Hon Seye Oladejo is the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State. In this interview, he speaks on the cordial status of the party in the state, the party’s edge in the forthcoming by-elections in the state, and the leadership quality of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, among others. Daily Vendor reports
What is the state of APC in Lagos State as it is presently constituted in terms of how cordial the party is?
APC in Lagos State is healthy and we are the party to beat. We remain very strong, we have the widespread, we are growing in leaps and bounds in terms of membership and we have no major crisis. Of course, there will be rift as expected in any political party but there is nothing we cannot handle. So, we remain confident in taking care of our affairs, winning elections and overcoming whatever challenges that will come our way. So, APC in Lagos is good and we are one big family.
One of the talking points from the primaries to field candidates for Lagos East senatorial seat and Kosofe Constituency II, was that those who emerged were imposed by the leadership of the party. What is your take on that?
I am glad you said primaries. I can tell you that there was no selection. The APC constitution allows us to have a candidate either by consensus or an open primary. The question to ask is if a particular system is working, why do you want to break it? The consensus option was to the extent that the aspirants from their own free will, not by compulsion, were able to arrive at a consensus that a particular person should fly the party's flag and we had an affirmation thereafter where close to 120,000 people came out to ratify that in form of the primary. If such a huge number could come out to ratify that candidacy, that to me doesn't mean protest or any kind of imposition. As we speak, we found all the would-be aspirants there working and mobilising for Tokunbo Abiru, our candidate.
Maybe they were forced to ratify it?
No, they were not. There was nothing like being forced. Even one of the then aspirants is now the chairman of the campaign committee of our candidate. If he was forced, he wouldn't be doing that. It shows understanding and discipline in the party and that's why after the primary, we are not having a situation whereby we will be doing reconciliation and try to pacify people here and there. We were able to do that which is according to the details of our constitution. I think the party has done well. What you are seeing is just the narrative of the opposition who chooses to weep more than the bereaved. There is nothing like imposition in Lagos APC, far from it.
Do you think party member at the grassroots are in sync with this?
Of course, they are. They were the ones that came to do the ratification and I am sure you and your colleagues (journalists) went round when we were doing this exercise. I also went round too and I saw what happened. These grassroots people are the ones championing the campaign of Tokunbo Abiru and Segun Saheed in their respective constituencies. So, it is a system that has been working for us. Of course, people could have their personal opinion but in a democracy, it is the will of the people that will prevail.
Another talking point was that the Kosofe II candidate, Femi Saheed, is a known party person but the people don't know Tokunbo Abiru within the party structure...
That's not true. From his antecedents and pedigree, Tokunbo’s dad was a politician within the progressive family. His father, Justice Abiru, was at the Senate during the 1979 to1983 tenure to represent this same Lagos East. Don’t also forget that Tokunbo was a Commissioner in this state for about two years. After serving as Commissioner, he went back to the banking sector to get to the peak of his career. This is to tell you that we are talking about somebody who is career-minded and focused. For me, his coming into this race is simply about giving back to the society that has given him so many opportunities.
Don't you think it is a big gamble on the part of APC to field someone with little or no elective position experience?
We are talking about a party that has a structure, we are talking about a party that been calling the shot since the advent of democracy in 1999. The party has viable structures in every nooks and cranny of this state. That ticket is about the party because Tokunbo Abiru is not an independent candidate. So, it is not right to say that he doesn't have a structure, it is about the party, he is carrying the party flag. Since his emergence as a candidate, he has become the baby and business of the party and we are going to by God's grace ensures he wins the election.
Tokunbo Abiru is squarely up against an opponent that has contested governorship in Lagos before and has some measures of political experience….
We need to put it as it is, Tokunbo is in the same race with an opponent that contested the governorship election just a few months ago and lost. This is an opponent that doesn't even have Tokunbo's pedigree in terms of career success, an opponent whose selling point mainly is about running a backyard estate which he flaunts that they enjoy 24-hour power supply. If someone gets to the peak of his career as the managing director of a first-rate bank in this country, definitely, he can't be at the same level as a realtor that is running an estate somewhere.
So, we have brought out Tokunbo to complement what our present senators are doing. We have brought out somebody who on his own, having just left the banking sector, can boast of some measures of national network, someone who can boast of some measure of connection that he can leverage on to attract the proverbial dividend of democracy first to his Lagos East Senatorial district and generally to Lagos as a whole. We are proud that we have Tokunbo Abiru flying our flag, he is our pride and we believe he will do well. In the past, the song from the opposition party used to be we don't have an indigene as a candidate, that doesn't exist now. They are now trying to leverage on other petty stuff, Tokunbo will win.
Let's talk about this so-called opponent, an opponent that has not been consistent. Just few months ago, he was a member of ADP contesting the governorship election. In a jiffy, he moved over to PDP, oppressed the poor aspirants in that party, paid virtually for all the delegates, the result of the so-called primary was predictable which also means that it is so convenient for this man to jump from party to party, I just hope in next year's local government election, he won't be in Labour party contesting for councillorship. It speaks volume about inconsistency and desperation on his part, Lagosians are not fools. We can't rely on such a character to represent the good people of Lagos East senatorial district, Tokunbo is simply shoulder and head above him.
