As the 2015 governorship election in Lagos State approaches, the question of who succeeds the incumbent, Mr. Raji Fashola, has ignited political intrigues and permutations.
The matter is gaining momentum following the strategic nature of Lagos as a melting pot for ethnic nationalities in the country.
For residents, ethnicity, which had been a determinant factor about who governs Lagos, does not really matter given that it has become normal for the number one citizen to be of Yoruba extraction. What has remained contentious is the religious dimension which the issue had assumed lately.
For instance, the Director of Civic and Political Affairs of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland of the Anglican Communion, Venerable Folarin Shobo, in July 2013, urged Lagos residents to vote in a Christian as governor in 2015.
Shobo reportedly said Lagos residents could not afford to continue with the present political arrangement whereby political officers were largely people of a particular faith.
While noting that Governor Raji Fashola has done well in improving on the infrastructure of the state, he said, “It is time for power to shift in the state. It is time for us to have people who will continue to rule with the fear of God and respect for the rule of law. There is a strong need for genuine internal democracy among the parties that will produce a credible candidate come 2015.”
Since then, religious leaders, especially those of the Christian faith, have beating the religious drum for a Christian governor come 2015.
This development does not seem to go down well with many analysts, who argued that Lagos is too cosmopolitan to be dragged into religious politics.
Speaking on the matter, a concerned resident, Mr. Alphonso Ibekwe, told Sunday Vanguard that Lagos is peculiar because of its cosmopolitan nature.
He said, ‘’This is a state that puts religious, ethnic considerations at the background and it has been paying off since. But to now change from this ideal consideration to the primitive selection of candidate on the platform of religion or place of birth may be counter-productive.’’ Investigations showed that another lingering issue is indigeneship.
Though non-Yoruba speaking residents are not in contention with their Yoruba counterparts, this angle to the search has been described as disturbing.
Commenting on it, the President of Congress for Equity and Justice, CEAJ, Chief Bernard Edobor, said: ‘’Going by CEAJ’s position, what every patriotic political or religious leader in Lagos, including residents, should be looking for is who is the best among the candidates that may vie for the office? Their concern is, who can meet the needs and aspirations of the people? Except one wants to be sentimental, religion or indigene ship are not mentioned as one of the qualities of a leader. It is only in the church, mosque or shrine that a leader can be chosen on the basis of religion.’’
Continuing, he argued: ‘’The pertinent question one needs to ask on the issue of indigene is, who are actually Lagosians? Without insulting our sensibilities, is it not yet an appropriate time to put away sentiment and do what is right? Lagos is known for its cosmopolitan nature, while residents/indigenes care the less where one comes from as long as there needs are being meet.’’
Backing his postulations with contemporary examples, Edobor said, ‘’In the United States of America, Britain or Canada, which our countrymen regard as paradise and pray, fast and seek divine intervention, including traditional means to get their visa, indigeneship, religion and other primordial considerations take the back-seat.
‘If Barack Obama were to be a Nigerian, he would never have been US president. The father of the current interim President of Central Africa Republic, Mrs. Catherine Samba Panza, is a Cameroonian, while her mother is said to be from Chad, but the parents lived in CAR where the president was born”.
The Edo State born architect went on, ‘’ Many names have been bandied around as possible successor to Governor Fashola, but it would be calamitous to bring in anybody simply because he/she was born in Isale Eko or Oke Eko. If one would go by history, apart from Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, no governor performed better than Brigadier-General Buba Marwa, who is not a Yoruba, not to talk of being a Lagosian. There is no doubt that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Nothing precludes a Christian, even, traditional religious adherent to occupy the coveted seat of governor of Lagos.’’
He posed a question, ‘’One question that is germane is, were the above mentioned past governors elected or appointed (in the case of military administration) on the basis of religion or simply as political expediency their times dictated?’’
He added, ‘’Right from the time of the first military governor of Lagos State, Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson, till date, historians and political watchers would testify to the fact that religion has never been considered as a factor to appoint or elect the governor in Lagos.
“But looking at the elected governors, starting from Alhaji Lateef Jakande, he was NOT elected on the basis of his faith, rather, on the basis of what his party, the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), had to offer. No issue of religion at all. The majority of the electorate voted for Alhaji Jakande even in 1983 before the military forcefully took over from politicians.’’