In a few weeks to come, many eligible voters living in Lagos State will line up in their various polling units to determine with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), who will become the next governor of the state – the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria.
It is not going to be an easy sail since politics is a game of interest. To realise the interest, people need to wear a thinking cap before any political permutations. That is why Igbo people living in Lagos State should eschew sentiment and make sound deductions on whom to support for the protection of their strategic commercial interest in the state.
There is no doubt that among the three gubernatorial candidates in Lagos State that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is the most qualified candidate with the requisite administrative experience. He is a seasoned public administrator with a sterling track record in Lagos state.
A child of destiny, Sanwo-Olu, a distinguished banker, ingenious administrator, and member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, ventured into politics in 2003 when he was appointed Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to Chief Femi Pedro, the then Deputy Governor of Lagos State. His character, originality, dedication, commitment to duties and outstanding achievements within the shortest period of time caught the attention of Governor Bola Tinubu – a seasoned talent hunter with zero tolerance for failure.
When Governor Tinubu made him Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in 2007, after acting as the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Babajide Sanwo-Olu drew a roadmap that boosted commercial activities in the state. The Igbo traders that dominated the state’s commercial ecology became the largest beneficiaries. Noticeable synergy was built between the government and market unions dominated by Igbo merchants.
For his excellent qualities and values, he was later made the Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions to Governor Babatunde Fashola’s government in 2007, and Managing Director/CEO of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2016. In all these appointments, Sanwo-Olu, an Igbo-friendly administrator, left in his trail a footprint for the economic growth and development of the state.
Unfortunately, the 2019 General Elections generated tension, suspicion and mistrust in Lagos state. After the victory of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, there was a rumour that he would be highhanded and vindictive to Igbo people living in Lagos – falsely accused by harbingers of discord for voting against him. Contrary to exception, Governor Sanwo-Olu continued to show love and build bridges with the Igbo people in Lagos.
The achievements of Governor Sanwo-Olu, which added to sprouting the prosperity of Ndi Igbo in Lagos cannot be overemphasised. His accelerated investment at the Lekki Free Trade Zone (the commercial hub of Africa), the 4th Mainland bridge, Lekki Deep Seaport, Lekki International Airport, and the multiple highways he is constructing to make the transportation of goods and services easy are Igbo-friendly investment worthy of note. Added to that, he was proactive in mitigating the effects of Covid-19 on businesses in his state. He introduced tax incentives and reliefs for taxpayers to ensure that the businesses survive. Was that not creative?
As we write, the Lagos State Blue Line rail system he chiefly financed, which is a 27-kilometre rail project that stretches from Marina Lagos Island to Okokomaiko mainland is opened for services. The Igbo traders will be the major beneficiaries since the rail line connects Balogun market in Lagos Island, the Coker building materials market, Mile 2 link to Apapa seaport, Tradefair Market, Alaba International Market, to mention but a few. These multi-billion dollar markets are the commercial heartbeat of the Igbo people living in Lagos State.
It is evident how Sanwo-olu’s intervention during the leadership crisis in Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association (ASPAMDA Market), after a court of competent jurisdiction allegedly ordered the then President of ASPAMDA, Chief Daniel Oforkansi to vacate office after the expiration of his tenure, caused the smooth election that ushered in the market a new leadership headed by Chief James Umeji. No wonder the amalgamation of Igbo Traders under the umbrella of 58 major markets in Lagos state have endorsed Governor Sanwo-Olu for second tenure to strengthen the good relationship they have cultivated with him. Responding to the Igbo traders, Governor Sanwo-Olu allegedly said: “This is another moment for our Government to recognise our Ndigbo brothers and sisters for their commitment to the growth and development of Lagos. Certainly, Ndigbo traders have been part of the good story of Lagos; your entrepreneurial spirit is second to none and the Igbo enterprising spirit has become a case study in Harvard, which is the biggest business school in the world.”
Recently, Governor Sanwo-Olu, through the intervention of Dr. Festus Uchenna, Chairman of G50 Ofuobi Ndigbo, reunited the warring factions of Ohaneze and Ndieze in Lagos State with the primary aim of making the Igbo thoughts finer and Igbo unity stronger. The reconciliation event was epochal.
