Jimi Agbaje: How Lagos Can Be Won In 2019

By Ikenga Chronicles October 7, 2018

Jimi Agbaje: How Lagos Can Be Won In 2019

—Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba,

Lagos is now all set for the championship contest between APC and PDP. It is the prize trophy for all gubernatorial contests in Nigeria. The winner will not be as happy as the winner of the presidential trophy but a victory in Lagos is close enough. Lagos is special.

Lagos is not Kano, Enugu, Kaduna or Oyo or any other state in Nigeria. Lagos did not come into being in 1914 as Nigeria did. It predates 1914 by centuries. To think of Lagos one must have in mind cities like New York, Washington DC, London, Berlin, Moscow, etc.—cosmopolitan cities where almost every nationality is represented.

It is state of about 21 million people, where the most educated, wealthiest, urban, Nigerians live. It is a modern city by any definition and a show piece of Nigeria. Therefore its government must be one that the entire country must have faith in.

Lagos is special.

The two heavyweights fighting are Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu and Mr. Jimi Agbaje for APC and PDP respectively. If traditional Lagos election is conducted Mr. Sanwo-Olu will win hands down. The traditional campaign that APC would wage is rooted in the slogan “Lagos is Yoruba land and only Yoruba need to have a say-so in its affairs”. This view has wide currency among almost all Yoruba and Mr. Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu will do their best to drive home this message. It will be near impossible for anybody to out- Yoruba APC in Lagos.

Mr. Agbaje must therefore take more risks. After all, estimates show that even though the Yoruba is the majority nationality in Lagos, its population is only 40% of the state. Other nationalities, Igbo, Ijaw, Edo, Itsekiri, Efik, Ibom, Urhobo, Lebanese, Ghanaian, Hausa/Fulani, Middle Belters, etc. make up 60% of the state. Lagos is a minority majority state hence the other slogan “Lagos is a no man’s land”.

Mr. Agbaje can adopt this later slogan but will present it differently as “Lagos is a 21st century cosmopolitan city and all residents are welcome and belong.” He should begin by selecting as his running mate a non-Yoruba resident with deep roots in Lagos like being born in Lagos and if possible by a Yoruba mother. He/she would be quite fluent in Yoruba and in another language not Yoruba. But he or she ought not to be Igbo but a person from the former Eastern Nigeria (the group that has the 2nd largest population estimate of 25%). Mr. Agbaje should have important positions in the campaign such as campaign manager, public relations officers, liaisons , etc. peopled by the Edo, Ijaw, Igala and of course Yoruba. The message will be “we are all in this together”. He should have his posters in as many Nigerian languages as possible both on TV and radio. He should not be afraid to go to Anambra/Imo meetings to ask for their votes or other state organizations in Lagos. He must at the same time highlight that he is a Lagosian of Yoruba descent, but of the enlightened kind.

Mr. Agbaje should spend a lot of time and money wooing the residents of very remote villages like those who live west of Badagry. These are often the neglected communities in Lagos politics.

The all-inclusive Agbaje campaign will cost him hundreds of thousands of Yoruba votes but will net him non-Yoruba votes in the millions. It is a risk worth taking. There is no way Mr. Agbaje can be more Yoruba that Mr. Sanwo-Olu and should therefore not try. On the other hand, it is too late for Mr. Sanwo-Olu to run a cosmopolitan campaign. All his structure and positions are in place and it will be unwise to change them.

Too much disruption.

*Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts.