any important position. Hon. Agunbiade’s background as a lawyer, political activist and his intellectual ability has helped greatly in emerging as best lawmaker in Lagos State House of Assembly. He also lives up to expectations as far as representative functions are concerned. Thus, there is no reasonable course of action why Ikorodu would not be strategic with his representation by returning him for the third term and place him in good stead to aspire for at least any of the leadership positions in the house since the zoning of the number one position in the state to Lagos East Senatorial District has effectively put paid to any Speakership ambition.
In Constituency II, the unwritten agreement is also being used against the return of Hon. Adebimpe Akinsola, a former classroom teacher and community activist who within short time has worked her way into Speaker’s inner caucus and is still consolidating her Assembly membership and representative activities.
In the judiciary, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba who is the closest to becoming a Chief Judge in the state is number four in the ranking of Lagos State Judges with retirement age also counting. In the case of judiciary arm, there is little that can be done except to have a long-term plan by encouraging lawyers from Ikorodu to start aspiring to the bench so that more Ikorodu people would be in line.
Strategically speaking, Ikorodu Division needs to be realistically repositioned and must be ready to fight from all fronts, because there must be alternatives in case governorship becomes impossible. There is nothing stopping the division from producing the governorship or deputy or Speaker, and at the same time produce principal officer(s) of Lagos State House of Assembly come 2015. It was Thomas Paine that says, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly. ‘Its dearness only that gives everything value.”