BY Ibidapo Balogun
Perennial Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Jimi Agbaje has apparently come to the bottom of his bag of cheap political tricks. Unable to mount a campaign of issues, he has mastered the dark craft of innuendo and myth-making. This time round, he has concocted some mythical figure in whom he has invested superhuman political powers. Agbaje claims this imaginary mythical figure controls all that happens in Lagos, from every decision made in the largest corporate office in the highest skyscraper to what price the tomato vendor charges at the local street market. If you stub your toe going to the bathroom at night or a kid drops a bowl of porridge, Agbaje attributes such prosaic events to this force of nature which he has conjured.
Jimi, the teller of tales, assumes this flight into the fanciful because there are no issues upon which he can run. Compared to any PDP-ruled state, Lagos has been much better governed over the years by the progressive party the people have elected to lead this state. While states under the PDP banner have stagnated or experienced diminution, Lagos has improved in all aspects of governance and provision of public service. Business flourishes.
Infrastructure has improved. Educational, judicial and health care reforms have made Lagos the most innovative and most copied state in the federation.
Wise fiscal policy and management enabled the Lagos government to increase internally generated revenue while still promoting economic growth and embarking on strategic infrastructural projects. No PDP state comes close to achieving this delicate balance. Lagos is a megacity that has benefitted from successive administration that remained loyal to a benign developmental plan created in 1999. As a consequence, Lagos will soon be one of the world’s few mega cities that also can claim the distinction of being one of the world’s few smart cities. Lagos did not become smart by listening to Agbaje’s casting of myths or by following the PDP’s manual of mis-leadership and misdeed. As Lagos has advanced, PDP states languished under the yoke of economic malfeasance and lost opportunity.
Lagos has accomplished this in an atmosphere of openness unparalleled in few places inside or outside the country. Mindful that Lagos is the nation’s cultural and intellectual center, progressive governance here has catered to freedom of expression and of action, even by political opponents. No one can say the APC or its forerunner parties suppressed anyone from doing or saying what they wanted.
The press has not been burdened by the state government. Any citizen can speak as they wish without fear of reprisal from the state. PDP-oriented business men profit and flourish without interference or intimidation. The cantankerous Bode George who vowed to exit Lagos for good because the people refused to vote for his backward party, quickly slinked back to live in this progressive state. Faced with the choice of living somewhere under the banner of his PDP brethren who would treat him like royalty, even the bilious, purblind George realized life was better lived under the enlightened governance of Lagos than under the unregenerate PDP.
We must remind Agbaje when he says “let my people go” that Lagos in fact merrily let his man and boss, Mr. George, go only to find the man back amongst us. We did not begrudge him. We are Lagos, a progressive and enlightened place that accommodates even those who would try to use our openness and good nature against us. Agbaje, George and that ilk would take undue advantage of our liberality of spirit to destroy the very liberality that makes Lagos a creative engine of human endeavor and that has afforded them so much political space. They would drown the soul of Lagos so that they may lord over the state just as the rest of PDP governors lord over their writs.
Despite his dark intentions, Agbaje has the nerve to try to frighten the people about some mythical political figure that holds the people in thrall. The average Lagosian may face his share of life challenges. Being politically entrapped has never been one of them.
Agbaje’s campaign slogan defeats itself. His posters proclaim “freedom.” Never mind the nebulous quality of the call, his very use of the word shows this slogan to be a con. If Lagos was so “unfree“ and under the thumb of this mythical political character, Agbaje’s posters would never see the light of day. Instead, his posters are pasted all over Lagos even placed where posters are illegal. No one is tearing them down and no booming voice is emanating from angry, billowing clouds demanding that the posters fall.
Jimi cries “let my people go” as if to emulate Moses. This is all dramatic and entertaining much in the way that observing a spoiled child claiming to know more than a wise adult is entertaining. Yet, in final instance, the child must accept discipline and Agbaje must eventually accept the discipline reality imposes. We are left to ask does he really have people, who are they and how are they being held against their desire?
Look, if he wishes to leave Lagos, no one from the APC nor anyone who has any meaningful way to spend their time will try to halt his exodus. Agbaje may go and one would be most curious to see how many of “his people” follow him. We doubt if Bode George will follow except to the foot of Third Mainland Bridge where Bode will stop and bid Agbaje farewell. Agbaje’s exodus convoy promises to be a rather small and rapidly diminishing one.
