By Gboyega Akosile
In a period of three weeks, the political space in Lagos was charged up. The sound of electoral beat reached a crescendo. It was not the usual cacophonic sound that often characterised political campaigns. It was a well arranged sound; the type you get in an orchestra!
Babajide Sanwo-Olu featured prominently on the lips of political discussants in few weeks to the primary that eventually produced him as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu dared to challenge the incumbent Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode; changed the existing narrative and moved on to rewrite the political script of the progressives with his audacious move. No one has ever challenged and defeated an incumbent Governor of Lagos. In fact, no Governor of Lagos State has ever lost a second term election! Alhaji Lateef Jakande’s second term was truncated by the military junta. But Sanwo-Olu has gone into the history books with his political adventure.
In what many described as political frenzy, the media was awash with stories; political pundits got back to work, bookmakers got busy with various kinds of analyses, permutations and postulations in those three weeks. In the end, Sanwo-Olu was elected after scoring 970,861 votes to Governor Ambode’s 72,901 votes representing over 92% to 8% of the total votes cast in a direct primary held across the State.
Before now, Sanwo-Olu played prominent roles as Special Adviser and Commissioner at various times in Lagos State, serving under former Governors Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). The cool, calm and highly cerebral administrator is well known and respected within the political and corporate circles in the State. He moves along with the party, its development programmes and has been part of every decision making process in the group either as a member of the party or as an administrator in government. They, in turn know him. They trust him too. He has been described as a very loyal party man.
Since 2002 when he left the corporate world to work as Special Adviser (Corporate Matters) to the State’s Deputy Governor, Otunba Femi Pedro and thereafter as Special Adviser to the Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu’s political career has remained on upward trajectory. He has left no one in doubt of a very bright future ahead of him. Sanwo-Olu, a Lagosian of the first order thinks Lagos. In fact, his love for Lagos State has earned him an appellation among close friends and associates, who tease him with ‘Eko’jide, Sanwo-‘Eko’.
You can hardly discuss for five minutes with Sanwo-Olu without him making reference to the development of a state he loves so dearly. His love for Lagos is known to all and sundry.
For Babajide Sanwo-Olu, every individual in a collective is very important. His belief in team work, diligence to duties and loyalty may have contributed to his success as an effective administrator. Jide, as he is fondly called by friends and associates does not discountenance other people’s opinions, especially in matters of development. He believes that every view counts. He’s a good listener, a team player! Little wonder the entire political circle in the state erupted in wild jubilation when he expressed interest in the governorship race of Lagos ahead of the 2019 election.
The Political Class
Lagos is a very complex state, given its many political tendencies, caucuses, movements and the highly enlightened electorate. The dominant movements in the Lagos political circle are the Mandate Group and the Justice Forum. There are some other groups and movements especially the new ‘Abuja boys’ whose influence in the politics of Lagos cannot be under estimated. They have the people, the contact and above all, they have the war chest to fight any political battle in the state. For good reasons, the two main political blocs in the state as well as other tendencies, which used to work at cross purposes during primaries unanimously aligned with Sanwo-olu’s aspiration. The Mandate movement was unequivocal about its support and endorsement of Babajide Sanwo-Olu while the Justice Forum, which was not too loud, made a strong showing with its leaders and foot soldiers giving tremendous support towards Sanwo-Olu’s emergence as candidate of APC for Lagos State.
Sanwo-Olu’s instant acceptance by various blocs within Lagos political circle remains historic as he is the first in our chequered political journey since the start of the current republic to have had such rare privilege. Others were always subjected to stiff opposition before they are eventually accepted by the different groups in the family.
As candidate of the APC, Sanwo-Olu has become the bridge, the unifier and the rallying point of all progressive elements in Lagos State.
Government of Inclusion
Perhaps the most appealing word coming from Sanwo-Olu is inclusiveness. His promise to run an inclusive government has attracted him to a lot of Lagosians. His understanding of party politics – an experience he garnered directly at the feet of masters for over 15 years makes him a lot more attractive to both the local politicians and the business community who believe that Lagosians should take part in the progress of the state. He reaffirmed his commitment to this ideal in his acceptance speech: ‘‘A government has the most basic task of implementing as faithfully as possible the policy platform of the party. You have definitely not elected me as your candidate to become the master of the party. This is why I have said before and reiterate now that if by the grace of God, I am elected governor of Lagos State, I will run an administration that listens and responds to the yearnings of the people. A government that is open and inclusive is my promise to Lagosians.’’
Lagos State has always been lucky to have great individuals run its affairs. Even in the military era, the state enjoyed fairly good governance. However the journey of a new and modern Lagos started in 1999 under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who laid the foundation for where the state is in terms of revenue generation, technological, physical and environmental advancement before passing the torch to Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who consolidated and improved on his predecessor’s achievements. Then the incumbent Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. Babajide Sanwo-Olu played a part or two in all these governments thereby making him well prepared for the job of governor. Acknowledging this, he said, ‘‘There is no doubt that I stand, today, on the shoulders of giants who have been in this position before in this dispensation. There is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the pathfinder and chief architect of the new Lagos that is unfolding before our eyes and to the admiration of all. There is Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the actualizer, who built on the foundations laid by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with passion and competence. There is the incumbent, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who has done his bit. I am proud to have played key roles in all three administrations.’’
As Lagos journeys to February 2019 governorship election, Babajide Olusola Sawo-Olu no doubt looks good to emerge victorious. He is the candidate to beat. He is a square peg in a square hole.
Gboyega Akosile is a Lagos based journalist.