•2 Hours With JIMI AGBAJE, LAGOS PDP Guber Candidate
If you meet Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the Lagos PDP governorship candidate for the very first time, you are most likely to see him as just an easy going person who takes each day as it comes. The reason is simple. He looks soft. He is soft-spoken. He is urbane. He is clean and stylish in his ways. He doesn’t in any way cut the picture of your typical politician. He is also not forceful or combative in the way he speaks. He is not uncouth. He is not brash. He cuts the picture of a perfect Gentleman. He is very refined too.
That was the picture City People had when we encountered him last Friday at his busy party campaign office, along Ikorodu Road, in Lagos. As we entered, this handsome gentleman, who is blessed, with a towering figure ushered us in and apologised for the long delay in fixing a date for this interview. City People had been on his trail for months. We wanted to know how the campaigns have been. As we settled down to begin the interview, Jimi Agbaje began to regale us with the feedbacks from the campaign field. And for the next 2 hours he was at his best, telling us what was wrong with Lagos, and how he plans to turn things around.
Don’t forget that Jimi Agbaje is a damn good orator. He is a brilliant speaker who can work up a crowd for hours on end without consulting his notes. And when the topic is Lagos Politics, forget it, Jimi Agbaje is always at his best. He knows a lot. He is quite knowledgeable about the ins and outs of Lagos politics.
We found him to be a man who is down to earth, a man who is real, with no airs around him. He is a simple man imbued with a lot of native intelligence. He is also very deep and philosophical. He is a technocrat and a pharmacist. He has put in over 3 decades as a practicing pharmacist. He is a professional who oozes confidence. He likes to take things in their strides. He does not throw punches. He is not combative. And he is very guarded in his utterances. But behind that veneer of a soft person is a tough and highly principled man.
Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje was PDP’s Lagos State Governorship candidate in 2015, but he lost to Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode. He doesn’t believe he lost. He says he was rigged out.
Which schools did he attend? He went to St Gregory’s College Lagos, got a Bachelors degree in Pharmarcy from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). He has also participated in international programmes like Executive Management Program at Wits Business School, Johannesburg, Executive management program at Cape Town Business School in South Africa, and other courses.
Let’s tell you about his upbringing. He was born on March 2, 1957 in Lagos State to late Chief Julius Kosebinu (Banker) and Mrs. Margaret Olabisi (teacher) Agbaje. He is the second born and first male child of 5 children.
He is an Omo Eko proper. He is a scion of the Onilegbade Chieftaincy family of Lagos and Lasuwon family in Ikorodu. He is happily married to Abiola Oluyemisi, a Lawyer and they are blessed with 3 adult children.
In 1982, Jimi Agbaje founded his own company, JAYKAY Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited manufacturer and distributor of pharmaceutical products across Nigeria. And was Managing Director until 2005 when he decide d to venture into Politics. A consummate professional, he was a member of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (1999–2006); National Secretary of the Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacists (NAGPP) from 1987 to 1990; National Chairman NAGPP (1990–1993) and Chairman Pharmaceutical society of Nigeria Lagos State (1994–1997). He was a member, Lagos State Task force on Fake and Adulterated Drugs (1989–1993), National Drug Formulary and Essential Drugs List (1986–1993) and Lagos Hospitals Management Board (1994–1997).Jimi Agbaje also sits on the Board of other organizations including Oakwood Park Ltd, Atlantic Hall Secondary School Epe, Jimi Agbaje Outreach (a project dedicated to helping the less fortunate) and has served as business mentor at Fate Foundation.
He began politics during the Moshood Abiola vs Bashir Tofa presidential election period. He saw the annulment of the June 12 presidential elections as a personal insult and an assault on the Nigerian people. This led to his first entry into activism, working with other Concerned Professionals” such as Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr Ayo Ighodaro, Asue Ighodalo, Billy Lawson, Oby Ezekwesili, Tola Mobolurin and Hassan Odukale. Jimi was in one form of resistance group or the other which ultimately led him to join the socio-political organization, Afenifere where he served as National Treasurer.
Based on his affiliation with Afenifere, Jimi Agbaje joined the Action Congress (AC) – his first political party. 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 turned their backs to 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. Widely believed to have conducted the best campaign in 2007, Agbaje contested in gubernatorial election on the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) platform, but eventually, alongside other major contenders – Musiliu Obanikoro of PDP, Femi Pedro of Labour Party (Nigeria) – lost to Babatunde Raji Fashola of the Action Congress (AC).
