BY AYODELE OBAJEUN
Hit with dazed disbelief, historians are still busy trying to navigate their routes through history’s detours and diversions occasioned by the behavioural sophistication of Nigeria’s vote-weary electorates as displayed during the last presidential election. For the first in the fourth republic, the country conducted what could arguably be close to a real election.
As expected, history is on the move again and being a student of history, yours sincerely is learning along. Interestingly, Southwest is brewing a political anti-climax that would either debase the political hegemony of the region or consolidate it for Asiwaju Tinubu who has poignantly dusted the combined reigns of king makers in the region, not even penkelemsi era of Ibadan extraction can come close.
The outcome of the governorship election in the region would determine if historians would stay action in putting Tinubu and Awolowo side by side or open up intellectual bout and divide students of history along the two camps like it was done in the case of Prof Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe among literary buffs.
The discourse this time is not about Tinubu or Awolowo, it is about Lagosians and the two individuals fronting the banners of leadership competition. We are talking about the perceptive Pharmacist of Great Ife extraction, Jimi Agbaje and the dynamic Banker of public colour, Babajide Sanwo-olu.
Relentless and ambitious, Agbaje is a Fellow of the West African Post Graduate College of Pharmacists (FPCPharm). Jimi’s biggest public service was when he served as a member of the Lagos Hospitals Management Board between 1994 and 1997.
After the annulment of the general elections in 1993, Jimi pitched his tent with Afenifere and in 2007 picked a nomination form in the defunct Action Congress (AC). He left AC as an aggrieved candidate when it was believed that the outgoing Governor, Tinubu had concluded fronting Fashola even before the primaries.
Jimi ran for the 2007 elections under Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) and flaunt the best election campaign in that year but lost. Afterwards, DPA was deregistered, Jimi, who was out of line with Tinubu, joined the PDP and won the gubernatorial primaries in 2015 in circumstances reported as flawed. Against a naïve and relatively unknown
Ambode, Jimi lost again. This is 2019, Agbaje is back on the trenches.
In 2015, Jimi was fresh, hungry, ready and his ‘Bold Idea’ grew in reach, pandering to the sentiment of the elitist middleclass on the Island of Lagos. Jimi’s personal agenda on education made it a solo run for him in 2015 when he ran his show as an untainted newbie who provided an alternative to the status quo. In that election year, he productively engaged people in debates, even deflating his opponent’s strength in one. Typical of Great Ife extraction, Jimi ran his show on pure intelligence.
However, the Jimi we now know is a freedom fighter who thinks Lagosians are in dire need of freedom from the prison wall of Boudillon and he is here to pull a Michael Scofield. But this is not his biggest undoing, how Agbaje metamorphosed from being an impatient politician to a profiteer of divisiveness gives some concerns. No, this is not the Jimi we used to know!
Unlike in 2015, Jimi’s brand has lost touch with political readings and the irreverent adoption of kwara’s #Otoge slogan one week before the election as well as fuelling the embers of ethnic isolationism make him look less hungry for leadership but desperate for political power.
An Akokite of repute and a Banker of note, Sanwo-olu’s public engagement started in 2003 when he was appointed Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to the then Deputy Governor of Lagos, Otunba Fem Pedro. And he was a Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budgeting until 2007, when he was redeployed as a Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. With the election of Babatunde Fashola as the new Governor of the state in 2007, Sanwo-olu was redeployed again as Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions. Until his foray into the governorship race, he served as MD/CEO of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC).
On the campaign train, Sanwo-Olu is a newbie. Unlike Ambode whom Fashola took over his campaign, Sanwo-Olu is owning his campaign with few or no appearance of the outgoing Governor. With a moderate oratory gab, what he has going for him is his sense of history and his reading and understanding of political moments. He would travel far.
Here is a newbie politician that oozes hunger and readiness to lead.
A hybrid politician with cosmopolitan outlook, Sanwo-Olu has succeeded in running the most colourful governorship campaign since the advent of the fourth republic. Either we like it or not, he runs the risk of being dubbed the most popular new entrant gubernatorial aspirant in Nigeria, more popular than some sitting governors.
However, he has not concealed his loyalty to Tinubu. This has pitched him against sizeable voters and as it is, this could be his greatest undoing among the elitist voting population. His inability to demystify the myth around his closeness to the most popular political entrepreneur in Nigeria could have far reaching impact on his electoral fortune. This is serving to the advantage of his opponents – they are making political capital from this.
Whatever the outcome of the election in Lagos, there is an assignment-in-waiting for historians as history takes another detour.
Obajeun writes from Lagos. He is on Twitter via @Obajeun