Mr. Jimi Agbaje of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) should be the biggest challenger of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in Lagos, Mr. Babajide Olushola Sanwo-Olu, ahead of the 2019 elections. But you wouldn’t know that from driving round this city of some 20 million people.
I have only seen Agbaje’s campaign posters clustered somewhere in the middle of the third mainland bridge. Right in the middle of the lagoon and nowhere else. Which tells you all you need to know about how Agbaje continues to make himself invisible just when he should be out there in everyone’s face.
Hey, I get it. I totally get it, trust me. The nation’s Electoral Act forbids anyone from campaigning for elective position until 90 days before the vote. Agbaje has made this clear himself in statements and social media posts.
Since the governorship election will hold on March 2, governorship candidates can’t campaign until December 1.
“Let’s be clear, the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) rules guiding this election unequivocally state that campaigning for the 2019 gubernatorial elections shall not begin until the 1st of December, 2018. In their words – not mine – and I quote: “For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party (not just candidates) shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.
“Now if that is the rule, then we have no choice but to abide by it – even if it might sound unpopular to do so. And quite frankly, what precedence would we set if we are not keeping to the rules of competition?” Agbaje asked in October.
But there’s a difference between campaigning for votes and rallying your base. There’s a difference between authorizing that your posters and banners be splashed everywhere and finding a loophole to get your banners and posters out there.
What the APC and Sanwo-Olu have done is exploit the loophole in the electoral act by asking faceless groups and organisations to fund the banners and posters of the man and splash them everywhere. If you ask APC and Sanwo-Olu if they paid for the posters, of course they are going to deny that they did.
What has turned Sanwo-Olu–relatively unknown before the APC governorship primary–into a household name just weeks before the vote, is that he has been quietly galvanizing and working up his base and now they are ready to help him get out the votes in their neighborhoods.
Agbaje and the PDP have done no such thing. The PDP governorship candidate has been aloof; if insouciant. His team issues no press statements, the candidate doesn’t consider visiting market associations, traditional rulers and stakeholder forums a priority, Agbaje has been silent on the issues that concern Lagosians, he hasn’t held an interactive session with the media, he offers no alternative policy proposals worthy of note, and he doesn’t look like the kind of person who cares about whether he wins or loses—at least for the moment.
For a man who is running for the office a third time, Agbaje’s ‘energy level’ has been disappointing.
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