Brilliant ideas to make Lagos a better city were in abundant supply at the 2015 Lagos State Gubernatorial Debates at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral in Ikeja on Thursday, as candidates vying to become the next governor put across their plans to the public.
Education, urban transportation, security and alternative ways of generating revenue for the state, and the economy dominated the discussion. Though some of the contestants clearly showed that they have no business vying for the governorship position of Nigeria’s centre for commerce, the overall performance surpassed previous debates.
The contestants relied on statistics from the government, World Bank and the United Nations to buttress their points. One thing was clear to the thoroughly thrilled audience: Except for a few candidates, whoever emerges winner in the February 21 election, Lagos would be in good hands if the words said Thursday are matched with action.
The event kicked off few minutes past 11 a.m. but the pew of the large church was already completely filled with members of the public and a good number of others, who couldn’t find seats, remained outside.
The debate, which was organised by the Lagos West dioceses of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion in conjunction with the Dioceses of Badagry and Lagos Mainland, was moderated by the Bishop Theologian of the Church and former Chaplain of Lagos State University, Dapo Asaju, who is a professor of Theology.
The panellists for the debate were President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Femi Adesina, Managing Director Excel professional Services Limited, Oladimeji Alo, and Managing Director, Business World Newspapers, Ray Echebiri.
Bishop of Dioceses of Lagos West, Olusola Odedeji, while appealing to the contestants to shun violence, told them that election is an order to serve and there should be reason for violence.
“Voters are king. The society should be the ultimate winner when election is conducted without fear or favour,” he said.
Mr. Asaju told the contestant that the state of the country is a clear testament that we are a leaderless people and they should see this opportunity as a chance to lead. He said politics and religion are interwoven and should complement one another.
“Politics is not alien to religion. You would be leading people across religious divide. If one part of the nation hurts all of us are in pain,” he said.
Below is our analysis of what the candidates presented as their plans for the state and our assessment of how well they performed. Candidates are rated on the scale of 1-10 based on how articulate they presented their plans and the practicality of some of their ideas. The scores only represent basically PREMIUM TIMES’ impression of how the candidates performed.
1. Abiodun Popoola, Labour Party
The surprise participant of the day is the Labour Party candidate. While other parties were represented by their substantive governorship candidates, Labour party was represented by its deputy governor candidate, Abiodun Popoola. Mr Popoola explained that the party’s governorship candidate was in Abuja for an urgent assignment and couldn’t attend. Mr. Popoola reeled out ideas that were so radically brilliant for a running mate that one had to wonder if the gubernatorial candidate was a super human.
Mr. Popoola was articulate and his plans for the state appeared well-rehearsed and delivered with the confidence of a star performer. He announced his entry into the race by declaring that Lagos can no longer afford mediocre leadership since a number of countries look upon the city as a beacon of hope in the continent.
Mr. Popoola, a career banker and pastor, said his party represents the teeming majority of poor Lagosians. He said his party’s main vision for the state is anchored on Education, Security and infrastructural renewal. Making reference to the high failure rate in the school certificate examination in the state, he said education in the state is in shambles. He promised a complete review of the educational policy and promised the re-introduction of school inspectors to monitor ensure standard are adhered to. He lambasted the Nigerians for paying too much emphasis on music and the entertainment industry while science and other developmental aspect of the society suffers.
On free education he said: “The problem with Nigeria are people who went to free schools.” He said professors of the Lagos State University should be flogged for asking for more subventions from the government. He said as professor they should learn to think outside the box for sources of funding the universities.
He was confident and articulated his point clearly. Mr Popoola’s performance at the debate underscored the need for the smaller parties to be more visible and articulate with their plans as some them have ideas that are particularly novel and worth trying.
Score: 6/10 | ******
2. Ishola Aregbesola, Action Alliance
Mr. Ishola was the class clown today and the butt of all jokes. He obviously hadn’t given the thought of becoming a governor any serious consideration. He seemed as one of those political jobbers who seek elective offices hoping to be called aside by the top parties and compensated with appointments.
He started by cracking up the audience. He announced that he did not prepare for the debate because he was not formally invited. He explained that he had only attended the debate as an observer but his name was mentioned as a participant so he decided to join the other contestants. He spent the first 10 minutes granted each contestant reeling out his life history and could only manage to say he would ensure free education in the state is legislated before his time ran out.
