It is very easy to live with the fact that Jimi Agbaje, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, who is the main opposition to Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress in the race for the Alausa Government House did not just fall from the sky.
Apart from his well-established family name and a younger brother, Segun Agbaje, who is the Chief Executive of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s most successful financial institution brands, Jimi Agbaje is definitely not a nobody within the political firmament of Lagos State.
In two previous attempts, Agbaje had run for the position of the Governor of Lagos, first in 2007 and in the last election in 2015 against incumbent Governor Akinwumi Ambode. It is also important to say that the PDP candidate is no stranger to the current APC political structure, having been part of the Action Congress, which was a precursor to Action Congress of Nigeria and now APC.
Agbaje’s pro-democracy credential is also not questionable on the surface, as he was part of the professionals, who, during the military era, massed into various civil society and pro-democracy movements that fought against the Abacha junta. He was among the young Turks that joined Afenifere, the then very potent pan-Yoruba sociocultural group, and its pan-Nigeria affiliate, National Democratic Coalition.
It goes without saying that Agbaje is well educated having bagged a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Ife, a prestigious university later named, in 1987, after the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Beyond the surface and any of his claims to higher ideals, Agbaje’s politics is very opportunistic. Here is a man who wants to be Governor of the most prosperous, yet very challenging state in Nigeria without the readiness to put in the required hard work. He pops up every four years like a leap year or an Olympic. Lagosians are smarter than that. Lagosians need a governor that can appropriate their hopes, fears and aspirations. A governor that will always be available not an Agbaje who returns to public space every election year like an Olympian.
There is nothing that prepares Agbaje, the main challenger of Sanwo-Olu and other fringe candidates in the Lagos gubernatorial contest, for the number one seat in the state in terms of governance and professional work experience. He is a Pharmacist and by available record on his Wikipedia page, he in 1982 established JAYKAY Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited.
Not even anyone that is generous with praise will describe the 36-year-old company as a real success story compared to other pharmaceutical companies that came into existence in the last 10 years to 15 years. Many companies that came into retail end of pharmaceutical business such as Medplus, Healthplus and Mopheth have become brand names with strong name recall, yet Jimi Agbaje’s JAYKAY Pharmaceutical is nowhere to be found. If capability and acumen of those who seek public office are measured strictly on the basis of how well they have done with their private enterprises, the PDP candidate will not measure up by any stretch of imagination. Sadly, we are in a society where the electorates and the general populace have a nauseating apathy towards application of rigour in the choice of leaders.
If Lagos State was a country, it will be the sixth largest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world. The state being the centre of commerce and economic hub in West Africa has also become a victim of its own success. It is said that seven out of every 10 people that come to Lagos everyday do not return to where they came from. The current population of Lagos is projected to hit 25 million by 2020 coupled with uncontrolled birth rate and influx of people who come in to seek greener pastures.
All these put together means while the economy of Lagos has its gravitational pull and competitive assets, the state is also beset with problems of rapid urbanization, relentless pressure on existing infrastructure and demands for expansion alongside growing security problems. The state does not have the resources to meet her current needs with the size of government revenue.
To ramp up government revenue sources, raise private sector finance for critical economic projects and create new incentives that make private sector the real engine of growth, is a job for a man already forged in a furnace. It is apparent a Jimi Agbaje who cannot grow his private business beyond a SME level type of enterprise in 36 years, without mincing words, will find Lagos State too complex a job to handle.
The vision, speed and passion required to run Lagos to her next level of growth and development are beyond the PDP candidate and other candidates running on the platform of other political parties. In all honesty, the Lagos governorship race is between Agbaje and Sanwo-Olu. Other candidates are just there to occupy space on INEC ballot paper.
The problem those who seek to run Lagos, without the necessary preparedness, often have is the simplistic ideas they have about the state and what it takes to run it. The state has the largest state government public sector obligations in Nigeria to her workforce put at over 140,000. Managing industrial relations in the state public and civil service alone is enough pressure point for any governor without adding other problems into the mix. Mobilising much needed resources through Internally Generated Revenue in a state with over $140 billion GDP is a herculean task. It is common knowledge that Lagos IGR is very high when compared to other states in the country, yet it is grossly insufficient to meet her obligations to the residents in areas of social services like education, health, public transportation, environment and the administration of criminal justice system.
Any governorship candidate that cannot espouse clear vision and policy options to drive the Lagos agenda for sustainable development is not fit for the state. And having policy documents put together by paid consultants in well-designed Power Point with graphs is also not sufficient. To be governor of Lagos State is about competence and demonstrable capacity, which Agbaje and other contestants against Sanwo-Olu do not possess.
Sanwo-Olu, without doubt, is far ahead of Jimi Agbaje and his other challengers in Lagos. His wealth of experience garnered over a period of about 30 years from both the private and the public sector clearly sets him apart from the crowd. The APC candidate also has the advantage of being part of the governance innovation Lagos has witnessed in the last 14 years. He also enjoys the double advantage of a running mate in Dr. Obafemi Hamzat who earned a PhD in Process Engineering at the very young age of 25 years with work experience at senior executive levels in Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. Dr. Hamzat was the Chief Information Officer at Oando on his return to Nigeria in 2002. He joined Lagos State Public Service in 2005 as the Commissioner for Science and Technology and later as the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure. In the ministries where both Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat worked in Lagos State as commissioners, they left positive and impactful footprints.
Without being vain, Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat represent the best ticket to lead Lagos at this time. That is the best ticket before Lagosians and they must choose right in the next election.
. Ajayi writes from Lagos.