Analysing Sanwo-Olu

Who Is Sanwo-Olu Even Running Against? Pray, Tell!

by Jerry Chiemeke

Analysing Sanwo-Olu

Few Sundays ago, I felt like taking a stroll in the afternoon, having spent a huge chunk of the day indoors (yes, I didn’t go to church that day, don’t ask me why). My apartment is a ten-minute walk from one of the city’s many Shoprite outlets, so I opted to go there, with a view to watching young and mutually love-struck couples whisper sweet-nothings to each other, scoop from the same ice cream cone and engage in all the other cheesy stuff that people who are (or think they are) in love get around to doing. Whether it’s due to the fact that I am a bit of a hopeless romantic, or it’s simply a manifestation of my emotional masochism, I will probably never know, but I just love to study the activities and general behaviour of humans whenever they get drunk on romance.

No, this is not a narrative about my (complicated) love life.

Well I had to cross the road to get to Shoprite, so I had to navigate a usually inconspicuous, dangerous bend at my end of the highway. Applying those childhood safety instructions is hardly enjoyable, but I had to look right and left (do I have to turn to one of the directions a second time?) so as to avoid getting run over by a mini-bus, and ultimately, keep my wall free of arguments about hometown voodoo amidst the R.I.P messages. The bus had a television reel of sorts on either side, and as I made it to the other side, I took a moment to glance at the bus. I saw him once again, and I froze!

It was the man whose posters have invaded the streets, the one whose face has made more print appearances at bus stations than all of the city’s “missing person” flyers put together, the state’s governorship aspirant hoisting the APC flag! (assuming, of course, that there are other serious contenders.)

Until late 2018, not many people knew who Babajide Sanwo-Olu was. As a matter of fact, he probably would not have been in the conversation if issues of (dis)loyalty and (dis)satisfaction in Lagos State’s political upper rooms had not reared their heads. There are many stories to this, the aggregation of them all worth a novel’s length, but the summary of it is that the incumbent governor (you-know-who) lost the support of the delegates, had his political backside whooped at the primaries, and from the look of things, won’t be coming back to the famous Lagos State House.

So here we are, presented with Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, London Business School graduate, entrepreneur, former Commissioner for Establishment and Training, and (barring a monumental political disaster) the next Executive Governor of the nation’s most developed state. There have been speculations as to how independently he would operate (particularly considering the circumstances which brought him into the fray), and the recent debate aired on Channels Television helped to create divided opinion in terms of his leadership potential as well as his knowledge of the state’s socioeconomic intricacies, but there will be other avenues to analyse these.

Photo credit: 

What is it, then, that vexes the city’s residents thus, and causes them more than a few head-scratching moments? It is the tens of thousands of posters that have been erected across the state, the billboards that overlook the city lights, the rectangular and square-shaped structures with his face on them that assault our eyes from 5.30am (or earlier, depending on where you live) when we head for work in rickety buses, to 10pm when we finally navigate the evening gridlock and crash into our mattresses, hoping to get a few hours of sleep before the next morning’s alarm subjects us to a rude awakening. Yes, it’s really cute that he provided free Wi-Fi at the malls (even though I still haven’t been able to tap into the networks), his hair-making skills (while debatable) are deserving of curiousity, and his mobile app currently sits at top spot on Nigeria’s end of Google Playstore (reviews hint at the app’s ability to change fortunes and raise the dead), but where do we draw the line between aggressive campaigning and plain, brazen optical harassment?

His face manages to sneak in somewhere at your street’s major bus stop, near your local church, at the cinema, in neighbouring Ogun State and (at this rate) in your dreams. It is indicative of the grim situation of things, when people being visited by their friends now give directions to their apartments in the lines of “when you reach junction, you go first see one Sanwo-Olu poster wey him wear suit by your right, waka front small, then enter keke marwa wey dey go straight, when you pass another three Sanwo-Olu signboard wey him wear native, come down, na my house be that.” It’s creepy, it’s haunting, it has gone way beyond stamping visual impressions in the people’s subconscious, it is an invasion bordering on near-hypnosis.

It would have been less insufferable if he were squaring up against a more (or at least equally) formidable opposition. If you probably posed the question “who is Sanwo-Olu running against?” to the wall, the words would probably bounce right back against your lips. It would seem that he is contesting against himself: at how many points across the city have you seen a flyer with the faces of any of the other aspirants, and if you managed to bump into any, what was the distance between one poster and the next? There are theories (which I find hard to fault) that compare the other candidates to unserious lovers who make moves to ask a lady out, and when they are turned down, only resurface to take another shot years later, but this is not about financial or political might, nor is it about willingness to seize mandates, right now we are discussing the scourge of one poster too many.

Photo credit: 

In saner climes, campaign posters are only erected for a certain specific time period before an election (the Republic of Ireland, for example, prohibits the placing of campaign posters at any time earlier than thirty days to the election date). There is also the not-so-small matter of contravening the provisions of our own Electoral Act: parties are precluded from campaigning earlier than ninety days before election day, and the law also stipulates that equal print as well as media coverage shall be afforded to all candidates. You would probably spot over twenty-seven Sanwo-Olu posters, within a walking distance of twenty minutes, before you would manage to find as much as one endorsing any of the other aspirants. Let’s not even get started with the fate of the city’s aesthetics at the aftermath of the elections, when all the flyers have to be pulled down with no certainty as to the method of disposal.

There will be time for Sanwo-Olu to clarify his dreams and vision for the state, but right now, there is a recurring nightmare, and it is being experienced by everyone, from the elitist dwellings in Ikoyi to the gritty neighbourhoods in Ojuelegba. We get it, “they” want us to vote for him, but our eyes and minds do not deserve to be hounded like this.