There were several hours of traffic gridlock monday at the Lagos State Government House, when two different groups of protesters within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state barricaded the entrance to the office of governor, singing war songs and chanting anti-Bola Tinubu and Governor Babatunde Fashola slogans to drive home their grievances.
The APC members, including councillors, secretary to local governments and supervisors that served in the local government areas of the state between 2008 and 2011, were bitter about the non-payment of their severance packages while the other group, the New Lagos Movement (NLM), was kicking against imposition of party officials and candidates in the APC and the alleged zoning of the governorship position to a part of the state.
One of the former local government officials who spoke on the condition anonymity said: “We have tried not to make the issue a media issue over the years but this is the 27th gathering we are having and it is aimed at ensuring that government pays our severance packages. They have been saying that there is no money and at times they say it is the local governments that will pay us but whatever it is, we want them to pay us and that it why we are here.”
In a similar but different protest, the NLM members tagged as ‘an elite body within the APC,’ who embarked on a peaceful walk from the Acme Road, Ogba, Lagos State APC secretariat, were resolute in their demand for direct primaries as against the consensus method adopted during the last congress of the party in the state.
The NLM president, Niyi Akinsiju, in a letter addressed to the APC national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said his group was committed to the ideals of internal democracy as contained in the provisions of the constitution of the party.
“We have tolerated sufficiently, and for too long, the unenviable and anti-democratic culture of imposition of party leaders and political leaders on our people as practiced in Lagos State in the past eleven years. We have endured the denial of the aspiration of the majority in the interest of a few who consider themselves the custodians of our electoral rights and to whom our electoral decisions do not matter.
“It is this tendency that we have been complaining against in the past few weeks that the outcomes of our congresses which held between April 5 and 26, 2014, were nothing but serial impositions by our leader, Bola Tinubu, as he annulled genuine electoral results and planted his men in party offices.
“We also find abominable, the recent declaration in which Tinubu unilaterally zoned the 2015 gubernatorial ticket of our great party to one religion and one part of the state thereby denying us the opportunity of electing the most qualified in the state,” he said.
While insisting that with such arrangement, the best aspirant from the faith or part of the state to which the governorship is zoned may not be the best, if the people were given the opportunity to determine their governor.
Akinsiju said his group would continue to agitate until amendments are made to the situation.
“We want full guarantee of internal democracy in the APC in Lagos, devoid of imposition of party official and candidates. “ We want immediate reversal of the unfortunate zoning declaration and full guarantee of democratic right to contest of all persons who are qualified under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he stated.
The Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, who received the protesters on behalf of Governor Fashola expressed appreciation for the peaceful conduct of the protest and assured them that the governor would deploy his office to ensure that the party has direct primary as requested by the people.
However, the APC chairman in Lagos State, Chief Oladele Ajomale disowned the movement, whose members embarked on a protest from the party secretariat to office of Lagos State governor.
In an interaction with journalists, Ajomale noted that the group’s members “are not registered with the APC as contained in its constitution. I do not know them. They are not registered members of our party.”
The APC chairman said: “If anyone has any grievances against the party, our secretariat is open daily. They can make their complaints known. No party member will go to the public and protest against what the party is yet to decide.
“The party is yet to ask anyone to indicate their intention. At the moment, more than 10 people are going around. But none of them has come to me that they want to contest election. All of them should wait until the national leadership of the party decides.”
“There cannot be any imposition because we follow the directive of the party leadership. If anyone endorses any candidate, it does not mean that the candidate will win at the primaries,” he insisted.