Jimi Agbaje’s Ethnically-Coloured Political Campaign, Oba Of Lagos’s Alleged Verbal Threat On Igbos Residing In Lagos, And Akinwumi Ambode’s Resounding Victory At The 2015 Lagos State Governorship Election
On Easter Sunday 5th April, 2015, the traditional ruler of Lagos State Oba Rilwan Akiolu (who was once an Assistant Inspector-General of Police and is till date a veteran politician) was said to have verbally threatened a group of prominent Igbo leaders residing in Lagos State, Nigeria that any Igbo man that does not vote for the All Progressive Congress Party's governorship candidate for Lagos State Mr Akinwumi Ambode will perish in the Lagos Lagoon .
The statement immediately caused a lot of uproar (though not of the violent type) among the Lagos State Igbo residents with many declaring the statement as a hate speech while almost all others openly stated that they will deliberately vote against the king's candidate Mr Akinwumi Ambode (who is an accountant with nearly 30 years of working experience in both the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy) not because they have anything against him (Ambode) but just to “punish” the king for his ethnically-coloured statement.
But what many Lagos Igbo residents were not aware of (or pretended not to be aware of) was that the alleged ethnically-coloured statement of Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos was actually his humanly natural response to a series of annoying and infuriating events before the 2015 Nigerian General Elections. Several months before the general elections (specifically in 2014), a certain Igbo billionaire named Andy Uba stated during the failed-from-start Jonathan-solidarity campaign of the thoroughly misnamed political group Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria that “… Igbos will determine who rules Lagos… ” and immediately added that “… Lagos is no man's land …”
Few days after this, the ceremonial (not officially-recognized) leader of the Lagos-based Igbos commonly referred to as Eze Ndi Igbo openly stated with panache at a social function that “…[the Igbos] must produce the next deputy governor of Lagos [State]…” Annoying and taunting as these statements were to the Oba Of Lagos and indeed to all Yorubas in Lagos (especially the real Lagos indigenes in Epe, Ikorodu, Isale Eko, Olofin Isheri, etc), the governorship candidate of People's Democratic Party in Lagos State Mr Jimi Agbaje consciously or unconsciously worsened the situation by openly stating during his own political campaign that ”… I will elevate Eze Ndi Igbo to the status of Oba of Lagos …” and subsequently added during another campaign that “… I will appoint 6 Igbos as commissioners …”
Initially seeing all these as mere political talks, many Yorubas in Lagos refused to be drawn into attaching much importance to these numerous infuriating ethnically-coloured statements and therefore dismissed them as trite and shallow but the elections of 28th March, 2015 changed all that. Details of the results of the 3 elections held on that day (presidential, senatorial and representative) succinctly showed that the APC party had very little votes in areas of Lagos State chiefly domiciled by Igbos (Isolo, Okota, Coker Village, Apapa Ajegunle, Bolade, Mafolukun, FESTAC, etc) and the APC presidential candidate defeated the PDP presidential candidate by only an unexpectedly small margin after the total count of Lagos votes while the APC lost some seats at the Federal House of Representatives not only to the Igbo-backed PDP but actually to Igbo candidates (e.g an Igbo woman Mrs Rita Orji won through the PDP in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government while another Igbo man Mr Tony Nwoolu won through the PDP the Oshodi-Isolo Federal constituency seat) which clearly meant (at least to people who cared) that there was an organized resolve among majority of the Igbos in Lagos State to vote against anyone contesting through the All Progressive Congress Party.
All these perceived perfidious occurrences were still rankling in the chest of the Oba Of Lagos when the prominent Lagos-based Igbos earlier mentioned visited him. He did not mince words and told them point blank that the Igbos were trying to sabotage his efforts on the Lagos State political terrain despite all the economic and social advantages accorded them in the state (e.g many international markets in the state were headed by Igbos and the outgoing Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, S.A.N made an Igbo man his commissioner for budget and planning); he further explained that Lagos State has been in political opposition for 16 long years but now that it was time to be in line with the Federal Government of Nigeria because the APC has won at the federal level, the Igbos were trying to scuttle everything by supporting the Lagos PDP which if it won would make Lagos continue to be in opposition. He then finalised his short and sharp speech with the alleged verbal threat that any Igbo who goes against his wish of making APC win the governorship elections on 11th April, 2015 will perish in Lagos Lagoon.