On the Lagos East, there has been some talks in the social media that the Lagos State by-election might also come hard for APC as a party going by what happened in Edo election, I don't know if you have anything to say to that kind of allusion?
That should be expected from social commentators but they are comparing orange and apple. The scenarios are different, the dramatis personae are different. Now we are talking about Lagos State and not Edo State. The circumstances and scenarios are different and that would reflect. There is no way APC will lose that seat, we are also not mindful of the fact that they are trying to mobilise forces within and outside the state to come work for the PDP candidate, that will make the victory very sweet.
Do you think if some of those personnel that worked in Edo come to Lagos, they won't be able to make the difference?
We know what played out in Edo State and that will not happen here; it was a case of APC scoring an own goal and that will not happen here. They are all welcome in Lagos, besides some of them govern their states from Lagos. We are aware of the fact that when they are not in Abuja, they are in Lagos because Lagos is home to everybody. It's our pride but when it comes to coming by-election, we are not losing sleep, you can see the impacts of the campaign, you can see that we are not taking things for granted, you can see that we are confident but not complacent. Tokunbo is selling his programmes, manifesto and he's offering good service to the district, I believe they will keep the faith and will still vote APC.
Recently, the chairman of APC in Lagos, Chief Tunde Balogun, was reported to have reconciled the warring factions in Ndigbo in APC in Lagos? Do you think that matter is rested?
Yes, it is rested. APC is a disciplined party and all gladiators have to play by the rules. They all have their supporters who believe in APC as a party and all the issues have been thrashed out but by and large, moving forward, it has to be a relationship of mutual respect. They are all mature gentlemen with requisite political experience and we believe they will abide by the decision of the party which is that Comrade Joe Igbokwe is the apex leader of Ndigbo in APC while Hon Jude Idimogu is the deputy. That's the way we are going and I believe they will abide by it.
What do you think is the impression of Lagosians about Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu over the last one year or thereabout?
Governor Sanwo-Olu has been able to surpass the expectations of the majority of Lagosians in the past one year. When one is coming into government, a lot of unexpected and unpredictable issues play themselves up. The pandemic threw up the leadership quality in the governor, he was on top of it in words and action. Lagosians were able to leverage on that and have confidence in the government they elected. To put the icing on the cake, he was always communicating, doing daily briefing twice or thrice in a week; making sure Lagosians are abreast of the plans of the government to ameliorate situations, provide medicals and support at all levels.
Let's take the pandemic out, which has been more or less a big distraction to his governance. Since the pandemic has been easing out, we are all aware of lots of activities going on in the government under the THEME agenda. Just last week, 255 roads and power projects across the state have been approved, reaching out to the grassroots. These are impactful projects and not propaganda. I even feel the government is not saying enough about activities going on in the seat of government in Alausa; he remains a silent worker and achiever and I'm very sure the majority of Lagosians are very happy and proud that they voted him in as a governor. Of course, he will and can do better and as the resources of the state continue to permit him, he will reach out to all the nooks and crannies of the state even surpassing the achievements of his predecessors which will be a thing of pride.
But the opposition is saying he is working with a snail's speed and looking like an apprentice that is yet to get his footing on the job?
The opposition is in the business blabbing but we are in the business of delivery of our promises to the people. The governor has simply refused to be distracted by the opinion of a few frustrated oppositions. He is not even meddling in the politics of APC, apart from the recent assignment where he is heading the campaign of the reelection of his colleague governor in Ondo State. You can see he has rolled up his sleeves, focusing on his work, you won't find the governor respond to any comment or opinion of the opposition; that's the business of the party and which we are up to. Remember he dropped the appellation 'his excellency' which means that when he's all done and dusted, people can now decide if he's worthy of being called by the title. For me, that speaks so much of humility and determination about someone who is really committed to perform and deliver on his mandate.
There were talks when Abiru emerged as the senatorial candidate that he is being set up to take over from Governor Sanwo-Olu...
That came from the camp of opposition because we won't have a governorship election until the next two and half years. So, our party and Abiru as a candidate is focusing on the assignment at hand. The opposition will want to throw a spanner on the wheel to cause disaffection in the ruling party, perhaps that's why they remain as permanent opposition in Lagos State. But nothing can be farther from the truth, Abiru is focusing on the ticket he got from APC and I enjoy some personal relationship with him and I can tell you that he is not even thinking beyond the present mandate he has. But it will suit the propaganda of the PDP to say that somebody is being prepped up to take over from the governor and you can see that the governor didn't even respond to that.
What are your thoughts about Nigeria at 60?
We are still together at 60 and we should be grateful for that. The challenges are enormous but can we do better, the answer is yes. Have we being able to fulfill our dreams at independence, the answer is no. I think all of us could be held responsible for this. Everyone has a part to play in making this country great at different levels. We should ask ourselves whether we have done our parts to make this country great. Or better still, we should ask ourselves what we can do at our levels to make Nigeria fulfill her promises and potentials at independence. If we are all able to do that, I believe Nigeria will be better for us all. I know Nigeria can be greater than what we have today.
Do you think Nigeria might break up?
I don’t think Nigeria can break up but there are germane issues that we need to address. If we are having agitations for a breakup, it means that those issues are now at boiling points and they need to be addressed. I don’t really foresee a break-up