The candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Babatunde Gbadamosi, was the dark horse that wowed members of the audience in Saturday’s Lagos gubernatorial election debate, as he spoke confidently of his plans if elected governor of the country’s commercial capital.
Mr Gbadamosi, who was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before defecting to the ADP, received rave reviews of his performance in the debate, which was organised by The Platform, a civic discussion initiative of the Covenant Christian Centre. The interview which was moderated by British-Nigerian Christian broadcaster, Victor Oladokun, had in attendance alongside Mr Gbadamosi, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, and the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Owolabi Salis.
Mr Gbadamosi started off on a somewhat shaky note when he was asked about what he would do in his first hundred days in office if elected. He explained that he would try increasing the salaries of civil servants in the state, but he did not explain how he would raise the additional fund needed to do this.
He, however, bounced back from the initial flutter, arguing that his priority will be to boost the infrastructural shortfall of the state by building rail lines to all the exit points of the state, opening up water transportation and the movement of container by barges instead of through the roads to cut the infamous Lagos traffic.
The ADP candidate, who berated the ruling party in the state for lack of prudence in running the state finances, said he would bring his experience from the private sector in handling the spending of state funds. According to him, he would be able to do this because he “does not have a godfather”, which was a snide remark on the candidate of the ruling APC, Mr Sanwo-Olu, who enjoys the backing of a former governor of the state, Bola Tinubu, generally believed to be the de facto political leader of the state.
Mr Gbadamosi also correctly fact-checked the APC candidate after he falsely stated that the state government was transparent and publishes its budgets. Mr Gbadamosi pointed out that the state budget website no longer existed stating that the government is known for being opaque rather than open. He said if elected into office he would operate an open government.
He berated the current government for being unable to complete its light rail project in 10 years and wondered why the state was paying for it from its purse when it could have welcomed the private sector to finance the project. He also said at a cost of almost $1 billion, the light rail project was too expensive.
He said he would open up the state waterways and improve tourism as a means of growing the state tax revenue if elected into office. In all, he was the most eloquent of the candidate on display. The figures and data he quoted were mostly correct. He also cited examples of what was being done in other places with similar demographics like Lagos such as Singapore and Ethiopia.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, as the candidate of the ruling party, which has been in power for 20 years in the state, unsurprisingly was put on the defensive throughout the debate. But he did a fairly good job of shaking off the attacks from other candidates and in fact, on a couple of occasions, was on the offensive.
He spoke about his experience as a banker and public officer. He said he would bring the experience garnered from being a three-time commissioner in the state in running the state effectively. He promised to tackle the traffic gridlock in the city and especially promised to solve the perennial gridlock in the Apapa area of the state.
The APC candidate said he would be a listening governor and regularly hold town hall meetings across the state to discuss some of the pressing problems of the state. He said the problems with funds in the state would be solved if more people pay taxes. According to him, out of the possible 16 million taxable people in the state, only 800,000 actually pay taxes. He said he would work towards capturing more people into the tax bracket.
Mr Sanwo-Olu promised to double the state’s health budget from its present 9 per cent to 18-20 per cent. He said he would focus on health insurance for all inhabitants of the states and his priority will be improving primary healthcare.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, however, spent a lot of time talking about his educational qualifications and his experience as a commissioner. Though he put a spirited fight especially when other candidates suggested he was a stooge of Mr Tinubu; but like flies feeding off the wounded ears of a dog, hard as he tried, he was unable to shake off the attack.
He lied that Lagos was transparent and received several rebuttals from other debaters over the claim. Also, some of his responses sounded like he was berating the manner his party has run the state. Perhaps the most disappointing candidate of the night was the PDP candidate. His disappointment may not have come from the weakness of his responses as it did from the fact that they were usually below par from what was expected of him. He stammered several times and his responses cross the time given each candidate to respond.
Also, the unexpected brilliance of Mr Gbadamosi appeared to have stolen Mr Agbaje’s thunder. The candidate who was running for the third time may have been hurt by the familiarity of his responses. On solving the traffic problems of the state, he said he would fix potholes, and innovate the traffic control by installing radar-controlled traffic lights in the state. He said he would strengthen the state traffic control agency, LASTMA, to be more efficient.
Mr Agbaje said he would provide leadership as he is not a stooge. He said rather than ask people to pay more taxes he would open up the state for more businesses in order to capture new taxpayers. He promised to improve the school system with technology and more internet broadband in the state would encourage more students to learn to code and become tech savvy.
He said he would make local governments more efficient by making them independent of the state government. He also promised to expand the road and extend the railway system to other parts of the state to reduce vehicular traffic on the road. The AD candidate, who is no stranger to running for the position of governor, having run three previous times, promised to cut the state from the control of Mr Tinubu. He said he would work to eradicate violence by purging the pockets of gangs across the state.
He, no doubt, provided comic relief during the debate with his somewhat awkward mannerism. And he welcomed a lot of jeers from the audience and criticism from those commenting on social media when he said he was going to build a subway in the city. His said he would appoint 50 special assistants that will help him see to the development of local governments in the state. His response here left many people wondering what would happen to the appointed local government officials. He promised to take back the wealth of the people of Lagos from those he said have hijacked it and use it to develop the state.