How Dosunmu narrowly missed being Lagos governor

Wahab Dosunmu

The late Wahab Dosunmu

Jamiu Yisa

The death of Senator Wahab Dosunmu, 74 years old, on Sunday night in the United States of America (USA) brought to an end a rich political career, replete with drama and controversies.

The late Dosunmu came into public glare in the politics of the Second Republic when he decided to pitch tent with the ultra conservative National Party of Nigeria (NPN) while his brother, Rasheed was in the progressive camp of then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

Dosunmu’s loyalty to the ruling NPN then earned him the very lucrative Minister for Housing portfolio and many Lagosians who witnessed the display of absolute power by the ruling elite of the Second Republic between 1979 and 1983 would not forget in a hurry the controversy that dogged the alleged visit of Minister Dosunmu to Lagos in the early life of the Shehu Shagari administration in which his security details were alleged to have attacked the people leading to loss of lives.

Dosunmu rose from that incident to team up with the progressives in the long but aborted transition programme of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and became a prominent member of the proscribed Social Democratic Party (SDP). He played a vital role in Abiola picking the SDP presidential ticket and eventually winning the June 12 1993 presidential election.

One incident close political watchers then would not forget was how the late Dosunmu lost out in the race to become a senator in the aborted republic.

During the SDP primaries to pick candidate for election into the Senate for Lagos Central Senatorial District, Dosunmu was the clear favourite to win and indeed he won the primary to pick the party’s ticket. However, the man next to him, Rasheed Shitta-Bey on seeing the shape of the primary which was done through the open ballot system, announced his withdrawal from the race in anger, leaving Dosunmu to win a landslide victory with the other contestant, Kofo Bucknor-Akerele with three votes.

The late Wahab Dosunmu
The late Wahab Dosunmu

Dosunmu was later disqualified by the Babangida administration on the excuse that security report has shown that he (Dosunmu) was not fit to contest. This paved the way for Bucknor-Akerele to be nominated as the candidate and she went on to win the general election and become a senator.

This incident however never dampened the spirit of Dosunmu and his romance with the progressives continued to wax stronger leading to his becoming a strong member of NADECO in general and Afenifere and Justice Forum in particular during the dark days of the late Sani Abacha regime.

During the transition programme of the Abacha regime, the late Dosunmu, holed up in exile in Missouri, United States, identified with the agitations of pro-democracy activists.

Regarded as an insider of the struggle, NADECO abroad reportedly conceded the governorship position in Lagos State to him.

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Thus when General Abdusalami Abubakar announced a transition programme to democratic rule, Dosunmu was among the early arrivals and he quickly assembled a political structure to clinch the seat.

His aspiration gain widespread acceptance, until Bola Ahmed Tinubu also arrived from exile and burst onto the scene. The table turned a 360 degree circle. In the primaries conducted by the Alliance for Democracy, Dosunmu ended up in the third position, behind Tinubu and Funso Williams.

As compensation, Dosunmu was awarded the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for Lagos West Senatorial District leaving the Lagos Central ticket for Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi. Dosunmu was eventually elected a senator which he missed in 1990 because of a controversial security report.

Ironically, his election into the Senate marked the beginning of the end of his romance with the progressives. Barely two years in the Senate, Dosumu jumped ship and rejoined the conservative ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He lost bid for his reelection into the Senate on PDP’s platform, losing to Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro of AD. Quite ironically, Obanikoro too would later defect and joined Dosunmu in the PDP.

To compensate for his loss, Dosunmu was appointed Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Malaysia by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and during the crisis in the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Dosunmu was a prominent member of the Solidarity Group led by Obanikoro and Mrs. Modupe Shasore.

Dosunmu though until his death on Sunday remained a member of the PDP.
He was however said to be planning to dump the party before his death.

In a tribute, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), described Dosunmu as a passionate defender of human rights and democratic governance which informed his principled stand on the June 12, 1993 mandate of late Chief Moshood Abiola.

In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, Governor Fashola noted that Dr Dosunmu was a man who contributed his quota to his State and nation as an astute politician, brilliant technocrat and rights activist adding that he would be missed by all.

Describing the passage as “a great loss, not only to the Dosunmu Family but to the whole of Nigeria”, Governor Fashola declared, “Dr Dosunmu was a distinguished politician and a brilliant man who made a great contribution to the development and awareness of human rights in this country”.

“He was one of the most passionate defenders of the June 12th Mandate of Chief Moshood Abiola. This is a period of time which, perhaps, best sums up the drive and passion for Justice which defines Alhaji Dosunmu’s character. It is a trait which he transferred to the Senate at the return of democracy in the country”, the Governor said.

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