IF you don’t know Engr. Ganiyu Abiodun Johnson (GAJ), then you don’t know the man who is the epitome of Chinua Achebe’s “Man of the people.” Come to Oshodi, come to Isolo, come to Ikotun-Ejigbo, come to Okota and his posters are everywhere. Like Big Brother, his face stares at you, burns deeply into your consciousness and stays there in the recesses of your heart and mind, begging for your votes.
Here is the man who as Special Adviser to the Lagos State government was the technical brain behind many a lofty project under Governor Fashola such as the 1.36 km cable bridge linking Lekki and Ikoyi, the Okota-Surulere Bridge, Ago Palace to Festac Road, as well as numerous projects he engineered as Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure under Governor Ambode.
He is dressed in a “coat of many colours,” dressed in Yoruba and dressed like an Igbo chieftain, all in the bid to woo voters across tribal lines within his constituency where Igbos are dominant. He is campaigning to be at the House of Reps on the ticket of APC representing Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency II Lagos State. As a first-timer in politics, he is not doing badly. He is not taking anything for granted. He is pulling all the strings and going from door to door, selling himself as the “Beacon of Hope.”
I was home enjoying my football on Saturday when GAJ arrived. He had come to meet and address the landlords of Dele Orisabiyi Street, all gathered in my compound, waiting for the august visitor who finally showed up with his entourage in a campaign bus plastered with his pictures and party emblem.
For those who don’t know Dele Orisabiyi Street in Okota, this was the street made famous by the unfortunate death of my friend Dimgba Igwe. In his lifetime, Dimgba and I tried our best to influence Lagos State government to come to the rescue of the street. The then governor asked us to do a survey which we did. Ironically, it took Igwe’s death for the government to give the street a facelift for heavyweights like President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the then Governor Babatunde Fashola, the then Osun State governor Rauf Aregbesola and many Nigerian VIPs to come and pay condolence visit.
As the then permanent secretary and later Governor Fashola’s Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure, Ganiyu Johnson was not new to the struggle to tar the road. The landlords did not waste time pouring their minds to GAJ who had come to solicit for their votes in the coming election. They lamented how government had been far from them, how the street still lives in a Stone Age, how every landlord has to contribute not less than a hundred thousand naira annually for street and community development, how electricity is a case of one day on, one day off, how every house provides its own water and infrastructure without government assistance.
Johnson assuaged them saying if he is voted for and APC comes into power in Lagos, there will be a turnaround in the fortunes of Dele Orisabiyi Street. Even though he would be in the House of Reps, he promised to serve as a catalyst for change and development.
“Sanwo Olu and Hamza are my friends,” he said. “We were in cabinet together. So there is a relationship between us. If you vote for him and you vote for me and for Jude in the Lagos House of Assembly, we should be able to transform this constituency. Because, whatever I want, I have direct access to the governor-to-be and his deputy. If I take those issues to him or to the deputy governor, and if I am not around, Jude Idimogu can follow up. Because I won’t be on ground here. It is Jude who would be on ground. If you now put a wrong person there, it’s a problem. Because that wrong person would not have access to the governor. And that is where the lacuna is. Let’s have a winning team. Vote for the party from the top to the bottom, starting from President Buhari to Senator Yayi to myself in the House of Reps, then to Sanwo Olu as governor and to Honourable Jude Idimogu in the State House of Assembly. There is wisdom in voting for a winning team. When you have a winning team, a winning party that is ready to perform, allow that party to do so.”
He continued: “As for the road, honestly, we have been on it for a long time. I know this road very well. There was a time a delegation came to my home in respect of the road. Dr. Suleiman who lives on this street is a childhood friend and he has been putting a lot of pressure on me. The road, honestly, it’s unfortunate. I know we took some measurement and we got approval for it. And we asked CCACC to come and look at it. But unfortunately, in government, towards the end of the year, when there won’t be enough money, the thing would die. Then you have contractors to pay—contractors they didn’t pay, contractors that have worked but haven’t raised their payment certificate. By the time you combine all these together, it’s already more than your budget, your provision. So how do you want to present a new project? I am telling you how government works. That was the challenge. But now, with Sanwo Olu in charge, I can tell you categorically that this street, by the grace of God will be done. For the transformer, as a short-term measure, I will contribute to show that I am with you.”
With Sanwo Olu at the helm, Johnson said: “You will see a turnaround in the system. You will see good governance. You will see continuity. Don’t forget he too is scientifically biased. He is a surveyor-banker. So I expect a turnaround in the landscape of Lagos. I will be a shadow member of that cabinet.”
Before he left, he took time to educate his listeners on how to vote and how to protect their votes from being snatched. He got the assurance of the landlords to mobilize and campaign for him.
He left on a triumphant and a hopeful note: “We will celebrate with that road, with a new transformer and with my victory. Go out there and mobilize people to come and vote. And when you vote, stay and ensure your votes are protected.” All news and all politics are indeed local. This is my account of news at my doorsteps. Before he left, I explored his thoughts on leadership. “A leader is for me somebody who can take control, who has integrity, who can mentor people. Without any doubt, Asiwaju is my leadership role model. He is a fearless leader, a committed leader and is a leader that listens to the people. He doesn’t take decisions on his own. And that is the sign of a good leader. He consults widely. I am in politics to serve my people. I have seen it all, to the glory of God.”