Biodun Salami, is the Assistant Publicity secretary of Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in a recent interview session with journalists, he speaks on the true state of things in the build up to the Lagos State July 22nd council election, the political fortune of the APC, impasse that greeted the consensus arrangement and the unchallenged ticket for the return of 18 former council executive chairmen, among other issues. PATRICK OKOHUE reports.
Since after the APC primary election, there have been barrage of petitions and protests that greeted it, how has the party been able to handle that?
We have our internal mechanism and of course in any political setting some of these things you mentioned are probably to be expected, take some time to reflect back to the number of forms that were sold at the councillorship level for the 377 wards, those that obtained the forms not the expression of interest form.
Those that collected the nomination form were 1806 officially for the 377 wards in Lagos State and for the chairmanship for 57 seats, 488 collected the nomination form.
You can see from that basis where we are coming from and expectedly human beings differ and so also is their magnanimity in victory and accepting defeat.
Even when you go into the history of civil war if not for that statement, ‘No victor no vanquish’, we would still have not been a united Nigeria today.
Are there no mechanism in place for eventualities?
To us as a party we envisage that number would have led to that, the constitution of our party also makes provision for some of these things and that is why we have direct and indirect primaries, we foresee this could happen because for many years Lagos has been so lucky to have been ruled by the progressive party.
So an average Lagosian wants to belong to the progressive wing and want to invest their monies where they are certain it would yield result, so we think that this number of people would come in because for a number of years we’ve been ruling progressively and successfully.
Lagos has been having a boost, that is why you can’t imagine that this number of people will be coming or that it will bring problem, but that was what happened probably we envisaged that.
We have always had this mechanism in place before, we had this process that at a certain time we will have the nomination form after the screening, even at the screening there might be manipulations, so envisaged by the screening committee, we have appeal committee that are enshrined in the constitution not somebody’s imagination to interfere.
So if you are joining an association you must have been in tune with the operations of that association, so on that basis after the screening we now move to the aspect of the primaries, the process of bringing in our candidate out of these multitudes of aspirants of course we have to present one candidate each for all local governments at the chairmanship and councilorships level, of course we envisaged that probably there is going to be crisis that is why we have space for appeal.
After primaries we have the appeal committee at this time headed by a distinguished Lagosian, the former deputy governor of this state who has so much at stake and whom we expect to be above board and that is why having done that successfully, there are still other steps again even if you are not satisfied, we have the executive committee that represents each of the local governments that makes up the state.
So if you have not exhausted all these avenues and you are out there protesting or saying all sort of things we don’t pay attention, as a party we are so organised than to allow anybody to coerce us, it is for you to sell yourself to us, convince us that this is why you want to serve the people not by forcing yourself on us, okay now this one has just wind up; the stage of appeal and we also have another stage-the executive committee that had all it takes to handle the situation having been operating this party over the years as far as this state is concerned, so you have right to complain to them, expectedly we at the exco are supposed to live above board because we have so many functions and roles, it is not just the local government alone. I represent a local government same with many others who are also state officers, even the state chairman is representing a local government and so everybody, so if you bring your petitions there we will look at it meritoriously.
It has been published in the papers already that the party has forwarded the list of their flagbearers to LASIEC, does that mean that all the dissenting voices have been listened to and justice done to their complaints before the party was able to come up with the list and the crisis that greeted the consensus candidate idea at the primaries how was it resolved?
You see, like I earlier said, our approach to issues differ and I have actually mentioned a particular clause in the provision of our constitution, that is article 20(1a),(2),(3),it is so explicit there that says if for any reason the leadership in their wisdom agreed that this is our candidate and you feel they are wrong that you are more popular than their choice candidate, there is provision for you to call for primaries, but often times in our party, the wisdom of the leadership is something we so respect, unlike the other political parties, we respect our leaders because they have always been guiding this party over the years and we have been using it as a model or platform over the years for successive elections and we have been winning elections, so nobody will say in the middle of the game you want to change the goal post, so every other person is supposed to have keyed into rules and regulations of the party or association that you wants to join.
The party’s constitution is supreme no matter your interest. This is applicable in all political parties and it remains the guiding rule for all members and in essence many of this people knows the workings of the party, but because of desperation they go about crying foul about imposition. You can’t coerce the party to believe in you, go and sell yourself to us, because in every locality we have leadership.
Let me tell you, the more the political setting, the more the crisis, but if you are a good manager you should have preempted that, envisaged this crisis situation and prepare to tackle it.
In this part of the world we enjoy it, so we have envisaged the crisis and at such times we will always have solutions. On the dissenting voices, the rules is what you must get yourself acquainted with, it spelt out that even after the submission of this list there is still a room for change, if we so feels that okay having listened to you ,you so much have a genuine case, your presentation is so nice and you have so presented it peacefully, not taking advantage of the situation to subvert others, we value human lives as far as this party is concerned, so we don’t want others to maim you or do otherwise, we will look at your case and if genuine enough we still have within a given period of time to make changes in tandem with the rules of the game.
There is this insinuation that some aspirants who will like to get a refund are being harassed by the party, that they might not be able to negotiate for any other political office if refunded, how true is this allegation?
