Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro in this interview with Deputy Political Editor, JONATHAN EZE, explains that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in Saturday’s election in Lagos, Jimi Agbaje has an edge over his opponent and that his support for him is total. Excerpts:
How do you feel about the President’s loss at the presidential poll?
It is painful. But as a Muslim, I have to take the loss in my strides –God gives, God takes. The fact that President Jonathan came from nowhere to be the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, almost effortlessly, was an act of God. In the same way that Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) won the just concluded presidential election is also an act of God.
The PDP has always said that it would rule Nigeria for 60 years. But after 16 years, the party has lost grip on power at the centre. What happened?
Let me make this clear: man proposes, God disposes. The point is encapsulated in the statement I made earlier that it is only God that counts.
But, didn’t anything go wrong to the extent that the president lost in the poll?
A lot went wrong. Nevertheless, in the face of all those wrongs, if God had wanted the President to be re-elected, he would have been returned as the president. Something will always go wrong in human endeavours, anyway; it is human. Many things went wrong and there is no doubt about that because the presidential poll was an election we were supposed to win.
What exactly will you say went wrong?
For me, I think it is too early to be deliberating on that. I do not want people to characterise us (PDP) as bad losers. The truth of the matter is that the president has congratulated Buhari. At the appropriate time we would talk about some of the things that went wrong. Do not also forget that we have an election coming up. In view of that, we cannot be dwelling on what went wrong – when we have another challenge ahead of us. (Dwelling on such wrongs) may further demoralise the people. On the contrary, we want to dwell on things that will energise our people and re-structure their frame of mind for now.
Looking at irregularities during the March 28 poll, we can talk about them all day –it is not just about the irregularities in Lagos.
We can talk about the under-age voting in the North and the connivance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos is something that is mind-boggling and painful.
Particularly in Lagos, most of the results that the INEC ought to have declared for PDP were declared for APC. And do you know that in some local government areas in Lagos State, INEC did not bring election result sheets. They went somewhere else to doctor the results or fill it in to suit the APC, who is their paymaster. These are some of the issues we are going to face on Saturday. And we are going to deal with these squarely. It is either INEC stands up and becomes an impartial arbiter which they are supposed to be or we will also challenge them squarely. But that to me (not standing up to be an impartial arbiter) is not an honourable path for them.
The honourable path is for INEC to sit or to stand on the side of the people. Using their official position to hijack the mandate of the people and giving it to the people who have lost the election is very sad and unacceptable.
Focusing on the Lagos governorship election, what is your relationship with Jimi Agbaje considering the fact that some see Agbaje as being Chief Bode George and Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe’s ‘boy’ and you being on the opposing side?
Jimi Agbaje is his own person.
He is nobody’s man. He is very independent man. He is a man with a strong history of political activism. Do not forget that Agbaje was a member of the Afenifere group in which he played an active role. Apparently, he is not someone anyone can say, ‘Jimi is my boy’ or ‘Jimi is in my pocket.’ (Whoever thinks that way) I think that person will only be deluding himself –the person will only be living in fantasy because Agbaje will end up being his own man. And, that is what we need in Lagos today; that is why we are calling for change in Lagos today. We need a man who can stand on his own, who will not be anybody’s lackey.
Therefore, talking about my relationship with Agbaje it can’t be better. Let me add, what people do not know is that when we were having that serious political contest (PDP governorship primary in Lagos), myself and Agbaje were still very close and our children are best of friends. This is probably the first time I have talked about this. It is in the imagination of the people to think that I will not want Jimi Agbaje to win the governorship election (slated for April 11). It is in my interest for Agbaje to win as it is in the interest of Lagos. There is no better time in the history of Lagos where the choice is very clear between two candidates. One that is very progressive in every sense of it with a clear record of public advocacy, of good governance and strong support for democracy, as opposed to someone coming from a civil service background, who we know very well, is going to be managed by someone whose tenure in Lagos is better forgotten than remembered.
Ahead of the governorship election in Lagos, how will you describe the chances of PDP because some feel you would have stood a better chance than Agbaje?
Let me tell you something; I have my strengths and Jimi Agbaje also has a lot of things that I can speak positively about. Thus, I think it is not fair to begin to bring me into the picture with just a few days to the election. My support for him is also complementary; because if you say, ‘Obanikoro has this, and Agbaje doesn’t have this.’ Or, if you say, ‘Agbaje has this, Obanikoro doesn’t have this,’ now that we are working together, we will complement each other for the good of Lagos. That is the way God has created this world: some will have certain things others will not. Others will have certain things some will not –but when the two now come together it will serve as complementary possibilities of what each person brings to the table.
Are you saying you are 100 per cent behind Agbaje?
If there is something more than 100 per cent, I am behind Agbaje. I am totally with him. I am not just with him for political reasons. I am with him because if you put the two (Ambode and Agbaje) together, Agbaje is a better candidate. And that explains –I was listening to Ambode’s jingle on radio where he was talking about the dream –our dreams – and I would have loved for him to be courageous enough to have a debate with Jimi Agbaje to show Lagosians what those dreams are all about and how those dreams will be achieved. The two debates they had Agbaje was stood out in terms of presentation of his vision for Lagos and how to achieve it. Ambode could not even defend some of the facts that he has been talking about. Hence, the difference between Agbaje and Ambode is like the difference between day and night.
If you look at the background of Jimi Agbaje, he has always been on the side of the progressives all his life whereas you cannot say the same thing about Ambode. And there are many things that Ambode needs to talk about: Lagos collected N20bn from the Federal Government, how was the money expended? Who got what? I know he will not have a convincing explanation on that. I believe that Lagosians are very wise and in asmuch as they can talk about change at the centre and they are afraid of change in Lagos, it goes to show that the APC cannot be trusted.
How would you access the forthcoming governorship election not forgetting also that APC won Lagos in the Presidential?
Whoever says APC is likely to win the coming governorship election did not know about what transpired during the presidential poll. The election was rigged in favour of APC. We intend to be more vigilant and we are going to put our cards on the table for INEC. They must bring result sheets to the polling units. Results must be announced immediately they are available. What they did the last time was to ‘arrest’ results, went somewhere and tinkered with them before announcing them. Even where we won it was because the number of votes that gave us the victory that made it possible. They also tinkered with those votes to arrive at a conclusion that is favourable to APC –that’s what they did. For instance, in Ajeromi-Ifelodun, we won and the election was completed and concluded early enough to announce the result on the day of the election but INEC refused to do that. Why? Because they wanted to tinker with the result.