By Prince Meshack Idehen
With a population of over 22 million, Lagos State in Southwest Nigeria is by far the most populous state in Nigeria; the nation’s economic hub and commercial nerve centre. The State has one of the largest economies in Africa with a Gross Domestic Product GDP) of $84 billion comparable with Ghana’s $75 billion, Angola’s $70 billion, and Ethiopia’s $93 billion. It is home to biggest economic players in Nigeria.
Lagos State is also a key culture, education, and transportation hub for Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, the state also has the highest literacy rate in Nigeria. Despite overcrowding, which results in chronic debilitating traffic, Lagos State has the highest Human Development Index in Nigeria and numerous developmental projects. Culturally, Lagos plays host to all ethnic groups in Nigeria, capitalising on its burgeoning economy to do business.
Despite Abuja being the capital of Nigeria, the headquarters of almost all conglomerates and banks in the country are located in the State. It is home to major sea ports, it is home to the Eko Atlantic City being constructed on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. Lagos is home to one of the biggest refineries, Dangote Refinery, that will soon be inaugurated.
From an Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of N600 million in 1999, Lagos now rakes in almost a trillion IGR annually. It is home to the Lekki Free Trade Zone. According to the Master Plan, the free zone will be developed into a new modern city within a city with integration of industries, commerce and business, real estate development, warehousing and logistics, tourism, and entertainment. Lagos has the first elevated rail tracks in Nigeria, the biggest rice mill in Africa and the third largest in the world, among others.
The reason for these feats is that Lagos has been governed since 1999 by visionaries and the same political party on the slogan of continuity. Successive governments learnt on the job. They were mostly insiders. The feat has largely been achieved by following a strictly laid down plan captured in the Lagos State Development Plan (LSDP) which spelt out the blueprint for the state’s development. The plan will terminate by 2025, already a new LSDP that will terminate by 2050 has already been unveiled.
With the above scenarios, the task of governing Lagos is a herculean task. It is not for jokers, it is not for the inexperienced, it is not for those who want to experiment for the first time, as that will create a huge setback. By Saturday, 11 March, 2023, Lagosians will go to the poll again to elect a governor that will pilot the affairs of the State for the next four years.
Who among those contesting the governorship can best be defined as having the magic wand to improve on the development of Lagos and project it to greater heights? Below is an assessment of the three major candidates.
1. Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, aka, Jandor
Born on 25 November, 1977, Jandor is gunning for governorship seat of Lagos under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Since 1999 he is the most unpopular candidate the PDP has ever produced. He came into the scene at a time the PDP in Lagos is largely fragmented and ‘dead.’ He graduated from the Polytechnic Ibadan with an HND and later studied at Modul University, Vienna; the Howard University School of Business, Washington DC, USA; and Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom.
In 2011, he was posted as journalist with the Lagos Television to cover the Lagos Governor’s Office. Former Governor, Babatunde Fashola was governor then. He was a level nine officer in the civil service then. Jandor was catapulted to sudden wealth after he found favour in the sight of Fashola for being a ‘good boy.’ He resigned from Lagos Television and was supplying sound system at any major events that involved Fashola and he became a big player. He later established Core Media, supplying sound systems during major events. His closeness to the then Chairman, Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), Tunde Fowler boosted his income. He later established Core TV, which is now defunct. His leadership at Core TV was charaterised by owing staff salaries until it eventually folded up.
Jandor moved with Fashola and Fowler to Abuja. He was said to have been working with Fowler, supplying diesel and with Fashola. He came back from Abuja as a ‘big boy’ where he was catapulted into the millionaire club. While still in APC, he established the Lagos4Lagos moment and was always antagonizing the the now President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Jandor fought the same system that produced him and later defected to the PDP as he could not realise his ambition in APC. Through the instrumentality of former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he got the governorship slot of the PDP.
Jandor’s aspiration has been punctured by his former boss, Fashola. Many had thought Fashola was working for him underground until he came up to pour sand on his aspiration.
At an event in Lagos, Fashola took a swipe at him subtly by saying: “Some people say they will take the land from us, that is too much. I did the job of Governor for eight years and part of what helped me was that I was chief of staff to the Governor, even that was not enough.
“So just following a Governor being a cameraman (Jandor) and then watching me for eight years then you think you will now be a governor, you are not ready, come to our leadership school, you are not yet ready.
“That is why you will see that they are focusing on the 51 billion naira Lagos State is generating. You did not see the immigrant population that is coming into Lagos every day. The bigger the prosperity, the bigger the problem. Their party don’t see people, they don’t see the problem.”
Jandor has never held any political office, he has never held any public office. He has never aspired to any political office; his first aspiration is to be the governor of Lagos State without prior experience. He is coming into the scene as a neophyte.
With the abysmal performance of the PDP in the last presidential election in Lagos, it is doubtful if Jandor will have a head way in this weekend’s governorship race. Political pundits are of the view PDP in Lagos is dead. As critic, Femi Fani-Kayode puts it, “PDP is as dead as a dodo in Lagos.”
2. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour
Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, popularly known as GRV, Labour Party’s governorship candidate in Lagos is an underdog going into Saturday’s governorship race. Born on 8 March, 1983, Rhodes-Vivour has a bachelor degree in Architecture from University of Nottingham and a master degree in the same field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He later attained a second master degree in Research and Public Policy; from the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Rhodes-Vivour is from a family of lawyers. He is the son of Barrister Olawale and Mrs. Nkechi Rhodes-Vivour. A former justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, is his uncle, while the late Judge Akinwunmi Rhodes-Vivour is his grandfather. He is the great-grandson of Steven Bankole Rhodes; the second ever indigenous judge appointed in Nigeria.
GRV was in the PDP last year and later defected to the Labour Party after failing to clinch the governorship ticket. GRV’s only career before venturing into politics was working with Franklin Ellis Architects when he was in the UK. On returning to Nigeria, he worked with SISA, Cliff Consulting now called Building Partnership CCP and Patrick Wayi.
Rhodes-Vivour contested the Ikeja Local Government Area chairmanship under the KOWA party in 2017 and lost to the APC candidate. In 2019, he contested for the senate seat to represent Lagos West under the PDP and lost to APC’s Senator Adeola ‘Yayi’ Olamilekan Solomon.
GRV has never held any political office, though he has contested twice and lost. But he is capitalising on the goodwill of Peter Obi to think of springing a surprise, even though he has no experience of whatever in governance. Rhodes-Vivour is being buoyed by #EndSARS youths and is seeking to capitalise on Igbo votes in Lagos.
Political pundits are saying that Lagos governorship seat is not for jokers and inexperienced people who want to capitalise on a loophole to catapult themselves to power. The President of Pro-Nigeria Group, Lai Omotola has said the governorship seat of Lagos is not for jokers who knew nothing about governance and the cosmopolitan nature of the state.
He said there was the need to save Lagos from wicked conspiracy theories prepared to attack the giant strides development in the State.
“Presently, young stars that have no history want to take over Lagos. As a major stakeholder with multibillion investment in Lagos, we will not sit idly by. This is not for jokers.
“It is time for Lagosians to be serious and should not take the successes recorded in Lagos for granted. Lagos receives over 150,000 migrants on daily basis. There is a master plan on ground, these people coming know nothing about this. This is not the seat for jokers. These individuals have no brand and Lagos can’t get any value from them,” Omotola said.
Does Rhodes-Vivour have a brand? Can Lagos get value for electing him as governor? What are his antecedents? What major contribution has he made in the development of Lagos? Political analysts are of the view that GRV has no prior experience in governance and that he is a neophyte.
3. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is aspiring for a second term in office after successfully piloting the affairs of Lagos State in the last four years. The 57-year-old governor successfully led Lagos out of the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic even when Lagos was the epicentre. Supervising a team of technocrats and health gurus, the governor was able to lead Lagos out of COVID-19 crisis.
Sanwo-Olu has a BSc in Surveying and an MBA from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the London Business School and the Lagos Business School. He is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) and fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Training and Development (NITAD).
Prior to becoming governor, Sanwo-Olu has experience in the banking and managerial sectors. He has lots of experience in the public sector and was an insider in the formulation of blueprint for the development of Lagos. In 2003, he was appointed a Special Adviser on Corporate Matters to the then deputy governor of Lagos State, Femi Pedro. He was later made the acting Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget until 2007, when he was appointed as the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry by then Governor, Bola Tinubu. After the General Elections of 2007, Sanwo-Olu was appointed Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions by the then Governor, Babatunde Fashola. Sanwo-Olu was made Managing Director/CEO of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) by former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2016.
Some of his notable public sector achievements include the supervision of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) privatization projects. He set up and was the Pioneer Board Chairman of Lagos Security Trust Fund. The LAGBUS System and the Control & Command Centre in Alausa Ikeja were subsequently established under his directives.
Since becoming Governor in 2019, Sanwo-Olu has been working on different development activities, one of which is road construction across major areas in Lagos state. There have been landmark projects inaugurated under his administration. He completed the Pen Cinema Bridge started by Ambode. He completed the Imota Rice Mill, the biggest in Africa. Under him the Lekki Deep Sea Port was completed and unveiled, the Randle Centre for Art and Culture, a masterpiece for Yoruba culture was unveiled. The long-awaited Blue Line Rail Project was finally completed under his administration. Hundreds of roads had been completed and several infrastructure developments are going on simultaneously in Lagos.
In terms of experience, Sanwo-Olu is not learning on the job. He is only trying to consolidate on his numerous achievements in office so far. Political pundits are of the view that he is the most qualified among those vying for the illustrious office and that Lagosians must not make the mistake of electing anyone with no experience in governance.
As Omotola asserted, in Lagos today, government has moved from constructing bridges that carried vehicles and trucks to now constructing elevated tracks for railway, saying there is nowhere in Nigeria this had ever been done.
“No states in Nigeria have been able to achieve these feats. This is Lagos that is home to the biggest refinery in the world, no state has been able to accommodate the biggest petrochemical refineries. There is no state, no matter how large the sea may be, that has a deep-sea port, commissioned, operational,” he said.
In light of the happenings in Lagos, Omotola said the seat of governance must not be left in the hands of dullards, non-starters and people who have no vision of how to reposition the state to greater heights. Lagos must not be left in the hands of inexperienced people.