Jimi Agbaje’s Biggest Burden, By Anthony A. Kila
If you believe in luck then you will have to admit that compared to most of the states of the federation, my state, Lagos is indeed a lucky state in terms of governance and its political process. From the days of Jakande to that of the outgoing Governor Fashola, no administrative imbecile or political lunatic has ever seriously contested for let alone become governor of the state. Whilst one might have reservations about some of their actions or style of governance, it will be objectively difficult to completely write off any past elected governor of Lagos as a pure failure.
This lucky trend is clearly continuing and as we approach the coming 2015 elections it is clear that the two main candidates, Akinwunmi Amobode and Jimi Agbaje, set to contend for office governor in Lagos are two men that will have a lot to say and will speak well about governance and policies. It is easy to forecast a robust confrontation of ideas and policies. Naturally Lagos and indeed Nigeria will benefit from such contest.
Though hitherto unknown to most residents of Lagos, APC’s candidate, Akinwunmi Amobode is a man well known in the State machinery and he knows the system too. He is a trained accountant that has held many sensitive and influential financial positions in the Lagos State government during his 27-year career in the Lagos State Civil Service.
The PDP’s candidate Jimi Agbaje is also a seasoned professional but with a completely different story. He made his mark in the private sector and ventured early into public life first as an activist and later as a politician. He is well known to most resident of Lagos and we daresay that if voting was based on pure merit and knowledge like a driver’s license or a certificate then any resident of Lagos that was eligible to vote since 2007 and does not know Jimi Agbaje should probably be considered unfit to vote. He has indeed contested in the past and his campaign was judged by most as probably the best gubernatorial campaign ever conducted in Lagos.
And herein lies Jimi Agbaje’s first big burden. He has to convince many people that his quest for being governor again after trying brilliantly but unsuccessfully is not just driven by pure personal ambition or mere fixation. Let us be clear, his like any other politician’s ambition is legitimate and anyone with such ambition has not only the right but also even the duty to contend for office. He however needs to let us know why it must be him and not someone the people of Lagos have not said no to in the past.
Another burden Jimi Agbaje has to deal with is the political party on whose platform he has chosen to run. Any poll or even cursory look will clearly tell you that Lagos is an APC stronghold; yes, you are right so what? In politics strongholds can change. The issue here is not about stronghold it is about the general perception of the PDP in Lagos. The people of Lagos do not generally perceive PDP as party of honest efficient nation builders dedicated to security and prosperity of the average citizen. Agbaje knows Lagos, so he will have to explain why he is running on this platform. My hunch is that if we had a better electoral system in place Jimi Agbaje would be an independent candidate.
Since we don’t have a better electoral system in place and Jimi Agbaje has decided to run on the platform of party that is not so popular in Lagos and run against a party that is indeed popular, he now has the onus of explaining to all why he thinks Lagos needs to be run another party at all, never mind the PDP. Certainly he must have seen more than some little fixable limitations in the ruling ACN turned APC; he needs to let us know what these are.
Whilst we are on this party issue, there is another matter Jimi Agbaje needs to deal with and make clear to all. It has to do with the primaries that led to his clinching of the PDP ticket as gubernatorial candidate. Though Jimi Agbaje won by a rather clear margin, one of his opponents, Musiliu Obanikoro, is crying foul and our own sights are forced to bear his discontent for the walls of Lagos are now littered with his ugly posters of protest. Never mind who Obanikoro is, Agbaje has the duty of pushing his party to prove that his election was based on maths and not on magic.
In their sober and objective moments, even the most ardent supporters of those at the helm of affairs of the federal government agree and recognize that the Goodluck Jonathan led administration has not exactly performed at its very best in issues of security, prosperity and integrity. Some of these supporters blame the sabotage led by those who set out to make Nigeria ungovernable for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, others blame some of his advisers and other team members, others blame we the citizens for not understanding and being misled and misinformed. Be it as it may, Jimi Agbaje needs to prove to voters that his Lagos will not be a government impeded by saboteurs, party influence and pressure or harmful propaganda. He needs to reassure voters that his Lagos will be a better copy of the Federal Government.
Jimi Agbaje’s supporters might find these requests fastidious, that is their partisan prerogative; Lagosians have the right to know about their candidate and it is Jimi Agbaje’s duty to provide answers. Citizens are innocent until proven guilty; politicians are guilty until proven innocent.
Anthony Kila is a Jean Monnet professor of Strategy and Development. He is currently Director of studies at CIAPS; the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies. He is a regular commentator on the BBC and he works with various organisations on International Development projects across Europe, Africa and the USA. He writes from Cambridge in England.