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NIGERIA: In His Lagos, Power Isn’t Served A la Carte

If there is anyone out there who still sees Senator Ganiyu Solomon’s governorship ambition as a joke, he’d better have a rethink, writes Olawale Olaleye
 
It’s a familiar slogan amongst the ruling class in Lagos politics. Said to have been coined and deployed to use by the leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, the idea that power is not served a la carte was reportedly mooted to establish the essence of power struggle in a terrain like Lagos. But this mental sensitisation has further stoked a different spirit in the struggle for power and prominence in the state.
 
 
Although many are quick to refer to the choice of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola in 2007 as contrary to that idea of power struggle; indeed, only a Fashola could tell how he’s been able to stabilise and sustain his governorship despite being the ace of the party leadership in the run up to the 2007 election.
 
 
Nothing, however, gives fillip to this thinking than the intrigues that attended his re-election in 2011. If, perhaps, as many would argue that he had power served him a la carte in 2007, same cannot be said of his re-election where, according to the political belief of Tinubu’s school, he struggled for power and earned it on the basis of performance record, acceptability and personal recognizance.
 
 
Two thousand and fifteen is by the corner and Lagos, being the centre of dramatic and showy attraction is subtly magnetizing its traditional crowd and observers alike. The rare-breed BRF, as Fashola is fondly referred will call in time on his eight years reign next year even as the battle of who succeeds him is beginning to assume shape.
 
 
Typically, the list of intending successors is endless- populated rather by a combination of contenders and pretenders, with the least qualified seeing the game as open and a free-for-all. Clearly an error of judgment; Lagos is too metropolitan for the naïve and the apolitical.
 
 
But as time ticks away, more and more names keep cropping up, an indication that Lagos 2015 promises to be an interesting watch. What makes it particularly so is the array of factors that seem to be flying about in the eventual emergence of Fashola’s successor. It does seem a number of such factors are unnatural and designed by the weaklings in the race to exacerbate undue tension as well as heighten the stakes.
 
 
As part of the kites being flown in the elimination strategy, the alleged search for a Christian candidate has assumed the front burner of discourse in modern day Lagos. Whilst this is completely alien in the annals of the body polity in the state, stakeholders had dismissed it as a non-issue. They seem to reason that if there was no meeting where the decision about a Muslim candidate was taken; there would be none about a Christian governor. Good thinking, isn’t it?
 
 
However, if it is the will of God, a Christian governor, they contend, would emerge naturally and on merit. Lagos, stakeholders argue further, would never set a bad precedent for needless political capital.
 
 
Another factor being tossed around by intending candidates who are supposedly limited and disillusioned by the complexity of Lagos politics is zoning. Lately, the talk about the governorship being zoned to some part of the state has elicited an interesting debate. Indeed, as it is with religion, the political kingmakers in the state had never sat down to make zoning an issue in the choice of who governs Lagos and so it shall remain.
 
 
The best that has happened in the state is the balancing of other positions once the governorship candidate gives way from any part of the state. But the talk about where the principal candidate comes from has never been an issue. It though could determine what goes where in the event of the emergence of the governorship candidate.
 
 
Again, like religion which certainly does not have a place in the quintessential Lagos politics, throwing up the zoning debate has been dismissed as both baseless and fruitless. Lagos, observers contend, will always go for the best, standing on the crest of experience, exposure, antecedents, records and the innate ability of that one individual to manage both men and resources in the administration of the mega city called Lagos.
 
 
Lagos would always rather that man who is in tune with the present day challenges and understands that it is the age of creative minds, where the daily advancing information technology drives innovative leadership. In any case, Lagos believes it knows those who cannot govern it but those who can it may be unable to tell if it must side-step complications.
 
 
But in spite of the seeming complications attached to the choice of who takes over from Fashola, one man has already taken the bull by the horn- conscious of the creed that in Lagos where his politics is domicile, the struggle for power is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven where only the fittest stand the test of time.
 
 
That man, Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, who has progressed enviably in his career, gives no indications of playing games or toying with the minds of the people.
 
 
Since last year that he unsettled the polity by making public his aspiration in what many thought was rather early and perhaps, lacking tact, Solomon had continued to walk his talk, perfecting his strategy day in, day out. His reason for coming out early was simple and the timing though unplanned, however explicable.
 
 
Solomon was a guest on a national television programme, where he was addressing topical national issues before the interviewer veered off the line of discourse and popped up the question on Lagos governorship. Instinctively, he retorted: “I want to be the next governor of Lagos.” Not only were many alarmed at his inexplicable confidence, quite a number also thought it was too absolute. Not a few however factored in the guiding principle that here in Lagos- power is not served a la carte.
 
 
At several other gatherings afterwards, he was inclined to defend his position. And the reason was as simple: if some eight years ago he had come out to nurse the governorship ambition and could not make it for certain reasons, would you as an eligible voter reckon with him if he had stuttered during the interview as if he had no idea what he wanted, early or not? He obviously didn’t expect a response to that. But the message was clear, even to the mischievous.
 
 
He had since taken the journey to realising his ambition slow and steady- consolidating and consulting the necessary quarters. Solomon who detests hugging undue media exposure at any given opportunity, yet enjoys unparalleled positive media telling, has begun to showcase his achievements as senator for eight years, boasting experience that spans over 20 years in active service to the people.
 
 
From council chairmanship to the House of Representatives and now a ranking senator; his political and administrative resume is perhaps unequalled amongst his co-competitors within the ruling party. What more, despite having attended many leadership courses abroad, believed to have sharpened his skills as well as improved his already flourishing human relations amongst the different segments of the system, Solomon would not allude to non-substance in the bid to realising his ambition or at the very least, drop names.
 
 
In the last few months, for example, Solomon has been up and doing, taking his extra-legislative functions to an entirely new and intimidating lever of leadership, with his empowerment initiative, skills acquisition programnmes and constituency projects, dotting the streets of Lagos, beyond the stretch of his Lagos West senatorial district.
 
 
Whilst such humanitarian gestures, anchored on near absolute generosity have always been part of his everyday life even before he started winning elections into political offices, using his GOS Foundation, an initiative conceived in honour of his late father, Alhaji R.I Solomon, himself a philanthropist; Solomon does not see his recent moves as some carrots being dangled in view of his ambition. Rather, he is just living his normal life. But for his ambition, there is no going back.
 
 
Of course, there is no gainsaying the fact that unlike many other intending aspirants who have just hopped on the fray, allegedly spending so much money in pursuit of their governorship dream, Solomon is one politician who has paid his dues over the years and given his politics with human face, he remains that one person etched in the consciousness of the average Lagos voter because they can relate with him, without unduly leveraging emotions or empathy. 
 
 
A quintessential politician, administrator per excellence and philanthropist by any standard, Solomon is one governorship hopeful who has not only spoken of his intention, but shown sufficient seriousness with commensurate action as a proof of his resolve to take Lagos a notch up the development ladder from where Fashola has taken it.
 
 
He is not taking chances just as the weeks and months ahead would further prove his stake in the struggle for power as Lagos counts down to 2015. Therefore, whenever you see Solomon taking conscious steps that seem to enhance his governorship chances, it is because he understands that in his Lagos, power is not served a la carte, more so, a Solomon would rather not have power a la carte because merit would confer on him, the honour of genuinely holding power in trust for the people. 

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