As the economic magnet of Nigeria and West Africa, Lagos welcomes 8000 thousand newcomers daily. Thus, Agbaje can leave with a clear conscience that no one will miss him. It is not like he ever used his prominent position to actually contribute much to the city. As a Pharmacist, he manufactured not one Aspirin to cure one headache nor did he employ anyone beyond his personal retinue of itinerants, hangers-on and would-be courtiers. He paid no taxes and claims to have made little money. He is the electoral Cicada that appears once every four years, makes a lot of clucking sounds, then recedes into his liar for another quadrennial.
He claims to be a man of the people but is more a man of the wind. He is but a fragile image that blows as the wind does. There is nothing of substance that bears his name. A great city and state must be designed by compassion yet built of strong stuff. This man made of nothing but gossamer. He is but the image of an image, like seeing something through the mirror of a mirror of a broken piece of glass.
Curious how Agbaje has acquired the sudden temerity to clang about freedom and letting his imaginary people go. Too bad he came about this courage to fight Pharaoh so late in time long after Pharaoh Olusegun no longer lorded over the nation. When his PDP ruled from Abuja, Agbaje made not one bit of noise against the transgressions committed against Lagos. If ever we have witnessed a figure of Pharaohic dimension, that person is former President Obasanjo. As president and pretend Pharaoh, Obasanjo spitefully withheld funds intended for state’s coffers and the people’s development. He took what belonged not to him yet still hectored the Lagos government.
That state government was forced to serve the people without the resources due it. Obasanjo effectively asked Lagos to make bricks without straw. Still, our progressive government did better than its PDP counterparts despite the largesse that Pharaoh Olusegun doled them. Agbaje did not raise his voice against this gross injustice by demanding “let his people and their funds go,” much less try to reverse the cruelty. As a courtier in Pharaoh’s palace, Agbaje giggled at the state’s plight and applauded as Obasanjo tried to place his heel on our financial neck. At that time, Agbaje rejoined in our true fiscal capture and enslavement because he surmised it would help his political career.
His overriding concern was to placate dreaded Pharaoh Olusegun I of Ota. At this telling moment, Agbaje’s sycophancy to Obasanjo and his love of Lagos were weighed in the balance. That which would be found wanting was Agbaje’s love for our state.
When the PDP-led federal government refused to work the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Agbaje did not object to this wrong that compelled continued usage of a stretch of road as dangerous as any. This made travel costly and, at times, lethal. Yet he opened not his mouth against this injustice. Again, he rather pay obeisance to another pharaoh, this time Jonathan I of Otuoke, than fight for the rights of the people of Lagos.
As long as these Pharaohs placed strong hand against Lagos, Agbaje remained mute. Only now has he found his mouth and nerve. He dare talk of fighting pharaoh today only because he knows none now exists. If such a hand did in fact control Lagos, Agbaje who has always bent low as a servitor to great power would be the last to confront that hand. He would more likely stroke, lick it and seek its favor as he did before with Olusegun I and Jonathan I.
Agbaje says that when one person sleeps, Lagos too goes to sleep. Evidently, with the protracted growth Lagos has experienced over the past 20 years, this mythical man of Agbaje’s turbid imagination gets very little sleep. However, Agbaje must have slept through the assaults launched by his own party and its pharaohs against our beloved Lagos.
He did nothing when courage and true love for Lagos should have led him to oppose what his party devised against our state. In being complicit in these offenses, his claims of leadership and newly acquired bravery are fraudulent indeed. He abetted in plans that were purposefully composed to worsen our lives.
The freedom he now cries for is the freedom a betrayer seeks when the machinations he joined fail to achieve their malign end. He is like the envious son caught helping a stranger poison the family well. A compassionate family gives the errant boy clemency in hopes he mends his ways. However, they dare not make him head of the household for he may return to his romance with wrongdoing and cause all to suffer therefrom.
Agbaje, the freedom you seek is not the freedom you need. You should rather liberate yourself from the grand delusion you live. You are not Moses and never will be. But the party to which you belong is the party of Pharaohic ways and injustice that has tried to do much injury to Lagos because of its enlightened and progressive mode of governance. For the people to join you and the PDP is to lead them from their pursuit of a finer destiny and push them squarely into the maw of Pharaoh. Perhaps, you have your histories confused. You seem to be auditioning for the role of Judas goat leading the people to needless misery than that of Moses taking them to a better place.
*Ibidapo is a public affairs analyst and concerned Lagosian