In an interview with Segun James, one of the All Progressives Congress leaders in Lagos, Chief Lanre Razak speaks on the June 22 governorship primary in Edo State and other topical issues. Excerpts:
Edo State is tense politically and there is a crisis rocking your party, the All Progressives Congress, ahead of the September 19 governorship election. What is really happening?
Edo State is now a classic example of Nigerian politics, where someone suddenly became governor or people with appointments easily forget, where they are coming from. Whether anybody likes it or not, the truth is that Oshiomhole had been the governor of Edo State for two terms. He has paid his dues as a leader and done wonderfully well, and without the contribution of Oshiomhole, I doubt if Mr. Obaseki could have emerged governor of Edo State in 2016.
It is the goodwill built by Oshiomhole that Obaseki has been enjoying. We belong to the same party, to the best of my knowledge, the national leadership has not been briefed about the crime and maladministration committed by Oshiomhole.
However, I am aware that Obaseki and his loyalists have taken Oshiomhole to court on several issues and we are saying we belong to the same party and we are members of the same family.
I believe the governor thought that he could remove Oshiomhole from office suddenly to ensure a smooth sail for his second term, which he failed woefully to achieve. And probably he believes that Oshiomhole will want to retaliate and deny him a level playing field in the governorship primary.
As for the governorship primary in Edo, there are six contestants and they are members of our party, who have equal rights to contest the election based on the Nigerian 1999 Constitution as amended and the Constitution of the APC.
For Obaseki to be running around and seeking that he should be given the party’s automatic ticket and that no other aspirant should contest the primary is unconstitutional and undemocratic. I am happy that members of the party have insisted that other aspirants have equal right based on the Constitution of the party and the Nigerian Constitution.
He may be making a lot of noise but I can assure him that what will be, will be. Democracy is no more nascent in Nigeria; it has taken deep root as far as I am concerned. We have been practicing it for over 21 years now.
As politicians, we should realise that, if you are climbing up the ladder, those who helped you to get to the top, remember that when you are coming down you will also need them so I am not going to be bothered about the cries or the noise of Obaseki.
Like an insurance slogan, ‘If the breadwinner dies, what happens? Life will continue. People may live on charity or live in a precarious way.
I want to assure you that without Obaseki, APC will grow and with him APC will continue to grow. So, let the national leadership provide a level playing ground in Edo State; let us have the direct primary and whoever wins the election will carry the flag of the party to the governorship election scheduled for September 19, 2020.
Nigerians know that they have a right to hold opinion on issues after all freedom of speech is guaranteed in our Constitution. Let the governor make all the speeches he wants to make but Edo people will take a final decision on who becomes the next governor and the APC will have a credible candidate at the end of the day.
I am impressed that direct primary is the option the national leadership of the party has chosen and the National Working Committee (NWC) is the organ given the constitutional right to choose the type of primary that should hold in Edo and we are all looking forward to the exercise on June 22. Of course, the governor has gone to court but let us wait and see how the court will decide the case and whether it will take away the right of the party executives from them.
There’re concerns that after going through the forthcoming gubernatorial primary, the party may not have enough time to reconcile aggrieved aspirants and unite its members for the September 19 governorship election in Edo State. Is there any machinery put in place to ensure that the bruises inflicted on some members are healed before the main election?
No bruises will stop the APC from winning the Edo State governorship election. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had the opportunity of governing Edo State for almost 10 years before the emergence of the APC and the electorate knows vividly how badly the PDP ruled the state and the transformational changes brought by the APC-led administration of former governor Oshiomhole.
For this reason, the people will vote for our party again to continue to enjoy the benefits of good governance. No doubt, they will not return to Egypt. I believe the insistence of one person to be the sole candidate without first going through party primary will not deny the APC of victory in the election.
Also, I know too well that the APC has an effective crisis management mechanism in place that after the primary will immediately swing into action and ensure that members of the APC in Edo State will come out of the primary stronger and more united to defeat other parties on September 19.
What is your advice for members of the Ondo State chapter of the APC as they also prepare for their own governorship election on October 10th?
Ondo is a unique state, the Sunshine State. I know the people are mindful of what is best for them, the aspirant that will lead them to greater heights and I am sure they are working towards electing him as candidate of the party. My advice is for them to see the party as their symbol of unity and obey the directives of the party’s national leadership in conducting their governorship primary. They should embrace direct primary in Ondo State and should be careful in picking the best candidate that will win election for us.
Some people are of the opinion that if the wrong governorship candidates are fielded in Ondo and Edo States, what happened in Rivers and Zamfara States could repeat itself. Are you worried too?
What happened in Zamfara and Rivers States during the 2019 elections is a different ball game from what is playing out now in Edo and Ondo States. In Rivers and Zamfara, members of APC took the party to court on the ground that there were no genuine primaries, but this not the current situation playing out in Edo and Ondo States.
In these two states, the APC has declared that it would conduct primaries based on the party’s Constitution. It is only the mode of primaries (whether it should be direct or indirect) that is in dispute at the moment.
And like I said before, whatever decision the NWC has taken on the issue in this respect is what the party will implement and whoever emerges through that process is a candidate that is legally elected and that candidate will carry the day.
So, whatever happens after the primary, the party will put the necessary machinery in motion to ensure that we don’t make the same mistake this time around.
And my candid advice is for the leadership of the party to remain steadfast, unbiased and should not to be seen as favouring any particular aspirant to emerge as candidate. They should provide a level playing ground and the best candidate would emerge and win the election for us.