He left DPA in 2011 and went on to join the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP following the de-registration of DPA by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). On October 29, 2014, he 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 People’s Democratic Party, PDP for the 2015 Lagos State gubernatorial election, having defeated Musiliu Obanikoro at the primaries. Musiliu Obanikoro is the former Minister of State for Defence who was also a member of the opposition party, People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
In October 2018, Jimi Agbaje secured the PDP ticket to run for the office of the governor of Lagos State. He defeated Adedeji Doherty to secure the ticket. Jimi Agbaje will be running for the third consecutive time for the office of governor of Lagos State.
He spoke to City People Magazine Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE.
The campaigns have not only started, the election is just a few weeks away. How ready are you? How ready is the PDP? What kind of feelers are you getting?
We are ready. We are good to go. As for me, the campaign is going on well, as well as it can under this circumstances. What you have is a situation where we believe that the people are on our side and even the polls we have done show that we are the ones leading, in terms of the polls. The fear is about the election itself, in terms of intimidation, in terms of how INEC will perform, in terms of how the security agencies will behave on Election Day, and our fear also comes from the reaction of the ruling party in Lagos, to even our own campaign; in terms of our bills boards, in terms of our posters. I think there are this tell-tale signs that they are not even going to allow us to breathe. So our posters are being destroyed everywhere possible. They are using the entire political structure, the local government, to intimidate and destroy our bill boards, to remove our posters, or deface them, realizing that our own resources are limited. They have more or less, unlimited resources. I think that is it.
In terms of our message, we believe our message is very strong and it is very clear….
What is this your message?
The message is that Lagos has not done well at all. Lagos has not done well as it should have done. That Lagos deserves better. That is why we have been talking about re-anchoring Lagos. Basically, we are re-anchoring Lagos from the past and we would try to sell the concept of service to the people.
We keep telling people, that there are 2 kinds of politicians. We are talking about politicians who are in power generally. You have politicians that seek Power of Self. You also have politicians that seek Power for Service.
We always used Alhaji; Lateef Jakande as a very good example of a politician that sought power for service.
And you can see what he did in 4 years, in terms of what he did to Education, Health, and Housing. He gave us Water. But in the 20 years that we have had the present people in charge. If we are to tell ourselves the truth, can we say that we are better? Can we say our health is better? We have been going round for example and we’ve noticed that there has been problem with Water. Simple thing like water! We have heard complaints from many local governments. How many Lagosians have water? What I have had to do in all the local governments we’ve gone to, is to ask people about water. Each time I ask them at our Town Hall meetings, not one hand is raised that they have Portable water. Our message is that really Can We Say that Lagos is doing well? Considering the resources that have come to Lagos? Lagos like we say has spent N70 trillion naira in the last 20years. Lagos is the 5th largest economy in Africa. Its economy is bigger than Kenya and Ghana combined. It’s bigger than 11 countries combined. But then, what do we have to show for it? I think that is the message. We are saying the generality of the people are worse off today in terms of their quality of life.
What made you say that?
Because we know what has been going on in that sector. When we say some people Seek Power for Self, and others Seek Power for Service, we are highlighting the fact that a lot of the decisions that have been taken in Lagos had been taken for selfish interest.
Can you substantiate that?
Yes. I can. In the Education sector for example. Today’s economy, today’s world is a knowledge economy. Today’s world is about technology. Everything is technologically driven. So our children should begin to have technology as part of their curriculum. If our children do not begin to have technology as part of their lives from the very beginning, then they will be a failure in that set up.
Let me tell you what happened to a company like Google when they came to Lagos. Google came to Lagos and said to the authorities, look we have an arrangement whereby we are ready to make sure that all schools are hooked on to the internet and that is free from them. But what did we have from the Lagos authorities? They put an obstacle before them, by saying, look you have to get Right Of Way. Can you imagine? Right of Way through a government agency, through using some crony companies owned by those who hold the power (the Political and Economic Power) in Lagos. So, in other words for Google to train the children of Lagos, the majority of the children, through the internet, those who are looking at their vested interests feel like collecting something, and of course Google walked away and went to Uganda and Kenya.
So, we are saying because of that you are depriving our children of having internet from the very beginning.
Let’s still talk about Education. We have said in the last 20 years that they have been in office, only 20% of our children have been able to pass WAEC with 5 credits. This is in a mega city of the 21st century.
