Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain Chief Jide Oni, in an interview with th Nation spoke extensively on the Buhari and Ambode administrations, the threat by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to capture Lagos during the council elections and other partisan issues.
What is your assessment of Lagos State Governor Akinwumi Ambode in the last one year?
I must commend his efforts. he is making sure that every nook and cranny of the state benefit from his government. Look at the street lightening project. In the history of Lagos State, no government has decided to do 114 roads at the same time. The rural areas are benefiting from the infrastructural development. He has mobilised the contractors to the sites. Roads that need rehabilitation are being rehabilitated. He is now creating direct and indirect employment for the youths. Many of his programmes are designed to ensure self-reliance so that people can be employers of labour, instead of relying on government. I give him kudos for these achievements.
In retrospect, why was the All Progressives Congress (APC) unable to win the parliamentary elections in Oshodi/Isolo Constituency, which is your base, in the last election?
I won’t apportion blame to anybody. There was leadership tussle. There was a high concentration of our eastern brothers in three of our local governments in Lagos State. They were meeting underground without our knowledge. Some of them are even members of our party. They have been meeting to vote for their kith and kin. There was also crisis over the nomination of candidates for the election.
What can be done to avert the same scenario during the local government elections?
Our National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has invited some leaders to talk to them to harness their resources and energy together so that they can put heads together. If we put our eggs in one basket, there is no way they can defeat us. I assure you, the APC will win all the local governments. But, the right thing must be done at the right time. The leadership of the party is working in this direction. Those who hold forte in their local governments know themselves and the people there. Somebody will just go and tell a lie to produce a candidate who cannot win. I don’t want to mention names. We know those who can win in Ejigbo. We know those who can win in Isolo. We know those who can win Ishodi. If you allow these people to contest and share the remaining positions to other people, the election is as good as won.
Are you saying there was tension between imposition and the clamour for the primary?
I won’t say yes or no. We need to allow the leadership of the party in these various local governments and local government development areas to determine who is a better candidate. Either a direct or indirect primary must be arranged so that the best candidate can emerge. That is very important.
How are the people of your base, Osodi/Isolo, mow warming up for the council election?
We have been having various meetings. A lot of meeting is going on, which is excluding the original leaders and members of the party, who are the real mobilisers when election comes. They sideline them. If this happens, we are still going to get the same result. So they should allow the right people who know what to do, who have been mobilising for elections and who have been handling elections in the local governments and getting good results to handle the process in their local governments.
Have you reported this scenario to the party leadership?
Of course. But, since the time-table has not been released, I don’t want to heat up the polity. I don’t want to raise an alarm when it is not necessary.
Could you shed light on how you parted ways with the late Prince Ademola Adeniji-Adele?
We did not part ways. Till he died, he was still my friend. We just had a minor disagreement. It was about principle. They wanted to do something’ I did not agree. I said we should follow the leader that has been good to us. But, I don’t want to talk about that now because he is late. he is not here to defend himself. So, we were friends till he died.
What are those things the APC government should put in place to consolidate its hold on the state?
The past administration at the centre has done a lot of damage to the economy. A lot of people do not know anything about the spheres of influence of the federal, state and local governments. If anything happens, they believe the nearest government is the solution to their problem. If there is no electricity, the people of Isolo and Oke-Afa will complain that they don’t know what the local government is doing. We need to educate our people on the limitations of each level of government. In Lagos, when the government proposed a power project, the Federal Government did not approve it. If they are now blaming Lagos State government for lack of power, it is ignorance on the part of some people.
The present government is trying its best. It may be painful at the initial stage like this. But, if they can allow the government to continue with its reforms, we will be happy for it at the end of the day.
Some eminent Lagosians are alleging that the APC government is marginalising indigenes. What is your reaction?
Who is an indigene? If an Igbo can be a Mayor in the United States, England, what are we saying? The law says anybody who has lived in a particular area can contest elections. The constitution is there. It is not a new constitution. The clause has been there for over 50 years. Why are people now saying they are marginalised? Some people were born and dread here over 50 years ago. They are members of Lagos State. They have been contributing to the socio-economic and political development of the state. They are entitled to be elected and appointed as states in the constitution. We have been living together as a family. Some people did not believe in Ambode. Some people believed in him. If these people have knowledge, experience and capacity and they are giving appointment, what is wrong about that? The indigenes and the non-indigenes have good rapport. We should maintain it. There will be no crisis. We are brothers and sisters. We are one family. We should remain so.
The PDP is threatening to displace the APC in Lagos in 2015…
It is a simple arithmetic. I will use the example of a car. When you buy a car, it takes eight hours to get to Abuja. The engine is knocked, the tyre bursts, the gear is not good and you say you want to get to Abuja within two and half hours, don’t you know that is day dreaming? When the PDP was a full party, it could not defeat the APC in Lagos. Now that it has been punctured; no loose money, armsgate. You get three red cards in a match, you are down. What can you do with eight players? So, the PDP cannot get power in Lagos State? Who are their leaders? Who are the youths that will mobilise for them. There is no looted money for them again. Where are they going to get money to buy votes like they did in the last election? The PDP not a threat to the APC. But, the APC should also do everything that is necessary to retain Lagos.
People are complaining of hardship under the Buhari administration. Does that not suggest that their expectation has not been met?
The last Jonathan administration has crippled Nigeria. The house was about to collapse. For it not to collapse on people’s head, it must be demolished. before you pack all the rubbles and build another house, it takes time; at least, six months. On May 29, President Buhari will tell the nation how much he has recovered from looters. That will be five percent of what they have stolen. You can imagine how much they have stolen in the country, which we are paying for now. But, only few enlightened people can understand what causes the present problems. Some people cause problems for 16 years and we are looking for a solution within one year. It will take another one and two years.
Culled from The Nation