Posted by: Segun Ayobolu in THE NATION
But for the desperate, last minute shifting of the polls earlier scheduled for this month at the behest of Nigeria’s military high command, acting obviously on behalf of an embattled President Goodluck Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), state governorship and House of Assembly elections would have been taking place today across the country including Lagos. The electoral battle in Lagos would have been a two-way affair between Mr Akinwumi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr Olujimi Agbaje of the PDP. Both men are household names in Lagos. Their posters, billboards and other souvenirs dot the landscape of the Centre of Excellence. Their variegated messages dominate both the electronic and now ubiquitous social media. They have a new date of engagement scheduled for March 11th if the electoral magicians do not abort the elections once more.
Jimi Agbaje is not new to the Lagos State governorship race. In 2007, he contested for the position on the platform of the Democratic Parties Alliance (DPA). Despite having run what was widely considered a brilliant and innovative campaign, he emerged a distant third in that election to the incumbent, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). The latter’s widely adjudged two-term brilliant tenure comes to an end this May. Some analysts contend that Jimi Agbaje is contesting on a firmer, surer, more solid platform this time around. Even though, the PDP has never succeeded in supplanting the progressives from power in Lagos since 1999, it is still perceived as a more viable dais for competing effectively in Lagos than Agbaje’s defunct DPA.
Yet, others argue that the PDP platform is indeed Jimi Agbaje’s albatross. Agbaje is often described as a good candidate running on a rotten platform. The PDP has monopolised power at the centre since 1999. In the period, it has controlled the bulk of the country’s resources. Yet, all the country has to show for it is illusory statistical growth without concrete content in terms of their material well-being. Indeed, under the PDP’s watch, Nigeria lies humiliatingly prostrate and subject to mass poverty, hunger, chronic insecurity, monumental corruption, unbearable unemployment, unbelievable impunity and utter ignominy in the comity of nations. Can Agbaje convince the people of Lagos to entrust their fate in the hands of a party with such a deplorable record of performance especially given the undeniably impressive strides the state has taken under the guidance of the progressives in the last 16 years? It is improbable.
It is possible to argue that there is really no big deal about Agbaje jettisoning his professed commitment to structural change in Nigeria throughout his political career only to pitch his tent with a PDP so obviously committed to maintaining Nigeria in her current dysfunctional shape and structure. After all, political vagrancy and promiscuity have become part and parcel of our political culture and no party can self-righteously cast the first stone against the other. In any case, have the Afenifere old guard not assured us all that President Goodluck Jonathan will implement the recommendations of the moribund National Conference if he is re-elected for a second term in office? Of course, this is sheer baloney.
The Jonathan National Conference was an illegal and illegitimate contraption, a sheer waste of time and resources and a wily tactic for an administration running out of options to buy time. If the Jonathan presidency could do nothing concrete with the National Conference report when it had near total dominance of the National Assembly, is it now that it is much more considerably weakened in both chambers that it will get the recommendations of the conference through the national legislature? Anyone who cannot see that Dr Jonathan enjoys the centralized and excessive powers of the Nigerian state and presidency as it currently exists to genuinely desire any meaningful structural change in the country deserves a doctoral degree in political naivety.
But then, the thrust of this piece is to seek to find out in who’s hands – Agbaje or Ambode – it will be safer and wiser to entrust the almost one trillion dollar economy of Lagos State especially at this crucial period of the state’s evolution? A careful examination of the curriculum vitae of the two candidates as gleaned from their respective websites should give us a clue. Let us start with the PDP candidate, Mr Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje. He was born on March 2, 1957, to late Chief Julius Kosebinu, a banker and Mrs Margaret Olabisi Agbaje, a teacher. Agbaje obtained his secondary school education at St Gregory’s College, Lagos, and graduated as a pharmacist from the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). Agbaje’s CV does not tell us what he did between his graduation from Ife and the setting up of his company, JAYKAY Pharmaceutical and chemical company in 1982. However, he was Managing Director of the drug manufacturing and distribution company between 1982 and 2005 when he decided to venture into politics. Again, we have no indication of the net worth of the company or the expansiveness or complexity of its operations under Agbaje’s guidance.
