Chief Tunji Shelle
Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tunji Shelle, in this interview with Bunmi Oni, says the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) government in the state is using the local government development areas to feast on the state’s resources. Excerpts:
What do you think is responsible for the abysmal performance of your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the last local government elections in Lagos State?
The history of Lagos State elections cannot be addressed in a jiffy, we just have to trace it to the origin of the election of 1999 when our own candidate in 2003 was the person that won the party primary in the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Thus, the history of the PDP not doing well in Lagos cannot be complete without such sensitive or touchy past of the party. PDP has not really overcome the problems of the past. It is now that the knotty issues are being put behind us and we want to forge ahead and continue to win elections.
Our performance in the last election was not abysmal because we realised that we have some weak points and our strong points. Unfortunately too, the creation of additional local council areas called the LCDAs has further bastardised the arrangement on ground. The ACN is using it to gain followership and it is illegal. We went to court and it was decided that they did not complete the cycle of creating additional councils and because Lagos State sees itself as a government that cannot respect the rule of law, it went ahead, created it. PDP is not saying that you cannot create additional local councils if it is for development purposes, but when you conduct election into illegality, definitely something is wrong there. What if other states decide to do the same? There will be confusion.
This is the time the Federal Government should take the bull by the horn and stop this contraption and illegality called additional local government, LCDA and what have you. They are using it to reap where they did not sow. What we did during the last council poll was to concentrate on our areas of strong point, where we have comparative advantage; where we have people who will vote for us. We have areas like Badagry, Oredo, Agbado-Oke-Odo, Obalende and Ikoyi.
We really worked hard there and we won there. Even after the elections, somebody sat in Yaba and announced results without figures. The results that were collated were not announced. The LASIEC chairman in the person of Justice Fatai Adeyinka announced results without figures and said we could go to the tribunal. We are still at the tribunal. They are just using it as time wasting technique. I know there will be a time to pay for this illegality.
Some politicians, both in ACN and PDP are confronting credibility challenge like the Lagos Speaker, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, and House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. Do these men deserve to be in public office?
Gbajabiamila is one of the most outspoken members of the National Assembly and he is a member of the opposition at the House of Representatives. He wants to be heard, wants to popular and he is always quick to express himself. I’ll first give it to him that he has courage. But if you are too courageous, it can work against you. If you knew you have a skeleton in your cupboard, don’t come out and start pointing accusing fingers. That is where he got it wrong.
So, Gbajabiamila should talk less. I’m sure that by now, he would have learnt from his mistakes. Gbajabiamila is intelligent enough to know what to do. In other climes, he should have resigned, but here someone would have to take him to court. If I know too well about his ‘infraction’ I can go to court, but I don’t. People who know should do it.
In the case of Speaker Ikuforiji, he is not in charge; he is only working for somebody, just as the Lagos State government is a tool in the hand of someone else. I want to separate these two issues. Ikuforiji has a case to answer in court and I’m sure if we have a judiciary that is not morally bankrupt, he cannot come out of this case a free man. I’m not a judge, but I give him that benefit of doubt. If he is found wanting, the court is there to determine his case, but the ACN should stop pointing accusing fingers because the party has skeletons in its cupboard than the opposition in the state.
For Doyin Okupe, I’m sure the contract was not awarded to him as a person, but a company in which he has interest. Apart from that, in contractual agreement, there are certain things that have to be met. Okupe has come out to say that the government of Benue State did not meet the requirements of the terms of the contract. That is why they could not implement the contract to the letters and he published everything in the papers. Akume was in the PDP when he gave the contract to the company linked to Okupe. Now Akume is in ACN, what do you expect? They just want to make noise. They know Okupe is a master of the game. He has commitment, grace and guts. They are just afraid, they want to pin him to something negative. I’m sure the man is up to the challenges.
Do you support the new traffic law in the state and assuming the PDP takes over power in 2015, what will be your attitude to it?
The traffic law will simply be set aside, reviewed and modified to suit the situation on ground. Not everybody can afford to get a white collar job, not everybody can afford to work in offices. And a typical Lagos is a traffic-bound environment coming in and out of Lagos. The law is made for man and not man for law. If you want to do a law, make sure that you can implement it and the people that will implement it are sane and not biased and programmed to do injustice. How do you address the issue of okada riders if they can overwhelm you? You have to provide a viable alternative.
With the new law, it’s like the government is now giving KAI and LASTMA personnel the opportunity to exploit the citizens – both the riders and their passengers. People have referred to the law as draconian. This means the law is anti-people. Unfortunately, when ACN as a government is looking for votes, they’ll keep quiet and overlook the illegality. It will relax when the elections are around the corner. The ACN did not collect toll at Lekki when the elections were around the corner, but it started collecting tolls after the election. The ACN was not driving okada riders from the roads before the elections but when the elections were over, it started driving them away. Those people that have not been driven away and are doing their legitimate business will be intimidated when the elections come that don’t vote for the other party because we will drive you out of business. Resources available to the state government today are enormous. It is only that it is not properly applied. There are lots of leakages. PDP government will put a stop to such action.
How do you intend to wrest power from the ACN when indeed, your party is factionalised and with several court cases?
The year 2015 is both far and near. My own conviction is that if you work hard, you’ll get good result. If you make mistakes; if you are in a strategic position and you commit blunders, definitely all these mistakes and blunders will work against you. As far as Lagos PDP is concerned, we have just one party. If there are one or two dissident members in the party, it doesn’t mean that the party has divisions or factions, it means those people are expressing their fundamental human rights as Nigerians and nobody can stop them. But as far as the Lagos State PDP is concerned, I’m the authentic chairman; I’m in charge and commander of the ship and I don’t see anybody querying that. I’m recognised with the entire executive by the national and zonal leadership.
You’ll see that most state governments under the control of ACN have lost focus and direction. They have exhausted all their ideas. They started from a pinnacle of doing things that could make people believe in them. Now they are nose diving. The roads are not maintained, the infrastructure are decaying. The only thing Lagos State under the ACN has done perfectly well is beautification. I’ll give the governor more than 100 per cent in that regard. But go to the hospitals; the hospitals have been privatised silently. An ordinary Lagosian cannot benefit from the services you have in the hospitals. Do you have water flowing in all the taps in the state or in certain parts of the state? If there are, they are limited. What about the roads? Are the roads good? The roads that are good are the concessioned ones and they lack drainages. Has the government provided houses for the average Nigerian living in the state? No! They’ve done BRT. Are there enough buses? The buses are dying day in day out. These are issues that we’ll continue to discus in the PDP between now and 2015. Our arguments and politics will issue-based. Our criticising will not be for criticising sake. I’m sure this will take us far.