THE AMBODE’S ADVANTAGE

It is not in doubt that, like the presidential race between Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, which was an epic battle, one of the governorship races that will equally be keenly contested is the race for the Alausa Round House by Akinwunmi Ambode of the All Progressive Congress and Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party.

The reasons for this are not far-fetched. Like at the federal level where only the two dominant parties are in the race, the competition in Lagos is also between APC and PDP. People can hardly recall the names of any of the other nine contenders. They are not campaigning. What’s the point of wasting the funds they can hardly spare?

Agbaje comes with a noticeable brand recall. He was once the Treasurer of the once influential pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere. He is seen as a pharmacist of note and generally acknowledged to have done well during the 2007 polls, even though he came third, behind Babatunde Fashola, (SAN), who won the race for ACN and Musiliu Obanikoro, who was PDP’s candidate.

Ambode, on the other hand, comes with a rich experience spanning public and private sectors. He has had a rich 27-year experience in the Lagos Civil Service, rising to the position of Auditor General for the Local Governments, and then as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, before his voluntary retirement as the Accountant General at 49.

With both candidates now household names in Lagos and their campaigns reaching fever-pitch, one might be tempted to conclude that the winner would emerge based on the popularity of each candidate (brand identity) and the strength of the political parties. While this assertion may have merit, a keen and unbiased analyst would see and infer that the key indicators to determine the likely winner between the two gentlemen lie more on how their campaigns have progressed in the last two months, how their brand identities have been perceived, how their parties are being marketed and how all these are playing up in the media.

A thorough appraisal of the situation may see an election that is heading for a keen contest, but without doubt it will also not miss the clear edge that Ambode has over Agbaje in almost every area of assessment. Arrival at this summation is not just because Ambode has managed to lift himself up unto a pedestal in which he is seen as capable and well-prepared for the task ahead, but also because Agbaje, rather curiously, has not managed to live up to the expectation that his second shot at the governorship goal would pack as much punch as the last time in 2007, if not better.

You would almost think Ambode’s methodical campaigns in the print, broadcast and online media came too early as to give Agbaje an opportunity to launch a response. This never happened as his ‘Bold Ideas and New Opportunities’ concept lacked the cutting edge attractiveness expected of him. Compared to Ambode’s aesthetically-savvy print adverts, Agbaje’s was left to do mere catch-up. But this is even more evident in how Agbaje is disappointing in not having a catchy jingle this time around unlike when his ‘Everybody Loves Jimi Agbaje’ jingle was a communication hit eight years ago.

Agbaje’s first faux pas was to have initially used that old jingle of eight years ago after winning the primary in December. That was a weak shot at goal. Like Agbaje himself who has grown older and lost a bit of his charm, his 2007 hit jingle has lost verve and unsuitable for this year’s upbeat campaign. In beating a costly retreat, consequently, Agbaje ceded the space to Ambode who seized the opportunity in a manner that the PDP candidate might never recover. His first creative salvo was the Ambo sound track that featured the best of Nigeria’s popular musicians. With that jingle conveniently taking over the airwaves, it was as if Agbaje would have to get angels to compose for him to get a re-match. But more woes await Agbaje as another hit soundtrack, Everybody Lo L’eko, sung by Yemi Alade, became the icing on the cake.

But by far the most spectacular of Ambode’s communications strategy is the ‘I Believe’ commercial and sound track video, featuring the candidate himself alongside the cream of Nollywood and hip-hop music stars. This is as classic as it is award-winning. It is unlikely if any political jingle in the history of Nigerian politics would match this video, in terms of concept, content and creative accomplishment. Agbaje should not have responded to it. But he did, rather unfortunately, with the ‘Agbaje No 1’ video and soundtrack that parades artistes of lesser creative ranking.

All these of course have consequences on the rating of both candidates on social media, a youthful platform where Agbaje was initially projected to have an advantage. But the reality of Ambode’s edge over Agbaje on social media has got nothing to do with the six years age difference between them. It has a lot to do with Ambode’s head-start and the consistency of his events – rallies, meetings, visitations etc. When he hit the 100,000 mark on Facebook last December though currently over 300,000, Agbaje was at 75,000 though currently over 200,000. Today, the APC Candidate twitter account boost over 33,000 followers, his PDP counterpart trail behind with over 23,000followers.

And how ingenious it is of Ambode’s handlers to have created an iconic A+ logo to counter Agbaje’s JK alias and still crown it with a sobriquet from his surname — Ambo, which has since metamorphosed into a buzzword conveying the sense that Lagos is ready to take on the world. The power of social communication!

Like the issue of Ambode’s mega rallies as opposed to Agbaje’s town hall meetings and enlisting top artistes and celebrities to endorse him, Ambode’s edge over Agbaje on social media communicates an important message – popularity and acceptability.

There is yet the ingenious manner in which the perception that Agbaje was better qualified was halted. Ambode’s team simply released their candidate’s CV, and asked the voters to judge. It was impossible to ignore the richness of the resume of a man who had the second best result in the whole of West Africa at 17; graduated in Accountancy at 21, earned a Master’s Degree and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at 24, became a Fulbright Scholar at 35 and has run a private company since 2012 which has the likes of Price WaterHouse Coopers on the list of its clientele.

But then, the recently ascribed statement to Oba Akiolu of Lagos threatening the Igbo people that they will perish in the Lagos Lagoon if they did not vote Ambode is another distress call as this threat generated tautness with Ndigbo reproving the statement and declaring to ensure that they vote for the candidate of their choice.

Though our fears are finally put to rest as the APC leaders including Ambode came out in a rally at Coker, Orile-Lagos to reprimand the statement and the Igbo leaders in the state has recently announced that they have forgiven the monarch and moved on with their lives. They also endorsed the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode while enjoining all Igbos to come out en mass and vote for him on Saturday’s polls.

With these, we still see Ambode walking away with an advantage.

Originally written by:Stevens Oluwaseyi; A media and public affairs analyst.

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