THE Lagos governorship election is, no doubt, not going to be a child’s play, especially for the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje who are the major contenders in the race.
A very reliable source disclosed to ENCOMIUM Weekly that Agbaje has embarked on his last minute struggle to ensure he occupies Alausa, the seat of power of the state designated as Centre of Excellence come May 29, 2015.
This, we were told, informed his consultation and secret meetings with the tricyclists and motorcyclists popularly called Keke Marwa and okada riders respectively, in the state, who perhaps formed one of the largest segments of the electorate in the state.
The source informed ENCOMIUM Weekly the PDP guber candidate and his campaign team have been in regular interactions with the operators who claimed they’re worse hit by the present traffic laws in Lagos State, and want the law repealed by the incoming administration.
Agbaje, we learnt, has individually done a lot to woo the protesting transport workers ahead Saturday, April 11, 2015 guber poll. He was said to have doled out cash and gift items to some of them when they met him recently in his Obanikoro, Lagos campaign office where he allegedly promised them a total reversal of the law if he becomes the governor of the state.
“I learnt Keke Marwa and Okada riders had taken their protest to Jimi Agbaje. They have even vowed not to support APC candidate in the forthcoming governorship election. They want the traffic law reviewed. I learnt their protest is mainly because most of them have suffered a lot of harassment and extortion in the hands of law enforcement agents as a result of poor implementation of the law.
“Now, I learnt Jimi Agbaje has promised neither ban nor restriction on their operations on all Lagos roads if he is voted as the next governor of the state.
“I learnt of their meetings held on March 19, 2015, at Agbaje’s campaign office on Ikorodu Road, Lagos. Some of them have been empowered by Agbaje. They have all promised to give him their massive votes come Saturday, April 11, 2015.”
However, some of the tricyclists and motorcyclists ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to when we went round some parts of the state confirmed the story, vowing to vote out APC in the next governorship election in the state.
An okada rider, Mr. John Ige said, “Let me say the truth, none of us will vote for APC in the next governorship election. It will be very difficult for anybody to convince us now to vote against Jimi Agbaje. We have suffered enough in the hands of Fashola. Too much restriction by his traffic law has really affected our operation in the state. This is my third okada in three years of the law. The first one was confiscated by them in Alausa, so also the second one. Even this third one, everyday police must harass me, even on my street. Now, how can I vote Ambode, who has promised to continue where Fashola stopped?
“And I don’t have any other job. As I speak to you now, I believe the same way some of my people will talk to you. Jimi Agbaje met with us and he promised to revert to the old way of operating where there won’t be any restriction at all. So, we’re all voting him, no going back.”
Another okada rider, Kingsley Odigie said, “I am from Edo State. I came to Lagos in search of a means of livelihood. But so far I couldn’t get any job, I ventured into okada riding. And I have since been taking care of my family through that. But since a couple of years the traffic law has taken effect, I have not been enjoying the job. We don’t have any rest of mind. Even, if you don’t ply the prohibited roads, that doesn’t mean the police can’t arrest you. Had it been the law is not in place, police wouldn’t have had the chance of extorting us every time. We’re all tired of APC in Lagos State and we’re meeting to ensure none of us vote for the party in the next governorship election. I can assure you, majority of us have voters cards and we’re duly registered. And we’re going to use our cards wisely to elect a governor of our choice.”
A Keke Marwa operator in Ikeja, Lagos, Mr. Shina also corroborated the earlier speakers, saying nothing can change his mind from voting Agbaje because of the harassment he has suffered in the hands of law enforcement agents in the state.
“The truth is bitter. I don’t need to talk much. Let’s all leave the issue to the day of the election. Left to me, I am voting Jimi Agbaje, not Ambode. We can’t continue working and some people somewhere be benefitting from the work you’re doing more than you laboring. We learnt from authoritative source that APC government is even planning to cancel Keke Marwa out-rightly. So, if that’s done, where do I go? But Jimi Agbaje has promised us that we will be allowed to operate without any hinderance.
“Our population together with that of the okada riders is much. We alone can decide who wins the election. And we have all met and decided to vote for Jimi Agbaje, our only hope in the state.”
On Friday, March 27, 2015, ENCOMIUM Weekly got across to Agbaje, via his spokesperson, Mr. Felix Oboagwina and he confirmed fraternizing with the group but denied wooing them with any cash or materials.
“Yes, we’re in touch with the okada and Keke Marwa riders and other concerned residents of the state. The atmosphere is clamouring for change. They all want to stop the impunity, corruption and abuse of human rights of the last 15 years occasioned by the misrule of Tinubu-led party. People are being treated like animals but Jimi Agbaje and the people in the PDP are ready for that change on Saturday, April 11, 2015.
“We have met with different sections of the people in Lagos State, visiting them in their various local governments. We have had interactions with the Okada and Keke Marwa operators, they have all tabled their grievances before us, and we have promised to look into them all.
“Jimi Agbaje is the only candidate that is identifying with all the people of Lagos State irrespective of their religious or tribal affiliations.”
Asked to shed light on the allegation of bribe by the PDP to the protesting Marwa and okada operators with a view to canvassing for votes for the forthcoming guber poll, he reacted, “In Lagos alone, we have well over 12 million people, tell me how many people will Jimi Agbaje bribe? And you’re aware of the teeming crowd he has been commanding wherever he campaigned so far.
“Besides, we don’t have the resources to match that of the party in power in the state. So, how can we be giving people money or gifts before they can vote to remove the party they don’t want anymore. Truly, we’re in constant touch with the Okada and Marwa operators, and they have poured out their minds on how they’re being treated. And we’re ready to embrace them, show them love and identify with their plight. So, my brother, we’re on ground and they have also promised us their unflinching support during and after the general elections.”
An APC chieftain who ENCOMIUM Weekly contacted on Monday, March 30, 2015, on the move by the tricycle and motorcycle operators to vote out APC in the next guber poll, said, “We can win the governorship election in Lagos State with or without the Keke Marwa or okada riders voting for APC. They have the right to choose whoever they want to vote for. But I can tell you, most of them don’t even have PVC. So, how are they going to vote?
“And concerning their agitation, it’s clear that the government of Lagos State loves them. They’re not banned out-rightly like it was done in other states of the country, including Delta, Abuja, Kano and others. The law only restrict them to certain areas, and it’s for their safety. They’re only asked to move away from the highways and express roads which is better. I don’t think that’s enough for them to say they’re not going to vote for APC come Saturday, April 11, 2015 governorship election.”
– TADE ASIFAT