12th May, 2014
By Ashiru Omoade
The governorship race in Lagos State for 2015 will be a hot contest given the potpourri of political dynamics in the state. To start from the very immediate known factor, the benchmark for governance and performance already set by the incumbent, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), is one striking dynamic that may guide the choice of candidates and the pattern of voting by residents of the state.
In electing Fashola’s successor after the completion of his two terms at the Lagos House in May 2015, the issue of who can sustain his legacy and possibly beat his record will be of interest to many stakeholders. Other critical considerations are the continued agitation for power shift to other senatorial districts that have not been represented at the highest office in the state and the clamour for a Christian governor.
Also on the table is the case for a full bloodied indigene of the state as governor. The proponents of these lines of argument are very persistent and no doubt pushing the sentiments into the centre of new political awakening. Certainly Lagosians and observers of development in the state are not likely expecting a tea party succession programme next year.
Already the political landscape has begun to witness lots of surprises and heightened expectations as the number of prospective candidates jostling for the office of the governor across political parties, grows by the day. This is a perfect fit in democracy when people are allowed to exercise their constitutional right to seek election and be voted for, within the limit of established regulations.
The implication, therefore, is that political parties should in their preparation for 2015 adhere to the constitutional and electoral guidelines on internal democracy when picking their flag bearers for the governorship election.
But more importantly, two factors are coming out strongly in the entire mix. These border on the role which experience can play in who becomes the next governor and people’s freedom to vote for the right candidate. Since the continuity and sustainability of the lofty heights which Governor Fashola has taken Lagos across various sectors, is a weighty consideration for his successor, it the follows that experience cannot be compromised.
Equally weighty is people’s freedom of choice to determine their next governor, right from the party congress/party primaries to the actual election. What this implies is that political parties must allow a free and fair process that will enable the electorate to elect someone they can trust. Such trust is largely based on their experience of or interaction with the candidates over a period of time.
At this juncture, permit me to crave the indulgence of my readers as I appraise one of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirants, Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, currently representing Lagos West in the Senate. Making him my focus is based on his peculiar candidature vis a vis his kind of person and the perception which majority of his constituents have of him, as a successful private businessman, public officer and philanthropist.
Born December 19, 1959 in Lagos, Solomon clearly fits the mould of experienced personality for the office of governor in all ramifications. As a son of a politically influential father, Alhaji Rafiu Ishola Solomon (he was a contemporary of the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande) and elected two-term senator (2007 and 2011), GOS as fondly called has the political clout to assume the leadership of the state.
Further credence is his political pedigree beginning from his election into the Lagos State House of Assembly on the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) platform in 1998, although he was unable to take his seat before the death of former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
On the return to democracy in 1999, Solomon’s wide acceptability to the people was also acknowledged having been elected chairman of Mushin Local Government. In 2003 he was able to upstage a state-orchestrated blockade when he won the House of Representatives election for Mushin Federal Constituency 1. This particular election underscored his popularity among the electorate who stood by him to get the party ticket in view of attempt to deny him the slot during the primary election.
An active member of the Senate, Solomon was appointed to various committees such as Works, Sports, Rules and Business, Integration and Cooperation, and Capital Markets. He is the chairman of the latter.
In a mid-term evaluation of Senators in May 2009, THISDAY scored him well for sponsoring some notable bills including an amendment of the National Directorate of Employment Act, Electronic Commerce, Whistle Blowers’ Protection, Institute of Capital Market Registrars and Elderly Persons Centre. The newspaper also credited him with the sponsorship or co-sponsorship of10 motions.
And in light of the planned zoning of the governorship ticket to the Lagos East senatorial district by APC, it is gratifying to note that Solomon’s direct origin from the area naturally qualifies him for the job. Unknown to majority of people, Solomon is not from Mushin, his widely known political base, but his ancestral home is actually Ipakodo in Ikorodu West Local Council Development Area.
According to available records, his father was born in Ipakodo but relocated to Mushin on the directive of his political leaders in the then Action Group. The older politician was also a councillor under the Ikorodu Native Authority. Besides, Solomon’s mother was of the Oluwa family in Itumolo near Ipakodo. This is the same famous Oluwa family of Lagos Island and his maternal grandfather was Ramon Oluwa. The chairman of Ikorodu West LCDA, Princess Olajumoke Jimbo-Ademefun, who is said to be a niece to Ganiyu Solomon, even reportedly confirmed this.
As a businessman, the Political Science graduate of the University of Lagos has had a successful private practice in Information Technology services and real estate.
Both in business and politics, Solomon has touched the lives of people through his GOS Foundation which provides assistance in skills acquisition, vocation training, educational development, interest-free micro-credit, healthcare and poverty alleviation.
Among his numerous acts of kindness is the donation of items worth over N300m to people in his senatorial district under his Constituency Project initiative. They included deep freezers, generating sets, grinding machines, sterilizer, massagers, dryers, sewing machines, clippers, motorcycles and protective helmets. Financial assistance running into millions was also extended to the elderly, men, women, students and youth cutting across electoral wards.
The foundation is also involved in placement of trainees in paid employment, renovation of Juvenile Home at Alakara, Mushin, provision of boreholes at several communities and repair of the pedestrian bridge at Onipanu. Others are installation of 500KVA transformers in parts of the district, financial assistance to families in need of accommodation, provision of free eye glasses and scholarships among others.
In light of the above, it is clearly a matter of stating the obvious that the post-Fashola era which Lagosians expect is where experience and people are the centre of governance.
•Omoade writes this piece from Epe, Lagos