Lagos poll: Agbaje and illusion of hope

Lagos poll: Agbaje and illusion of hope


At the outset, there was a glimmer of hope that the Lagos State governorship flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jimi Agbaje, will put up a better performance against his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, because of the crack that was noticed within the ranks of the ruling party in the state. But, at the end of the day, the pharmacist-turned politician could not measure up to his performance in 2015. MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE examines why the PDP candidate lost.

THE Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, disappointed his admirers once again, by failing to replicate his performance in 2015 when he gave Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, a run for his money.

In 2015, he polled 659,788 votes, while his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Ambode, scored 811,994 votes to emerge winner of the contest; a difference of 152,206 votes. But, in 2019, the fortunes of the PDP candidate worsened. He secured a meagre 206,141 votes, while Sanwo-Olu scored 739,445 votes.

The 2019 election result showed that Agbaje needed 533,304 votes to level up with the winner. There are reasons for the dismal performance. Analysts say the politician is in the twilight of his political career and may not be relevant by 2023.

Looking very closely at what transpired during the primary and  the election, it was apparent that Agbaje did not enjoy the support of the party leadership. Speculations were rife during the campaign that the candidate was not enjoying the support of party leaders. The leadership had to address a press conference to disabuse the minds of Lagosians on the matter.

Apparently, all the promises made by the PDP during the conference were never fufilled. Agbaje was virtually the only one moving from one place to the other, soliciting support from Lagosians.

Party sources said it was not a surprise that Agbaje’s campaign did not resonate with the people. They said as long as the Lagos PDP leadership did not support him, it would be difficult to record any major breakthrough.

The sources maintained that the PDP flag bearer was aware of the reluctance of the party’s leadership to support his efforts to become governor. Thus, after the election, Agbaje distanced himself from the party, to protest against the attitude of the PDP bigwigs in the state who did not hide the fact that they were not favourably disposed to his bid to become governor.

The recent clarification by Agbaje that he is still a member of the party suggests that, indeed, all is not well with the PDP in Lagos. Agbaje added that nobody can force him out of the PDP. He went further to imply that the attitude of some chieftains of the party ridiculed the party during the campaign.

Analysts believe that the disharmony will remain with the Lagos PDP for a long time, except something urgent is dome. They recalled that a similar situation that many forced notable PDP chieftains to abandon the platform prior to the election to where they believe their aspirations would be met.

In their view, Agbaje is merely bidding his time. One of the sources maintained that as long as there is no peace within the platform the pharmacist-turned politician would take the next door to the place he would find political succour.

Observers say the PDP candidate may not put himself forward again in 2023, when he would turn 66, because his energy may have waned.

Agbaje has become a serial contestant. In 2007, he contested on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), but he lost to Babatunde Fashola of the defunct Action Congress (AD). In 2014, Agbaje defected to the PDP, where he contested for the governorship seat in 2015.

He lost the 2015 election to Governor Ambode. In the latest contest where he polled 206,141 votes, against Sanwo-Olu’s 739,445 votes, the PDP candidate showed that there was nothing personal but the quest to serve the people.

Propelled with the good intention to serve, the latest political sojourn by the politician would afford him an opportunity to x-ray the pros and cons of the efforts made so far. There is need for him to reflect deeply, if he can actually win Lagos on the platform of an opposition party in the future.

Observers were not surprised that Agbaje lost the election. They said while the APC candidate was all over the place, campaigning from door-to-door, the PDP candidate did not bother to campaign.

Speaking to reporters after the election, the PDP candidate alluded to the fact that party bigwigs frustrated his efforts in Lagos. He said: “It was an open secret that a few party leaders took a position not to support my candidature after my victory at the primary election. Their song was vote for Atiku in the presidential election and forget about Agbaje in the governorship.”

It would have been a surprise if Agbaje won the election. Political pundits say the effort of the PDP candidate alone was not enough to earn him victory at the polls. They opined that the Lagos PDP internal crisis management lacked dexterity and they had no hope of overcoming the problem. This was the reason many party chieftains called it quit with the party.

There have been accusations and counter-accusations of financial mismanagement by the party hierarchy. Since the party lost power at the centre, many eyes have been scrutinising its dwindling resources.

