Politics: Four gladiators in nervous race to succeed Ambode

Signs that the 2019 gubernatorial election in Lagos State would not be an easy contest emerged weekend when four strong contenders kicked off their campaigns. On the surface, the contest seems to be actually between a veteran governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jimi Agbaje, and Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

But Babatunde Gbadamosi, who defected from PDP to the Action Democratic Party (ADP), and Mr. Owolabi Salis of Alliance for Democracy (AD) insist that they possess the experience and exposure to pull a surprise in the forthcoming election.

Considered as the front row candidates, based on their platforms, name and face recognition as well as clout in Lagos politics, the four gladiators come with varying areas of strengths and weaknesses.

However, the fact that there would be no incumbent on the ballot next March when governorship election holds shows that the poll could go either way and subject to the interplay of political and economic considerations, one of the four standard bearers could end up as thesuccessor of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Joseph Oluwajimi Agbaje (PDP)

2019 would be JK’s third try, having contested variously on the platform of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in 2007 and PDP in 2015. He came very close to the coveted office three years ago in a race that divided Nigerians along two broad political tendencies.

The PDP candidate seems to be burdened by low campaign fund and depleting foot soldiers. But what he lacks in funding and backers, JK makes up in his charisma and easygoing nature and the fact that he has a woman as running mate. Despite what many have described as a reluctant campaign, the PDP candidate told supporters at the Ultima Studious: “Here am I. Let the campaigns begin. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave a timetable and as a law abiding person, I waited for this day, even when a lot of people asked whether we are in the race.

“I hear that some people called me their customer. Now in this race, I will prove to them that the customer is king. Who the hell are they? I will beat them flat.”He declared that the people of Lagos are his backbone, noting that the very same support base that gave him momentum in 2015 election are still intact. He added that more supporters have joined his train to give the ruling party a shocking defeat.

He stated: “I will beat the APC in 2019. I will not only beat them, I will beat them flat. I am sure of winning because Lagosians are behind me. The support we were given in 2015 is still intact. We will expand on it in 2019. I am in the race because I am passionate about Lagos.“I hear them calling me their customer because of my past attempts, but let me tell them, the customer is king. By next year, we shall know the results. But I can assure you once again that I will beat them flat.”

While extoling his capacity, vision and experience, JK lamented that for 20 years, APC and its grand father have failed the state in all the ramifications, even as he urged Lagos residents to vote out the party. On his plans for the state if elected, the PDP governorship hopeful outlined what he called a robust plan to provide quality education, healthcare and jobs for the teeming youths to drive the prosperity and guarantee improved security in the state.

He lambasted the ruling party for using power for self instead of service, noting that the problem of gridlock has become unbearable. Agbaje promised to deliver on the Fourth Mainland Bridge, Lite Rail and a minimum of a thousand megawatt electricity in four years.Taunting APC, JK said the buck would stop on his table if elected governor, pointing out that he has no person in Bourdillon to get clearance from just as he said his running mate, Mrs. Haleemat Busari, was not a product of imposition.

Insisting that money that would have been used to develop Lagos as a truly megacity over the years ended up in private pockets, JK vowed that his mandate would be to liberate Lagos and enthrone democracy.

According to him,“Our youths are emigrating daily to Canada and United States in search for employment. As governor I promise to provide a minimum of 1000 megawatts of power. I know that Lagos needs at least 3000 megawatts, but I do not want to promise more and achieve less. That is why I said I would ensure Lagos produces at least 1000 megawatts. I will ensure that our people have quality healthcare that is funded through insurance.”

Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu (APC)

THE nomination of Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu as candidate of the ruling APC came with a lot of intrigues, which led to the denial of its sitting governor, Ambode, opportunity for a second term.It is believed that the post primary recriminations in the party, although minimal, might hurt the fortunes of the standard bearer. But Sanwo-Olu explained that having been around the corridors of power in Lagos, in addition to his wide-ranging experience, would put him in good stead to deliver the goods.

He stated that his surprise emergence, as APC candidate, was the product of massive clamour by party faithful, which saw in him the qualities of a potential Eko governor.Speaking against the backdrop of general expectations and reservations by skeptics, who believe he is another clone of APC strongman, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu said: “I know it is not an easy job, but I am wired up for it!”

Sanwo-Olu said his move from public sector to governance and politics, came about casually, saying that then Managing Director of First Atlantic Bank, where he worked, Femi Pedro, was appointed as the deputy governor of Lagos State and upon a chance meeting he discovered that his family and that of Tinubu had a long time relationship.

Sanwo-Olu’s strengths revolve around the possibility of continuity of the Lagos master plan. For instance, having been at Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSPDC), the APC candidate exudes needed confidence and knowledge to meet the environmental sustainability challenges of Lagos, especially the issue of development planning and building construction. He explained that waste management requires some creativity, stressing that private firm under PSP programme could be assisted to increase capacity and capability through funding to acquire requisite equipment to ensure sanitation.

In the area of transport and traffic management, Sanwo-Olu expressed the belief that an initiative that could reroute traffic mostly during peak periods in such a way that alternate carriage ways could be used to avert traffic snarl without adding multiple lanes would also help the traffic situation in Lagos.

