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Local Government Elections: Lagos ACN in Desperate Moves

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As the October 22 date for the Local Government election in Lagos State draws closer, the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) has begun desperate moves to reconcile aggrieved members of the party, some of whom had earlier vowed to work against it

 during the exercise.
The reconciliation, understands, began with series of meetings held by chieftains of the party with its National Leader and former governor of the State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, following the public outcry that resulted from the selection of candidates of the party for the council election. This culminated into a stakeholders' meeting held at the party secretariat in the state located on Acme Road, Agidingbi.

Sources close to the party hierarchy told that majority of the party faithfuls became aggrieved due to the imposition of candidates against fair play that should be the hallmark of democracy.

These protests, findings revealed, happened in almost all the 20 Local Government Areas and the 37 Local Council Development Areas of the state. In Oshodi for example, against the will of the people and stakeholders, the power to nominate the Council Chairman and the councillors was vested in the hands of Musiliu Akinsanya, alias MC Oluomo, the Treasurer of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state and godson of former governor Tinubu.

Investigations revealed that when Oluomo made his choice known, the party chieftains in the area, who were shocked by the actions of a non-party member, wielding such powers as to hand-pick candidates for the chairmanship and councillorship positions in the area, were said to have gone to the party secretariat in protest. But to their dismay, the party leadership asked them to go back and resolve the issue with the union official.

In Agbado/Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, there has been crisis as party chieftains in the LCDA are bent on frustrating whatever ambition the current Chairman, Pastor Kenny Okumuyide, has. Okumuyide and the councillors of the LCDA have turned the secretariat into a battle field. It was learnt that some members of the party who are not favourably disposed to the leadership approach of the Chairman vowed to ensure he was not returned for a second term in office.

"Immediately Okumuyide, like many other candidates, bought the form, the moves against him began. Those working against him connived with the councillors, who levelled some allegations against him and impeached him almost immediately, barely a month to the expiration of his tenure in office. Since then, the chairman has not returned to the office even though some party elders had intervened.

"Last week Friday, when he was supposed to resume after some attempts to resolve the issue, the councillors and some party members in the area invaded the council secretariat and laid ambush for him. They came with sticks and cains, promising to flog the hell out of him if he mistakenly gets there. They also went as far as to blocking the council accounts so that he would not have access to funds for anything. This crisis resulted in the failure of the party to give Okumuyide the ticket.

In Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area, the issue is that the party issued the ticket to Comrade Ayodele Adewale, who had faced problems with his councillors and party members in the area since becoming the chairman. Ayodele, a former civil rights activist, became the Chairman due to his loyalty to Asiwaju Tinubu, who sees him as a trustworthy godson. But immediately he became the Chairman, issues of mis-governance and misappropriation of funds crept up barely two years into his tenure in office. This led to his impeachment, but he was immediately reinstated on the orders of Tinubu.

This time, not only has he been given the ticket to run for another tenure, all the councillors seen to be giving him the hard nuts have been denied the opportunity to contest.

In almost all the areas of the state, the cry against such imposition was the same. The State House of Assembly, since the list came out, has been besieged with protesters at least three times in a week. Many of such protesters have also threatened to work for any opposition party which is courageous enough to field candidates for the election.

Some party chieftains in the state also confided in that there is serious apathy on their part because of the way they were treated when candidates were been selected. Investigations again revealed that no member of the National Assembly, executive arm of the state government or even the State House of Assembly was given the privilege to feature a candidate for even the councillorship position.

Meanwhile, the only consideration given to the State governor, Babatunde Fashola, in the last election has been withdrawn. Fashola was given the opportunity to pick one person and he picked his friend, Demola Doherty, who was said to have decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The ticket has been withdrawn from him.

The party sources also said their wish was that an opposition party would win some of the areas as a lesson to the ACN against future imposition. "Can you imagine that nomination of candidates in my party is no longer on merit? In fact, no one would tell you he is happy with what has happened so far and I just pray we don't lose some seats in the election," an aggrieved party faithful said.

However, learnt that three issues were considered in the selection of the candidates. With the exception of a few, Tinubu was said to have instructed that all those who had only been there for a term be given automatic tickets. Secondly, there was the issue of guiding against any influence of the governor especially since he is currently in his second term in office. There is the fear that he may want to use some of the Chairmen to climb back to a dreadful position in the party if allowed. The third consideration had to do with the agitation of the true indigenes of Lagos state who feel they have been marginalised for too long.

Those in favour of the third consideration argue that since the journey into the current democracy, they have not been given vantage positions in the governance of the state. They claim they have been ruled by people from other states like Osun, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti and Oyo. They believe it is time for them to begin to take charge of affairs of governance in the state and to do this, they decided to collectively fight against undue interference of some members of the party, who though are not from the state, but have formidable structures in place. One of these is the current governor of Osun state, Rauf Aregbesola.

The Osun governor is believed to wield much power especially among the current set of chairmen to the extent that many of them became more loyal to him than the party. While the sale of nomination forms lasted, many had run to him and had confidence that just like last year when he influenced the party's decision, he would see them through.

"During this period, his place in Osun became ground for pilgrimage as scores of party aspirants flocked around him. Some were even with him when the list came out and to their frustration; their names were not featured despite the assurances from governor Aregbesola.

For example, Pastor Okumuyide is said to have visited him several times during this period to see how he could be reinstated. Yet all his efforts have not yielded any positive result.

On the other hand, Tinubu is believed to have tactically danced to the tune of those who want the actual Lagosians to rule while bringing in his own loyalists. He was said to have been advised against giving too much powers to Aregbesola, who is now a governor and is no longer based in the State.

With this action, Governor Fashola's wings seem to have been clipped. Prior to the April elections, he is alleged to have instituted the Labour Party and funded it in order that aspirants on the party platform, most of who decamped from the Action Congress of Nigeria, could battle it out with the ruling party in the State. This did not materialise as it became a condition for his second term ticket that he must withdraw his sponsorship of the party and publicly deny it. He did this several times while campaigning.

"Because of this, it would be difficult for Fashola to think towards that direction again. Those who went to the Labour Party then, are regretting their actions now since they cannot come back to the ACN. It is just like they shot their feet to end their political career. To tell you the truth, though many people are angry, they would hardly leave the party for fear that they would become irrelevant later in life," a source within the party secretariat said.

Capitalising on the grievances among the ACN members, the PDP in the state has been strategizing on how to win some of the council areas. The party has also declared that it is battle ready and would contest positions foe even the LCDAs as against the last election when it only contested for the 20 LGAs.

  The PDP scribe, Tunji Shelle, who made this known recently in an interview, said: "You can see activities around the entire place. We have concluded the screening of our aspirants. We are prepared in all respects, and we are strategizing. Some of our strategies are known to us, we didn't allow it to get to the hearing of the opposition. Certainly, things will be different. We must ensure that we monitor our polling booths, protect our votes and ensure that some of our candidates win."

He said the internal squabbles that were the hallmark of the party in the State have been resolved and that the party is once again united for the election.

The ACN too is not prepared to lose any seat in the election. This, according to sources, necessitated the stakeholders' meeting where aggrieved party faithfuls were allegedly pacified by Tinubu.