Score: 1/10 | *
3. Bola Ogunseye, Alliance for Democracy
Mr. Ogunseye put out an impressive showing. He said he speaks French professionally and retired as a personal adviser to the Chairman of Shell. He said Lagos has been taken over by mafia gang who ask for protection money of all kinds before people could do anything including starting a petty business. He promised to break the extorting antics of the mafia if elected into office.
He promised to follow the tenet of late Premier of the old Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo. Using statistics, he reeled out a long list of micro businesses he would establish if elected. He said the cost of rent is a huge burden on Lagosians, he promised to reduce that cost by building low cost houses and easing access to certificate of occupancy in the state.
Mr. Ogunseye said he would use government patronage to create 50,000 millionaire in the city yearly. On infrastructural development, he promised to build what he called Local Area Mono Rails. He explained that the rail would transport Lagosians within inner cities with ease.
On SME and Youth involvement he said: “We would take the youth as the core of SME growth. We think it is time to re-direct the energy of our youth to development flow.”
Score: 6/10 | ******
4. Jimi Agbaje, Peoples Democratic Party
By miles Mr. Agbaje was the star of the debate. He literally took other contestants to the cleaners with the masterful delivery, use of statistics and data from government and other international organisations. Unlike the raucous response some of the contestants elicited from the audience, any time Mr. Agbaje spoke, the audience stayed quiet.
He started by saying being a small scale business man himself, he knew what it takes to run a small scale enterprise and his government would give priority attention to SMEs in the state.
Mr. said his vision for Lagos is for it to be a mega city where a Lagosian would live in a secure and prosperous environment. “I want to build a Lagos where people can realise their aspirations,” he said.
He said the incumbent government is paying lip service to the development of primary education: “All that we do with education is to pay recurrent expenditure 80 per cent of the budget of education is spent on recurrent expenditure. The government spends 3 per cent of its budget of primary education. This is poor,” he said.
He said he would revitalise vocational skill and education so people with vocational education don’t mere end up as roadside vulcanizers and welders of burglary proofs.
He promised to create an all-inclusive Lagos that represents the cosmopolitan nature of the state: “What makes Lagos bubble is the fact that it brings people from everywhere. The day you begin to deport Lagos becomes a village.”
He also tactically directed all his responses to the policies of the incumbent, APC government. This was a smart move as it placed his policies side by side with the incumbent’s and allowed the listener to quickly appraise the better.
Score: 9/10 | *********
5. Akinwumni Ambode, All Progressives Congress
As the candidate of the incumbent party, Mr. Ambode was placed on the defensive most of the time and this affected his performance during the debate. However, he gave a good account of himself. With a boyish smile permanently stamped on his face, if he was worried by the attacks and taunts directed at him by the other contestants he did not show it. While he spent most of time explaining how he would make the policies of the incumbent administration better, he did not articulate so much of his own original ideas.
He said public service is a noble service and promised to bring the wealth of experience he had garnered from over 25 years of public service to running the state.
“I am an accountant you can count on me. My call to you is to stand up and be counted.”
He said his vision for Lagos is that of leadership and accountability, good governance and quality service.
Mr. Ambode promised to build an educational trust fund to carter for unemployed youths in the state. He also promised to build studio apartments for the teeming youth of the state to ease the housing difficulty in the state.
Score: 7/10 | *******
6. Akele Ayodele, National Congress Party
Mr. Ayodele spent most of his allotted time talking attacking the incumbent. He has a personal history with the party. Former governor of the state, Bola Tinubu, who is the national leader of the APC, fired him from the state civil service for his unionist activities. He seemed to have allowed personal differences to dictate his delivery.
He however promised to provide portable drinking water throughout the state wondering why Lagos that is surrounded by water cannot provide portable water for its inhabitants. He promised to reduce insecurity by providing employment for the youth.
Score: 3/10 | ***
7. Jacobs Kayode, Mega Progressives Party
Mr. Kayode did not disappoint at all. He had spent less than 30 seconds talking before he started drawing loud applauses from the audience due to the brilliance of some of his policies. He pushed for radical reform in education, teachers’ welfare and infrastructural development.
Score: 5/10 | *****