Jimi Agbaje: A Perennial Challenger Comes to Town

Whenever Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje (popularly known as Jimi Agbaje or JK) emerges from his cocoon one or two years to the next elections, observers understand that he is up for a game he has played so well in the last 20 years. Anyone with gubernatorial aspirations in a major opposition party in Lagos has a reason to be jittery as JK, like a roadside magician will make one or two moves and the ticket will simply land in his hands.

Now Jimi Agbaje is in his best elements, slamming the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, over low performance since his assumption of office in 2019, while also describing his claimed achievements as imaginary.

Governor Sanwo-Olu had at a press conference held at the State House, Marina, on 24 May 2021, reeled out his scorecard of stewardship, maintaining that his administration has not disappointed Lagosians in delivering on its promises.

Sanwo-Olu said his administration since 2019 has lived up to expectation in various sectors such as transportation, infrastructural development, education, health, revenue generation, and security.

Jimi Agbaje, who spoke recently to Peoples Gazette and in disagreement to these claims rated Mr Sanwo-Olu three over ten: “What they wrote, they did not substantiate it. They were things done in their imagination.”

Regarding the fight against COVID-19 in the state, Agbaje believes the state government has not done enough to fight the scourge:

“You are not testing; you are not giving vaccination to people. Those that have collected the first round of the vaccination are yet to get the second round of it; and how many people have been vaccinated in Lagos?”

He criticised the rising rate of theft, robbery and other crimes in most parts of the state and asserted that “even in security, we cannot drive during the day without being harassed in traffic by hoodlums. They are operating morning, day and night. You introduced curfew from 12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. What about during the daytime? Phones are being snatched. So what are they doing about all these?”

He accused the government of lacking transparency due to its refusal to make budget spending public.

In 1982, Jimi Agbaje founded his own company, JAYKAY Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited and was Managing Director until 2005 when he decided to venture into politics.

For about 16 years, Jimi Agbaje has always emerged as the gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State under different political platforms.

Political analysts posit that whenever Agbaje loses an election, he disappears for more than two years only to start his mudslinging of the party and government in power as preambles to having his name on the next ballot.

While others are involved in building the party and playing the expected role of opposition, Agbaje stays latent, facing his personal Pharmaceutical and Chemical business only till another election time.

In the same vein, Jimi Agbaje, in the 2015 PDP primaries, defeated four contestants (Musiliu Obanikoro, Tokunbo Kamson, Deji Doherty, and Babatunde Gbadamosi) to emerge as the party gubernatorial candidate.

Some pundits believe that Jimi Agbaje’s pedigree speaks volume since he joined his first political party, Action Congress (AC).

In 2007, Agbaje, who had initially aspired to contest for the Governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Action Congress (AC), left the party to join the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA).

He was among the 11 aspirants that rejected the Action Congress (AC) when it was alleged that Governor Bola Tinubu had already anointed someone else to succeed him even before the party primaries.

Agbaje was reportedly believed to have conducted the best campaign in 2007 when he contested under the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) platform, alongside other major contenders like Musiliu Obanikoro of PDP, and Femi Pedro of Labour Party (Nigeria). They, however, lost to Babatunde Raji Fashola of the Action Congress (AC).

Agbaje left DPA in 2011 and went on to join the PDP following the de-registration of the former by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

On 29 October 2014, Agbaje officially indicated his interest in giving the Lagos State gubernatorial elections another shot by picking up the PDP nomination form.

On 8 December 2014, he emerged as the candidate of the PDP for the 2015 Lagos State gubernatorial election, having defeated Musiliu Obanikoro in the party’s primary.

Read Also: Gov. Sanwo-Olu Endorses Lagos Rebuilding Order

Agbaje had also debunked allegations that he was a mole of the All Progressive Congress (APC) during the polls in 2019:

“There were many things said. I was accused of being the opposition’s mole in the party, saying that it was Bola Tinubu that was sponsoring me.

“All those allegations were their own figment of imaginations because Tinubu that they are talking about, I am yet to meet him in the past six years. So where is that coming from?

“Also, it was said that I am the one supplying drugs to all the state hospitals in Lagos. If anybody says I am a government contractor, such a person should produce proof.

“People can be accused of anything, and that is what politics is all about. I have said it, I am not a government contractor, either state or federal.”

According to Agbaje, his Free Lagos campaign is a campaign that Lagos can be better with another viable alternative.

In October 2018, Jimi Agbaje secured the PDP’s ticket to run for the office of the governor of Lagos State after he defeated Adedeji Doherty. Jimi Agbaje, however, lost to Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC, in the Lagos State gubernatorial election on 9 March 2019.

Evidence abounds that Jimi Agbaje’s political history has been built on the landmark of transiting from one party to another until he pitched his tent with the PDP and became its consistent gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos State.

It is trite to deduce that in a developed democracy, those aspiring for positions must remain visible and make contributions long before and during election times.
The question that is begging for an answer is why Jim Agbaje would lose elections then disappear from the political turf pending when another election year draws near when he will emerge and stakeholders still hand him the ticket.

While every political party in Nigeria should have a good number of quality leaders, the opposition party, PDP in Lagos continues to envision Jimi Agbaje as the ‘saviour’ of the party by electing him as its flag bearer.

Some analysts, nevertheless, believe that Jimi Agbaje’s continuous emergence as the PDP gubernatorial aspirant is not hinged on the negative impact of clinging to power or a culture of politics of perpetuity. This is against the backdrop that he has always defeated other contestants in a free and fair primary election.

It is believed that Jimi Agbaje has always escaped the ensnare of “godfatherism” who decide the political fate of other aspirants. No contestant has ever used the subject of his appearance and disappearance before and after elections as a negative index or campaign issue to deter him from winning the party primaries in all those years. Will Agbaje extend his luck again this time?

Some commentators reason that the growth of any political party depends on the internal structures of the party, guarded by its constitution and manifesto. What the leadership of any serious party needs to do is plan and rethink ways to appeal to the electorate.

If Jimi Agbaje continues to enjoy the full support of his party, he will always emerge as the choice for the Lagos State gubernatorial ticket.

Categories: Features, Politics

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