Dr. Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adeniran (Jandor), is the Convener of Lagos4Lagos Movement, within the Lagos State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE, he disclosed that the 2023 APC governorship candidate would be independent of any godfather’s endorsement.
• Lagos can be truly wealthy not just on paper
What is Lagos4Lagos Movement all about?
The movement started about six years ago and its aim is to change the political narratives of Lagos State. It seeks to do things differently from what we were used to in the past two decades and to return Lagos to the people and make it work for everybody, irrespective of their status whether as indigenes or residence. The movement wants to change the state from being rich only on paper, but put it where it actually belongs.
You talk as if Lagos was hijacked, why?
If you look at what is happening today, Lagos is the only state where you have a particular individual calling the shots economically, politically and socially. As a matter of fact, this same individual decides who becomes what, either a traditional ruler or elected representatives. He decides who becomes the king of my village, no governor can appoint commissioners without seeking clearance from the person and this is the terrible situation Lagos found itself in the last 21 years and we feel it cannot continue this way. We need to have a state, where everybody can be proud and all the stakeholders can say yes, as a result of our contributions, we were able to get things done and not where one person takes decisions and we all follow.
But as media practitioner, who had dined and wined with APC from its days as Alliance for Democracy (AD) through Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), at what point did you decide to challenge the status quo you benefited from?
Well, I don’t know if what I am doing is a confrontation to the existing structure; but then, good that you mentioned my media background, which is the only profession that allows you to know something about everything and everything about something.
Knowledge is power and if you lack that and information, then you are dead. So, as you said, my profession puts me in a position where I have seen it all. I have been part of the system and then we need to ask ourselves what we do with the knowledge. This is the time to use that knowledge in the right perspectives. With the level of information at one’s disposal and the fact that Lagos is not getting the best, despite the huge resources available to it, you will want to make a better use of the profile so far acquired.
I think we should put a stop to what is going on in Lagos; it is not like we are fighting or confronting anybody, but there is no way we will want to right the wrongs without stepping on toes. We have those who will ordinarily be defending a bad system, because they are benefiting from it.
This is the reason some people would feel that people like us are fighting them, but we are not. We are saying that with the level of our exposure at this our youthful age we can’t be here and some people will continue to give us crumbs from what the state is getting.
What we are doing with Lagos4Lagos is not confrontation, but if you observe, I am of APC and not in the opposing camp. I am saying that we can do it differently, so that we can get a different result.
How far can you really go considering that the likes of former Senators Musliu Obanikoro, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Akerele Bucknor, Jimi Agbaje, the 11 APC commissioners that challenged the same structure for their 2007 gubernatorial ambition, but at the end of the day, they lost out. Most of them returned to beg, can you fare better?
Having learnt from the mistakes of those you mentioned we are deploying a different strategy. I don’t think we will repeat the same mistakes those elders made. What were their mistakes? They ventured into the battle of relevance in the party a few months to the election.
In our own case, we started this movement six years ago, because we found that if we mistakenly follow the path they followed, or venture into the foray at the eleventh hour, we would not be able to beat the status quo to it.
What we were doing in the last five years is to build a strong relationship with the grassroots. You may not know, but I want to tell you that the grassroots people themselves are disenchanted with the existing structure.
Although, the status quo perceived us as enemies within, we are not bothered. Our pride is that we are not waiting for any individual to blow the whistle or give the directives before we venture into the game. We have the ability to think and we also have the vision to lead.
We are not following the path of those waiting for anybody to call them for coronation. We have a mind of our own and this is already creating headache for them. I want to be governor of Lagos without necessarily waiting to be endorsed by anybody.
The names that you have mentioned have done their best, but unfortunately their best wasn’t good enough. But, we have learnt from their mistake, which is our guide in what we are doing today. For us, it is not confrontation, we are only following the precepts of the Bible, which says, ‘knock it shall be opened; seek and you shall get.’ We are not waiting for anybody to call us to come that is why we hit the street as if the general election is tomorrow. That is why we are going everywhere and have also visited almost all the wards in Lagos.
