Forgive Lagosians for believing that the state’s gubernatorial polls have been held in October. The fierce intra-party battle between Ambode and Sanwoolu was a good indicator of how powerfully entrenched in the works and roots of the Lagos polity APC is. It was clearly a power play, a pawn on one side, and the “King” of Lagos on the other.

In the chess game of Lagos, Mr. Ambode clearly thought he was relevant simply because he is at the forefront of Lagos politics, the face of Lagos. But all pawns are at the forefront, food for the other army. No pawn turns against his King and expects victory, especially when you are surrounded by other pawns who eat at the King’s table.

At the end of the tussle – a really cloudy exercise devoid of any form of transparency whatsoever – Mr Ambode was left embarrassed and bewildered. At the end of 2019, he will be back in his village, except the King finds him useful somewhere.

What everybody expected would have happened was for the opposition party to take real advantage of the messy APC affair and introduce a formidable opponent, someone new. Not necessarily a technocrat or intellectual, but a figure that would clearly give people an exciting alternative in the upcoming polls. And we thought that was on the cards when rumours began to fly around that Femi Otedola, billionaire son of former Lagos Governor, was going to contest the PDP primaries. The rumours died. And out came old Agbaje, Lagos’ Buhari, for another shot at the most sought-after gubernatorial seat in Nigeria. Heart-breaking.

2019 will be the 61-year-old’s third attempt at becoming the Governor of Lagos State. His initial move was to contest on the platform of the Action Congress in 2007 but he was overlooked in favour of Raji Fashola. He moved over to DPA, ran a good campaign, but lost to the Action Congress.

From then, his mode of operation has been to go into political hiatuses, and resurrect at the beginning of campaigns. Clearly, he is still sought after as a “clean” politician. That was evident in how the PDP, in 2015, literally overlooked other possibilities to make him the party’s flagbearer.

It was the perfect romance, PDP offering Agbaje huge resources as the nation’s premier party at the time, and Agbaje quietly, yet firmly, projecting the saintliness that could move sentiments in favour of a party already on the receiving end of public outcry for 16 years of socioeconomic retrogression and massive corruption.
However, the fact that Agbaje and Ambode had too many similarities meant that PDP could not rely on polarisations and latent deep-seated prejudices along ethnic and religious lines. The election was a close call but Ambode emerged as Governor of Lagos with a narrow victory.

It was the first time in recent years that Tinubu’s party was given a good fight, and it showed that PDP could still be relevant in Lagos. But after the elections, it seemed the entire state chapter of the party decided to go on leave, to resume at the next campaign. No doubt underground work would have continued, but PDP allowed APC dominate the political and social terrain of Lagos.

The major party stalwarts were largely mute, indifferent to the political intrigues and innuendos of the centre of excellence. That laxity allowed the APC wax stronger in the polity. As a matter of fact, the APC has become so large, it is having problems that two parties should have against each other. Groups and factions continue to emerge from within, having mega problems, yet most of it all contained within the party.

What is most baffling is how the PDP continues to take the subservient position in Lagos, even during this campaign period. In the last 19 years, the PDP has failed to take any stronghold in Lagos. The war between Obasanjo and Tinubu did a lot of damage to the party. When Bode George was sent to prison for misappropriation of funds, Lagosians settled for the devil they knew. PDP was too mysteriously steeped in corruption for them to handle.

APC and Sanwoolu are campaigning so seriously, you would think that they are in the opposition. Maybe the APC is pushing the Sanwoolu agenda extra hard, seeing this is the first time since 1999 that the incumbent failed to clinch his party’s ticket for a second term in office, and there are pockets of dissenting voices who feel Ambode was hard-done by.

But the PDP’s situation will not in any way be helped by the fact that their candidate was nowhere to be found after losing the last election. Many will wonder if he was blind to the anomalies of government in the last three years. Or perhaps his silence was an acknowledgment of APC’s “good governance”, in which case it would make sense to stick with the present administrating party.

Jimi Agbaje’s political currency is dwindling, and his party is campaigning without vigour. There is also the fear that there will not be continuity, particularly as the APC government, in the last eight years, has embarked on many developmental projects, particularly road construction. It really will take more than a sentimental disdain for the APC to dislodge them from Alausa come 2019.

How the Agbaje crew can take a seemingly laid-back approach to the campaign is what I do not understand. There is the probability that the Jagaban network favours many, and crosses party lines. That is not far-fetched. It only shows why there is need for a more robust democratic opposition to the political monopoly playing out here.

One thing is clear: if Sanwoolu loses Lagos in 2019, it will not be because PDP won it. PDP can only rely on an implosion of the APC to run out as victors in the next election.