By Gbenga Osinaike
Apart from Babajide Sanwoolu and a few others, many of the 12 gubernatorial candidates that came for the governorship debate organised by the Diocese of Lagos West, Anglican Communion in collaboration with the dioceses of Lagos, Badagry and Lagos Mainland were not new to the governorship debate at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral Church, Ikeja Lagos.
The diocese began the debate in 2007 as its own contribution to the political discourse in the state and a way of sensitizing the public on their civic responsibilities.
But the 2019 debate had a special slant. For the first time in the history of the church; one of the Anglican priests who voluntarily retired from priesthood Ven. Funso Awe; is among the contestants for the number one seat in Lagos. He was part of the debate. Awe had once served as the Chaplain of Chapel of Light at Alausa and was once a counsellor in Agege Local Government. This time he wants to test his mettle in the race for the number one seat in Lagos on the platform of the National Conscience Party.
So on January 14, he and a host of other candidates in the race had to face Lagosians mostly Anglicans in a live debate to relay their plans for the state and convince the voting public why they needed to be voted for in the next election.
The candidates at the debate were: All Progressives Congress, APC, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Jimi Agbaje; Alliance for Democracy, AD, Owolabi Salis; Action Democratic Party, ADP, Mr. Babatude Gbadamosi; African Democratic Congress, ADC.
Others were Muyiwa Fafowora; ANDP, Segun Musa, National Conscience Party, NCP, Funsho Awe; ANP, Barrister Ladipo Johnson; Abundant Renewal Party, ANRP, Arch. Abiodun Dabiri; Young Progressive Party, YPP, Adebisi Ogunsanya; Labour Party, Olurotimi Olulana; and Social Democratic Party, SDP, Adetokunbo Pearce.
The candidates were given just about 10 minutes each to tell the audience their plan for Lagosians. Beyond the time allotted to each contestant was the mild drama that greeted their submissions. From APC to PDP to all the parties present, it was the same old song of promise to make life better for Lagosians albeit with different methodology.
Ven. Awe, the NCP candidate who reeled out a ten-point agenda; had promised free education, free health service and an electricity billing system that is friendly. He said his priority would be to ensure that all Lagosians have prepaid meters and that the tenement rate issue would be a thing of the past in the state.
Gbadamosi of the ADP in his submission believes Lagos has no business being poor stating that he would pursue a more productive civil service that would change the face of Lagos. He promised to institute a self-perpetuating circle of prosperity in Lagos by effectively engaging the private sector.
For Muyiwa Fafowora of the ACP; housing education, health, small scale business and security would get his attention in that order if he becomes the governor of Lagos State. He reasons that the state has been short-changed in the past. But that an ACP government would bring an end to the misery of Lagosians.
Infrastructure development, tourism and entertainment, health and security would get the attention of Segun Musa of the ANDP; if he gets the votes of Lagosians to lead the state. He believes these segments of the society are grossly underutilised for the benefit of residents of the state. While claiming to be a security expert, he said his priority would also be to ensure the safety of lives and property in Lagos.
The candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Mr. Jimi Agbaje believes Lagos is a special state with peculiar challenges promising to tackle all the challenges facing the city. While lamenting that life in Lagos has been harsh for the average resident, he declared that his vision is to redress the housing challenge, the traffic challenge, the waste challenge and the challenges in all the key areas of life of Lagosians.
Owolabi Salis however brought a dramatic twist to the debate when he wondered why many are shying away from identifying the problem of Lagos. He said, “We all know the problem of Lagos. I don’t know why we are all shying away from it. We all know that one man is sitting on the commonwealth of Lagosians. Our vision is to break that hold and give all Lagosians equal opportunity to this commonwealth.” He declared. His submission drew the attention of members of the panel who cautioned him against name calling.
Barrister Ladipo Johnson, younger brother of the Rt. Rev. Pelu Johnson who is Bishop of the Diocese of Mainland of the Anglican Communion is the candidate of the ANP. In his presentation he said he would ensure there is transparency in governance noting that the non-availability of information and lack of transparency are the reason there is corruption in government. The main emphasis of his government according to him would be education, a proper data base for Lagos, security of lives and also an effective transport system.
The only woman present at the debate, Adebisi Ogunsanya who is the candidate of the YPP promised human capital development in the state noting that lack of adequate data is at the root of failure of governance.
For Adetokunbo Pearce of the SDP the priority of his government if elected would be first committed to a full restructuring programme at the federal level so that the state can take control of its natural resources. He also expressed determination to pursue a welfarist programme that would affect the lives of the average Lagosian.
The governorship candidate of the APC, Babajide Sanwoolu promised a collaboration with the private sector to build infrastructure, effective security system, power and all the strategic sectors of the economy. He promised to continually engage Lagosians in town meetings to be able to feel their pulse and respond accordingly. He also promised an effective waste to wealth programme that would in turn make Lagos a dirt-free state.
The Bishop’s counsel
The audience took turn to ask questions from the candidates. The Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos West, The Rt. Rev. James Odedeji in closing pleaded with the contestants to play by the rule. “We don’t want violence in Lagos. Enough of bloodshed. I want you to see this as an appeal from the throne of grace” he pleaded.
The programme was moderated by the Rt. Revd. Prof Dapo Asaju; the Bishop Theologian and VC Ajayi Crowther University Oyo and hosted by the diocesan, The Rt. Revd. Dr Olusola Odedeji. The Panelists were Mr. Gbenga Adefaye of the Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Babajide Otitoju of Continental TV and Mrs. Funke Treasure-Durodoye of Radio Nigeria.
The programme which was put together by a committee headed by Ven. Gbenga Oniye with Ven Folarin Shobo, Mr. Tunji Oguntuase, Mr. Sola Solanke, Rev Yomi Ajayi, and a host of others as members was indeed an eye-opener for many who witnessed it.