Lagos, the commercial centre of Nigeria, is one of the states to look out for in any general elections. To a great extent, the votes from the state usually determine who wins the presidential election, and this may not be an exception this year.
The parties to watch in Lagos come February, 16, 2019, are the ruling APC and the PDP. Presidential candidates of the parties are giving so much attention to Lagos in their political scheming.
In retrospect, the 2015 presidential election was described as one of the fiercest battles in recent times between the PDP and the ruling oligarchy firmly controlled by the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
From the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) to the rested Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bola Tinubu has asserted his supremacy in Lagos politics and built one of the largest political empires in the country.
The 2015 presidential election which was between the then President Goodluck Jonathan and the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, saw Tinubu fighting harshly to ward off attempts by the PDP to decimate his base; Lagos.
For the PDP, it was a fight to the finish. Huge amounts of money allegedly exchanged hands and the party leadership, not seen before, got millions of dollars to mobilise voters for the election.
Unlike the 2011 election when Jonathan secured almost 65 per cent of votes in Lagos, ostensibly after an alleged alliance with Tinubu, the 2015 poll was a different game. Tinubu’s ACN was a key player in the alliance that gave birth to the APC and so the stake was high just as the Buhari candidacy was a crowd puller.
The PDP invested time and resources on winning Lagos. It got to a stage Jonathan was practically shuttling between Abuja and Lagos to smoothen all rough edges in order to win the state.
Despite the effort, the PDP lost Lagos during the March, 2015, presidential election. It, however, won four seats in the House of Representatives, with analysts saying that feat tells a lot about the huge mobilisation the PDP made for the elections.
In that election, Buhari of the APC scored 792,460 while Jonathan of the PDP secured 632,327, according to the figures released by INEC. The result was a big deal for the PDP in an “impregnable territory” of the Tinubu.
The question remains whether the PDP can re-enact the 2015 performance, especially now that it has lost the instruments of power at the centre.
Incontrovertibly, Tinubu who is a Co-Chairman of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Council, is determined to prove a point that Lagos remains his territory, and his target will now be to perform better than 2015.
With over 6.5 million registered voters, it can be conservatively estimated that a minimum of million voters will turn out in Saturday’s election, with the likelihood of the APC getting more votes.
Another factor that may, however, reduce the APC votes is the Atiku factor.
Atiku seems to be very popular in the business community; being a businessman himself. He lived in Lagos for many years as a customs officer and businessman. His friends are everywhere in the state. So, Buhari’s supporters will only dismiss Atiku’s fame and popularity at their own peril.
In the Igbo community, Atuku is so popular and several indicators point to 60 to 70 per cent of Igbo votes in his favour.
The PDP also cashed in on a similar advantage in 2015, getting massive votes from the Igbo in the state. The whole area of the Lagos PDP secretariat and the adjoining streets were practically shut down the day Atiku went to campaign as an aspirant prior to his emergence as the candidate.
He has had two engagements in Lagos: a town hall meeting with representatives of many youth groups and a lecture by the influential Lagos Island Club, which were very promising.
Also, his presidential campaign train is expected in the state on Tuesday (Today).
It is, however, expected to be a titanic battle as the APC, under Tinubu’s control, has vowed to deliver the state for Buhari for the second consecutive time. The party has been telling those who care to listen that the state has benefitted more in the three and half years of Buhari’s presidency than PDP’s 16 years; eight of which were held by a fellow South westerner.
They point to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway which construction has progressed steadily, the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project which the first section was recently test run.
However, the PDP also argues that its government resuscitated the rail system which the APC is building upon and that it cannot boast of reviving the rail system.
In fact, an observer asked whether it was the APC train that had been conveying people of Osun State from Lagos to Oshogbo every festive season.
A former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, said in deciding whether to vote for PDP or APC, voters should assess if there had been improvement in their living condition between 2015 and now.
But an APC chieftain, Chief Tajudeen Olusi, insists the people of Lagos and the entire Yoruba people have decided to cast their votes for the APC candidate.
No doubt the PDP faces a daunting task of repeating the 2015 performance.