The just concluded governorship election in Lagos State was one of the fiercest.
It featured major three candidates, including incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party (LP) and Abdul-Azeez Adediran of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
Adediran had boasted that he will win the election at the initial stage of the campaign but he eventually came third in the race.
The Assistant Editor of The Nation Newspaper, Emmanuel Badejo, examines the factors that may have hurt the chances of the PDP candidate.
The threat to take Lagos State, the Centre of Excellence, away from the All Progressives Congress (APC) reached a crescendo prior to the 2023 general elections when Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, defected from the ruling party with his supporters. Lagos has not been governed by another political party since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.
In 1999, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) under the then Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now the president-elect, led the state.
Thereafter, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who took over from Tinubu contested and won the election on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The party later joined forces with other parties to form the APC under which Akinwunmi Ambode ran and won the governorship seat in 2015 and now, the incumbent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu also flew the APC governorship ticket in 2019 and 2023.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) held sway at the centre. Even then, it could not break the reign of the ruling party in Lagos. By May 29, 2023, the state would have been under the control of a political family for 24 years. All efforts during the election year to dislodge the ruling party in Lagos failed.
The battle for the soul of Lagos became so loud that some commentators made a caricature of the incumbent Sanwo-Olu. He was said to have run helter-skelter all in a bid to retain his job and the APC’s grip on Lagos. One of the contestants that gave the APC and Sanwo-Olu sleepless nights prior to the election was the PDP and its governorship candidate, Adediran, who was a member of the APC.
He left the ruling party for the main opposition party in December 2021. He joined the PDP with members of his Lagos4Lagos Movement.
He immediately became a new bride in his new political family and within a space of four months, he was able to warm himself into the hearts of some leaders of the PDP, who eventually conceded handing over the governorship ticket of the party to him.
With the ticket in his hand, Adediran set to work. He mapped out his strategies, raised his team of workers, got his campaign office in the heart of Lagos, chose Funke Akindele as his running mate, appointed some close aides and began his campaign for the election.
It is on record that the PDP candidate was the only contestant that covered all 246 wards in the state.
He was the first to kick-start his campaign, assuring voters of his readiness to lead an independent government and the certainty of winning the governorship poll.
He prided himself as ‘the Peoples’ Governor’, saying that the majority of voters in Lagos had accepted his candidacy. Some of his aides even call him ‘His Excellency’, and he carried himself as such all through the campaign period.
But, when the result of the presidential election was announced, the party got only 75,750 votes. It was placed a distant third in the race; after the Labour Party (LP), which polled 582,454 votes and the APC which recorded 572,606 votes.
The PDP performed abysmally when compared to the 448,015 votes it secured in 2019. With this unimpressive showing, some analysts believe the main opposition party has been decimated.
Adediran dismissed the notion that the PDP does not stand much chance in the March 18 governorship election, based on the outcome of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
He said: “By this time next week, all of us will be out of that government that will not let us breathe on the road and at marketplaces.
“That government that releases hoodlums to be attacking its citizens without condemning it for one day; their days are numbered. Next week, we will put an end to their existence in Lagos.
“Please, make no mistake; put out the votes, I am ready to protect it. They have been threatening; Jandor is ready to deploy security both conventional and unconventional for next Saturday’s elections.
“Whatever has happened at the centre is inconsequential; this is Lagos and we are taking our Lagos back. This election that is coming is for our freedom; when they announce Jandor as the winner, the kind of jubilation that happened when Abacha died will happen in Lagos.”
At the end of the day, Adediran could not make much impact in the election. While Sanwo-Olu polled a total of 762,134 votes to win the contest, the LP’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour was Sanwo-Olu’s closest challenge with 312,329 votes.
Adediran could only score 62,449 votes. Why did Adediran perform abysmally during the election?
To defeat the ruling APC in Lagos, the PDP needed to put up a strong and united front. Unfortunately, the party has remained disunited due to the internal crisis that is tearing it apart at the national and state levels.
For instance, due to the crisis at the national level, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, an influential chieftain of the party, openly campaigned against Adediran.
