Lagos East Senatorial Race: GAC Members Kick As Tinubu Opts For Polaris Bank MD, Abiru
By Benjamin Omoike
A row may be brewing in the hierarchy of the Lagos ruling party, as National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may have successfully imposed Tokunbo Abiru as his preferred candidate to vie for the by-election of the Lagos East Senatorial District, despite dissenting voices from members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the highest decision making body in the party.
It was gathered from a reliable source that Abiru, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Polaris Bank Limited, will fly the party’s flag for the October 31 election to occupy the vacuum created by the demise of Senator Adebayo Oshinowo alias (Pepper).
But his emergence, the source said, is already causing disaffection among the rank and file of the party, who are of the strong opinion that the choice is unpopular.
The decision, it was learnt, was said to have been met with opposition from the GAC members initially, but they later capitulated and allowed Tinubu to have his way.
The source said that at the initial meeting by the party leaders to decide on a candidate, Tinubu had told the party leaders to forward the names of four probable candidates in order to pick one out of the lot.
When the leaders met, they picked former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji (Epe), former Permanent Secretary, Lekan Ogunbanwo (Ikorodu), Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Rotimi Olowo (Somolu) and former member of the House of Representatives, Dayo Bush-Alebioshu (Kosofe).
The party leaders deliberately did not pick from Ibeju-Lekki on the grounds that Senator Gbenga Ashafa, who represented that Senatorial district before late Bayo Oshinowo, is from that zone.
“So when they now brought the names of the four people, Tinubu was playing games with them, he knew ab initio who he wanted and when they brought the four names he was opposed to it, saying that it did not reflect the realities on ground and the yearnings of the people from that zone and asked them to expand the list.
“That was all a plot to bring his choice of candidate (Tokunbo Abiru) in. So the list was now expanded to seven candidates. They brought in Tokunbo Abiru, Bode Oyedele from Epe and former Reps member, Wole Diya and forwarded the list”, the source said.
Tinubu, it was learnt, eventually settled for Abiru.
Until now, Abiru’s brief stint in government came in 2011, when he was appointed the Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State under then Governor, Babatunde Fashola.
However, he resigned in 2013 after 18 months, to take up a position as the Executive Director, Corporate Banking of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd.
But the party leaders, the source said, are opposing the choice of Abiru, insisting that he has no political value and that he is bringing no experience to the table.
“The crux of the matter is that the Abiru that Tinubu is promoting is apolitical. He was former Finance Commissioner under Fashola for a few months. He is not a politician, he is not one of the core people that the leaders wanted but Tinubu is pushing the guy for obvious reasons,” the source said.
Those who also oppose the choice of Abiru are of the opinion that it would be foolhardy to force Abiru to relinquish his position in Polaris Bank for a political position at a time when there are only a few Yoruba eggheads remaining in the top echelon of the banking sector.
“Some of the elders are exasperated why Tinubu wants to remove Abiru from the banking sector when the South-West people at the top are diminishing and more importantly, the question is what is the guy also bringing to the table; he has no experience, he has no grassroots support, he cannot mobilise the grassroots and what will be his contribution to the National Assembly when the zone has people who are experienced, capable in legislative matters and can add value to what is going on.
“Some people believe that it is an attempt by Tinubu to decimate experienced politicians from the zone because he knows they have more to offer and can’t be pushed around. He wants someone he can easily push and who will do his bidding. He is overlooking qualified politicians to pick a nonstarter,” the source said.
It was gathered that for now, the Lagos East APC chieftains are silently licking their wounds, knowing full well that there is little they can do to stop the consummation of Abiru’s ascendancy as the zone’s Senatorial candidate.