Two former senators are in prime position for the chairmanship race of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos state. A sources said though a lot of party stalwarts are interested in the position, Senators Tokunbo Afikuyomi and Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon popularly called GOS by his supporters have been penciled down for the race.
Sources in the party however said the ultimate decision on who becomes the helmsman of the party in the state solely rests on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. It will be recalled that Tinubu had sealed the fate of the incumbent state chairman, Otunba Henry Ajomale when he banned members who had spent a minimum of eight years as a ward, council and state executive members from seeking re-election in the ongoing congresses.
Tinubu who announced the ban in Ikeja while addressing party members at a stakeholders meeting said the decision was to allow fresh people to occupy party offices at the ward, local government and state levels with a view to taking the APC to the next level in the state.
“We fought hard against tenure elongation, and now we are going to have our congresses. “Some of you who have spent two, three, four terms as ward, local government and state executive members, it is time to go.
“We thank you, we appreciate you. But we want you to step aside. It is time for those who have been crawling for years to walk. It is time for the youths to take over. “I mean if you have spent eight years, twelve years, you have tried. You should give us chance, let us now have new people.”
Sources said both Afikuyomi and Solomon were two- term senators in Lagos state and strong ally of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Afikuyomi served as senator from 1999 to 2007, first in Lagos Central(1999- 2003) and later Lagos West (2003- 2007).
He vacated the seat for Solomon in 2007 who served as the lawmaker from Lagos West senatorial district from 2007 to 2015. Following his exit from the Senate in 2007, Afikuyomi he decided to contest as the Governorship candidate for the Action Congress (AC) but Tinubu settled for Babatunde Fashola.
Feeling betrayed, he decamped to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and picked the governorship ticket. Few days to the governorship election, he retraced his steps to AC his former party and he was made the party agent to monitor the collation of results at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office which Fashola won.
In appreciation for his role in the victory of the APC, Afikuyomi was appointed as the Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations. On his part, Solomon having served two terms also indicated interest in succeeding Governor Fashola in 2015. Despite his awareness that Tinubu is rooting for Ambode, he contested the governorship primary where he came a distant sixth position with 272 votes.
He later pledged allegiance to Ambode and has been drumming support for the governor ever since.
According to a senatorial leader of the party in Lagos “ The race is between Afikuyomi and GOS. But the general impression among party leaders is that Tinubu is favourably disposed to Afikuyomi”.
“ Though Tinubu believes that both men have what it takes to lead the party, he is comfortable with Afikuyomi but he is also taking Governor Ambode into consideration who I understand is disposed to Solomon as the next chairman”.
“ As at now, many believe Afikuyomi should be compensated for his loyalty to the party over the years. Even when he angrily left the party for ANPP in 2007, he quickly returned to the progressives fold because he is not comfortable being in another party”.
“Also don’t forget the humiliation he suffered in May last year during the local government primary of the APC in Teslim Balogun stadium where he was stripped naked by aggrieved party members because he was carrying out Tinubu’s directives that some local government chairmen should be return unopposed”.
“ Many people believed that he has paid his dues and should be compensated for his loyalty though I must admit there are also serious opposition against him by some stalwarts who felt he lacks what it takes to hold the party together. Others also said he may sell the party to the opposition if he becomes the chairman”.
“ On the part of Solomon, I can authoritatively tell you that nobody has contacted him for the position though he is also aware his name is being propped up”.
“I am also aware that Governor Ambode having weighed the options is favourably disposed to him but given his antecedents, some of his antagonists are claiming that given his antecedents, he may be disloyal to Tinubu if made the state chairman” he said.