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Lagos 2019: Will Agbaje Break The Jinx This Time Around?

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OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU in this piece examines the factors that will come to play in next year’s gubernatorial election in Lagos State between the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Olajide Sanwoolu and Jimi Agbaje of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

T he two major and leading political parties in Lagos State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are back in the trenches once again, to either retain hold on the governance of the state or take over the reins of governance come 2019.
As preparation gathers momentum for the 2019 gubernatorial election, the PDP believes that its gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 elections, Jimi Agbaje, a pharmacist-turned politician possesses the requisite criteria to unseat the ruling APC, which had been in power since the advent of this political dispensation in 1999, having first governed the state under the Alliance for Democracy, and later under the defunct Action Congress, AC; and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and gave him the ticket to fly the banner of the party.
At the PDP primary election which spanned over 30 hours of horse-trading and voting, Agbaje polled 1,100 votes to defeat Deji Doherty, the only other aspirant in the race, who polled 742 votes. After voting and counting of votes, the chairman of the primary election panel, Victor Oyofo, declared Agbaje winner and the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming election.

In 2015, the APC presented the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, as its candidate in the general election and expectedly, he defeated Agbaje, whose campaign was made popular by his jingle: ‘Everybody loves Jimi Agbaje’. In the 2015 election, APC’s Ambode, an accountant and a public finance management expert, born on June 14, 1963, polled 811,884 votes to defeat PDP’s Agbaje, who polled 659,788. The difference between the duo was mere 158,206 votes. Then, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s Returning Officer for the election in the state, Prof. Isaac Adewole, then the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and now Minister of Health, at INEC’s Lagos headquarters, announced the results He said, “I, Prof Isaac Adewole, hereby certify that I was the returning officer of the governorship election held on the 11th day of April, 2015. “I wish to declare that Akinwumi Ambode of APC, with a total vote of 811,294, having satisfied the requirement of the law and securing 25 per cent of votes in all the local governments and scoring the highest votes is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected.”
He said 16 political parties participated in the election. After the declaration, Agbaje had called Ambode and congratulated him.

But for providence, it would have been another square up between Ambode and Agbaje, but the Lagos State APC thought otherwise and denied the incumbent governor a second term ticket.
A new kid on the block, in the person of a former Special Adviser, commissioner and immediate past Chief Executive Officer of the largest public company in Lagos, the Lagos State Property Development Corporation, Babajide Olusola Sanwoolu, will be squaring up with Agbaje in the March 2019 governorship election. The question now is: with the pharmacist-turned politician break the jinx of ‘been to’ gubernatorial candidates in the annals of gubernatorial elections in Nigeria? It is a battle between an old warhorse, Agbaje against a greenhorn, Sanwoolu and many factors will come to play to determine who eventually clinches the plum seat next year. Agbaje is taking off from where he stopped almost four years ago, while Sanwoolu is more or less a newbie in the game, however, he has the almighty and formidable APC machinery behind him, just like Ambode, who was relatively unknown, except as a brilliance technocrat and civil servant before he was allegedly foisted on the party by its National Leader and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even against established party members who wanted to be governor in 2015.

Just as many people did not gave Ambode a chance against a formidable Agbaje, who then had the full backing of the former Deputy National Chairman, South of the PDP, Chief Olabode George and the full complement of a PDP-led Federal Government under former President Goodluck Jonathan, so are some analysts not giving the new kid on the block, Sanwoolu any chance against Agbaje. A late comer to the race, LEADERSHIP gathered that Agbaje was propelled into the race based on the implosion he foresaw coming the way of the ruling APC, following the management of the Ambode second term saga, brought about by allegation that though Ambode is a good administrator, he is not “a good party man.”
Expectedly, the forthcoming guber battle will definitely be an interesting one between Agbaje and Sanwoolu, just like it was almost four years ago. The APC structure that denied Agbaje the governorship four years ago is still very much in place, despite the general belief that Tinubu had to be weaned of his stranglehold on Lagos State, especially by many elements in the opposition PDP.