I don’t want to be a strange governor to people I aspire to lead, because someone handpicked me at the eleventh hour. This has always been the situation since 2007; those handpicked candidates really do not know the state they govern.
Let me give you an example, remove the structure of the existing authority from any elected officer in Lagos, I make bold to say it that if you remove the national leader of APC’s structure from any elected officer in Lagos now, that is the end of the political career of such a person. It is as bad as that in a sophisticated state like Lagos.
People say you couldn’t have put up this kind of courage without the backing of some personalities within and outside the party, especially the so-called Abuja cabal allegedly plotting Tinubu’s displacement?
In a situation like this, people will have sponsors and unfortunately I don’t know how to disabuse people’s minds about that. But, again, if truly this so-called Abuja cabal exists and they support what we are trying to achieve in Lagos, we are going to work with them.
Even if we have such a cabal in Lagos and they appreciate what Lagos4Lagos is doing, why not; we will align with them. Before anybody can buy into whatever we are doing, must have seen the traction and level of seriousness in us. People can add one or two things together and say this is what Lagos4Lagos is doing or that some people are sponsoring us, the most important thing is that we have the mind of our own.
You will not take away the fact that what we are doing is right and why is the status quo afraid of us despite that we are of the same party? You said the cabal, but before now, people were saying the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, Batunde Fashola, is the one financing us. Because I have relationship with these people, they could be alleged to be sponsoring me. I don’t have any problem with that. Anybody can speculate, but we are focused on what we are doing and we are not backing out, because we have a destination.
You were said to have amassed much money from Fashola, former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler and others that lost out with Tinubu, which you are now using to challenge the existing structure?
I really want to know how Fashola and others lost out with Tinubu? I had a relationship with these people for instance; my office is consulting for Fashola and likewise all the other names you mentioned.
It is easier for people to speculate, but they have also gone as far as accusing the incumbent Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Culture of supporting us simply because of our relationship despite that he is Tinubu’s person.
People can put things together, but we are not bothered. We know it will come, but we are ready. We are not even considering it at all. They can even name Buhari; even in some quarters some say it was Tinubu himself that is pushing me out. We know all these insinuations will come, but we don’t care.
One of the factors they use to scare some of us from this agitation is to say you do not have the money, you will be killed, but we have since conquered those fears and we are facing our challenges squarely. We believe we will get through.
The most important thing is that we have created necessary structures across the 57 councils and across the 377 wards and that we have and we are not relying on anybody’s structure unlike the names you mentioned before, whose strengths were based on the structure of another individual. Lagos4Lagos Movement doesn’t know whether you are of the PDP, APC or whatever party.
You said Lagos has only had one governor since 1999 and described the rest as stooges?
Look closely, you will know that every other person that has occupied the office of governor after Tinubu since 2007 always and oftentimes require second level approval before they can get anything done, including their policies.
What affected their level of independence as governors? If you cannot take a decision on your own as a governor or you take a decision and somebody somewhere gets angry and forces you to reverse or jettison it, what do we call that? I know all these things like you said that I am a journalist.
Look at what happened in the 2019 governorship election; everybody within our party was asked to go and endorse former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for a second term and they all went to endorse him, including the wife of the leader, Senator Oluremi Tinubu. They all spoke glowingly about Ambode as a performing governor that deserves to be re-elected, but in a twinkling of an eye, that same person blew another whistle that everyone should disembark from the endorsement. They denied the former endorsement. What do we call that?
So having learnt from that, we are not going to make the same mistake in 2023. Can you imagine that kind of scenario happening in Lagos, the Center of Excellence? And what was the reason given? Ambode is not a party man, not because he didn’t perform.
Imagine the level of our sophistication and education and one individual inflicted that on us and we move about gallivanting that we are Lagosians. This has to change. We need the people to elect a governor that they know and who knows them and not the one that will come in less than six to seven months time to election and say I have been selected and anointed to rule over you by somebody.
What gives you the confidence to disregard the directives of Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the apex body of Lagos APC, which proscribed all groupings within the party?
