The battle for the soul of Lagos on Saturday is a straight fight between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While the APC is fielding Babajide Sanwo-olu, who has served in various executive positions in the state in the last decade, the PDP candidate is Jimi Agbaje, a pharmacist who is running for the governorship position in the state for the third time since 2007
Lagos, a major financial centre in Nigeria, is one of the most strategic cities in Africa. With a GDP considered the largest in the country, it houses Nigeria’s most important air and seaports.
Lagos is divided into what is known as the “Island”––covering areas like Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Lagos Island and beyond–– and the “Mainland”, which covers Agege, Oshodi, Yaba, Surulere, Ojo, Amuwo-Odofin, among others. These areas are largely separated by the Third Mainland Bridge, located in the heart of the Lagos lagoon. The early part of Lagos was governed directly by the federal government through the Lagos City Council, until the creation of Lagos State in 1967, which birthed the gradual splitting of Lagos city into the numerous Local Government Areas (LGAs) it now has. The state now consists of 20 LGAs, 32 LCDAs including Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State.
Population figures in Nigeria are a subject of disputes but unofficial statistics put the population of Lagos inhabitants at over 21 million in 2018.
Lagos has been governed by both civilian leaders and military administrators since its creation. But among those who governed the state, notable for his infrastructural feats is Lateef Jakande of Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Mr Jakande is the civilian governor that survived Ubitu Ukiwe, a military administrator, in 1979. Before Mr Ukiwe, there were Mobolaji Johnson, the first military administrator who came in 1967 and left in 1975; then Adekunle Lawal and Ndubuisi Kanu.
After Mr Kanu, there were others: Gbolahan Mudasiru, Mike Akhigbe and Raji Rasaki, all military administrators. In 1993, Lagos experienced the short-lived tenure of Michael Otedola of the National Republican Congress (NRC), a civilian who survived Mr Rasaki, who left during the 1992/93 transition period. The exit of Mr Otedola barely a year after he assumed office paved way for Olagunsoye Oyinlola and later Buba Marwa, both military administrators who governed until 1999 when Bola Tinubu was elected governor.
In the last twenty years since the return to democracy in 1999, the state has been controlled by politicians who identify with the “progressives” fold, led by APC national leader, Mr Tinubu. In 1999, Mr Tinubu contested the governorship election on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and won. He was re-elected in 2003 amidst a PDP electoral tsunami that swept through the entire south west region, ostensibly orchestrated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The “tsunami” led to the exit of all of the AD governors in Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun states, except Mr Tinubu of Lagos State.
Analysts have opined that Mr Tinubu’s survival of that 2003 “tsunami” conferred on him huge electoral and political capital in the state, as well as the region, a feat that would eventually make him south west’s most influential contemporary politician.
In the build up to the 2007 general elections, following protracted disagreements among chieftains of the AD and Yoruba politico-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr Tinubu emerged as a strong force in the Action Congress (AC). In Lagos, through the political permutation of Mr Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing, emerged the guber candidate of the party and won the 2007 election, beating his closest rival Musiliu Obanikoro of the PDP. In 2011, Mr Fashola won re-election under what was now known as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
In 2015, after an alliance of the dominant opposition parties birthed the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Ambode emerged the flagbearer of the party and won the governorship election in the state. He defeated PDP candidate Jimi Agbaje in the tensed and divisive election. Mr Ambode’s re-election plan was however scuttled in 2018 by aggrieved party members and “leaders”, who ensured he never picked the governorship ticket of the party.
In the party primaries conducted last year, Mr Sanwo-Olu emerged candidate of the party with an overwhelming support from members of the APC from different parts of the state. He is contesting against Mr Agbaje, who is taking a shot at the seat for the third time. Mr Agbaje contested first on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, in 2007 and later in 2015 as candidate of the PDP.
Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, is strategic for a number of reasons. First, being a former seat of power, it is considered a cosmopolitan city with diverse people from different parts of the country. Hence, its politics, economy and leadership options generate attention and debates among diverse people from different parts of the country
Saturday’s election would be defined by issues that revolve around governance, infrastructure, tribal politics and serious issues of the economy.