Be that as it may, Governor Sanwo-Olu should work harder to win many undecided Igbo voters in Lagos. The numerical strength of Igbo people in Lagos State, especially Amuwo Odofin, FESTAC, Ago/Okota, Satellite town, Ijegun, Bucknor to Ajao Estate, Ajegunle, Igando, Ajangbadi, from Lekkibto Ajah, is overwhelming – too large to be ignored, and it is growing steadily. According to the colonial administration document on Non Yoruba Native Immigrants to Lagos, the percentage of Igbo immigrants in 1950 was 47% (25,577 Igbo people) compared to 5% (264 Igbo people) in 1911. The continual growth shows that the Igbo population has grown significantly in Lagos State. These are areas Governor Sanwo-Olu needs to exert more energy to come out with a satisfactory victory.
If truth be told, the schism in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) especially in Lagos State is affecting the chances of its gubernatorial candidate, Olajide Adediran (popularly called Jandor) to win. It was alleged that the power tussle and non-selection of Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour as Jandor’s deputy for the 2023 gubernatorial election led Rhodes-Vivour to decamp and become the gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party (LP). The balkanization and weakening of PDP’s strength in Lagos is a whirlwind that is blowing no good wind to the party. Added to his political nightmare is Governor Nyesom Wike’s open support for Governor Sanwo-Olu’s reelection bid. Wike’s political strength cannot be waved away. It could be visible even to the blind. It is highly likely that an energetic politician likeJandor, who is putting a great challenge to Governor Sanwo-Olu is concerned with the unfortunate development. The sea seems rough for PDP.
To understand the PDP political predicament in Lagos State, in the 2019 Lagos gubernatorial election conducted on 9th March 2019, Sanwo-Olu got 75.65% to win a landslide against Chief Jimi Agbaje of the PDP who got 21.09%. If one limits it to Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, a PDP stronghold, where the Igbo population was above 70%, Sanwo-Olu surprisingly got 23,267 votes against Agbaje who got 13,700 votes. We should remember that the 2019 election was a period Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi were PDP Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, and when PDP was visibly very formidable nationwide. If Governor Sanwo-Olu could weather the storm and win all the Local Government Areas in Lagos in the 2019 gubernatorial election in Lagos State bearing in mind that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was not enthusiastic in supporting him. Simply, it may not be an easy task for Jandor.
On the other hand, many Igbo voters may be drifted by sentiment to vote for Gbadebo Chinedu Rhodes-Vivour considering that his mother and wife are of Igbo descent. No doubt, Rhodes-Vivour has a charming personality and is finely articulated, but in reality, doesn’t seem to have attracted much attention to defeat deep-rooted Sanwo-Olu with amiable political physiognomy. His chances to win could grow if Mr. Peter Obi wins the 2023 presidential election. But, from all indications, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are also waxing stronger in the presidential race. Nobody knows where the pendulum will stop. In all, Sanwo-Olu’s achievements and power of incumbency seem to be counting on him and elbowing other candidates into a major difficulty.
What most Igbo people living in Lagos need to do is to deepen the social contract they have with Governor Sanwo-Olu and demand his government’s greater protection of Igbo businesses and commercial activities, devoid of the government’s high levies and unwarranted attacks of the Area boys on Igbo people’s goods and services.
Igbo people need to demand from the governor further improvement of the welfare of Igbo children, and the employment of more Igbo-educated youths in the Lagos State government.
The rumours of occasional highhandedness and harsh treatment of the Igbo people in Lagos by the government paramilitary agencies are what Governor Sanwo-Olu should tackle to give all residents, irrespective of origin, a sense of Lagosism.
In toto, Igbo people should vote for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of All Progressives Congress – a brilliant leader who is an alumnus of the London Business School and John F. Kennedy School of Government. Igbo people should, like a snail on a thorny path, take a cautious decision that will not relegate them to the background in Lagos State. A stitch in time saves nine.