Tick… Tick… Tick… the exit of Governor Babatunde Fashola is imminent. His eight-year stint (two consecutive terms) as governor of Lagos state is gradually winding down and the race to succeed him is fast gathering momentum. Politicians are strategising to get the biggest pie. They are cross carpeting from one party to the other in order to be strategically positioned for the race ahead.
One of those who have sent a shock wave down the spines of other aspirants to the highest office in Lagos is Mr Jimi Agbaje who has crossed over from Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His defection to the PDP has been applauded by many Lagosians who saw it as long overdue.
Many Lagosians believe that Mr Agbaje represents a strong personality who has the intellectual strength and capacity to match and surpass the monumental achievements of the eight-year leadership of Governor Babatunde Fashola.
In the 2007 gubernatorial election in Lagos, Mr Agbaje ran on the relatively weak platform of the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) where he dazzled not a few Lagosians with his unique brand of politics and electioneering. “Although it is always very difficult to trust a politician, it is also difficult to listen to Jimi Agbaje and not come away with the impression that he is such a focused, serious-minded gentleman, who spoke with such deep conviction that seemed to suggest he is sincere,” a columnist in one of the national dailies posited.
In that election of 2007, Jimi Agbaje was defeated by Babatunde Fashola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who scored 828, 484 votes while his opponent in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 389, 088 votes. Coming in the third position was Jimi Agbaje who polled 114, 557. Other aspirants – Owolabi Salis, Uche Omihai (Fresh Party) and Chief Femi Pedro (Labour Party) – had 2,565, 12,719 and 29,836 votes respectively.
Following the announcement of the results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Agbaje alleged that his photograph was not displayed on the ballot paper. According to him, this affected the outcome of the election in favour of Mr Fashola. However, some political analysts and observers believe that one of the strong factors that affected Mr Agbaje’s political fortunes was the weak platform on which he pursued his ambition to become the Lagos state governor in 2007.
Taking His Destiny in His Own Hands
Recently, in order to have a more viable platform to realise his ambition, Jimi Agbaje officially joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in July 2014.
A close confidant of the governorship aspirant told an online medium that Agbaje took the decision after careful deliberations with top members of his campaign team. “We took time to study all the political scenarios and the different political parties to determine which is the best instrument for pursuing his (Agbaje’s) goal of providing Lagos state with first class service,” the confidant said. He added that the gubernatorial aspirant was convinced that the PDP in Lagos had the best level of internal democracy among the major parties likely to be in contention in the state.
“It’s regrettable that 15 years into our current democratic system, so many parties still practise the culture of anointment or imposition of candidates,” the source added. He argued that Agbaje’s political advisers discovered that the PDP was abandoning the idea of imposition of candidates, accusing Bola Tinubu, a major force in the All Progressives Congress (APC) of continuing with his desire to dictate the direction of Nigeria’s major opposition party, including the undemocratic anointment of candidates for elective posts.
Addressing the State Working Committee of the party, Agbaje said he decided to choose the PDP to realise his political ambition based on common and aggregated opinion among his core supporters across the state that the party was the most viable platform interested in bringing about the needed change desired by the Lagos people.
Jimi Agbaje expressed resolve to promote a consensus for what he called a Lagos agenda if given the opportunity to serve the state in 2015. He had already started attending PDP’s meetings at his Ward B, Apapa 1. He charged party faithfuls to always remain united and make the party open and attractive for more people to join in order for them to make more meaningful impact on the party.
Responding, the chairman of Lagos PDP, Captain Tunji Shelle, congratulated Agbaje on his decision to join the party, declaring that PDP was positioned to win the 2015 election and form the next government in Lagos state. Shelle assured Agbaje that the leadership of the party would guarantee a level playing field for all its aspirants in picking who would eventually fly the governorship flag of PDP in Lagos come 2015.
Obstacles on the Way
Mr Agbaje’s quest for a viable platform to realise his ambition as the Lagos state governor is coming under attack from some elements in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Dr Adetokunbo Pearse, a senior lecturer at the University of Lagos and governorship aspirant in Lagos state.
