Lagos, the economic nerve centre of arguably the West African sub region is the smallest state in Nigeria. Its gross domestic product is $90 billion which makes it bigger than that of Kenya, $66 billion, Ghana, $62 billion and Tanzania, $58.4 billion. It contributes 20% to the country’s GDP and 60% of you take away oil. Whoever sits in the Round House, Alausa should be of great concern to the world because of its strategic importance in the scheme of things.
Nothing much was known about Akinwunmi Ambode until 2013 when it was whispered that he was the anointed of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who has the unofficial title of Governor Emeritus of the state. He beat other experienced politicians to clinch the party ticket in 2014 and metamorphosed from a silent former civil servant to a serious contender for the plum job. His resume is quite intimidating. He spent all his working life in the Lagos State Civil Service rising to the position of a Permanent Secretary at the age of 37 and Accountant-General at 43. He is credited with helping the Tinubu administration come up with creative ways to keep the state running when the Federal Government under the Obasanjo regime withheld some funds due to the state because of the creation of 37 additional Local Council Development Authorities. The increase of the internally generated revenue from 400 million naira to 20 billion naira has his input. His brilliance has been recognized globally and he has been a Fulbright Scholar in addition to attending courses in the United States courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Jimi Agbaje is the quintessential private sector man. He established the popular JK Pharmacy at the tender age of 25 barely four years after getting his pharmacy degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He later became a founding member of the Board of Directors of the hugely successful Guaranty Trust Bank at the age of 33. He teamed up with the likes of Pat Utomi, Olisa Agbakoba et al to form the concerned professionals as a response to the annulment of the June 12 Presidential elections. He was involved with the Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere and was active in the struggle for the restoration of Late Chief M.K.O Abiola’s mandate and the subsequent enthronement of democracy. He was a member of the Action Congress but read the handwriting on the wall by defecting to the Democratic Peoples Party as the Lord of the Manor now resident in Bourdillon threw his weight behind the candidacy of the current incumbent, Babatunde Raji Fashola. He lost that election but was the most charismatic as he articulated a well-crafted campaign. He did the unthinkable by shedding off his progressive toga and teaming up with the conservatives by joining the Peoples Democratic Party and getting the gubernatorial ticket. That ticket was subject to much controversy as he won the primaries with 860 votes when there were only 806 delegates thereby casting a slur on his credibility and integrity as being a beneficiary of a highly corrupt and flawed system.
Ambode has hinged his campaign on the need for continuity. The pertinent question is the continuity of what? What really has Fashola achieved beyond the beautification of the Lagos Island? What has been the impact of his economic policies on the mainland? The motorcycle riders were given crash helmets in the run up to the 2011 elections only for the motorcycles popularly known as okadas to be severely restricted after Fashola got a second term.
There is the menace of the area boys who are an eye sore for a state with a mega city agenda. They harass motorists and itinerant hawkers with all sorts of tickets and other irritating forms of wanton extortion. Why can’t there be any comprehensive rehabilitation plan for these young men so they can be useful to themselves and the society? The toll gate in Lekki-Epe and Ikoyi are a source of great pain to Lagosians. It is alleged that Alpha Beta, a company linked to Tinubu collects the tolls in addition to other taxes in the state. Why should the function of the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service be hijacked by a private firm? The deportation of some of the Igbos who were branded as mendicants leaves a sour taste in the mouth and questions the cosmopolitan nature of the city and the level of tolerance inherent therein. There is the stranglehold of Asiwaju Tinubu popularly called Jagaban in the affairs of the state which runs contrary to the tenets of democracy and popular participation. Never in the history of the state has one man been so powerful as to dictate its affairs in a manner worse than a sole administrator. The continuation of the old order is Ambode personified.
Agbaje is backed by Bode George whose administration as the Military Governor of the Old Ondo State under Babangida raised grey areas with regards to public accountability. He was jailed briefly for corruption after his tenure as Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. The short time spent behind bars raises a lot of dust as to the credibility of our judiciary. He has proven himself to be a bad loser as he declared he would go on exile if Buhari won. One is not amazed at the funny results that emerged in the primaries that threw Agbaje up as the winner. Agbaje fondly known as JK made a gaffe in London when he said that the south-south will collapse the nation’s economy if Jonathan lost the elections. The bitter truth is that the effect of oil on the global economy is dwindling by the day. Oil is being discovered in many African countries and the demand of our oil is diminishing as time rolls by. This is the time for creativity and innovation on the part of our leaders and not statements that be smirk of indolence and lack of innovation. We have left the era of dependence on natural resources and have moved into that of human capital development and resourcefulness through inward looking. How can Agbaje expect Lagos to be continuously reliant on oil? Did Singapore experience the great leap from a third world to a first world nation on the basis of any identifiable natural resources?
The bitter truth is that the difference between Agbaje and Ambode is akin to the discrepancy between six and half a dozen. It is our cross as Lagosians – indigenes or settlers to make this Hobson’s choice.