In this interview, SUBAIR MOHAMMED engaged Honourable Oluseye Oladejo, Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos, his party’s administration in the state.
Since 1999, democracy has evolved. As a critical stakeholder, how far, so far?
There is no replacement for democratic governance anywhere in the world. Since 1999, we have had a couple of elections. Therefore, by my assessment, I would say things are getting better. Our democracy is getting more participatory and political consciousness is becoming higher as witnessed by large number of fresh blood, especially the youths, who form bulk of the country’s voting population. Our youths are more conscious of participating in an election and that is a signal that our democracy is moving forward. Of course, people seek more inclusiveness. They want to ensure that their yearnings and expectations are met by those they vote into power. So, I would say, it’s been good far but it can get better.
After 22 years of democratic experience, things seem to be falling apart nationally. Do you see Lagos as a stabilizer or a part of the problem to be solved?
Lagos is a stabilizer and not a part of our national problem. Lagos will continue to act as a rallying point. The economy of Lagos is bigger than the economy of some countries in West Africa and even beyond.
Lagos is a melting pot for the Nigerian federation. It is a state where you have strong presence of all the tribes in the country living and doing business.
Lagos will continue to act like a stabilizer. We shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of people are concerned that if only Lagos could be immune to most of the problems that are bedeviling states in the country, in no time, the country will get over it.
So far, Lagos has had the unique experience of being ruled by a single political establishment, led by Senator Bola Tinubu, a national leader in APC. Is this sole “ownership” of power in the state, a blessing or a curse?
The world over, there is no sole ownership of any political party. And Lagos is not an exception. If what you are trying to say is that the same tendency has been at the helms of affairs in Lagos State since the advent of democracy in 1999, I will say, yes.
But I want us to look at this trend from a positive perspective. What does it say about Lagos State? It speaks to continuity and stability in government. It speaks to projects not being abandoned. It also speaks to wholesome development plans of the state being executed to the letter because as elections hold every four years, policies and manifestoes remain the same. So it’s a big plus that Lagos State has remained within the same political family, so to speak.
So, there is nothing like sole ownership of political party in Lagos State, contrary to assertions by the opposition party that Tinubu holds control of the party. A good point to make is the ongoing exercise that is the local government elections, where internal democracy holds dominance. All the aspirants purchased the nomination forms and they have gone through the screening exercise. We are going to have an open primary.
But the docile opposition party continues to talk about what goes on in other party rather than pay attention to what has made them not to be able to form a government for more than two decades. It is their wishful thinking to sell falsehood to the people who are not discerning that Lagos is under the control of one man. There are various levels of control and governance, as far as our party is concerned.
There have been four governors, since 1999. Do you want to rate the significance of their administrations, particularly as it relates to political development of the state?
Sincerely, it is extremely difficult to rate the significance of administrations of past governors in the state for some reasons. I have had the opportunity to serve in government both at the local government and state levels. And I know that different factors operate.
For instance, when Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu was campaigning for votes in 2019, he did not foresee the peculiar challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge of the EndSARS protest. Both challenges, as we are aware, had devastating effects on the economy of the state. Without giving any excuses, it has also affected his plans, even though he is able to manage the situation and ensure that no sector suffers the consequence.
Therefore it is extremely difficult to rate past administrations because every governor came in at different times with different challenges. But I can say Governor Sanwo-olu, to the best of his capability, has been able to deliver on his electoral promises to ensure that Lagos continues to be the centre of excellence.
Race and religion are two silent but raging issues shaping elections in the state. Apart from the intra-Yoruba agitation of indigeneship and settlers, there is always the recurring issue of the growing political influence of minority ethnic groups especially that of the South-Easterners. If Yoruba settlers are having it good now, the signs appear to be there that the future could be that of minority ethnic groups. Is it likely Lagos will produce an Igbo governor, or a Hausa deputy someday?
Lagos is very accommodating and the constitution permits it. Lagos is the only state where you have our brother from other parts of the country in the state cabinet holding offices at the State Assembly and at the local government level and the rest of it.
Perhaps sometime in future, we could be so sophisticated to allow people from other parts of the country to play a bigger role in the politics of Lagos. I must also say that the consciousness is very high among core indigenes of the state that Lagosians should be in control of their affairs.
Money politics is now the rule of the game. Lagos is very notorious for it. How much of damage is this doing to citizen’s participation in the political development of the country’s most populated state?
I wonder why people give Lagos politics such appellation. There is nowhere in the world where people get to power without spending money. A politician must spend money to disseminate his programmes to the voting public. He must also spend money on publicity to get known to the people he is seeking their votes. If that is what you call money politics, I am not too sure any politicians would want to deny doing such.
But politics today goes beyond having enough money to spend. The electorate now ask questions. They want to know what you have to offer. They want to know what distinguishes you from those that have been in government. The ongoing local government election has seen many youths coming out to run for offices.
Many of them are vying for elective positions and have obtained nomination forms. So if our politics in Lagos APC is about money, you will have a handful of them showing interest and participating in the election. That we have a large number of our youths aspiring, speaks to the fact that we have been able to open the political space for a whole lot of them to participate. Politics in Lagos goes beyond the control of money bags; it’s more about popular campaign and acceptance by the people of Lagos.
After polls, stakeholders hardly do official election audit, but it is likely political establishments tell themselves the truth behind the curtain. What is the future of the ruling clique in Lagos?
I am not aware of the existence of a ruling clique in Lagos. But I am aware that there are different levels of leadership in the state. And of course, one would supersede the other. But in the fullness of time, you will find these levels working together in the common interest of the progressive family.
So what people call a ruling clique might just be the battle cry of few people who have not been able to ‘dismantle the ruling party’ or who have benefited from our peculiar kind of politics in the state which seeks to carry everybody along but for some reasons, based on unbridle ambitions, they have lost out and as such decided to give a dog a bad name, in order to hang it.
Why is opposition not thriving in the state?
Would that not be a question for the opposition? But if I were to make an attempt, it is obvious that since 1999 the people of Lagosians are happy that they are in the progressive fold. But those in the opposition, for reasons best known to them, are probably not playing the right opposition.
For many years, we played the opposition at the national level. But we played realistic politics. We played politics Nigerians are able to relate to. This is what the opposition party has failed to do in Lagos State. PDP in Lagos State is finally in crisis. They only come together when there is an election and after the election they become moribund.
There will not be politics until the next national election. For us, in APC, that’s not how to play an opposition. Whether there is an election or not, an opposition is supposed to keep a ruling party on its toes. It is a lot easier to play the opposition party than to be the ruling party. You will be the darling of the media. You are always acting as a check to the ruling party and criticizing their policies. The PDP should wake up to the reality on the ground and play real politics.
Finally, being a deep insider who relates very well with the outside, would you say your people in power have made Lagosians happy?
Definitely! The two years in office of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has shown clearly that we have a government that is focused, passionate and humane with a well-thought out plan in terms of what it set out to achieve. Since he came on board, we have been able to put back on track the Lagos Developmental Plan. He is touching all sectors. The way the governor has been able to put in place machinery to restore the state after the EndSARS protest and reaching out to individuals and corporate bodies after the losses, says a lot. The governor is willing to do more and Lagosians are the happier for it.
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