Agbaje served as a Member, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (1999-2006); National Secretary, Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacists (1987-1990); National Chairman, Nigeria Association of General Practice Pharmacists (1987-1990) and Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Branch (1994-1997). Other non-executive public service appointments Agbaje has held include Member, Lagos State Task Force on Fake and Adulterated Drugs (1989-1993); Member, National Drug Formulary and Essential Drugs List (1986-1993); Member, Lagos Hospitals Management Board (1994-1999). In addition to being a Faculty Member of the African Centre of Leadership, Strategy and Development Centre, Agbaje is a Merit Award Winner of the Lagos State Chapter of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Fellow, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and Fellow, West African Post Graduate College of Pharmacists. Agbaje has participated in various international programmes including the Executive Management Programme at the Wits Business School, Johannesburg, Cape Town Business School, South Africa and the World Health Organization training course on good manufacturing practice in the pharmaceutical sector.
Now, what about Mr Akinwunmi Ambode? Born on the 14th of June, 1963, at Epe General Hospital, Epe, Ambode had his primary school education at St Jude’s primary school, Ebute Meta. His father served as a teacher in Lagos State before retiring after 34 years in service. Ambode passed the National Common Entrance Examination in primary five and gained admission into the Federal Government College, Warri. Ambode recorded the second best result in West Africa in the Higher School Certificate Examinations in the Social Sciences in 1981. At the age of 21, Ambode graduated with honours in Accounting from the University of Lagos. He scored a double when he both qualified as a Chartered Accountant and completed his M.Sc degree programme in Accounting from the University of Lagos specialising in Financial Management at the age of 24.
Ambode started his public service career in November 1985 as Accountant Grade 1 at the then Lagos State Waste Disposal Board (now Lagos State Waste Management Authority). Over the next 10 years, Ambode acquired considerable experience serving as Council Treasurer in several Local Government Areas of Lagos State including Alimosho, Shomolu, Mushin, Epe, Badagry and Ajeromi-Ifelodun. In 1988, Ambode earned the award of the United States Fulbright Scholarship for the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program in Boston University, Massachusetts, on Public Leadership with emphasis on Finance and Accounting. In 2000, Ambode was appointed as the youngest ever Auditor-General for Local Government in Lagos State. Thereafter, he was elevated as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance in January 2005 and in February, 2006 he was given the additional responsibility of Accountant General of Lagos State. At the time, he was the youngest Permanent Secretary in the service and only the second person to hold both positions of Permanent Secretary and Accountant General at the same time.
Under Ambode’s leadership, the State Treasury Office (STO), raised the state’s budget performance at an average of 85% annually, ensured payment of civil service staff salaries before the end of each month, launched the e-platform for the payment of monthly staff salaries, ensured prompt payment of gratuity and pension arrears of the State Universal Basic Education Board and Local Government old pensioners. Apart from initiating and sustaining the annual retreat for Heads of Accountants in the Lagos State Public Service as well as Local and International training for staff, Ambode co-organised the first ever National Tax Retreat in association with the Joint Tax Board/Federal Inland Revenue Service in 2005. He was the Chairman of the Technical Committee that produced the Lagos State Economic, Empowerment Development Strategy (LEEDS) document and helped achieve the feat of clearing and publishing arrears of statutory audits of Local Governments in Lagos State from 1995 to 2004 within 12 months. His financial ingenuity has been publicly acknowledged as a key factor that enabled Local Governments in Lagos State survive the illegal seizure of their statutory allocation for over one year by the Obasanjo administration.
Ambode is an Alumnus of Wharton Business School and also attended courses at Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, England, Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland, INSEAD, Singapore and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Boston, Massachussetts, USA. On voluntarily retiring from the Lagos State public service in August 2012, Ambode successfully transited to the private sector by establishing Brandsmiths Consulting Limited, a company that is presently consulting for Federal, State and Local Governments on the transition to the new International Public Service Accounting System and offering other financial advisory services.
These then are the profiles of two illustrious and accomplished sons of Lagos State seeking the consent of Lagosians to pilot the affairs of the state after Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s distinguished tenure. Who has the requisite experience and expertise to build on current achievements and lift Lagos to a new pedestal of excellence in a world characterised by unpredictable financial and economic turmoil? I leave the answer to you, dear reader.