Regarding concerns that forces, which propelled his emergence, could turn around to be source of his existential challenge if elected, the groundswell of opposition to Tinubu, which propelled the emergence of Sanwo-Olu gave the impression of populism.

Yet the candidate is being accused of being Tinubu’s new political dummy. It is therefore in striking a balance between servicing the political structure of the godfather and delivering on his prodigious promises that Sanwo-Olu would receive his baptism. And how he meets that challenge would determine the durability of his mandate.

Despite his closeness to most members of the well-knit Asiwaju political structure in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu does not seem to be politically savvy to the extent of infusing his own imprint in the running of the administration he hopes to form if elected next year.To that extent, the APC governorship standard bearer would operate under the shadow of the man in Bourdillon Street Ikoyi, at least in his own political interest. Against that possibility therefore Sanwo-Olu might replicate the Fashola model, where political decisions are taken in Bourdillon, while the business of governance is transacted in Alausa, Ikeja.

All said, it is incidental that Lagos has a large stock of potential leaders with good heads on their shoulders. As a young man, Sanwo-Olu can afford to put his eyes in minute details of governance, only that any attempt to start trying his hands into the main pie could attract unpleasant consequences.

A lot of people, especially the opposition would be interested in weighing Sanwo-Olu’s candidacy against the backcloth of incumbent governor’s broadsides within the period preceding the intriguing APC direct governorship primary.

Owolabi Salis (AD)

THE AD candidate contested for the governorship election in 2007 under the platform of Allied Party of Nigeria (APN) led by former governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande. He was a governorship aspirant in PDP in 2011 but was forced to leave the party following some disagreement over the conduct of the party’s primaries. He did not contest in 2015.

Having won the AD ticket for the 2019 governorship race, Salis has crisscrossed nearly the three senatorial zones to canvass for support from various organisations. In the last few weeks, Salis has received the blessings of several traditional rulers and leaders of religious organisations across the three senatorial districts, including none Yoruba communities.

The AD standard bearer told The Guardian that his major objective is to take the politics and economy of the state away from the control and expropriation of a single individual and give it back to the people through total grassroots governance, saying, “Every other thing is embedded in the ‘Total Grassroots Governance System’ I am going to implement. That’s why we tagged the coming 2019 election as “The People Vs Individual.”

He has also canvassed that APC must be voted out for Lagos to progress in line with the thoughts and agenda of the original founding fathers of Southwest politics. He said APC’s policies have not only retarded the growth and development of Lagos State, but that the situation where an individual also dominates its resources should be rejected. He stressed that it was imperative for the youth in the state to come together in the next election and take their destinies in their own hands by voting right.

Meanwhile, one of the challenges he will have is the funding of his campaigns. From a critical view, the AD candidate has been funding his ambition basically from personal money and funds from donors.He is also going to face the challenge of structure unlike Sanwo-Olu and Agbaje, who have solid political structure in APC and PDP. The AD has not only been a weak structure since Tinubu left the party in 2003 to form Action Congress (AC), which later metamorphosed to APC, it is also not likely going to be that visible in the next election.

While the APC’s candidate will be relying on his party’s well-oiled and stabilized political party, Salis, on the other hand, is the pillar upon which the AD is hoping to have an inroad back to Government House in 2019. How far his popularity and influence will fare between now and March next year is left for the electorate to determine. So far, he is rated as the third most popular candidate among the 41 contenders in terms of reach.

Babatunde Gbadamosi (ADP)

THE challenge of growing ADP into a strong political platform capable of displacing the two big parties is part of the weakness of Gbadamosi. There are not many big names within ADP to counteract the electoral schemes of the other big parties. Gbadamosi seems to be running on his personal pedigree and track records, because his father is credited to be instrumental to the development of Ikorodu road. He would be bereft of the nagging distractions and burden of a political godfather.

“This is why there is need for a change in government in 2019,” he affirmed. “And this is why I am running. Given my wide range of experience, I believe I can deliver to the state values that would better the lot of the state and its people. “There is need for a Lagos that is not in the top three of the world’s worst places to live. The people need a Lagos that delivers more happiness to its people than what we’re experiencing at the moment. I need a Lagos where the average transportation time drops from four hours – as it is at the moment – to an hour, maximum, for commuters.”

On the limited nature of ADP political machinery, Gbadamosi boasted that he has “a group of experienced politicians and a lot of ordinary Lagosians, who are interested in seeing progress and development.”

On what makes him confident to win Gbadamosi said: “People want real change. They don’t want a situation where they will continually be dictated to by a group of selfish individuals. The people are hungry for quality education for their children, affordable health care, and a thriving economy among others.

He said that unlike 2011, when he ran as a novice, he was now more exposed and experienced enough to win the governorship election next year, adding, “I was only three years old in PDP at the time I ran for a ticket. The truth is, not many people knew me in PDP at that time. They didn’t know what I stood for. They didn’t know who I was and what I had achieved. I could quite well understand that situation then.

“In 2014, things changed substantially. I had taken on APC and ACN almost single-handedly between 2011 and 2015 on behalf of PDP with a view to getting Lagosians to really see the ACN for who they were – and it worked. In the run-up to the PDP primary in 2014 and 2015 election, the sentiments, the prevailing sentiments in Lagos were that it was game-over for the APC; that they were gone from Lagos.”

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