To start with, you need to tell me what right the GAC has under Nigeria’s Constitution to proscribe a registered organisation? The ones that they put together on their own, which have no constitutional backing are what they proscribed. We are not part of what the GAC proscribed; it is only a court of competent jurisdiction that can proscribe our movement.
And if the freedom of association as enshrined in the Constitution is anything to go by, then Lagos4Lagos is free. It is not an affront, but we are only telling anybody that cares to listen that we are not only educated, but also enlightened. We know and understand the law and no individual or group of persons, who the constitution didn’t recognise or empower, can stop me from exercising my constitutional right. Does the APC recognise the GAC in its Constitution?
Secondly, an individual telling me to stop what I am doing and again the GAC was very clear in its directives, they owned the Mandate and Justice Forum, but not Lagos4Lagos. They couldn’t have mentioned our movement and our group don’t care whether you are in APC or PDP. It is a political movement that recognises everybody.
If you are aspiring to be governor on the platform of APC, do you know you will contend with a godfather that controls 40 State lawmakers, all the federal lawmakers and the traditional institutions, as well as layers of national Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and market associations…
Kwara State had all of these before the 2019 general elections, but at the end of the day former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was demystified. He lost everything including the governor to the people of Kwara in 2019. The people of Kwara, apologies to them, are not as sophisticated as the people of Lagos. So, 2023 would be the turn of Lagos to reject dictatorship, irrespective of the present status quo. The people will always win if they come together. Now, we are together.
What would you do differently if you become governor of Lagos?
They will give all manner of figures for our IGR, budget and monthly federal allocation, but the impacts are not visible on the streets. First thing is to make the state thoroughly wealthy, because as we speak, Lagos is only rich on paper. We truly want a wealthy Lagos and not in terms of figures that cannot be juxtaposed with infrastructural development.
For the past 20 years, Lagos has been running elitist government without getting its priorities right. Recently, the Lagos government did ground breaking of the Red Line and the governor promised what would happen in another two years. But, the ones started in the last 11 years, where are they?
What has happened to the Blue Line? Aside from the Ikoyi Link Bridge, how many iconic infrastructures can you point to in the state with the level of our wealth? We boast of running free education, but we still have children hawking on the streets during school hours. Why can’t we make primary school education free and compulsory for all? We make almost N400billion aside the federal allocation; can you match that with the social amenities in the state?
Has Asiwaju Bola Tinubu or the chairman of Lagos APC reached out to you since you started your movement?
Our activities are not in any way contradictory to the party, rather we are building it by bringing more members on board. When they have their own Mandate and Justice Forum, the two groups have their executives across the wards and local government areas as well.
They didn’t report to anybody and there are of course several groups within the party. What rules and regulations of the party are we contradicting? Is the party opposed to us having a group or movement that is adding value to its membership in the state? I am of the APC and I keep saying that Lagos4Lagos Movement it is not an affiliate of APC, it stands alone and has its members across party lines like PDP, APC, Accord Party and other members.
What would be your next step, if APC does not to give you the 2023 governorship ticket?
Who is the power? That is what we are used to; power that be is giving tickets. We are saying in 2023 it is the people that will determine who the candidate will be. If the power that be decided to give the ticket to whoever they want then we will move. We can’t be part of any illegality; that power that be, will not dictate anything. We will go through the primary and not someone saying I am giving you the party ticket.
What is your take on the 2018 direct primary election of Lagos APC, when Clement Ebiri, chairman of the governorship primary election committee said there was no election by 4pm and by 6am the following day, he announced a result that nailed Ambode’s second term ambition…
That is what we want to change. I don’t need to have any relationship with APC national body before I claim the party ticket. I don’t need to cringe before any godfather to win the party’s ticket, we don’t need to have that kind of 2018 scenario, where the chairman electoral committee came to say no election and the next day he was giving a result to announce, because a godfather and national chairman said this is what you need to do. All of those can’t repeat themselves in the party and that is why we supported the just concluded registration/revalidation exercise.