Though the APC had its internal division after the primary, it was swift in resolving the issues that confronted the party. From the way the APC campaigned for the election, there is no doubt it spoke with one voice as far as the governorship was concerned.

In the case of the PDP, Agbaje was almost running a one-man show. Notable leaders of the party hardly attended his campaigns during the electioneering. Analysts say Agbaje ran a one-man show. This, they explained, was not good enough for a party that wanted victory.

They expressed worries that the PDP did not live up to the expectation of those who wanted power to change hands. They said the speed at which the PDP candidate accepted defeat heightened speculation that the politician was up to some pecuniary gains.

Speaking on the unfolding development, Southwest PDP Vice Chairman, Eddy Olafeso, said Agbaje has the political wisdom to decide for himself the next line of action. Olafeso said he wishes the politician the best in every step taken to impact on humanity.

He said: “The question what next for Agbaje should be directed at him. What I can tell you as a chairman of the party in the Southwest is that after this election we will be putting heads together to move our party forward.

“We will re-energise and strengthen the party in terms of human resources and commitment. I can always hope for the best; I know that Jimi is gentle man that knows what he is doing. So, I wish him the best in life.

“On the election in the Southwest, we were bullied, invaded, violently chased away from the polling centres. If you look at the number of registered voters, compared to those that voted, it was obvious that our supporters were scared away by thugs loyal to the ruling party. We thank God where we won and lost; we will continue take a closer look at where we got it right or wrongly.”

Olafeso said the PDP would have performed better than it did, but for the poor performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the anti-PDP activities by the security agents. The party was confined to a tight corner.

He said: “The long and short of it is that INEC performance is still a far cry in the hope for free, fair and credible elections. I am disappointed with the state of preparedness of INEC and the involvement of security forces in some of these elections. Why many of them did very well is that some were non-partisan, while some wore the garb of partisanship, abusing and violating people during the election.

“We lost about three young men in Ondo State, precisely in Ore, due to the lousiness of the security forces. Be that as it may, it is a long walk for Nigerians to freedom. This is not the expectation of Nigerians when it comes to general elections.

“Let me use this opportunity to celebrate governor-elect of Oyo State, Oluseyi Makinde, for his resounding victory at the election. I wish our party the best. We are going give the people of Oyo State dividends of democracy after May 29.

“What is the offence of the PDP? It is the people behind the name and many of them have left for the APC. Those who remain are the courageous; they are willing to work for the betterment of our country. We are proud of our name and its accomplishments; we are not ashamed of it at all. I am not an apostle of those who are clamouring for a change of name. Are we not winning up to 15 or 16 states even with the PDP name?”

Lagos PDP Publicity Secretary Taofiq Gani said it was not just about Agbaje, but what the party will give to the people of Lagos. He promised that the party will not distance itself from the wellbeing of Lagosians.

He added that the ruling party should be prepared to deliver on its campaign promises to Lagos, noting that it could not afford to remain quiet, if its programme falls below expectation.

Gani said: “Our first plan toward 2023 is build very strong, virile and constructive opposition and that is why in our acceptance statement we have counseled the governor-elect to come with competent hands irrespective of the political parties or affiliation.

“He should not be distracted by the urge to go after Governor Ambode. He is a governor of circumstance and should just leave it at that. If he wanted to go after him, he will be fighting himself. Lagosians will not allow this; we are going to be on standby to give constructive criticism. We have solution which will endear the masses to us. We have no doubt that we can win; the result was very close, but somehow out of our own mistakes. We will not let that re-occur in 2023.

“We promise Lagosians that whatever we say they should take us on our honour and we will be ready to join hands together with well-meaning Lagosians to make the state work.”

But, observers says it is too early to say whether the politician will drop his political ambition to concentrate on his pharmaceutical business. Sources say the politician places high premium on his business.

The sources maintained that Lagos State government is one of his major clients, adding that the politician may not want to disrupt the chain business. They maintained that as long as the pharmaceutical transaction exists, he would tread softly to remain in business.

Though Agbaje had refuted the accusation that he neither collects contract from the state or Federal Governments, many still believe that as a businessman there was nothing wrong with that.

 



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