However, the Igbo sentiment, which almost gave the PDP victory in 2015, is also as strong as iot was four years ago, if not stronger, especially against the backdrop that Igbos believed that the APC is a party against its interests. They also consider Jonathan (and still does) as one of them. Four years ago, Agbaje was their adopted candidate and the same is expected to happen this time around. To an average Igbo man, the APC Is waging an anti-Igbo and so would rather go for the opposition PDP anytime and day. It therefore remains to be seen in the days ahead whether the Igbos will repeat the feat of 2015 and give the PDP and Agbaje the kind of support they gave in 2015. The Tinubu factor in Lagos politics cannot be waved away by the hand, as his stranglehold on the state, politically and otherwise remains legendary. The loyalty of an average APC member in Lagos is overwhelming. In fact all the structures working for Ambode’s botched second term bid had pledged their loyalty to the APC and Tinubu, shortly after the controversial primary election of the APC, which the incumbent governor lost to Sanwoolu.
Tinubu seems to have understood everything about politics, not only in Lagos or South West, but across the entire nation and he also understand the value of patronage, which he has used to build unquantified loyalty amongst the party faithful in Lagos. A party member in Lagos, who craved anonymity, told LEADERSHIP, “Tinubu has a huge army of loyalists across Lagos and this explains why it has been difficult for the opposition to break the jinx of overthrowing him and his party in the Centre of Excellence.
“Tinubu builds people and also makes it mandatory for those he built to also build those under them, so the loyalty he enjoys trickles down to the grassroots. He has succeeded as a godfather in Lagos while the likes of Rabiu Kwakwanso and his likes have failed.

“It will be a herculean task for any party to uproot the APC from the governance of Lagos State.” This is why out of the blues, Sanwoolu, who has no political base or structure, just like Ambode pre-2015 and Babatunde Raji Fashola pre-2007, was able to ride on Tinubu’s back and defeat an incumbent Ambode in the governorship primaries, winning 92 per cent of the votes.
Recall that the moment it became public knowledge that Sanwoolu enjoyed the backing of Tinubu, all party structures shifted allegiance to him and like one analyst said, if the primary election of the APC was conducted one million times, Sanwoolu would defeat Ambode one million times. It is this formidable structure that Sanwoolu would be riding on to confront Agbaje in the 2019 general elections. And while the APC machinery and family are united in purpose to ensure that the APC remains in power perpetually, the same cannot be said of the PDP family in Lagos. One party source, who pleaded anonymity told LEADERSHIP that Agbaje is not in George’s good books and therefore does not enjoy the support of the faction. Also the party is yet to sort out its internal squabbles following the gruesome murder of its Apapa Local Government chapter chairman, the late Adeniyi Aborisade. Therefore, unless the opposition party is able to put to its house in order and bring all hands on deck for the battle ahead, it will continue to remain in opposition. Another factor that will come to play and which has been propping up in almost all previous elections and even in future elections is the issue of indigeneship. Already, immediately Sanwoolu emerged APC candidate, words went round that he is not a lampshade, but an Ijebu from Ogun State.

But an analyst has questioned the rationale behind this argument. He asked proponents of this argument to enumerate what indigenes of Lagos who found themselves in position of authority in PDP’s 16-year rule have been able to contribute to the development of Lagos over and above the non-indigenes who have been opportune to occupy position of authority in the state.
He cited George, who he said was Deputy National Chairman of the PDP and also chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority; Adeseye Ogunlewe, who served as a former Minister of Works; Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence and Segun Aganga, another former Minister of Trade and Industry.  The key drivers of Lagos development are allegedly non-indigenes: Tinubu is said to be from Osun, but is credited to be the architect of modern Lagos; Fashola is also said not to be Lagosian, but he left an indelible mark on the sand of times in the Centre of Excellence when he held sway; incumbent Governor Ambode iisalso said to be from Ondo State, but his marks would not be obliterated from the annals of Lagos; even the first executive governor of the state, Alhaji Lateef Jakande is also said to be from Kwara State.  Be that as it may, it is yet to be seen how this line of thought will translate to votes to give Agbaje an edge over Sanwoolu in next year’s gubernatorial election.  Whether Agbaje breaks the jinx next year or not, the key lies in the hands of the electorate and what he is bringing in to the table.



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