Friday, April 24

Jimi Agbaje And The Rest Of Us By Oluwole Leigh

(Ambode and Jimi Agbaje. Photo: Facebook)

Akin Ambode and Jimi Agbaje:

Nigeria has just completed a round of elections. The Presidential and National Assembly elections were held on the 28th of March while the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections were held on the 11th of April.

The gubernatorial election in Lagos was keenly contested by Jimi Agbaje of the PDP and Akin Ambode of the APC. While Akin Ambode won the contest, Jimi Agbaje could be said to have won the hearts of many neutrals and political observers. It was quite surprising to me when I discovered that many of my friends who found it easy to analyse issues at the national level often threw away logic when it came to the issue of Jimi's candidacy. It seemed as if allowing Jimi to occupy any space in their thoughts would make them victims of eternal damnation. On the other hand, while I had a sentimental attachment to 'Hurricane Change', I saw Jimi Agbaje as someone whose political ambition provided an opportunity for self-examination and reflection. Not many would see any sense in what I am saying but I will proceed.

Jimi represented the hopes and dreams of 'Old Lagos'. I did not grow up in Lagos but as a member of a family whose ancestry was built in Lagos, I have come to learn about what Lagos used to be. The 'Old Lagos' was about people who went about their daily activities, provided for their families and did their bit in the community. The 'Old Lagos' was not just about making money but about family heritage. As cosmopolitan as Lagos was, you would find people who knew your family history and tried to relate to you based on their assessment of your family.

A man would go about his business during the week, attend parties on Saturday, go to his Church on Sunday and retire to his social club after service. His family members were often of the two major religions. He did what he could and left the rest to his Creator. One of the sub-groups within 'Old Lagos' is what people refer to as 'Popo Aguda'. Agbajes were part of the 'Popo Aguda' Community. Popo Aguda was a name given to Catholics and their families in the Lagos of yester-years. A considerable part of this community was formed by families of Brazilian returnees. It is instructive to note that Jimi's loss was largely felt by 'Popo Aguda' folks in Lagos. Previous representatives such as Senator Kofoworola Bucknor and Femi Pedro eventually fell out of favour with the ruling political class in Lagos. Thus, Jimi's shoulders bore the yoke of the past as well as the burden of the present.

Jimi's career as a pharmacist attracted a lot of undue attention and calumny from a lot of young observers. I did not find the campaign of calumny surprising since it came from people whose life experiences could be summarized as 'I must hammer by force in Jesus name.' These were the ones who could not understand how an individual could be satisfied with having 'one shop.' At the root of the venom thrown at Jimi was a disregard for the dignity of labour. Jimi chose to practice Community Pharmacy. It was his decision and he had a right to make that decision. Many community pharmacies stayed the way they were for various reasons. Some people were not interested in renting Registration Certificates from non-practicing Pharmacists in order to establish branches of their shops.

Apart from PSN registration requirements, community owned businesses in those days had social functions as well as business functions. People visited your business because they knew you and trusted you and had no issues stopping by for a quick chat. The gains of these business owners were not only found in their Profit/Loss statement but in the fact that they were regarded as Pillars of the community. The integration of these Small Business Owners with the community often led to the phenomenon of naming bus stops after Chemists that were located there. Jimi's neighbours and friends in Apapa were happy with him and that was what mattered.

One of the other issues that Jimi had to contend with, was the view that he was a good man in the wrong party. This view was expressed because he ran on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party. This assertion stems from a deterministic mindset that is largely influenced by the religious books. The concept of Life always being a choice between Good and Evil makes us to see every decision or situation as an opportunity to 'make the right choice'. Unfortunately, choices in life are not always as clear-cut as we wish them to be. Under a different set of circumstances, the PDP might have been seen as the 'Way to Life' while the APC would represent the 'Way to Damnation'. If Jimi had won the election, the issue of 'wrong choice' would have been moved to the court of the APC. Life is not as straight-jacketed as we feel it should be and we can only hope that time would prove us right.

Jimi agbaje
Jimi Agbaje:

Jimi had his imperfections. Jimi's knowledge and ideas seemed to resonate with a lot of people in Lagos. However, the quality of his ideas for the Nation was not at par with his vision for Lagos. Jimi often faltered when he was moved from his familiar territory of outlining his plans for Lagos. His repeated attempts at intervening in national issues often made him end up with egg on his face. His attempt at comedy during the Dinner with GEJ made him look like an excitable individual whose mouth could churn out any gibberish if the occasion demanded.

Jimi also suffered criticism from those who felt he was not patient enough. They believed that he should have 'waited for his turn'. They believed that he should have stayed in hiding till a bright light from the Ruling Party showed up and identified him as their candidate. The hypocrisy behind such an assertion is evident when we consider the lifestyles of those behind it. Some of his accusers did not 'wait for their turn' while making decisions in life. They changed jobs, changed apartments and made conscious attempts to change the path in which their lives were headed. They did not wait for fate to determine their future. Jimi saw an opportunity to actualize his vision and he took it.

The final cross that Jimi had to bear was that of his party's vision. His party's strategy for these elections was built around religious and ethnic sensitivities. It was a decision that was taken at the top and cascaded down through their campaign messages. I am of the opinion that Jimi as a 'Lagos Boy' could not have been the one going out to sow discord among ethnic groups in the state. His party had a vision and a mission to deliver votes by stressing our differences. He tried his best to disassociate himself from Party activities that were not 'omoluabi-like'. Unfortunately, his efforts were in vain. His party had lit a fire which he could not quench. The greatest blow for Jimi was probably not his loss but the fact that his ambition became a source of contention among his people.

In conclusion, Jimi's 2015 election path serves as a mirror for the ambitions of many of us. We can learn lessons by studying decisions that he made if we allow ourselves to learn from him. Eventually, we would be faced with the choices that stood in Jimi's path. We can only hope that our decisions would be proved right when the time comes.

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