If Sanwo-Olu Wants to ‘Go High’, Words Won’t Be Enough

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The 2019 Elections

As campaigns for governorship elections began last weekend, APC’s candidate Babajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted a goodwill message to his main challenger, Jimi Agbaje:

“To my opponent, dear Jimi Agbaje, I may not be able to wish you victory, but I definitely wish you well. God bless everyone and God bless our dear Lagos state.”

It was a gesture of political sportsmanship, commendable as at it not yet common in our climes. Sanwo-Olu defeated the incumbent Akinwunmi Ambode in the party’s primaries, at one point countering Ambode’s (or his advisers’) statement that he has a record of mental illness at Gbagada hospital by quoting former United State’s first lady Michelle Obama.

With Ambode behind him, Agabje is now the focus for Sanwo-Olu and he seems to want to fight cleanly. On his twitter feed, he has promised an “issues-based campaign”. He is engaging with people who are asking questions about his capacity, experience and popularity (one user demanded an answer for how he has “appeared from nowhere”).

He does sound gracious. But Sanwo-Olu is running on the platform blessed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. That means he is the privileged one in this contest and the burden is on him to show grace. The Tinubu machinery, now steady for close to two decades, has acquired an unflattering reputation for shades of thuggery in the state. So that when Jimi Agbaje’s campaign posters on third mainland bridge were torn out early Saturday morning, there was only one accused party.

This is the challenge for the APC candidate, to show that this contest is really between him and the other individual candidates and parties. Sanwo-Olu has a huge advantage in the terms of “structure” but that, for many other Lagosians, is the problem with his candidacy. Every event such as Saturday’s adds more unwanted weight, especially when he does not expressly condemn it.

Whatever good he may wish his opponent, such favours granted him either by the State’s authorities or by unruly anonymous thugs exert a pull on the moral high ground he hopes to climb.

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