by Femi Owolabi
Following the online jocular trend, I once posted on my Facebook wall that “Prophesy is when Pastor Tunde Bakare calls Jimi Agbaje ‘Our Next Governor’ at the SNG Public Lecture.”
Jay-Kay, as Agbaje is popularly called, became a household name in 2007 when he attempted to govern the populous Lagos State. His other major co-contestants were Musiliu Obanikoro of PDP, Femi Pedro of LP, and Babatunde Fashola of ACN.
Jay-Kay appeared as a populist leader, as many agreed that his campaign methodology was the most impressive. Unfortunately for Jay-Kay, the political party under which his interest was flagged lacked political credentials. Only a few people can still remember the party’s name, Democratic People’s Alliance: DPA. It was rumored that Jimi opted for DPA after being denied the slot by the ruling ACN.
In the 2007 electioneering, Jimi was far popular than the political party driving him. There may be records of flaws and inadequacies on the part of the electoral body, however, the winning Fashola, a former chief of staff to the Lagos government of course rode triumphantly on the antecedents and political might of the incumbent Abraham Ahmed Bola Tinubu Jagaban.
Arguably, PDP’s failure in 2007 could first be traced to the arrogance of its chiefs and candidate- Obanikoro. During their (PDP) campaigns, all we could pick were songs of mockery against the ACN government. And during the gubernatorial debate, Obanikoro couldn’t articulately present the PDP’s manifesto.
There were also internal crisis rocking the PDP, mainly because of the mandate some thought should be given to Funsho William’s widow. It was then reported that a faction may have pulled its weight off Obanikoro’s candidacy. And despite the intervention of President Obasanjo, who by all means wanted Lagos for PDP, they all failed.
2007 through 2011, Fashola as a technocrat progressively delivered to the satisfaction of many Lagosians. One remembers an interview with Fashola and his predecessor Tinubu on the famous Moment With Mo’ TV show. When the latter was asked to mention his greatest achievement, he didn’t hesitate to say that his greatest achievement was giving the governance baton to Fashola.
Fashola’s popular governance of Eko Oni Baje soon became the reference for good governance. Even though South-West-PDP-governed states’ policies had become repellent to most electorates, Fashola’s perceived good governance sold ACN to those neighboring states. It became difficult for any opposition to kick Fashola out in 2011.
In a recent talk with Jimi Agbaje, he confessed that he couldn’t contest in 2011 because they saw that Fashola was working and it was needless to stage distractions with his own ambition. Fashola’s governance appealed to Lagosians who sang his praises and even begged him to run again and was assured of re-election. Then, the slogan was: Akala is bleaching, Oyo is fading. Fashola is working, Lagos is working.
Fashola’s tenure will democratically expire in about 28 months from now. Unfortunately, some now see him becoming less perspicacious. Lagosians wonder if it is still the same Fashola of 2007-2011. Lately, his pro-activeness only ends in petulance. To the middle class Lagosians, the pestilential policies of Fashola’s government may be the Lekki tolling, sacking of doctors (now reinstated), excessive taxation, Okada ban and a few others. This may have showed the change in quality of the ACN political brand of Lagos. And somehow, this may have pervasively affected other ACN governed states, since Fashola is seen as the model of good governance. And of course this could be the weakness the oppositions would use to punch ACN down in 2015.
For Jimi Agbaje, a lot of speculations have been revolving round him and the 2015 gubernatorial agenda. Some think he should have participated in the present government so he could properly arm himself for 2015. But one should know that Jimi is a professional administrator and has effectively managed policies and people in the private sector. More importantly, he vicariously observes the present day government.
As I sited in the joke above, what does one seriously make out of that? I attended the recent SNG Public Lecture and when the spontaneous Pastor Tunde Bakare spotted Jimi Agbaje entering the hall (Jimi was almost taking his seat silently at the back), he quickly grabbed the microphone and announced that the governor be ushered to the high table. I watched Jimi, smiling, as he shyly found his way to the high table. A resounding applause followed and it meant a thing to politically sensitive people like us.
Akin to this was when Jimi was brought to speak about politics at the Excellence in Leadership Summit. One asks himself if the organizers were trying to amplify his yet to be announced interest. Nevertheless, I do not see Jimi as an exhibitionist. At the summit, he spoke diplomatically yet feelingly about politics, and his 2007 experience at the gubernatorial race. And when the question was thrown at him about his ambition for 2015, he threw it back to his audience with the political if you people say I should…. This was also followed by an overwhelming ovation and again it meant a thing.
One is attracted to Jimi’s appealing style and personality. I searched through his eyes and couldn’t see the desperation; instead I see his passion for a better Lagos. Unlike Senator Ganiu Olarewaju Solomon who now beats his chest around that he is the next Lagos governor. One should be allowed to spank this lawmaker to stop making noise. Even if there is a lineup now in the ACN, I think Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila makes a more considerable candidate.
On the other hand, the PDP has denied the reports that it has endorsed Musiliu Obanikoro as its candidate for 2015. Jimi is yet to be identified with a particular political party for 2015; however rumor says that the ACN may want to give him the platform. But what happens if electorates wouldn’t want to vouchsafe their votes to ACN (at least no former Okada rider will vote ACN in 2015)? And who knows, maybe PDP is eying Jimi Agbaje or vice versa?
As it is now, Jimi appears to be the most sell-able and his candidacy seems to have the largest endorsement for 2015, but who knows? This is Lagos politics, anything can happen!