PREMIUM TIMES observes that in discussions surrounding the election across social media in the last few weeks, issues of governance, infrastructure and others related to development have taken the backseat. Rather, particularly since the last presidential election, tribal and divisive rhetoric has dominated the numerous fora where politics and governance of the state ahead of Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly election are tabled for discussion.
Economy and Internally Generated Revenue
With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) currently standing at $136 billion, Lagos economy is considered strategic in Nigeria and indeed, sub-Saharan Africa. The state is said to contribute over ten percent of Nigeria’s overall GDP. The economy is expected to record four per cent growth in 2019 while the national economy will grow by 2.8 per cent, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted in 2018.
In February, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode presented a budget of N852.13 billion to the Lagos State House of Assembly. The 2019 budget is lower than that of last year, put at N1.046 trillion, ostensibly due to poor performance. Yet, the budget remains one of the most ambitious budgetary propositions among Nigerian states, signaling the strategic position Lagos occupies in the Nigerian economy.
Mr Ambode said projected total revenue for year 2019 was ₦775.231 billion, of which ₦606.291 billion would be generated internally.
According to him, a total of ₦168.940 billion is expected from the federal government transfers while a total of ₦77.086 billion will be sourced through deficit financing within the state’s medium term expenditure framework.
In May 2018, the Lagos State Government said it now generates an average of N34 billion monthly, unlike what it generated in the past. The monthly revenue averages were put at N22 billion, N24 billion and N30 billion in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
The government however said it has a projection to generate an average of N50 monthly in 2019. It is expected that Lagosians would throw their support behind the party and candidates that would ensure effective utilisation of the revenues.
With its seaports and Nigeria’s busiest and most important airports, Lagos state is at the focal point of Nigeria’s growth. It also houses the headquarters and strategic infrastructural edifices of most banks, oil multinationals, telecommunication firms and other financial institutions in the country, with a loud ambition to run a 24-hour economy.
In terms of infrastructure, which drives the economy, some analysts opine that the state is not doing badly. Others however argue that with its revenue and growth potential, the state is largely being under-served. This is often compounded by allegations of opacity that surround issues of governance in the state, with procurement details often hidden from the public.
Meanwhile, both candidates of the APC and PDP have at different fora promised to operate a transparent government, in a bid to make governance inclusive and people-oriented.
The parties as they Stand
Ahead of the election on Saturday, the APC is banking on its record in office in the last twenty years, which its members often refer to as “Lagos’ unbroken chain of development”. The state chapter of the PDP, which has remained in the opposition in the last twenty years, is calling for a paradigm shift in the handling of the affairs of the state.
PREMIUM TIMES observes that results of the last presidential and National Assembly election in the state would play a major role in the governorship election. In the last election, although the APC won the state in the presidential and cleared all the senatorial seats, results showed that it performed below the expectations of party leaders and independent analysts. The PDP however had a pretty surprising outing.
The result showed that President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) won the presidential election with a margin of 132,810 votes. Mr Buhari who won in 15 of the 20 local government areas in the state with an overall vote of 580,825 defeated Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who won the remaining five local government areas and came second by polling 448,015.
The total accredited voters for the state was 1,196,490 while the total valid votes stood at 1,089,567. The rejected votes were 67,023 while the total valid votes were 1,156,590, according to official figures announced by INEC.
Earlier, Mr Tinubu had promised to deliver an overwhelming chunk of Lagos votes to Mr Buhari. But with the result, plus the changing dynamics of electioneering since it was announced, analysts opine that the APC would need to re-strategise and work more on its strengthen to win the governorship position in a state it has governed for 20 years since 1999.
#OtogeLagos and ethnic bickering
One factor analysts suggested might also dictate the pendulum of the election is the emergence of #OtogeLagos, an anti-Tinubu campaign that has taken a deeply ethnic dimension on social media since its birth. The campaign was ostensibly launched by a group following the success of the #Otoge movement that swept Bukola Saraki off the political shore in Kwara State in the last election. It is also suggested that it was heightened by the numerous allegations of voters’ repression witnessed in some parts of Lagos dominated by non-Yorubas in the last election, including Okota and parts of Ajeromi-Ifelodun.