May 29 was the first anniversary of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in office. Looking at the last 365 days, will you say he has met the expectations of Lagosians?
There is this popular saying, ‘That you don’t need to tell a blind and deaf person outside when it rains’. It is because when he is getting drenched, he knows it is raining and does the needful. All Lagosians appreciate Mr. Sanwo-Olu for his landmark achievements in office so far, and if you ask the people, they are unanimous that the governor has done wonderfully well in Lagos State.
And by the grace of God, the cooperation and support of the citizens, he will continue to excel providing good governance to the satisfaction of our people. My appeal to Lagosians is to give maximum cooperation to the governor, they should continue to pay their taxes and charges as and when due so that the Lagos State Government will have more funds to discharge its responsibilities to citizens.
He is doing his utmost best and I know too well that sky is the limit for the gentleman, if funds are made available for him to implement his THEME Agenda. It is clear to all that we have a good governor in Lagos and I thank God for giving us such a man with integrity, a workaholic and I only pray that the Almighty will give him more wisdom, good health, and the energy to remain focused and not be distracted by anyone in order to provide more democracy dividends for Lagosians.
Can you tell us a few areas you believe the governor has excelled?
One, on this COVID-19 pandemic, which is ravaging the world the governor has shown exemplary leadership and done wonderfully well in containing the disease. He has personally led the campaign in educating people, advising, directing and telling them what to do on the precautionary protocols on corona virus so that Lagosians can remain safe.
Also, the roads have been receiving the deserved attention and getting improved by the day, which means he is a focused governor. The state administration has similarly been upgrading schools, health facilities and working seriously on agriculture. There’s no area of human endeavor that Sanwo-Olu is not addressing at the moment despite the outbreak of this pandemic. We want to give him kudos for excellent performance even in the face of distractions.
I want to reiterate my earlier appeal to the federal government to consider Lagos as a special state and accord her that special status, which the state truly deserves and should be given the needed assistance, because of the quantum of problems facing Lagos State as a former federal capital so that Governor Sanwo-Olu can face these challenges frontally.
The Lagos PDP will totally disagree with your assessment of the governor’s first year in office. Rather, leaders of the party said they believed that the governor was just grandstanding and systematically flouting guidelines for re-election and that he has started campaigning for second term.
Members of PDP in Lagos State and at the federal level, we know them for what they are: they usually cross the river on the map. They don’t know what it takes to provide good governance. Remember they were in charge of the country’s affairs for 16 years before 2015 and it was a colossal failure on their part.
Now they are only singing, let them continue to sing and it is only those who believe there is a message in their song that will listen to them. But they don’t deserve any sympathy from Nigerians anymore and they don’t deserve any mercy from Lagos State either, because they have not been able to put their house in order in the last 21 years that we have democracy.
Is it Chief Olabode George that will do any better – a man who cannot win his polling booth in his ward or who else is remaining in PDP Lagos State? Former chieftains of the party like Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Moshood Salvador and others that can give PDP some votes at elections are no longer members of the party.
My humble self left them about 12 years ago, when I discovered that they don’t have anything good for Lagosians. I am a democrat committed to my people and in politics, because of the welfare of Lagosians. So, we cannot be talking of PDP now in the state. They are wrong in their assessment of the governor. They are agents of destruction and nobody is taking them serious.
Friday June 12 was the 27th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola by former Military President Ibrahim Babangida. The day is also a national public holiday and the official Democracy Day. Do you think the political class has learnt any lessons?
First, I want to appeal to Nigerians to look at the composition of ethnic nationalities (over 250) in this country before they make any objective assessment of the current state of the nation and the performance of the political class to manage it to the current level.
We should appreciate rather than vilify them because human beings are the most difficult to handle and for the political class to have managed them especially since our return to democracy for the past 21 years now, I believe the politicians have done very well.
A 21 –year-old person can surprise you with a good result and the political class has been doing what is expected of them in governance. Initially, it was rough and tough because the political class came together to ensure the military returned to the barracks in 1999, or what can be described as let my people go and they have gone for good.
You recall that a lot of strange bedfollows came together to ensure the exit of the military on May 29, 1999 and from all indications, there has been a lot of realignment of political forces, which is still ongoing.
It was as a result of that realignment that led to the formation of the APC in 2014, which defeated then ruling PDP in 2015 general election, when Muhammadu Buhari emerged president and the APC became the governing party at the federal level.
I want to assure you that the political class will consolidate on good governance and continue to sustain the nation’s democracy. We will not allow reactionary elements to emerge and destroy the democracy that Nigerians fought very hard to enthrone.
We will continue to remember the heroes of that struggle such as Chief Abiola, Chief Abraham Adesanya and Chief Bola Ige of blessed memory as well as Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Nigerian democracy is no longer nascent and the political class has laid a very solid foundation for democracy to thrive in the country.
Before 2014, merger of political parties had never worked in this country but because of patriots like Senator Tinubu and President Buhari, who decided that Nigeria should come first before any personal interest, they made the necessary sacrifice, came together and ensured the merger of some parties – the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form the APC.
This was very unusual and this group of patriots ensured total victory for our party. Having achieved that, you and I know the sacrifices that our political leaders have made and we will not allow such sacrifices to be in vain and be destroyed.
I want to assure you that democracy will continue to thrive in Nigeria and we will work assiduously against the agents of evil to ensure that we don’t destroy the democracy we have achieved.