By Segun Adegoke
The shocking demise of the Senator representing the Lagos East Senatorial Constituency, Senator Bayo Oshinowo, has created a vacuum at the upper chamber of the National Assembly. At the moment, though, the people of Lagos East and the entire Senate are still mourning the loss of their representative and colleague, but sooner or later, a replacement is imminent. The question, however, is who is most likely to replace the late Senator especially now that a fresh election will have to be conducted.
It is safe to rule out the chances of the PDP going by their performance in the last Senatorial election, except of course the party is willing to consider one of their new entrants, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi. And while Gbadamosi could put up a better challenge than Princess Abiodun Oyefusi did at the last senatorial election against Senator Oshinowo, all indicators still point to potential electoral success for the APC when eventually a by-election is conducted.
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But word on the street is that the leader of the APC in Lagos, Chief Bola Tinubu is more likely to support the candidacy of a thoroughbred politician, one who is astute and has built quality political relationships outside Lagos. In other words, Chief Bola Tinubu is likely to lean towards someone with stature and clout that can help him build bridges in Abuja when and where necessary. Another key consideration will be someone who is popularly enough in the Lagos East to run an election without requiring much of the party’s institutional support to win the by-election. This implies someone with good name recognition and one who is quite popular with the people of Lagos East.
Given the above consideration a few names come to mind:
1. Dr. Tola Kasali. A two-time commissioner and the APC leader of the Lagos East constituency. Dr. Kasali is an arch loyalist of Tinubu and his performance as commissioner remains one to be admired. Though not keen about the electoral office, he remains a strong contender for the position as he enjoys the support and confidence of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
2. Akinwumi Ambode. The former Governor of Lagos state was denied a second term in office by the leadership of his party owing to a series of issues that had been left to linger for too long. He was edged out in a rancorous primary election that had been rigged against him even before the first vote was cast. Ambode, however, hails from Lagos East and was initially offered the Senate seat when he was denied a second term – a gesture he turned down. Ambode remains popular in Lagos East especially in the Epe axis where the people felt hard done by denying their son a second term. Being a former governor, Ambode will find no problem winning a senatorial election and would be very useful to the leader of the party in consolidating his political base using some of his key relationships in the Governors Forum.
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3. Senator Gbenga Ashafa. Senator Ashafa was Senator Oshinowo’s predecessor and represented Lagos East in the 7th and 8th assembly. He lost out in a primary election many considered unfair and marred with several irregularities. He however stuck with the party and played a prominent role as a senior member of the Election Planning and Monitoring Committee that worked towards the successful election of President Muhammadu Buhari. His support for Governor Babajide Sanwolu also did not go unnoticed. Senator Ashafa has been a long-time loyalist of Chief Tinubu and built solid political relationships during his time in the senate that could be of immense advantage should Chief Tinubu decide to run for the highest office in the land. He has also maintained a strong local political base and enjoys the affection of several of his constituents. Many even believe that the party should compensate him for his loyalty by allowing him a chance to return to the senate even though people very close to the former senator have said he is no longer interested in returning to the senate.
4. Jimi Benson. A brilliant, astute and ambitious politician who is currently in the Federal House of Representatives. It has always been his argument and that of the elders in Ikorodu, that it was their turn (in Ikorodu) to produce a Senator. And now that the slot is open again, it is expected that he will make a strong play for the seat drawing from the sentiments that Ikorodu is yet to produce a Senator.
5. Hon Abike Dabiri. The current Director-General of Nigeria In Diaspora Commission and a former ranking member of the Federal House of Representatives might just be another solid option. She has played a non-confrontational politics and enjoys the respect of most of the leaders in the party. She is also from Ikorodu where the sentiments for a Senate seat are quite strong.
As always, the jostling for this senate seat will hardly be about the regular people in the Lagos East but the interest of the party leadership. This time, however, the interest is quite clear. What we are yet to find out is who the Leadership believes would best serve that interest.
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