Let’s talk about our Transport System. Of all the Mega cities, there are 37 or 38 mega cities, Lagos in the only 1 of 2 that does not have a Mass Transit, Rail System. Why? Again, if you look deep into it, it is because some people have decided that its got to benefit them or else it’s not going to run the way it should run. You don’t set up a Light Rail System for over 10 years if you had done it properly; No private person will set up that thing and will go and borrow money and not get it ready for 10 years.
But because there is this idea of wanting to convert government asset into private asset, it is going in a very slow manner, because the truth is that Government cannot afford it. But because at the end of the day, you want government asset to become private asset eventually then they spring up Problems and Roadblocks. That is one aspect of transportation.
Still on transportation, let’s take the BRT. The Blue Line is owned by vested interests, by the same Oligarchies. Like we say, Lagos is being run by an Oligarchy. It is the same Oligarchy that have Interest in the Blue Line. The Blue Line is not functioning well. It is getting worse by the day. I believe that the present administration in Lagos, did bring in some new buses in some 4 to 5 months, nearly 90 buses. Those buses have not been allowed to ply the roads. They have not been allowed simply because of vested interests, because by the time they ply the road, then those Oligarchies are going to suffer from the Blue Line that is already working. So, the people are the ones suffering. And that is why we are saying that cannot continue of happen. I can go on and on. We are saying No, it can no longer be. There is so much rot in the system.
That is why we put our campaign on a tripod, on 3 legs. We are saying it has to be based on Believability. It has to be based on the Economy and it has to be based on the Future. And Believability addresses those issues like Education, Health, Power. On the issues of Power, we believe that for Lagos we can provide Power.
And we have committed ourselves to improving the power situation by doing a thousand megawatts in the first 18 months to have power for Lagos. And before the end of the 4 years, it will have gone to a minimum of 3,000 megawatts. We believe that with 3,000 to 4,000 megawatts, Lagos can have enough power to make the citizens to at least feel a lot better than they are today, in the sense that the Medium, and Small, enterprises can run their business, (Like the hair dressers, welder, artisans), based on Power Houses can have power. These are some of the things we are looking at in terms of Believability. Believability looks at our quality of life. What is the quality of life?
How well are you living? If you stay in Ikorodu or wherever you stay, you have to spend 3 hours to get to work every day and 3 hours back home. It translates to 2 months in a year that you are on the road. That in itself is a great cost to your health and family. You can imagine. So, what you have had in the last 20years has been incremental development.
Whereas, we are a mega city, where over a million people are migrating into Lagos. You cannot address such problems in an incremental manner you must be growing in leaps and bounds to be able to contain and take care of that growing population.
That means you have to also grow your economy. You have to expand. You have to grow and diversify your economy. That is one thing Lagos has not done because what it has done is to frustrate and stifle many businesses in terms of the Ease of Doing Business. Lagos used to be the Industrial and Commercial hub in the country. It has lost its industrial hub status to our neighbouring states. We have driven industry out, whereas industry has the capacity to employ a lot more number, which we have lost to our neighbouring states. So we have to grow and diversify our economy. In doing that you have to look at the Ease of Doing Business In Lagos, today, the state has the unenviable ranking of being a difficult place to get Construction & Building permit. In terms of getting Construction and Building permit, Lagos State is the worst state in Nigeria. In the sense that it can take you up to a year or 2.
It will take you a year or 2 for you to get Permit to build and to get Title. You see, when you have bought a property and you can’t get title for 2 years, it is what you call Dead Capital, that building is doing nothing for you, whereas if you are able to get your document you can go to the bank, borrow money and go. But if it takes you 2 years, it’s going to cause you problems. In the Ease of Doing Business index, we are number 27 or 28 out of 36 states. A mega City like Lagos must be in the first 3. That means we are open for business. We have not shown that we are open for business. And therefore our economy is not doing as well as it should. We must aim to be the 2nd largest economy in Africa.
But importantly, we must send a clear signal out through the private sector that we believe that they are partners in progress. What is happening in Lagos is that regulatory agencies of government are addressing issues, more from a Revenue Generation Point rather than a Regulatory Point.
So, that first priority is Money, rather than even regulation which they are set up for. That does not make the private sector feel like partners. They are just been bullied just to squeeze them to collect money. That’s why they are all suffering under the yoke of multiple taxes, levies and all. Lagos burdens them with taxes, because less than 50% of those that are able to pay their taxes pay. They are burdened with the remaining 50% who have not paid. What 100% people should pay is what they forcing the less than 50% to pay. That is what is playing out.