Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, in this interview with Segun James speaks on the genesis of the frosty relationship between her and President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Recently you addressed a press conference and raised the alarm over threat to your life and some other issues. Why did you decide to speak out?
For some time, I have been observing the gradual degeneration into anything goes in Nigeria. Some people have abused me over my last interview, saying I granted the interview because I want to be seen to be busy.
I don’t need to malign anybody to be seen. I know I have done a lot of public works that are commendable by the grace of God and people are still remembering me; that keeps me in people’s memory over many years.
God brought me into public life in 1981. I was known for my work ethics in the private and public sectors and that was what made me to be nominated as deputy governor. I abhor corruption. I was once in charge of the Lagos State Transport Corporation and the land use in Lagos State.
If I wanted to be stinkingly rich with land, I would have compromised. I didn’t take anything from anybody. I have apathy towards corruption.
I hate anything that is fraudulent. I don’t tolerate corruption at all. I don’t believe you have to be corrupt to be okay in this world because God has given all of us the ways and means to be okay in the world. You only have to look inwards and find your own clue into how to be okay and contented. I thank God for contentment.
Based on my experience in private and public sectors, corruption has been on for a long time but it was not supported by the powers that be many years ago. That is where the difference is now. In those days, corruption was on but a lot of people were frowning at it. So it didn’t gain ground but now corruption has become an accepted way of doing things. That is what is frightening me. And this is what has led to me coming out to say where is Nigeria heading to? Where are we heading to?
I was part and parcel of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before I stepped back when my mother said you will not steal and you will not allow others to steal, what are you doing in politics? Don’t let them kill you; come out, especially after Funsho Williams’s death. So, I listened to my mum and I refused the appointment that was given me to continue with the Federal Character Commission and then came out of politics.
It is believed in some quarters that your recent outburst against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may be a result of your political differences. What can you say about this?
When I was in the PDP in 2002, I was one of the gubernatorial aspirants under PDP but at the same time, I was Commissioner of the Federal Character Commission, representing Lagos State, and the data we were receiving in the Federal Character Commission, showed that Lagos indigenes were being displayed for one reason or the other. So I have to pay a courtesy call to the Governor as the Commissioner representing Lagos State; that was the norm then.
In my letter requesting the courtesy call, I stated that I am coming to discuss indigeneship affairs with him and we have data that showed that they have been marginalised in Lagos.
Bola Tinubu, the then-governor granted the appointment and we went there. When I stood up to present my address, he was very visibly angry, saying I have come to play politics because I am a PDP governorship aspirant. I told him, I am not there to play politics but to present data to him. He said he didn’t see any data. I told him I have already sent ahead what I came to present.
He said he didn’t get anything and I am only playing politics. It was so bad that day and I was shaking. Then one of the commissioners sitting in front sent him a note; I don’t know what was on that note.
After reading the note, he calmed down and told me to present what I came to discuss with him. I said we will send it Sir. The courtesy call finished and when I got to the office, we packaged everything again and sent it to them. I wasn’t playing politics; it was the fact and figures then. I did not know that it had a fallout.
A few years later something happened. I had land allocated to me on Victoria Island by Raji Rasaki. My governor, Michael Otedola took over that land and gave me another land. It was when I got the C of O that I realised that Governor Otedola has changed the land that was given to me.
I sent him a note that this is not the land on my allocation letter. He was on his way out of the country and told me that when he comes back, we will talk about it. That was in 1993. He never came back as governor.
So I was stalked with land that was not my original allocation. And that land had a problem because there was a squatter on it; a Lebanese squatter, who was making building blocks on it. He said the local government allocated the land to him. Local government has no business and allocating land to anybody according to the law of Lagos State. So, I had to take him to court to recover the land from him. That case went through for about a couple of years and I got judgment.
Shortly after I got judgment to take over the land from him, some people came to me as developers; actually, it was my husband that they approached. They paid some money and went to do the search.
After doing the search, they came back to say the land C of O has been revoked. I told them I am not aware. When we looked at the date of revocation, it was shortly after the issue between me and Governor Tinubu. So that means he dealt with me after the event by revoking the C of O of my land.
I told them to approach him since I have already given them the document to the land to see what can be done. They went to him and he said I must have known that he took the land. He said I did something and I didn’t approach him to apologise. I asked what did I do wrong and why should I apologise to him.
Were you able to reconcile the issue?
I contacted Oba Akiolu and he stepped in. He said he doesn’t know what we can do because he doesn’t know what is between me and Governor Tinubu and that he doesn’t want to hear anything about me. I said there is nothing between us except the issue of me saying Lagos indigenes have been marginalised.
While the issue was on, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the then President wanted to visit Lagos on tour. During that period, I was the most senior PDP public officer in Lagos. The Governor’s Office invited me to be part of those to meet President Obasanjo. It was supposed to be an Elders Committee meeting and State Banquet.
