Once more, Mr. Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed the popularity test at the governorship election held last Saturday in Lagos. WALE ELEGBEDE writes on what next for the pharmacist-turned politician
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the six different attempts to seize the governorship seat of Lagos State have been futile. From 1999 when the party fielded a former minister, Chief Dapo Sarumi against Senator Bola Tinubu till last Saturday, when its candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, ate the humble pie from Mr Jide Sanwoolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it is the same old story of playing second fiddle.
For Agbaje’s supporters, his adoption as the party’s candidate in the past two cycle of elections is deliberate. They believe Agbaje is a son-of-the-soil and household name who has honour and integrity to protect if he becomes governor of the state.
The former treasurer of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, first contested for the Lagos governorship seat in 2007 on the platform of Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), but lost to Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), he, however, ruffled not a few feathers with his distinct campaign strategy.
After overcoming the internal politicking of the PDP primaries, he became the party’s governorship candidate in 2015 with the backing of Chief Olabode George. But he lost the election to the incumbent, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
After moments of a lull and a failed attempt to the lead the opposition party at the national level, Agbaje bounced back to pick the 2019 governorship ticket of the PDP, but not as easy as he got it four years ago.
The outlook of Mr. Jimi Agbaje’s campaign and the vigour with which he pursued his ambition to succeed the incumbent governor in Lagos State, Ambode, presented him as a frontrunner in the race he once ran before in 2007 and 2015.
By all indices, he meant business and didn’t leave any stone unturned to chart a new course for politics and leadership in the Centre of Excellence ahead of the March 9 governorship election.
For many analysts, his source of confidence became a big secret to unravel. He moved around every nooks and cranny of Lagos State, describing the election as a watershed that will ‘restore the lost glory of Lagos and deliver it from the hold of one man’.
Unlike in 2015, when he anchored his campaign slogan on ‘Jay Kay is Okay’, he decided, in 2019, to find an inroad to the hearts of Lagosians with the theme ‘freedom, democracy, Lagos’.
But all said and done, he fell again like a pack of cards and this time, it was a huge crash that stripped him of any sense of bragging rights from the election.
Declaring the results of the 2019 governorship election at the INEC’s state headquarter last Saturday, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, who is also the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), said the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, won the election after polling 739,445 votes from the total valid votes of 997,476.
Agbaje, who is the candidate of the PDP, however polled 206,141 votes to come second in the governorship election held in the 20 local governments of the state on Saturday.
With the victory, Sanwo-Olu defeated Agbaje, who is contesting for the Lagos governorship for a third time, with a margin of 533,304 votes.
The defeated Agbaje conceded defeat and put a call through to congratulate the governor-elect at about 7:10pm on Sunday evening. Recall that in the 2015 governorship election, Agbaje also made similar congratulatory call to Ambode in 2015 minutes after losing the election.
Giving reasons why he lost the election, Agbaje said many of his supporters were intimidated and even threatened with eviction and sack if the PDP won in their areas.
He said: “The strategy of the other side was to make sure that those numbers did not come out to vote and to that extent, it has worked in their favour.”
For many Lagosians, the question is whether Agbaje will still contest again in 2023 for the Lagos governorship race or not. Will he return back to his pharmaceutical business or continue to play his role as the leader of opposition in Lagos politics?
Expectedly, party dynamics will play a crucial role in determining what step Agbaje will take in the days to come, it is, however, instructive that some people are already inferring that the PDP candidate will go into political hibernation and resurface again just before the next round of election.
While his supporters are already giving him a soft landing by equating him to President Muhammadu Buhari, who became president in 2015 after his fourth attempt, Agbaje’s traducers are however quick to dismiss him for another shot on the basis of his age. The pharmacist-turned-politician is 62 and would be 66 years by the next round of elections.
For all it counts, the post mortem of last Saturday’s election will play a key role in what the future looks like for Agbaje. Will he quit the politics? Will he return to the drawing board and stimulate his party in a bigger way? Would he defect to the APC? Is he eyeing national politics or would he still re-contest in the next four years? The answers are surely in the belly of time.
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