Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Ikuforiji Steps up to the Plate

The Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, recently changed the tone of the succession battle in Lagos State, when he announced his intention to succeed Governor Babatunde Fashola. Ojo M. Maduekwe writes
The politician is forever watching his back and cannot entirely trust those said to be his loyalists. Not that some of them cannot be trusted but because he’s built his political house on packs of cards of lies and deceit to the point that he doesn’t even trust his own shadow.
He ends up empowering people to achieve his personal bidding but when it’s time for succession battle, he would rather a new born inexperienced politician instead of sourcing from amongst his tutored students because he’s afraid he may have empowered and made them too independent.
Simple reason for choosing the inexperienced politician is because the godfather who is fast losing political relevance wants a baby to nurse and mould to become the kind of politician he wants – a yes man.
Time and time again, it hasn’t always worked out this way. Forget the on-the-surface cordial relationship between Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola and his supposed godfather, Bola Tinubu and read in between the lines for the crack that exists between them to grasp this point.
It becomes even more difficult if the politician in question suffers a god complex. Since he considers himself the maker and un-maker of both politicians and traditional rulers alike, such a politician would naturally be opposed to any of his loyalists whom he has empowered ‘too much’ or who on their own have garnered much followership and recognition to be seen as a competing threat. The godfather who appears untouchable and invincible through an outside lens becomes afraid of losing his throne.
Except those whom he has trained decide to step out of his fading shadow to assert themselves, the godfather would continue in fear to impose his new born on them.
Tinubu did it with Fashola and is alleged to be toeing that same line in ‘anointing’ who becomes the next governor of Lagos State. Reports have it that the self-professed godfather of South-west politics wants the former Lagos State Accountant-General, Akinwunmi Ambode to succeed Fashola.
Understandably, Tinubu has been treading softly in his endorsement of Ambode, possibly because he suspects a public endorsement won’t sit well with many of his loyalists who have served him well and still do. The closest the former governor has come to publicly voice support of Ambode’s ambition was at the launch of his biography.
Tinubu who was represented by the Executive Secretary of Lagos State Security Trust Fund, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worry, was reported to have described Ambode as an industrious public servant who developed the template for the re-engineering of the financial sector of Lagos State.
According to reports, Tinubu said Ambode did not only re-engineer the finances of Lagos but also developed the blueprint that helped the state survive former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unilateral and unconstitutional withholding of the state’s local government funds from the federation account.
A recent report has that Ambode who retired from the state civil service as Permanent Secretary in 2012, is a waiting imposition on members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by Tinubu, who however denied the allegation. Not many took his denial to mean anything since there still exists the alleged agreement to field a Christian candidate for the governorship next year, a criterion which Ambode meets.
Earlier at the same event, the Lagos monarch, Rilwan Akiolu, had himself endorsed Ambode. He said the elders in the state “have consulted widely with the sons and daughters of Lagos,” and concluded that “the best person to take over from Governor Babatunde Fashola is Akinwunmi Ambode.”
It begs for questioning just how far the royal fathers consulted. It is public knowledge that Akiolu is a supporter of Tinubu (some even say business partner) and wants to be seen as always pleasing the kingmaker.
Not minding the alleged and subtle endorsement of Ambode, there remain those constitutionally entitled to aspire for the position of governor in the state and would stop at nothing to realising that ambition. One of such personalities is the current Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji. A staunch Tinubu loyalist, Ikuforiji has never hidden his ambition to one day become the first citizen of the state.
Sometime last year, Ikuforiji made mention of harbouring the ambition to further his political career by becoming governor of Lagos State. Since then, he has been telling anyone interested that after his long experience as speaker of the State Assembly – one of the longest in the history of Nigeria – that he would take a shot at the governorship seat. “To tell you that I don’t want to be governor of Lagos State in future, I’ll be telling lies,” Ikuforiji said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He said if God showed him the direction to go and if “the Almighty God will show the light and make it clear that this is your next direction, this is your next seat and no matter the noise, no matter the plotting, and the coup and counter coup, what God has destined to be, no man can stand against it.”
A bold statement considering the dynamic nature of politics and that he just may be dealing with a godfather who’s known to have his way all the time; except if that godfather never endorsed Ambode in the first instance. Even if he did, Ikuforiji is not joking either.
Recently, the Lagos Speaker reiterated his interest in next year’s governorship election in the state. As it is the tradition with politicians, his declaration would not have come without consultation and such a consultation, it is presumed, must have begun with Tinubu.
His declaration was at a breakfast meeting with other members of the Lagos State House of Assembly at his private residence. It was reported that he told the lawmakers that he had the wherewithal to govern Lagos and increase its fortunes.
Ikuforiji is from Epe and with his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) zoning its governorship ticket to the Lagos East – he is regarded as one of the front runners for the APC ticket. This is in addition to his achievements as speaker since 2005. He served as speaker during part of Tinubu’s government and has been speaker of the Assembly since the inception of the current administration of Fashola.
Inaugurated as a member of the state assembly in 2003, Ikuforiji was the lawmaker who moved a motion in the same year which resulted in a resolution of the House requesting the federal government to accord Lagos a special status position. The issue was later taken up at the National Assembly by then Alliance for Democracy (AD) legislators.
Also, when appointed Chairman, House Committee on Special Duties and Inter-governmental Relations, Ikuforiji organised a conference on the relationship between the states and the federal government, focusing on how conflict between the two levels of government could be resolved legally and politically.
If the APC retains its hold on Alausa, there would be the need for someone who understands how to face the challenges that might come from a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled federal government.
Again, in 2009, Ikuforiji organised town hall meetings in each of the 20 old Local Government Councils where members of the state assembly met the populace in all the 40 constituencies of the state, thereby creating an avenue for constituents to freely express their opinions on issues of governance in the state.
Same year, he spearheaded the struggle for the implementation of the Self Accounting Law of the Assembly and the subsequent passage of the law to establish the Assembly Service Commission.
The two laws are said to have made the state legislature an independent arm of the government with regards to the finance, recruitment and discipline of staff. Another achievement of Ikuforiji is the completion of a chamber and gallery that seats at least 500 people. Under his leadership, the Lagos Assembly has passed more than 90 bills into law.
Already, Ikuforiji’s jumping into the fray is casting an air of doubt on the alleged anointing of Ambode by Tinubu. Aside his loyalty to Tinubu, when compared to Ambode, he is seen as a grassroots man and has the advantage of having a better grasp of the state politics and intrigues. If Lagos State has a governor who was Speaker for over ten years, it certainly would turn out an advantage for the administration of the state.

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