Though the lawmaker representing Lagos East senatorial district , Senator Gbenga Ashafa has accepted his failure to clinch the party’s senatorial ticket, which would have seen him return to the Upper Legislative chamber for a third time in good faith, the dusts generated by the primaries which produced the eventual winner of the ticket, Hon, Bayo Osinowo, popularly called Pepper is yet to settle.
To further demonstrate his total commitment to the supremacy of the party, Ashafa last week organised a door-to- door campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari and other candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC ) in the forthcoming general elections. He also appealed to residents of the senatorial district to forget the rancour that trailed the primaries and vote en masse for Osinowo in the rescheduled February 23rd elections.
However, speaking on claims in some quarters that he imposed some candidates, including Osinowo on APC leaders in Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, National Leader of the APC while addressing party leaders and members at a stakeholders’ meeting at Police College, Play-Ground, Ikeja in Lagos denied the claim, saying he allowed the wishes of the party members to prevail in the selection of candidates.
The former governor of Lagos State claimed that though he did not want his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, to return to the senate for a third term, he had to change his mind when some influential members in the Lagos APC Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), especially Prince Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi, who is the APC leader in Lagos Central Senatorial District prevailed on him.
According to him: “Let me tell the story of how Bayo Osinowo, APC Senatorial candidate for Lagos East emerged. I was still thinking on the way to go for the primaries. I told them, we will not follow the third term syndrome. No candidate will go for a third term which also affected my wife, Remi. I did not want her to go for a third term. But Prince Tajudeen Olusi, leader of the GAC and some members led the coup against that decision”.
“I told them I wanted my wife back at home but they insisted that I must listen to them. And after much argument, I conceded and said I will obey you. That was how Remi got the APC third term ticket”.
He said for the Lagos East senatorial district, where Ashafa was also bidding to go for third term and eventually lost out to Osinowo, “I was contemplating on who could be our candidate when Kaoli Olusanya led leaders from Ikorodu to my house saying they have resolved to send Bayo Osinowo to the Senate for the East Senatorial District and that was it.”
Rather than healing the wounds of the controversial primaries, Tinubu’s comment further aggravated the situation as some stakeholders said it is unfair to Tinubu to accede to leaders from Ikorodu alone in determining who represents the entire senatorial district.
According to a chieftain of the APC in the district, Alimi Balogun “Based on the recognised 20 local government areas in Lagos, five Local Governments made up Lagos East Senatorial District. They are Epe, Kosofe, Ikorodu, Ibeju Lekki and Shomolu. Why should Asiwaju listen to the request from Ikorodu elders alone in choosing Osinowo? What about the feelings of the other four local governments? To me, I think the truth about how Osinowo emerged is yet to be told” he said.
Also speaking on the situation, a former Vice- Chairman of Epe local government who asked not to be named said “if Kaoli Olusanya can come to Asiwaju Tinubu requesting for Osinowo, there are other prominent leaders too in the senatorial district who publicly came out to say that they want Ashafa to return to the senate so that he can use his experience as a ranking senator to better the lives of the constituents”.
“Let me quote what Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, a former Secretary to Lagos State Government and one of our leaders in Lagos East said. He said “Senator Gbenga Ashafa is the best in Lagos East Senatorial district… “Senator Gbenga Ashafa has performed on the floor of the House in terms of motions and bills. He has been a pillar of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the senate. He is a pillar of support for the party and the government. We can’t send Eaglet to the senate. We need Ashafa to be in the senate; to stand and make sure that the right person leads the senate, the right environment that will make Buhari succeed in his second term. We need people like him. The Lagos East Seat is not just for anybody.”
“I do not believe Osinowo is in any way in a comparable position to Ashafa. They say somebody is doing fourth term in Lagos State House of Assembly. That does not mean experience. I was reading in the media yesterday, somebody was comparing Ashafa and Osinowo. I have nothing against Osinowo. You cannot compare the two. Ashafa is an accomplished graduate, a civil servant in the state who rose to the position of permanent secretary before retiring. He has been showing it. They call him Mr. Railway in the senate”.
Speaking further he said “Also, I read a report by Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, former Deputy Governor of Lagos state and a leader in Lagos East where he told newsmen in Lagos that the leadership of the party has endorsed Senator Gbenga Ashafa for another term and not Osinowo.
He said “I have told Pepperito to forget his senatorial ambition because I have given my words for Ashafa. Nobody can compel me to endorse him. It is not possible. I am a straightforward person. I was away from Nigeria. A particular candidate was endorsed by the leadership that I belong to in 2017. When I returned in 2018, another meeting was called where that endorsement was reaffirmed. We have people from Ikorodu that are contesting, but the party has decided. It is not possible to work against the decision of the party and the leaders”. So, if these leaders can come out and said they want Ashafa to return to the Senate, why should anybody listen to Kaoli alone in determing the fate of millions of constituents of Lagos East” he asked.
However, a new twist was added to the revelation by Tinubu when some residents of Ikorodu accused Kaoli Olusanya of working against the interest of Ikorodu division by presenting Osinowo to Tinubu.
However in its response, Osinowo debunked the insinuations saying it is “a fresh attempt to divide us.”
In a statement released by his media team, he said “Those peddling this fake and discordant news are falsely hinging their claims on a statement allegedly made by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of our party, while explaining how some APC candidates emerged.
“While it is very correct that Asiwaju said Asipa Kaoli led some party leaders to him to inform him of their preference for Hon. Bayo Osinowo (Pepper) to become the next Senator of Lagos East senatorial district; they were obviously not exclusively from Ikorodu but from the generality of Lagos East.
“A look at the leaders who visited Asiwaju on this mission will explain the truth as it is – Asipa Kaoli was not the leader of the delegation, nor were they all from Ikorodu as those spinning and twisting Asiwaju’s statement want the people of Ikorodu to erroneously believe”
“ While it is true that Asiwaju mentioned Asipa Kaoli Olusanya’s name, he obviously did in recognition of his position as the Vice Chairman and leader of the party in the district; not as the leader of that high power delegation.
“Secondly, the team that visited Asiwaju was neither from nor for Ikorodu. The delegation was from, and for the entire district, represented by members of its Apex leadership.
“It is instructive to say here that APC leaders from Ibeju Lekki, where distinguished Senator Gbenga Ashafa hails from, were on the delegation.
“Thus, the move was not in any way, a betrayal of Ikorodu by Asipa Kaoli Olusanya and others from the division. Rather, it was in the discharge of their duty as party leaders.”