Crisis is brewing in the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the battle for the soul of Lagos West Senatorial District, the largest senatorial district in the country.
The district is currently being represented by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, a former member of the House of Representatives, who is serving his first term in the upper chamber of the National Assembly (NASS).
Adeola, popularly called Yayi, is nursing an ambition to succeed Governor Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun State.
However, Amosun has repeatedly vowed that no ‘foreigner’ would succeed him in the state.
The governor is believed to have a strong grip on the party’s structure in the state.
Sources in the party said though Adeola is leaving no stone unturned in his Ogun governorship bid, he is also keeping the Lagos West Senatorial ambition as a “second option” should he fail to pick the party’s ticket in Ogun State.
However, a new twist was added to the race following the entrant of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, who represented Lagos Central Senatorial District between 2003 and 2007.
The ambition of the two gladiators pitched their supporters against one another a fortnight ago at the premises of the LTV ground where stakeholders of the senatorial district endorsed Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for a second term.
The supporters, who engaged in fisticuffs, tried to outdo one another in a sort of supremacy battle over who represents the zone in the Senate in 2019.
Olamilekan arrived the venue minutes after commencement with a horde of supporters carrying posters and banners with the uniform inscription, ‘No Vacancy in Lagos West; We Want You Back as our Senator’.
Not wishing to be outdone, Obanikoro‘s supporters, armed with ‘Obanikoro for Lagos West Senatorial Zone’ banners, joined Olamilekan’s supporters on the stage, each group chanting the name of its candidate.
The situation delayed the programme for about 45 minutes as party leaders and security agents had a hectic time controlling the supporters of the two politicians.
Both Obanikoro and Olamilekan later stood up to control their supporters who then retreated to their positions, but not without making occasional chants to drive home their choices.
Speaking with Independent on Sunday, an aide of Senator Adeola said while it was true his principal was nursing the ambition of becoming Ogun State governor in 2019, he was still keeping his option for a senatorial ticket in Lagos West open.
He said: “There is no vacancy in Lagos West in 2019. Anybody plotting to replace Senator Adeola is just wasting his time.
“The people of Lagos West have said it times without number that there is no vacancy and the incumbent senator will be returned unopposed in 2019.
“Of course, Senator Adeola is seeking to contest in Ogun as a governorship candidate in 2019.
“He just had a rally at Ewekoro yesterday and the crowd at the rally was massive.
“But he is still the incumbent senator for Lagos West and his term will expire in 2019.
“When that time comes, the people will decide whether they still want him or not.”
However, a party leader in Lagos West said, by signifying interest to contest the governorship election in Ogun State, Senator Adeola’s position as the lawmaker representing the senatorial district was ‘technically vacant’.
“Senator Adeola has performed creditably well but what we know is that he is running for governor in Ogun State in 2019.
“Our party leaders in Lagos State have told us to mobilise support for him. His tenure will expire in 2019 and what that means is that the position is technically vacant for now.
“If anyone says he is keeping both options in Lagos and Ogun open, that person is talking nonsense.
“You can’t have one leg in Ogun and the other in Lagos. As a party leader, I know Senator Obanikoro has signified his interest in representing the senatorial district but I don’t think there is any cause for alarm; when the time comes, we will know where everyone stands,” he said.
Also speaking, another supporter of Senator Adeola told Independent that the people of Lagos West were aware of Obanikoro’s antics which, according to him, was to become the governor of Lagos State as the ticket would be zoned to the senatorial district in 2023.
He added that some of the senator’s supporters were beginning to feel that there was a calculated attempt by some party leaders to push Adeola to Ogun “when they know that the governorship ambition is not feasible.”
He continued: “Senator Adeola is still the senator representing Lagos West, and I am sure he will seek re-election for another term in 2019.
“He has told us he is keeping both options open as the people of Lagos West, who are proud of his effective representation, are daily pleading with him to represent them again in 2019.
“Senator Obanikoro, I must tell you, is not interested in the welfare of the people of Lagos West.
“He only wanted to use it as a launching pad for his governorship ambition in 2023 because that is where the governorship will be zoned to that year.
“Don’t forget, Babatunde Fashola is from Lagos Central, Governor Akiwunmi Ambode is from Lagos East, and so the governorship will naturally come to Lagos West in 2023.
“That is what Koro is eyeing, and we all know that.
“His ambition is already pitching supporters of the party in Lagos West against supporters in Lagos Central, because the people of Lagos West feel he wants to bring his supporters from Lagos Central to come and dominate them, and they have vowed to resist him.”
Speaking in a recent interview on why he was shifting base from Lagos Central to Lagos West, Obanikoro traced his lineage to Lagos West.
He said: “I will take you down memory lane. I am from the Obanikoro family.
“My father was from Idioluwo, Ile, and Ilase. He was from those three riverine areas.
“Our ancestors came from that area to Lagos Island hundreds of years ago.
“We have not severed ties with our ancestral home. All along, we have been relating closely as families with them.
“I will also let you know that, to the glory of God, and by His grace, I was able to facilitate three millennium schools: one to Idioluwo-Ile in 2014, another one in Ikaare, and the other one in Ilase.
“I did these to promote education, which I know is very key, if that area is going to develop and compete with other parts of Lagos.
“I did these when I never envisaged that I will change my political constituency from the Central to the West.”
“It is not just Obanikoro, a good number of Lagos Island families are from the West.
“They migrated many years ago to Lagos Island. It is not unique to us. It is a fact that is known to all native Lagosians.”
When asked if the senatorial ambition would not be a prelude to his long-standing governorship ambition, he said: “My mum used to say one thing when she was alive.
“She will say: emi ti o ni d’ola, to nda osu mejila. Who knows tomorrow? Tomorrow belongs to the Almighty God.
“This senate thing we are talking about belongs to Him. We are alive now; that’s why we are talking about it.
“Nobody knows what tomorrow will hold, and to now jump to 2023, I think it is taking it too far.
“As far as I am concerned, I will enjoy the moment, representing the good people of Lagos State from Lagos West.
“That is sufficient to stretch any energetic or any committed person.
“It is the largest senatorial district in terms of population in the whole of Nigeria.
“So, there is a lot to do. Let me restrict myself to that challenge, instead of thinking far ahead about what is not necessary.
“My intention is to represent Lagos State from Lagos West, add value to what Asiwaju has done, the leadership he has provided.”
“That’s all I am interested in now. I am also looking forward to seeing the South-West becoming the trite state in the United States of America, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
“If we have the kind of collaboration among these three states in the South-West, that will be my joy.”