Let’s get real with the Lagos election 2023, By Olutayo Ogundipe
Donald Trump rode into the Oval Office on the back of real or contrived “White grievance” – a sense that the United States was losing her identity. In fact, the main chant for the campaign was to “Take our country back!” Remember, Trump was running to replace Obama, the first and only non-white President in US history.
Brexit was driven in large part by the resentment towards influx of East Europeans to the UK. The politically correct excuse was the impact on jobs but we all knew that these folks were taking jobs that Brits didn’t want. The real issue was the fear of cultural dilution. The risk of losing the nation’s core identity.
The desire to protect what is yours culturally is integral to human nature. Lagos is part of Yoruba land. It is. That’s not to suggest non-Yorubas have no right to live and prosper in Lagos. It is however natural that Yorubas want the city’s identity protected the same way other groups guard their cultural identity jealously. No nation, and Yorubas, like other ethnic groups in Nigeria are essentially nations in their own right, wants hospitality to dilute identity. The natural push is for assimilation and acculturation.
We are often reminded that the current British PM has an Indian origin. That’s true. But he didn’t run for PM role to lord his Indian heritage on Britain. He ran as a bona-fide Brit with full allegiance to the Union Jack!!!
Yorubas are traditionally hospitable. In fact, the irony of the current debate is that no civilian governor in the history of Nigeria has done more for inclusiveness than Tinubu did as governor of Lagos state. He built a truly diverse cabinet of incredibly talented people from the South East to South South to North Central. Even within the South West, he spread opportunities to natives of Ogun, Ondo and other states. Tinubu more than any past governor, including Obi, has demonstrated true openness and love of diversity. Lagosians embraced his approach. His political influence grew despite his diverse cabinet. It’s therefore unfair to turn around and paint these same Lagosians as bigots this time around.
GRV is a bona-fide Lagosian. That’s clear at this point in my opinion but it’s also irrelevant. Even if he isn’t, he has every right to aspire to any political office. Our choice is to vote for him or reject him.
There are three main issues with his candidacy in my opinion:
1) He’s manifestly unqualified to run the most important state in Nigeria. Heck, he’s unqualified to run any state in Nigeria. He simply doesn’t have the experience and hasn’t demonstrated the temperament to be a governor. Yes, the intelligence is there. Good for him. There are tons of ivy league graduates in Lagos if that’s the requirement and many of them have far more compelling experience to lead. Working for a famous architectural firm is irrelevant. Having an architectural design to rebuild National Theater is also irrelevant to being a governor. Lagos accounts for 10% of our GDP and over 50% of our commercial activities. You simply can’t roll the dice with a novice. There’s just no reason to do that. It’s a costly and reckless gamble. If you don’t like Sanwoolu, look at other options. I’m sure there are better qualified candidates than GRV.
2) His past utterances, tweets and posts point to some kind of disdain and contempt towards Yoruba people. That’s a legitimate area of concern. You can’t wish that away. What’s surprising to me is how this has been mismanaged. All he has to do is put those comments in context and offer a broad apology. That’s the politically smart response. So far, what we’ve seen is indifference. I don’t get that strategy at all.
3) His alleged sympathy for and/or association with IPOB is flat out disqualifying. Anything short of an unconditional repudiation of the terrorist group is unacceptable. You can’t look at the mess being created by IPOB, UGM and others in the SE today and wish that on Lagos. No way!
Net-net, GRV has every right to run. He’s just not the right fit in my opinion. Sanwoolu has governed well, given the financial constraints. He’s earned a second term.