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!
In a period of three weeks, the political space in Lagos State was charged up. The sound of electoral beat reached a crescendo. It was not the usual cacophonic sound that often characterize political campaigns. It was a well-arranged sound; the type you get in an orchestra!
Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu featured prominently on the lips of political discussants a few weeks to the primary that eventually produced him as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
He dared to challenge Governor 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 political analyses and postulations in those three weeks. In the end, Sanwo-Olu was elected after scoring 970,861 votes to Ambode’s 72,901 votes, representing over 92 pecernt to 8 percent of the total votes cast in a direct primary.
Before now, Sanwo-Olu was Special Adviser and Commissioner at various times in Lagos State, serving under former governors Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Raji Fashola.
He is well known and respected within 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 and trust him. 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 Deputy Governor, Otunba Femi Pedro, and thereafter as Special Adviser to Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu’s political career has remained on an upward trajectory.
His love for Lagos State has earned him an appellation among friends and associates, who tease him with “Eko Jide,” “Sanwo-’Eko.” ‘Eko’ here meaning Lagos.
For Sanwo-Olu, every individual in a collective is very important. His belief in teamwork, 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. Little wonder the entire political circle in the state erupted in wild jubilation when he expressed interest in the governorship race.
Lagos is very complex, given its many political tendencies, caucuses, movements and the highly enlightened electorate. The dominant movements in the 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 underestimated. 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, all the two main political blocs as well as other tendencies, which used to be at one another’s throats over who leads the state, unanimously aligned with Sanwo-Olu’s aspiration. The Mandate Movement was unequivocal about their support and endorsement of Sanwo-Olu and 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.
Sanwo-Olu’s instant acceptance by various blocs remains historic as he is the first since the start of the current republic to have had such rare privilege. Others were always subjected to stiff opposition before being eventually accepted.
As candidate of the APC, Sanwo-Olu has become the bridge, the unifier and a rallying point of all progressive elements in Lagos State.
Perhaps the most appealing word coming from Sanwo-Olu is inclusiveness. His promise to run a government of inclusion 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 his BOS brand 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 has always been lucky to have great individuals run its affairs. Even in the military era, it enjoyed fairly good governance. However, the journey of a new and modern Lagos started in 1999 under Tinubu, who laid the foundation for where the state is in terms of revenue generation, technological, physical and environmental development, before passing the torch to Fashola, who improved on his predecessor’s achievements. Then Ambode.
Sanwo-Olu played a part or two in all these governments, thereby making him well prepared for the job.
“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 Tinubu, the pathfinder and chief architect of the new Lagos that is unfolding before our eyes and to the admiration of all.
“There is Fashola, the actualiser, who built on the foundations laid by Tinubu with passion and competence. There is the incumbent, Ambode, who has done his bit. I am proud to have played key roles in all three administrations,” he said.
As Lagos journeys to February 2019, Sanwo-Olu, no doubt, looks good to carry the day. He is the candidate to beat. He is a square peg in a square hole!
Akosile is a Lagos-based journalist