Wike, at a state function in Lagos, had said at the 22nd National Women’s conference organised by the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) in October:
“Any party contesting against the APC in Lagos is wasting its time. Sanwo-Olu is a super performing governor.”
At the state level, the PDP candidate lost the support of prominent party chieftains.
For instance, he lost the support of former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George, because of Adediran’s choice of running mate. The PDP candidate chose Funke Akindele, a prolific Nollywood actress, as his deputy governorship candidate.
George said Rhodes-Vivour ought to have been given the deputy governorship ticket because he was prevailed upon to step down for Jandor to have a seamless primary with the agreement he would be the running mate.
Jandor, George added, betrayed the agreement by dumping Rhodes-Vivour for Akindele. This pitched Jandor against George and some other prominent members of the PDP in Lagos. Instead of carrying other party members along, Jandor chose to run a one-man show.
The PDP chairman in Lagos State and a few other executives hardly showed up during the campaign to support Jandor.
The LP Factor:
Besides, Peter Obi’s foray into the presidential race changed the narrative and depleted Jandor’s earlier influence. This was coupled with the sharp disagreement between Jandor and Rhodes-Vivour of the LP.
Rhodes-Vivour had at different times accused Jandor of lacking integrity because he could not honour the simple agreement of partnership.
Haven denied the LP candidate of the running mate slot, he moved on to pick the governorship ticket of the LP ahead of the polls. This significantly affected Adediran’s chances as votes that were supposed to go to the party were shared with the LP.
Though the October 2020 EndSARS violence adversely affected Governor Sanwo-Olu’s rating, some landmark achievements, including his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the railway project, seem to have made the Lagos governor popular among voters.
For instance, in November 2022, the ANAP Foundation released a poll which predicted Sanwo-Olu’s re-election in 2023.
The poll, commissioned by ANAP Foundation and conducted by NOI Polls, revealed a significant lead by Governor Sanwo-Olu (APC), with Jandor and Rhodes-Vivour both trailing behind.
The report added that Sanwo-Olu’s lead might be unassailable as opposition votes are fragmented, a development which could be considered the direct consequence of the PDP’s internal crisis which forced Rhodes-Vivour out of the party.
While 30 per cent of voters proposed to vote for Sanwo-Olu, only eight per cent agreed that they will vote for Jandor. As for Rhodes-Vivour, only four per cent of the respondents agreed that they will vote for him.
This implies that Sanwo-Olu had a 22 per cent-point lead. The only hope for Jandor, according to the poll, was the huge percentage of undecided voters and those who preferred not to reveal their preferred candidate.
Some PDP chieftains did not believe in Jandor’s sincerity. They saw him as a mole that was planted by the ruling party to scuttle PDP’s chances.
They said he was close to the ruling party’s presidential candidate, now president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Adediran, who got wind of this perception, during one of his engagements, denied the rumour.
“I am not a mole for APC,” Jandor had cried out, saying he was strongly determined to end the ruling party’s reign in Lagos.
Jandor added that it was illogical for him to be the APC’s mole in PDP and be giving the party ‘headaches’ in his campaigns. He added that though he was in the APC until January 2022, he had not had a one-on-one meeting with Tinubu.
Jandor began his campaign with a big bang and many saw him as a man who had the financial wherewithal to confront the ruling party. He got new vehicles, police orderlies, aides, and a campaign office in a high-brow area in Lagos. He fared well until his financial fortunes began to dwindle.
Sources told our reporter that at some point he had to sell some of his belongings to stay afloat. As his financial muscle was threatened, some of the hired political canvassers started withdrawing their loyalty.
Some party chieftains who had expected some form of ‘settlement’ didn’t get it, hence, they began to shift the goalpost in the middle of the game.
It was also reported that the governorship candidate had hoped to get some largess from the top and some governors in the party. This expectation was dashed as the G-5 governors could not come to terms with the party at the centre.
Hence, they withdrew financial support from Jandor. This further decimated his support base. The loss of the party’s presidential candidate in Lagos also affected cash inflow, as Jandor and his team could not deliver the state for Atiku.
The situation became so bad that by the time the election was conducted, it was reportedly said that he didn’t have enough financial resources to prosecute it. This led to disaffection in his camp and some openly supported other parties.