According to Pearse, “It is virtually impossible for somebody to come from another party into a party that he has never been a member of. It is a different thing if he was a member before and then came back, but in Agbaje’s case he has never been a member. In fact, he has been in opposition to us all his political life.”
He continued, “Let me tell you what is going on in the party just to show you that it is virtually impossible for Jimi Agbaje to get the party ticket. Apart from everything I have told you so far, all the other aspirants, six of us: Dr Ade Dosumnu, our flag bearer in 2011; Dr Dominic, Dr Ogundimu, Mr Gbadamosi from Ikorodu, Deji Doherty, and myself, we understand Salis may be running, but he is not in town yet and we haven’t seen him at our meetings. The six of us have been meeting regularly and the governorship candidate for PDP is going to come out of the six of us. I guarantee you, because that is the plan to keep our party united toward the general election so that we will not have an acrimonious and divisive primary – wasteful primary – we don’t want that.
That is why we came together and said whoever emerges from here, the others will support him and he will go to a primary with whoever else. So, if Agbaje wants to run, let him run, let us see how he is now going to run against all six of us with all the delegates shared amongst us. And then if anybody else comes – we understand that Tokunbo Kamson will be coming – let him come. But we are sure that we have an alliance, a coalition that will defeat anybody in the primaries. That is where we stand.”
However, on Monday, December 8, Jimi Agbaje was declared winner of the PDP primary election with a total of 432 votes. He defeated Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, former Minister of State for Defence, who polled 343 votes; Babatunde Gbadamosi who scored 21 votes; Adedeji Doherty who polled 21 votes and Tokunbo Kamson who scored 46 votes.
The Man – Jimi Agbaje
Jimi Agbaje was born in Lagos on March 2, 1957 to late Chief Julius Kosebinu, a banker, and Mrs Margaret Olabisi Agbaje, a teacher. He attended St Mary’s Private School, Lagos & Corona School, Apapa for his primary school education; St Gregory’s College, Obalende for his secondary education before proceeding to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife for his university education.
A scion of the Onilegbale chieftaincy family of Lagos, he trained as a pharmacist, obtaining a Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm) degree in 1978. After a few years as managing pharmacist for a private pharmacy, he formed his own company, Jaykay Pharmacy Ltd in 1984 and opened his first community outlet the same year. Jay kay Pharmacy Ltd has since expanded into a pharmaceutical company involved in the manufacture and distribution of high quality pharmaceuticals across the country.
A consummate professional, he has been a member of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (1999 – 2006). He was national secretary, Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacists (NAGPP) from 1987-1990, national chairman, NAGPP (1990 – 1993) and chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Lagos state (1994 – 1997). Mr Agbaje has served on many committees and boards, representing the pharmaceutical profession. He was a member, Lagos state Task Force on Fake and Adulterated Drugs (1989 – 1993), member Essential Drug Formulary and Essential Drugs List (1986 – 1993), Member Lagos State Hospitals Management Board (1994 – 1997).
Agbaje is equally recognised for his commitment to the principles of good governance. He was actively involved in the “Concerned Professionals” group in the dark Abacha days and served as treasurer as well as secretary of the political committee of the socio-political movement, Afenifere. He is the Lagos coordinator of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and an active member of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG). Jimi Agbaje was awarded the national honour of the Order of The Niger (OON) for his contribution to the pharmaceutical profession and politics in 2011.
He serves on the boards of a number of successful organisations such as Vigeo Holdings Ltd, Oakwood Park Ltd and Premier Music. He is Vice-Chairman Atlantic Hall School, Epe; faculty member, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD); member, Board of Trustees, Yoruba Academy; Trustee, Nigerian Infection Control Association (NICA) and patron, Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON) archdiocese of Lagos.
He is the founder of Jimi Agbaje Outreach, a project dedicated to helping the less fortunate mount the first rung on the ladder of development.
He married Abiola (nee Bankole), a lawyer in 1982, and they have three adult children – two male and one female.