To all intents and purposes, the coming days in the life of Nigeria will be very interesting, and Lagos, being the country’s economic nerve-centre, will surely not be left out. Come March 28, 2015, Nigerians will be trooping out in their millions to elect a president who will direct the affairs of the country for the next four years. Two weeks later, precisely, April 11, 2015, governorship candidates in states where elections are billed to take place will also know their fate. Again, Lagos, a state with more than 18 million people, will not be an exception.
If we play by the rules governing the game, the presidential election, which is featuring prominent politicians like Goodluck Jonathan, incumbent President and Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; and Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress, APC; Oluremi Sonaya of KOWA Party; and Martin Onovo of National Conscience Party, NCP, among others, poses an interestingly keen contest. Similarly, barring any hiccups, the governorship election which is putting forward the likes of Akinwumi Ambode, APC, and Jimi Agbaje (PDP) in Lagos; Mukhtar Yero (PDP) and Nasir el-Rufai (APC) in Kaduna; and Rochas Okorocha (APC) and Emeka Ihedioha (PDP) in Imo State, promises an interesting reflection of the true wishes of Nigerians.
However, like Nigeria where only two out of fourteen presidential candidates seem visible, Lagos presents two major candidates out of no fewer than seven jostling for the Alausa-seat of power.
Although I may not possess the wand to predict the shape, size or outcome of the forthcoming governorship election in Lagos State, with what’s on ground, the governorship election in the state is bound to be a stiff contest between Ambode and Agbaje. In any case, the involvement of a man of testifiable amiability like Agbaje in Nigeria’s evolving democracy portends good tidings in terms of political practice. Indeed, the little I have in recent past gleaned from his involvement and commitment to political participation is enough to infer that, given the opportunity to serve, Agbaje is a man of uncommon ability whose epoch will be characterized by innovative thinking.
Quite unsurprisingly, Agbaje’s political adversaries have been immersed in ‘right man, wrong party’ campaigns against the Ikorodu-Lagos Island-born politician. However, recent events in Nigeria have clearly shown that not all members of the ruling party are bad even as not all members of the opposition are the best of materials one can be proud of. After all, the major ‘difference’ between the ruling party and the opposition so far is that one looks more like a dumping ground for the other.
It was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator and author, Peter Drucker, who remarked that “effective leadership” is not an attribute of “great speeches” or “likeness” but “results.” So, what will a Jimi Agbaje dispensation as governor of Lagos (a State which institutional arrangements, strategies and policies are currently skewed to satisfy some already-predetermined objectives) do to restore Lagos to its pride of place?
Well, while those in power in the last 16 or so years have done their best to move the state to a level, it is a statement of fact that Agbaje’s ascendancy will move it to a greater level; a level that will make it become the envy of all eyes. Again, while not denying the fact that the outgoing occupant of the Oval Building is a man of uncommon pride who has done a lot in making Lagos State what it is, anyone who has had the opportunity of carefully digesting Agbaje’s ‘Masterplan for a New Lagos’ and ‘Policy Outline and Progress’ especially, his S.H.E.L.T.E.R framework, will understand the clarity and forceful articulation of his vision for a new ‘Centre of Excellence’. Jay Kay, as he is fondly called, is a sincere, courageous, dexterous and skillful politician with sense enough to pick capable hands who will assist him in reconstructing the destruction done to the socio-economic life of the former Colony by the ‘stretched-beyond-normal’ years of the Alliance for Democracy, AD/Action Congress, AC/Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN/All Progressive Congress, APC, rule.
Still on Drucker’s definition of leadership, as things stand, is Lagos State of today better governed or is it just there to serve the interests of some godfathers? With the gory state of infrastructure that has become its lot, can we say ‘Eko o ni baje’ brand reflects the dream of the founding fathers of Lagos State? Why have the handlers of its affairs so far failed to deliver in key sectors such as health, housing, education and infrastructure even as official corruption has reduced the dear State to a butt of jokes in the comity of mega cities?
While ‘Babaloja’ and ‘Iyaloja’ are daily complaining of multiple taxes with practically nobody attempting to do something about it, a ride on Ipaja-Ayobo, Mafoluku-Apapa-Oshodi, Ikotun-Igando, Egan-Aboru, even Okota roads, among others, will reveal how ‘prudent’ the current managers of ‘Project Lagos’ have been in the management of billions of naira annually generated as revenues as well as allocations from the Federation Account.
The panoramic transportation of Britain from the aristocratic world of the mid-eighteenth century to the modern world as sensibly narrated by T. K. Derry and T. L. Jarman in their book, ‘The Making of Modern Britain’, leads us to the conspicuous merits in Agbaje’s dream of ‘A Lagos That Works!’ Not one given to empty promises, Agbaje is a man of results who sees the way to victory as well as how rewarding it is to empower others. Unlike some leaders who delight in selfishly frittering away our common patrimony, Agbaje will use Lagos resources to better the lives of Lagosians. Little wonder his government promises a redesign of our educational system, promotion of “vocational training among our children” and prompt redress in the “general infrastructural decay” which currently envelopes this destined-to-be-great state.
A man of many parts with a mission to rescue Lagos from years of pretence, gross economic mismanagement, ideological oppression, contested insecurity and discomfort, Jay Kay will situate Lagos State where it ought to be within the complexities of today’s multicultural world. He will correct the anomaly associated with the Lekki/Epe Toll Gate and the Lagos Light Rail Project as well as sustain the Bus Rapid Transport, BRT, project. His tenure promises massive transformation in the education policy of the state government which has “fallen out of the laid-down standards of the late Obafemi Awolowo.”
With Agbaje in power, not only will education be made accessible and affordable in the state, efforts will also be geared towards making our children and wards acquire skills and certificates that can make them compete globally.
In fairness to him, the ‘JK we know’ is not an apostle of blowing an uncertain trumpet. As he has promised, if elected, he will bring transparency and seriousness into the business of governance. Like the great Franklin Roosevelt, Agbaje’s conviction is “built on the unhampered initiative of individual men and women joined together in a common enterprise.” Unlike others who behave as if their existence on earth is dependent on clinching power at all costs, the pharmacist-turned-politician is an expert in the management of expectations and enlightenment who will use his wealth of experience to correct the system of governance which currently suffocates the masses to the advantage of the elite. He is a man of peace who believes that “no meaningful development could take place in an atmosphere of violence.”
As we all know, a government that prides itself in ‘know all’ wisdom can never be said to be pro-people. A responsive government would not confiscate motorcycles without making concrete alternatives with regard to how and where to eke a living for its operators. In sharp contrast to states where the government confiscated motorcycles in exchange for cash rewards, tricycles and car taxis, a government that wantonly demolishes major markets without considering the displaced traders in its ‘right of first refusal’ is not fit to be called a progressive government. And any government that feels the pulse of the people would not spearhead the concession Lagos Roads without putting the interests of road users first. Ondo State, under Olusegun Mimiko, also presents a perfect example of how displaced market men and women should be treated. From the foregoing, how can a government that has failed in all key indicators of governance in Lagos State now demand continuity?
One of my favorite leaders was John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth president of the United States of America. In his inaugural address to Congress on January 20, 1961, he wrote: “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
If elected as its next governor, Agbaje has promised to give Lagos State a facelift that will in the next four years become the cynosure of all eyes. A Jay Kay-led government in Lagos State will not only make corruption unattractive, it will also be true to his commitment of making Lagosians see hope in the future.
So, as Lagosians who are no doubt proud of our ancient heritage, won’t we rather vote for the ‘JK we trust’?
It is indeed in our best interest.
Ayoola wrote in from Lagos