Political Upheaval in Lagos

Olanrewaju J Oyewole
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Of Narcissus and Geryon
One observes the events playing out on the political scene in Lagos with some concern. Two tales are evoked in my mind, both with provenance in Greek mythology.

The first is Narcissus (/nɑːrˈsɪsəs/; Greek: Νάρκισσος, Nárkissos). He was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who fell in love with himself. Hence the term “narcissism”.
Narcissus was so taken by his own reflection that he could not tear himself away from that he saw. His own image in the water had captivated, and paralysed him.
Such level of inversion is always harmful and Narcissus, rooted to the spot, paid the ultimate price.

The second is Geryon (/ˈdʒɪəriən/ or /ˈɡɛriən/). He was a fearsome giant who dwelt on the island Erytheia of the mythic Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean.
The son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe, the grandson of Medusa and the nephew of Pegasus. Legend had it that he could not be bested in combat.
However, in one account of the Herculean labours, said giant was lured into a fight by the cunning Hercules. Driven to distraction by his own anger and greed, Geryon’s three personalities fought and destroyed themselves.

Undesirable Outcomes

As with Narcissus so also Geryon, the end was not good, and the architect of destruction was the self!
Political novices such as this writer stand aghast while observing the battle lines being drawn up in Lagos. What in God’s world are these gladiators lining up for?
What could they hope to gain, if, per chance, they were to win? Should one remind them of the Pyrrhic War and the battles of Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC!

Three Musketeers

On the one side is Bola Tinubu; the Jagaban of Borgu. Tinubu became governor of Lagos in 1999.
The story of his emergence and tenure is summarised in an interesting This Day article (https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2018/08/05/between-okorochas-iberiberism-and-tinubus-hegemony/) as well as in Vanguard (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/04/re-tinubus-unfinished-business/).
Upon inauguration, it was clear that Tinubu was not happy with the status quo. He immediately began to consolidate power and whittle his opposition. Two of his deputy governors were forced out, and links with Afenifere were broken. Many still blame Tinubu for conduct they describe as treacherous.
Thereafter, he set about rebuilding the economy and political landscape of Lagos, with himself as primus inter pares. To his credit, much was achieved in those eight foundation years. Lagos was set on a path that sets her apart from the rest of Nigeria, till date.

Against the odds and all expectation, Asiwaju introduced a young technocrat as his anointed in 2006. It was controversial but he pulled it through. Fashola won the 2007 elections (https://www.nairaland.com/49016/breaking-news-action-congress-sweeps) and impressed over the next eight years.

However, there was an interim fallout just before Fashola’s re-election in 2011. This was reminiscent of Asiwaju’s falling out with his deputy, Femi Pedro, in the re-lection bid of 2007.
A pattern was emerging. A recurring four year itch. A discomfort brought about by concerns relating to “power” and who was in charge.

Come 2015 and Fashola left the scene and moved up federal-level politics. Rumour has it that his ascent to a plum Abuja appointment did not go down well with political godfather.
At home though, Lagosians were in for another surprise in the choice of succession. Akinwunmi Amobde, an Alausa insider had been brought out by Asiwaju at the 11th hour.

This time, Lagosians were circumspect. The elections that followed were very close. Ambode narrowly defeated the PDP candidate, Agbaje, by some thousands of votes (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/04/ambode-wins-lagos-gov-poll-succeeds-fashola/).
To Tinubu’s credit, Ambode did not disappoint. He quickly set about work and soon set new standards for zeal and achievement among governors.

Itching, Again

It is however close to the fourth year again. Surprisingly, endorsements of Ambode (https://theeagleonline.com.ng/57-council-chairmen-endorse-ambode-for-second-term/) that were as common as confetti have suddenly turned into accusations. The itch, it seems, is back!
Really bad this time. So much so that the elder statesman would risk “all” to finally end the irritation.
One is left wondering. Is this a person besotted with the image that lackeys have conjured for him? Or is it a man torn up by contradictions deep within?
Which ever way; it is clear that Tinubu is fighting against himself. Fashola and Ambode are his political offspring. Both are impatient; want to see change; scoff at the status quo are not afraid of making enemies.

I have also noticed that, like Tinubu, both men see and use money as a tool for “political” ends. One suspects that he fears that his sons are growing up too quickly!

However, for Tinubu to set after Ambode so openly is undignified (https://punchng.com/ambode-did-well-in-office-but-he-isnt-a-good-party-man-tinubu/). In the process, the APC laundry is being aired in the marketplace. He has rebuffed entreaties from the national APC leadership, the office of the presidency, and oba Akiolu.

On his part, Amobde’s long obmutescence has been golden. But his recent outburst has been un-statemanly. Derogatory comments about his challenger, Sanwo-olu, were in very bad taste, and he should apologise. It also takes the shine and focus off his outstanding performance in the last three years.

The signs are that Tinubu’s grouse lacks substance, making negotiation and compromise difficult.
The battle lines are drawn! There will be a fight, and unfortunately, one of these fine specimens will suffer greater damage, and lose. Sadly, it could be politically fatal.

Trepidation and Temerity

If the APC leadership, and the people of Lagos choose Ambode, the Asiwaju’s reign will be at an end. He would have no choice other than to leave the APC and seek an alliance with odd bedfellows in other parties.

Whether he can hold his nose long enough to strike a deal with the likes of the PDP or SDP is doubtful though. If Tinubu retains control of Lagos though, Ambode will have to be cut loose from APC in the state.

That would make it difficult for the APC leadership to take Ambode in at the national level. That could alienate Tinubu and Ambode’s exit from the party and/or politics would be imminent.
Little damage would be occassioned should he quit politics altogether, but collateral would be significant if he crossed to another party. The shifting state primaries will be the scene for the first battles.

Changing Political Landscape

This power struggle will send seismic waves throughout the Nigerian political establishment. When the dust of this conflict settles, it is very likely that party political boundaries will have been redrawn.
It could be that Ambode becomes a spearhead for a generational shift in political power. Another possibility is the fractionation of the allegiances in the Yoruba regions (SW).
None of this bodes well for the APC; especially as it is so close to the 2019 elections. Votes are being lost as we speak; more will be lost as this saga progresses.

The president, and the national APC leadership can only hope and pray. Tinubu has loomed like a colossus in our political consciousness for the last two decades.
He has wrought much and achieved great things. He has sown and sacrificed. He has built and reinforced. He has engineered and midwifed.

In Nigeria today, no person, group or party can easily pull him down.

Will Asiwaju be the architect of his own downfall? I certainly hope not; that would be a tragedy.
But if this is the beginning of the end of Tinubuism, mark my words; many will be taken down with him. The APC will hope not; that would be a disaster!

Oyewole, Olanrewaju J (Mr.)
Secretary General
Nigeria Abroad
No 66, London SE18 3PD
+44 [0] 793 920 3120
Twitter: @NewNigerian
Social and political commentator, blogger, and technology consultant. With significant experience in the security sector, having worked on key IT initiatives for the UK police and army

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