Fouad Oki

Former director-general of successive Lagos governorship campaigns, Mr. Fouad Oki rebels against the establishment. Segun James scrutinises his dissenting views.

Within the politics of Lagos state, the guardians of orthodoxy are not given to a capricious change of mind. So, when Mr. Fouad Oki, a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, in an unprecedented challenge of the status quo, forced a change, it became a big deal.

The former Director General of all the governorship campaigns in the state since 2003 had surprisingly stood up to challenge the continued over lordship, dominance of the party by Asiwaju Bola Armed Tinubu, a former governor of the state and the obvious authority in the affairs of the party. His action was exceptional.

Because of Tinubu’s larger than life personality and his stranglehold on politics in the state, no one ever challenged him. Even the opposition agrees Tinubu carries on as if Lagos State is his personal political property.

This was the situation until the coming of Oki who was the leader of the campaign team that returned Tinubu, his successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola and incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode to office at various times during elections in the state.

But how and when did things fall apart between Tinubu and Oki who is leading the opposition to challenge the APC national leader in his home political turf?

Oki, a man who believes in loyalty to his party and leader is not new to political battles. He was suspended in 2013 when the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) merged with other political parties to form the APC. The battle at that time was similar to his current confrontation. He had insisted then that hard work must be rewarded.

But when the 2015 election came and the election campaign of Akinwunmi Ambode was floundering. It became imperative that only a political engineer with the talents and abilities of Oki could do the magic. He was quickly recalled and the campaigns handed over to him. It is to his credit that the APC won the election with just about 150,000 votes.

Until recently, Oki lived a quiet political life. He came only when his services were on demand. People around him say that believes that politics is not all about going for elections. To him, there are other aspects to politicking.

Today, Oki’s opposition activities have put asunder the assignment given to Tinubu by President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile the various factions within the APC nationwide. Tinubu can only post a serious front to other cliques, if he settles the squabble in his home.

Since he revved the engine of intra-party opposition in Lagos, Tinubu’s committee has been distracted. Several months after the inauguration of the committee, it has not achieved anything. Incidentally, the commencement of work by the APC Reconciliation Committee coincided with the party’s state primaries, which resulted in further acrimonies.

A few weeks to the national convention of the party, the committee is battling to calm frayed nerves in different troubled states. The emerging possibility is that the outcome of the convention will further tear the party apart, a situation which will be to the benefit of the opposition, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party that is in need of salvation as well.

In a country populated by ambitious dreamers, the political field is most often strewn with frustration and dashed hopes. This is the hard reality of many young and ambitious men who ventured into the Nigerian political minefield without a godfather, a mentor or brother to walk them through the inner workings of politics in the country.

This situation is not different in Lagos State where one man ostensibly determined everything by imposing whosoever he wished on the party and the people. Although, he was a beneficiary of such activity in the past, Oki is attempting to right a perceived wrong that has been going for too long.

To him, the dynamics of politics has changed in Lagos State. He said that there should be a level playing field for everyone unlike the past when you must know or be close to the powers that be to be noticed.

Apparently, Oki’s ambition was also fired by the recent signing into law of the Not Too Young to Run bill by President Buhari.

Without doubt, Oki has expanded the political frontier of Lagos State. For emphasis, he embodies the best of political engineering. What’s more, he has not only mentored young politicians, he has also made a few of them.

It was at a youth political leadership forum organised by the GLEEHD Foundation with the theme:Nigeria’s Emerging Political Leaders Forum – 2019 Election and Youth Participation in Political Leadership in Nigeria: Prospect and Strategies for Young Leaders that he exposed the rebel in him.

To a lot of people, it sounded like an easy question for any half-competent politician to answer: What are the chances of the youths on the political tuff if septuagenarians are still contesting for political positions?

Oki told the youths that contrary to their feelings, money was not the first priority in seeking elective position but having ideas, aims and goals and a strategy to achieve them. According to him, they must make themselves relevant by participating actively in the activities in their party of choice.

“Don’t expect power on a platter of gold,”he told them. He said nobody was going to hand over power to them simply because they are young.

He counselled that any of them who has something to offer must be ready to throw themselves into the ring to be seen and be heard.

According to him, politics was not about elective position. He pointed at other areas that an active youth in politics can be useful. “If you have something to offer, you must be rebellious. Let people see you as someone with something to offer. Not everyone can stand for election, so you must understand your capacity, ability and where you belong in the scheme of things.”

Oki understands the essence of positioning in the world of political intrigues and intricacies. He knows that it can be about monsters and vampires. He also knows that it can be very rewarding.

Continuing his treatise, he said that politics can be part horror and part thriller; but more importantly, it has a permanent dizzying and charming.
Born almost 60 years ago in Lagos, Okiis a Surulere boy. While most of his contemporaries have since moved out of Surulere, Oki continues to make Surulere his home.

For someone who has held the strategically important job of director-general of governorship campaigns in Lagos, it is strange that he has never sought an elective position, even though he could have any position he wants if he so desires as a reward for hard work and loyalty.

That is the question that is today being asked by those who know him following his recent decision not only to confront the national leader but by putting himself up for election as state chairman of the APC, a position he rejected in the past.

The highest elective position he has ever held is as vice chairman of the Lagos Central Senatorial District of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He would not even be the chairman of the set let alone compete for any position at the national level.

At the splinter Lagos state APC congress he that was held at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, the number of people that participated were so much that the national leadership of the party could not afford to dismiss him as another rabble-rouser.

Although Oki would not admit it, it is believed that he has the support and backing of some prominent leaders of the party in the state including former Lagos State Governor and Minister of Power, Housing and Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola.

So far, only the National Legal Adviser of the APC, Dr. Muiz Banire, who had made his grievance against the political establishment of Lagos APC has come out to state that he has sympathy for Oki.

Political analysts are harping on the theory that the only solution to the crisis and the menace of Oki is for Tinubu to personally call for reconciliation and harmonise the party executive list in the state, as the party heads towards its national congress and the general election.