The Assistant Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Hon. Biodun Salami, recounts the true state of things in the build up to the council polls slated to hold on July 22. He spoke of the party’s bright political fortune, the rumpus that greeted the consensus option adopted by the party leadership and the return of the 18 former council chairmen among other burning issues, in a no holds barred interview with OLANREWAJU ADESANYA, excerpt:
A barrage of petitions has greeted primaries organised by APC in Lagos State, questioning the place of internal democracy in a progressive party. How is the party handling this?
We have our internal mechanism and of course in any political setting some of these things 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. In all, 1,806 people officially collected councillorship nomination forms for the 377 wards in the state, while 488 collected for the chairmanship for 57 seats. From this, you would see where we are coming from and expectedly human being differs and so also is their magnanimity in victory and in accepting defeat even when you go into the history of civil war if not for that statement, ‘No victor no vanquished,’ we would still have not been a united Nigeria today.
What happened gave the impression that the party never anticipated this level of opposition to its decisions and by extension had no plans to contain it?
To us as a party we envisage that the high number of aspirants 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 want 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 recording 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 we envisaged and created an 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 aspirants of course we have to present one candidate each for all local government at the chairmanship and councillorships 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 expected to have been 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 represent each of the local governments that makes the State, so if you have not exhausted all these avenues and you 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 coarse us, it is for you to sell yourself to us, convince us that this why you want to serve the people not by forcing yourself on us, okay now this one has just wind up and we are at 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 elections alone, I represent a local government same with many others who are also state officers, even the state chairman is representing a local government as a state chairman, so everybody has a say, 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 winners and their flagbearers to the LASIEC, does that mean that all the dissenting voices have been listened to and justice done to their complaints, How were the protests that greeted the primaries resolved?
You see like I earlier said our approach to issues differs 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 feel they are wrong that you are more popular than their choice candidate the provision for you to 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 this has been yielding victories for us in the past.
So nobody will love to change the game plan in the middle of the game or attempt to change the goal post. Everyone is supposed to have keyed into the rules and regulations of the party or association they so wish to join. The party’s constitution is supreme no matter your interest. This is applicable in all political parties and 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 coarse the party to believing in yourself, 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 pre-empted 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 the 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. As the bulk stop on the table of the LASIEC as an electoral body not even the party, rules that guides all participants.
There is this insinuation that some aspirants who will like to get a refund are been 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 deferred to the leadership or having realised what the leadership is saying or a careful reassessment of their chances. 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 envisaged that this would happen and having collected back they are calm. So it is only those who believed that violence is the in-thing that is causing trouble.
Negotiation condition attached to retrieval of monies?
I am not aware of that, the moment you just feel within your volition to withdraw due to consultations, and you resolved to back down then your money will be repaid. 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 show 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, he it is not rational 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 concluded we will put it forward.
Consensus/Imposition and the attendant furore
The one you mentioned that there are no primaries, even where you were been selected within the leadership or in whatever format 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 Balogun Stadium, this would not happen, if not for the last minute liberalisation of the security post that allowed none delegates to enter the premises where the primaries was held, if it were only the delegates there, the conduct started by 8am and the crisis you 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 aspirants, so apparently the delegates knows why they are in the stadium and there was no problem, by my count we have 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 knows where they are going. Just like the ney’s and yeah’s have its 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 is because the leadership also come to say we have agreed, several of them say 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 delegate list as was expected, what are your takes on this allegations?
That is why I was saying that some deliberately wanted to cause a scene, fifth columnists 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, 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 may 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. You mentioned the national legal adviser of the party, I am sure with all sense of modesty he knows much about those clauses he is referring to and he is very versed about it, so I wouldn’t know what anybody intends to achieve, but 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 is building on so, that is why you always see various hatred and it is not new a lot of permutations will start coming in here and there, left and centre, some people will be termed Abuja politicians, Somolu politicians and what have you, every interest will come in 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 would want to come and join another, we are not joining anybody over the years of serving our party conscientiously even when we are the only party in the 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 perceived 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’s 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 chooses to.
It is an obvious thing, the handwriting is on the wall, and do we have any other party? Is there 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 getting better and better due to progressive governance and that as largely bolstered our political fortune. The council poll is a done deal for us.