If you intend to collect back your money having differed to the leadership or having realised what the leadership is saying or even the people is worth the while we have given a time lag as everything done without a time frame of course there will be problems, so there is time frame for everything and those that really comply with it have been paid their monies back, several of them that is why you have relative peace, several of them who have fulfilled the terms even those that have submitted their drafts got it back because we so envisaged this would happen and having collected back they are calm, so it is only those who believe that violence is the in thing, they are the ones still causing trouble now.
What is the negotiation condition attached to retrieval of the money?
I am not aware of that, the moment you just feel within your volition to say that having decided due to various consultations you have resolved to back down then your money will be paid back to you. Let us look at this thing logically. I am not aware of that and I don’t think there is anything like that, one thing about the leadership and the party is our word is our bond.
When we give you our word we stand by it, but that is not to say somebody showed interest in aspiring for chairmanship and you now say because he is not favoured or probably he didn’t get the position you go and put him as supervisor. What logic?
A chairmanship aspirant now given supervisor; nobody would have said that if you can’t give him back his money go and give him supervisor, if he wanted to be supervisor he wouldn’t have paid that much in the first place, so ordinarily there is no rationale and we are not part of that, once the time frame lapses nothing changes. We don’t know a good manager when there is no crisis, so we are still putting our management mechanism to work and once we conclude we will put it forward.
How will react to the issue of consensus of imposition and the attendant furore?
The one you mentioned that there were no primaries, even where you were being selected within the leadership or in whatever formations agreed within the party, there is still what we call affirmation, which was done everywhere you see.
Let me tell you what happened, if the rules were followed to the letter at Teslim this would not happen, if not for the last minute liberalisation of the security post that allowed none delegates make their way into the premises where the primaries was held, if it were only the delegates there, the conduct started by our advertisement at 8am and the crisis so mentioned now did not happen until about 5:30pm.
Till then everything was peaceful, the gate was liberalised and the hoodlums infiltrated, some people took advantage of aspirantship. So apparently the delegates knows why they are in the stadium and there was no problem, by my count we had succeeded in doing about 54 out of 57 councils before the crisis started.
We were left with about probably Agege, Alimosho and at that point the delegates on the field from Agege knew where they were going. Just like the ney’s and yeah’s have it culture in the Assembly, when you hear the affirmation voice and the crowds that followed those mentioned carrying them shoulder high, we all witnessed that, but it was because the leadership also came to say we have agreed, several of them said they cannot continue with the primaries again having agreed, if not we were fully prepared for the primaries for those who probably would not agree, but several of them over 98 percent of them came over to tell the electoral committee that we have resolved, that was what we saw at the stadium, jubilations everywhere, it was like a carnival until when the hoodlums infiltrated the stadium.
Some councillorship aspirants expressed their frustration at the primaries citing the fact that they were not privy to the delegates list as was expected, what is your take on this allegations?
That is why I was saying that some deliberately wanted to cause a scene, fifth columnist who had the intention of scattering the process, if not what list could anybody be looking for again, you know your executives, the list contains those that are eligible to vote, you need no super list anywhere, you know your exco having been attending meetings, so it is not something that just came up one night.
Like I have been doing too, I go to my meetings, if you don’t attend your name will not be on the register so ordinarily for peace to reign that is why we are having that list, if not the various wards and local governments knows that once you attend meetings you will know yourselves, on a particular list you have 500,on another you had 150, we know ourselves, we know those who have been regular, even if sun or rain they will be there, so if you have not been doing that but just want to take advantage of the party seeing it is a platform that can win elections for you, you want to come and bamboozle us we will not take that from you. Some people deliberately because of their selfish reasons want to twist the constitution.
For any reason posterity will judge us, let us be fair and honest with whatever we do. Some of this excos will be delegates in party congress, primaries for governor or any other cadre of the body polity, that is why the local government is always very tough, because it is the template on which everybody building on, so that is why you always see various hatred and it is not new that a lot of permutations will start coming in here and there, left and center, some people will be termed Abuja politicians, Somolu politicians and what have you, every interest will come in, but the basic thing is that at the end of the day we all stay together.
It is our party, we don’t have any other place to go, we are not PDP that would after scattering their party want to come and join another, we are not joining anybody, over the years we serve our party conscientiously, even when we were the only party in whole of the federation, we were there, Asiwaju was firm, the followership were also firm and that informs our feat at the national level and we know why we are doing this.
Many perceive Obanikoro as a mole coming back to APC, what is your take on this perception?
That is clearly not correct, we know Obanikoro’s pedigree, he has always been a progressive, so if he decides to come to his father’s house how is it anybody’s problem, he is welcomed to the party whenever he chose to.
What outcome do you expect of the election?
It is an obvious thing, the handwriting is on the wall, do we have any other party? Any serious contender? We are the party, we are really doing well in Lagos and people attest to that, that we are doing well.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode by all his feats; good road networks in major and inner routes in and around Lagos metropolis, bridges, LAKERICE, and many more are pointers to the fact that Lagos is getting better and better due to progressive governance and that has largely bolstered our political fortune. The council poll is a done deal for us.
We are the party, we are really doing well in Lagos and people attest to that, that we are doing well. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode by all his feats; good road networks in major and inner routes in and around Lagos metropolis, bridges, LAKERICE, and many more are pointers to the fact that Lagos is getting better and better due to progressive governance and that has largely bolstered our political fortune. The council poll is a done deal for us.