It was during Ramadan like this, so my husband and myself, dressed up for the meeting, which was supposed to start at 4pm so that it will end up breaking of fast. When we got there, my husband went to the sitting room and I was with the elders where the meeting was to take place. The Governor’s aides came to meet me and said, ‘Your Excellency, you come for the dinner. This meeting is for elders.’ I told them I was invited to it. It is in the letter that I was given and the aides went away. I didn’t know something was brewing outside. Apparently Chief Molade Okoya Thomas saw me at the meeting and went to tell Governor Tinubu I was there. That was when they told the aides to come and tell me to leave the meeting. And I gave the aides the information that I was invited.
In the meantime, I have already sent my aide to go to the house to get a copy of the letter, because I didn’t bring it along. So when President Obasanjo arrived and they entered the venue; as they entered, Governor Tinubu left.
President Obasanjo walking in; walked to me where I was sitting and told me to leave the venue. I asked him why he said I was not invited. He turned to the elders towards where Chief Molade Okoya Thomas was and asked was she invited? Chief Molade Okoya Thomas said, “No. She was not invited. She shouldn’t be here. She is not one of us.” I challenged him based on his three sentences – ‘She was not invited. She shouldn’t be here. She is not one of us.’
Governor Bola Tinubu turned to me and said; you hear that, you have to leave. I said I was invited to the meeting, but as your Excellency pleases, if you say I should leave, I will leave. So I took my bag and went out. A lot of people who were there including Professor Fafunwa were surprised and nobody understood what was going on but they had the statement by Chief Molade Okoya Thomas and also had the statement by Governor Tinubu telling me to go out.
After the meeting, when my husband tried to approach Chief Okoya Thomas, he took to his heels. I have never seen an elderly man run like that because he probably thought my husband wanted to attack him. So since he (Tinubu) walked me out of the meeting, our relationship has not been cordial.
The issue of my pension also came up. Tinubu didn’t pay the pension. He said all of us who were elected before him were not entitled to the pension that was drawn up that addressed all those who were elected. He said the elected only means those who were elected with him and after him. So, he didn’t pay Jakande, Jafojo, Otedola and myself. They said Baba Jakande said he was not interested and Baba said he didn’t tell anybody that.
That at least they will give him what they want to give him before he will now say, I am not interested. I took Lagos State Government to court after I approached Governor Raji Fashola, and he said I should write a letter requesting it. I wrote the letter requesting it and they wrote me back to say I was not entitled.
I gathered all my information together and went to court and I got judgement that they should give me my pension; that the pension is for all the elected officers and up to today, no pension.
All the governors have no power to pay it. Bola Tinubu is the one who puts them there and they dare not go against whatever he wants.
So this has been the situation between us and all of them know that he doesn’t want to hear my name. So in many of their functions, when they are introducing dignitaries, it is either they don’t mention my name or they don’t acknowledge that I am there. You know all sorts of humiliating situations that I was accommodating. I have been stomaching so many usual incidences, innuendoes and snide remarks from those who believe they are doing things to gain the favour of Bola Tinubu.
What actually led to your recent outburst having kept quiet for long…
I was still talking to a few people about my pension; that why are they doing this? They went to appeal courts, they hang the case; they are not following it up.
When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode got to office, he decided that the matter should be settled. He said they should go and withdraw the case from the appeal court and settle it. They were on it and at the last stage, he had a problem with Bola Tinubu. So they couldn’t conclude. I was still talking to some of the bigwigs in APC for me to get my pension.
Why did you support the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the last presidential poll?
During the last election, I was all out for Peter Obi because every time he stands up to talk and what he has done, I see myself in him. If I am put in this position, I will turn Nigeria around 360 degrees with all the loopholes of corruption and all that. I believe he can do something. I have been examining Peter Obi. He has records of what he has done in Anambra and people talked about him. They said he is stingy. We need somebody now who is disciplined, who can say enough is enough for the suffering of Nigerians, let us do it in a different way; not same of same.
Besides, I believe we are not being fair in this nation by not allowing South-East to produce a president. North, South-West and South-South have produced the president. What is the reason why South-East cannot have it?
I also believe in restructuring. The clamour for president would be subdued if we do the proper restructuring. Every state and every region will be able to develop according to its resources and capacity without waiting for handouts from the central. So, that is where I stand.
Have you been able to reach out to Tinubu or any of his close associates to resolve the differences between the two of you?
I reached out to him. Oba Akiolu also reached out to him. He is my Egbon and we were very close. He couldn’t bring anything out of it. When his (Tinubu) son died, I followed Alhaja Bintu Tinubu to go and commiserate with him.
And when he saw me, he was surprised and I wonder why he was surprised because I know I have nothing against him. We prayed for him and so on as normal something. So, when we were going, he said I understand you want to see me; so that means he has gotten my message that I wanted to see him but since then nothing.
Is your stance against Asiwaju Tinubu an offshoot of what transpired between the two of you in the past?
No. God has blessed Bola Tinubu even beyond the level he himself expected that he will be blessed; why is he not contended? Why not support somebody to say I have this knowledge on how this nation can be changed; put it out in the open so that people can give him credit for it and make Nigeria a better place for all of us.