By Eric Elezuo
If the number of times one expresses desire for a particular thing is anything to go by, then the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the governorship election in Lagos State, Mr. Olujimi Kolawale Agbaje, will sure win the 2019 Lagos governorship election, having contested and failed in two previous editions (2007 and 2015). But wishes are not horses, and so Agbaje has to work even harder.
In another angle, if we consider that the likes of American Abraham Lincoln and even our own President Muhammadu Buhari had to go through turbulent electoral periods before hitting the presidential bull’s eye, then there is hope for the man popularly known as JK.
With a campaign slogan rooted in ‘freedom, democracy, Lagos’, Jimi Agbaje seems to have finally found an inroad as against his 2015 slogan which was simply titled ‘Jay Kay is Okay’. That outlook did not in anyway suggests serious electoral inclination, and much as public opinion said he was the preferred candidate, he still lost.
Stakeholders believe the the 2015 election happens to be the closest he had ever come, and if he could lose it, it may be impossible for him to come that close again, or even win the Lagos governorship election. Put succintly, Agbaje’s slogan is a suggestion that Lagos is in bondage.
In the camp of the PDP, they believe hinging his campaign on the fact that former Governor and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has single-handledly ran Lagos for almost 19 years will resonate among the swing voters who form the silent majority.
But whether Jimi Agbaje has the pedigree or not to win the governorship, it must be noted that lines somehow are falling for him in pleasant places. In the first place, he deemed it necessary to chose a true born of Lagos State as his running mate, Mrs. Haleemat Oluwayemisi Busari. Fifty five years old Mrs Busari is a lawyer, and hails from Epe in Lagos East Senatorial District of the state.
The choice of a female running mate is very strategic according to.sources. Epe has been a good hunting ground for the PDP in years past and the calculation is that disenchantment at the way their son, Governor Ambode was treated may just return Epe to the PDP column.
Again for the first time in a long time, Lagos has not had a two men on a top ticket as the APC has done in this election circle and so the PDP are banking on playing the gender card with their Deputy Gubernatorial candidate.
Again, Agbaje’s campaign has been boosted by the defection of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s former Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Olawale Oluwo.
The former commissioner alleged that the manner APC handled the last governorship primaries where Ambode was shortchanged formed the reason behind his dumping the party
In separate statements, the PDP and Agbaje said the decision of the commissioner to resign his position and his membership of the All Progressives Congress was due to the failure of the ruling party.
In a statement titled, ‘Babylon is Falling’, Agbaje said the APC would continue to fail and crumble.
He said, “Babylon is falling! APC is crumbling. The commissioner has displayed uncommon courage by the decision. He is a good example for others to follow as this empire begins to fall to pieces.
“I am gladdened by the news of my brother’s defection to the PDP. Indeed, it is a welcome development which must be lauded and applauded by all lovers of freedom and democracy. By this singular gesture, Oluwo has counted himself worthy as a man of integrity.
“I look forward to teaming up with him to liberate our dear state from the shackles of bad governance and corruption.”
Agbaje further urged all stakeholders in the state to join him in the task of liberating the state from the stranglehold of predatory vested interests who had in the last 19 years held the state to ransom.
“I am using this opportunity to call on all stakeholders in the state, particularly my brothers and sisters in the APC to toe the path of honour, and join us to rescue our state from the vice grips of a vested cabal that has arrested its development in the last 20 years,” he said.
Just like Buhari at the very last attempt at the age of 72 finally grabbed the presidency, this may be the time of Jimi Agbaje, who is 61.
Nobody knows where he gets his confidence from but Agbaje said he has never been as certain of victory as he is now, pledging to ‘restore the lost glory of Lagos and deliver it from the hold of one man’, describing the 2019 poll as a watershed already.
Agbaje’s promise to also grant the local governments autonomy to administer their budgets and allocations and manage their funds to enable them build drainage system, markets, and primary healthcare so the citizens could feel the impact of government at the grassroots could be another strong pivot of his campaign strategy.
This is because of the alleged emasculation of the local government leading to its inability to carry out projects of certain amount and magnitude in many states across Nigeria.
According to him “We also intend to fully liberate the local governments to mind their own business. Today we have a situation where, in order to continue unbridled corruption and mismanagement, the ruling clique deliberately emasculated the local governments to make them lack the wherewithal to tackle their primary functions constitutionally placed within their purview,” he said.
He is also quoted as saying “This election is not just another popularity contest; rather, it is a clear choice between two ideologies: one that enslaves and puts the interest of one man over many or another that, at its core, seeks to meet the yearnings of the greater good of the people of Lagos.”
Agbaje was born in Lagos on March 2, 1957 to late Chief Julius Kosebinu Agbaja, a Banker, and his teacher-wife, Mrs. Margaret Olabisi Agbaje. He is the second born and first male child of five children (two female and two male siblings) including Segun Agbaje, CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank. He attended two of the best schools in the country for his secondary and university education, that is Saint Gregory’s College and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife respectively.
A pharmacist by training, Agbaje in 1982, founded his own company, JAYKAY Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited and was Managing Director until 2005 when he decided to venture into politics.
Not giving anything to chance in his chosen profession, he was a member of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (1999–2006); National Secretary of the Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacists (NAGPP) from 1987 to 1990; National Chairman NAGPP (1990–1993) and Chairman Pharmaceutical society of Nigeria Lagos State (1994–1997).
He was a member, Lagos State Task force on Fake and Adulterated Drugs (1989–1993), National Drug Formulary and Essential Drugs List (1986–1993) and Lagos Hospitals Management Board (1994–1997).
The guber hopeful also sits on the Board of other organizations including Oakwood Park Ltd, Atlantic Hall Secondary School Epe, Jimi Agbaje Outreach (a project dedicated to helping the less fortunate) and has served as business mentor at Fate Foundation.
Based on his affiliation with Afenifere, Jimi Agbaje joined the Action Congress (AC) – his first political party. In 2007, Agbaje who had initially aspired to contest for the Governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) left the party to join the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA. He was among the 11 aspirants that turned their back on the Action Congress (AC) when it was alleged that Governor Bola Tinubu had already anointed someone else to succeed him even before the party primaries.
Widely believed to have conducted the best campaign in 2007, Agbaje contested the gubernatorial election on the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) platform, but eventually, alongside other major contenders – Musiliu Obanikoro of PDP, Femi Pedro of Labour Party, lost to Babatunde Raji Fashola of the Action Congress (AC).
He left DPA in 2011 and joined the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) following the de-registration of DPA by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). On October 29, 2014, he officially indicated his interest in giving the Lagos State gubernatorial elections another shot by picking up the PDP nomination form.
On 8 December 2014, it was reported that he emerged as the candidate of the PDP for the 2015 Lagos State gubernatorial election, having defeated a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, in the primary.
In October 2018, Jimi Agbaje secured the PDP’s ticket to run for the office of the governor of Lagos state again. This time he defeated Adedeji Doherty to secure the ticket.
He is married to a lawyer, Abiola Agbaje (née Bankole), and both are blessed with three children; two boys and a girl.
March 2, 2019, which incidentally is his birthday, when the election will be held, will determine if Jimi Agbaje can shock the status quo, swim against the tide to win the governorship election in Lagos State.