As the world is currently forced to lockdown due to the rampaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Nigeria not exempted. In Lagos and elsewhere, there are ongoing subtle politics of supremacy.
An interesting scenario appears to be playing out in Nigeria where the Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is allegedly hiding behind the situation to tame its perceived main opponent ahead of the 2023 governorship election.
Not many citizens of Lagos would read between the lines the speedy ‘trial and conviction’ of popular Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele-Bello (a.k.a Jenifer) and her husband, Abdul-Rasheed Bello (also known as JJC Skills), which took place two days ago at the Chief Magistrate Court in Ogba, under Chief Magistrate Aje Afunwa.
The couple was sentenced to a 14-day community service with a fine of N100, 000 each after they pleaded guilty to a one-count charge preferred against them by the state government.
Prior to their arraignment, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, who led the prosecution team, told the court that the couple hosted a birthday party at their residence at 9 Gbadamosi Close, Amen Estate, Abijo, Lekki, contrary to the social distancing directives contained in the regulations issued by Governor Babatunde Sanwo-Olu pursuant to the Infectious Diseases Act.
Onigbanjo said the defendants flouted Regulations 8(1)(a)(b) and 17(1)(I) of the Lagos State Emergency Regulations 2020 and punishable under Section 58 Public Health Laws of Lagos State 2015.
But beyond what happened in court, there had been a series of attempts by the actress and her husband, along with their close associates, to appease the powers-that-be for the trial not to hold, including reaching out to some influential people they know without success. Such influential persons included APC’s national Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to intervene but to no avail.
One of the alleged intrigues behind the development is the fact that the offence for which the Akindele-Bellos were tried and convicted was committed inside the estate owned by the Action Democratic Party (ADP) governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, who contested against the incumbent governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, but lost.
Badamosi has since defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The former ADP candidate has since been arrested and detained by the police and would be arraigned today for the same offence the couples were convicted. Although he was granted bail yesterday, he would still face trial today in one of the magistrate’s courts in Lagos.
Gbadamosi, whose recent move from ADP to PDP, with the aim to pursue his governorship ambition in 2023, is considered a force the ruling party must silence at whatever cost ahead of the next general election because of the potential threat he poses to the ruling party.
It is not in doubt that Lagos State PDP may be counting on the likes of Gbadamosi, who recently returned to the party’s fold, to bear its flag in 2023.
After the 2019 general elections the party has been in a state of disarray following the defections of many of its strong members like former Senators Musiliu Obanikoro, Adeseye Ogunlewe and even its erstwhile state chairman, Mr. Moshood El Salvador among others.
While reacting on the issue, a governorship candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) for the 2019 election in Lagos, Mr. Abiodun Dabiri, said the trial of ‘Jenifer’ was a ploy by the state government to get at Gbadamosi, who APC may have seen as a threat if he was allowed to contest the coming 2023 elections.