With the uproar that expectedly followed, many political pundits expressed concern that the alleged threatening statement from the Oba Of Lagos might actually lead to electoral loss for the APC party in Lagos State because it might make Igbos initially supportive of the APC to speedily dump the party and join their Igbo kinsmen to vote against APC.
The pundits in this category were of course proved wrong because the anger of many of the Lagos Igbos at the Oba Of Lagos's alleged threat made many of them openly boast few days to the governorship elections that Igbos will fully throw their weight behind the opponents of APC.
These open boasts were eventually identified by other ethnic groups in Lagos State (i.e the indigenous Yorubas and other settlers like the Hausas, Tapas, Idomas, Igalas, etc) as a planned attempt of the Igbos to install the PDP's Jimi Agbaje as a stooge governor mainly because of his earlier pipe-dream campaign promises of simultaneously appointing 6 Igbos as commissioners in his would-be cabinet, elevation of the aforementioned Eze Ndi Igbo as a traditional ruler of the same official status with the Oba Of Lagos and even the tacit mutual understanding that the PDP's Jimi Agbaje would in his second term in office use an Igbo as his deputy governor.
This means that other ethnic groups in Lagos started seeing PDP's Jimi Agbaje as a pawn about to be used by the Lagos Igbo cabal to usurp the Lagos governorship seat and uplift the Igbo ethnic group at the expense of other ethnic groups.
So it came to pass that on the morning of Saturday 11th April, 2015, many non-Igbo Lagos residents trooped out in large numbers to deliberately vote for APC's Akinwumi Ambode and vote against PDP's Jimi Agbaje because Agbaje had by his own utterances and utterances of other Lagos Igbos exposed himself consciously or unconsciously as a stooge of Lagos Igbos because he seemed to be just too willing to promise the Lagos Igbos anything (including the ridiculous) just to be able to use them to win election.
On that Saturday morning, the alleged verbal threat of the Oba Of Lagos was of importance only to the Lagos Igbos; what mattered to other non-Igbos was to prevent through the ballot box the glaring Igbo-controlled Jimi Agbaje from becoming Lagos governor because of the perception (made worse by the open boasts of many Lagos Igbos) that he would be under the undue control of the Lagos Igbos.
To cut the long story short, APC's Akinwumi Ambode won decisively in 15 local government areas out of the total 20 local government areas in Lagos while PDP's Jimi Agbaje won only in the remaining 5 local government areas and when it became clear that he had once again failed woefully at the Lagos governorship polls (like he did in 2007 under Chief Olu Falae-owned Democratic People's Alliance party and in 2011 under Chief Nwanyawu-owned Labour Party), Mr Jimi Agbaje telephoned Mr Akinwumi Ambode at exactly 6.58pm on Sunday 12th April, 2015 to concede defeat and congratulate Mr Akinwumi Ambode for winning the 2015 Lagos State governorship election.
The prime lesson to be learnt from this episode is that one should never use ethnic favoritism and ethnic bias as the theme of one's political campaign because the favoritism and bias mostly boomerang on the originators. If Agbaje (who was a pharmacist but also a ridiculously novice politician) had led a campaign based on real issues (not ethnically-biased promises of appointing 6 members of a certain ethnic group as commissioners, promising to make a member of the same ethnic group a deputy governor, etc), he would still have lost to APC's Akinwumi Ambode (because the APC party in Lagos State is till date too well-organized to be distracted into being defeated in elections) but he would at least be respectfully remembered as a mature politician that campaigned based on real issues (good water supply, job creation, etc).
It was his immature ethnically-biased political campaign that on the other hand made the Oba Of Lagos got angry to the level of allegedly uttering an ethnically-coloured verbal threat which made many Lagos-based Igbos got angry up to the level of mouthing ethnically-coloured boasts which made other non-Igbo Lagos residents got angry up to the level of taking the ethnically-coloured decision of voting against PDP's Jimi Agbaje because he was clearly seen as a stooge of a particular ethnic group.
The Lagos State 2015 Governorship Election has come and gone and the victor is the accountant Mr Akinwumi Ambode who campaigned based on real issues of improvement in social infrastructure, job creation etc, while the vanquished is the pharmacist Mr Jimi Agbaje whose ethnically-coloured political campaign boomeranged on him and expectedly made him lost woefully. Nothing needs to be further said about the Lagos State 2015 Governorship Election, nothing needs to be further said about the consequences of trying to use ethnic favoritism and ethnic bias to win elections
Engr Rotimi Fabiyi (MNIM, MNSChE, MNSE, COREN Reg),