Sketchy details would later emerge that the campaign was linked to Mr Agbaje’s political handlers.
The most controversial aspect of the campaign emerged following allegations that it was being sponsored and supported by people from a particular section of Nigeria residents in Lagos. It once again threw up the never-ending Yoruba-Igbo spat on the internet. Across social media, especially on Twitter, the campaign took a clearly divisive and ethnic dimension with its supporters and traducers showing their support for and against the PDP and APC, respectively.
It is pretty unlikely that the campaign would help Mr Agbaje gain more followers among some residents of the state, given its deeply emotional and ethnic implications. It, however, has helped the party galvanize support among certain groups in the state. It remains to be seen how far that will take the PDP candidate on Saturday.
The candidates’ charisma too would go a long way in swaying voters’ decisions. The two leadng candidates, as well as others with significant following, have their strengths and weaknesses.
APC’s Mr Sanwo-Olu, seen as cool-headed and focused, is reputed to have run a very vibrant campaign, touching the nooks and crannies of the state. He is also banking on his wealth of experience both in the private and public sectors. Having served in various positions in successive governments in the state, the APC guber candidate claims to be well equipped with the know-how of governance and public administration.
Factors that would work for him are said to be legion, but the most significant among them is the strong political support he has behind him. The politics that surrounded his emergence as APC flagbearer showed that he is the favourite candidate of Lagos most influential politician, Mr Tinubu, and the very influential Lagos APC political movement, Mandate Group, led by James Odumbaku.
Similarly, Mr Sanwo-Olu, by implication, has the support of a huge number of APC card-carrying members in the state, including incumbent governor Ambode. Hence, he is also said to have a combination of grassroots support, the “incumbency factor” and “federal might” working for him in the election.
Among other bigwigs working for him apart from Messrs Tinubu and Ambode are Mr Fashola, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, among other powerful party chieftains.
However, Mr Sanwo-Olu’s greatest strength in Saturday’s election may turn out to be his greatest albatross. In the buildup to the election, Mr Sanwo-Olu has had to shake off claims of godfatherism and the influence godfathers would wield in keeping him at bay if elected. The role played by Lagos APC “cabal” in the manner of his emergence as APC candidate did not also help matter. It remains to be seen how he hopes to navigate his ways around the issue on Saturday.
Mr Agbaje of the PDP is reputed to be urbane, cosmopolitan and well read. Unlike Mr Sanwo-Olu, he has no serious baggage of “godfatherism” to shoulder as he is largely seen as being independent of party influencers, including PDP bigwig Bode George. Some of Mr Agbaje’s supporters have also appealed to pity, urging voters to support him since he is contesting for the third time since he started over a decade ago.
The PDP candidate is said to be enjoying the sympathy of a substantial population of the Igbos in Lagos and, as in 2015, they have at different times thrown their support for him. But this, quite expectedly, has pitched him against some Yoruba voters following the ethnic dimension the electioneering took after the presidential election in the state, especially across social media platforms.
Mr Agbaje’s weakness may lie in the perceived weakness of the PDP in Lagos State. He has carried on largely by appealing to non-partisan voters because unlike the APC, the PDP does not boast of any such huge number of devoted party supporters in grassroots Lagos. This development, analysts opined, may be due to the fall of the party in 2015 and the financial challenges associated with funding campaign in the opposition. Besides, the PDP has witnessed major defection of some of its influential figures in the state since the last general elections, the biggest being the defection of Musiliu Obanikoro, a former minister, who joined the APC.
Although the fight is considered a straight fight between APC and PDP, Babatunde Gbadamosi, candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) is equally expected to put up a fine showing. Mr Gbadamosi’s popularity soared in the run-up to the election when he was tipped by many as the best performer in the governorship debate organized in the state.
Mr Gbadamosi, who was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before defecting to the ADP, received rave reviews for his performance in the debate, which was organised by The Platform, a civic discussion initiative of the Covenant Christian Centre. His greatest albatross, however, is that he is representing a party with little or no clout in major areas of Lagos, a factor analysts believe may see the candidate perform not quite well in the election.