With governorship elections slated for Saturday, 11 March, 2023 there is tension in many states where the elections have become too close to call. Lagos State is the economic jewel of the nation and one where Saturday’s election will be an epic battle, given the emergent Youth Revolt which catapulted Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to a landmark victory over Lagos Landlord, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Obi garnered 582,454 votes to Tinubu’s 572,606 votes with perennial presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, of the People’s Democratic Party trailing by a paltry 75,750. For the PDP candidate, it was literally a wipe -out. Atiku, the Turaki of Adamawa simply ‘ tukasile ‘ (fell apart) in his Lagos outing. The Obidients even claim that they had a wallop of votes close to one million.
Nationwide, Obi’s strong showing which, according to disputed results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), placed him third with 6,201,533 to Atiku’s 6,954,520 while Tinubu had 8,794,726 rubbished those who had dismissed Obi as lacking structures and therefore a non starter. Apart from winning in 11 states, it is significant that the Labour Party candidate won in the two most cosmopolitan entities in Nigeria – Lagos and Abuja – a factor underlining his youth appeal.
Obi’s victory in Lagos has stirred lingering ethnic animosities between the Yoruba and the Igbo in the state to fever pitch, given the huge Igbo population and the mortal fear of the ruling APC of a block Igbo vote for the Labour Party governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour.
The spectre of Igbo takeover of Lagos has become an obsession with the APC, the ruling party in the state, such that it’s propagandists have been whipping up ethnic emotions on the flawed narrative that a vote for Labour Party by any Yoruba person is tantamount to voting for Igbo takeover of Lagos! This is a fallacy. All the three governorship candidates in contention in Lagos – Babajide Sanwo-Olu of APC, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of LP and Dr. Abdulaziz Adediran of PDP – are Yoruba, so a vote for any of the other two cannot be a vote for Igbo takeover of Lagos. The underlying false assumption of the APC as custodian Yoruba political hegemony, is that the other two are ethnic sellouts. That is a fallacy.
The reality is that Saturday vote will be a referendum on Ahmed Tinubu’s vice grip on the politics of Lagos for the past 24 years which has attracted resentment even among his disciples. That those he touted as getting into high public offices through him contested the APC presidential primaries with him, had signalled incipient unraveling of his structures. Many of such people are now on: Sidon look ‘ mode.
From 1999 to 2007 when he was governor of Lagos State and thereafter when he became the political godfather who decides who gets what political position in Lagos, Tinubu and members of his oligarchy have assumed the aura of invincibility – that no political force can unseat them. Godfather Tinubu deployed a combination of Agbero Politics on Intimidation (API) and Redemption of Political I.O.Us (RPI) to successfully face down APC national chairman and President Muhammadu Buhari to snatch the APC presidential ticket.
He may be tempted to deploy API on Saturday but at grave risk to public order, if the opposition decides to meet force with force.
Playing the ethnic card of Igbo takeover of Lagos may not bring victory to APC in the governorship elections. In fact, it may turn out a boomerang by alienating Igbos who have sympathy for APC, and considering that Yoruba votes alone cannot guarantee victory for APC.
Understandably, the Igbo may seek appointive concessions if their vote secure victory for a governorship candidate. This is normal political horse-trading and cannot be construed as Igbo takeover.
Perhaps the biggest miscalculation of the APC and Tinubu is not recognizing Youth Power as displayed during the ENDSARS Youth Revolt, where the state government was perceived complicit in getting the military to rout the protesters, resulting in killings. Massacre may be an exaggeration but the hurt of the youths lingers, particularly the perceived money-induced insensitivity of Tinubu in wanting an early reopening of the Lekki Tollgate where the killings of the youths took place. For them, Saturday is payback day for Tinubu and Governor Sanwo-Olu.
The irony for Tinubu is that he is the political leader who has most empowered Igbo in terms of public appointments and employment into the civil service as well as allowing them free reign in setting up shops in every available space in an unregulated Lagos.
The Igbo population had its exponential increase during the 24-year reign of Tinubu as Lagos ‘Emperor’, making the Igbo a major electoral force in a democracy of numbers.
Whipping up Yoruba ethnic sentiments against the Igbo, therefore, portrays the APC as a drowning party seeking any straw to cling on. It is a manifestation of the desperation of a Tinubu and the APC, apparently destabilised by the Obidients’ phenomenon.
The biggest scare for ‘Emperor’ Tinubu and his Oligarchs is the demystification of Tinubu as a Political Conqueror, with a defeat of the APC governorship candidate on his ‘home’ turf on Saturday.
•Bisi Olawunmi (PhD), a mass communication scholar, is a public affairs analyst.