The Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Tunde Balogun speaks about steps being taken to address some challenges in the party, and developmental agenda of the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration.
Balogun also speaks on why the party denied former Governor Akinwumi Ambode a second term ticket, among other important matters.
What is your assessment of the Sanwo-Olu government in the last six months?
We have seen that Governor Sanwo-Olu started well and he is working well and demonstrating that he has a clear vision of what he wants to do in Lagos. He has been rehabilitation some roads in different parts of Lagos while others are being fully reconstructed. As he (Sanwo-Olu) has promised, there are ongoing construction works in different parts of the state. Of course, we do not want to rely solely on road transportation in Lagos State; that is why if you look at the governor’s six pillars of development which is tagged T-H-E-M-E-S, it will form the basis for assessing him in the next four years. You will discover that in the area of transportation, development is not limited to roads. We are exploring ways to make the maximum use of our inland waterways. Some of the existing ferries have been expanded. The governor has been wonderful also in the area of education. He added technology-driven education in that sector as he has been working well on that and most schools are also being renovated. A committee has been set up to see to the rehabilitation of several schools in deplorable conditions. Again, the issue of insecurity is a major concern in most states of the federation but Lagos has taken a giant step in ensuring that lives and properties are secured in the state. For a long time, we have not seen armed bank robbery in Lagos and this is because of the type of security measures that have been put in place. A lot of investments have gone into the security of the banking institution, other financial institutions and sensitive organisations in the state to make life better for the people. So many states are trooping to Lagos to know how we have been able to tackle it. The government of Babatunde Fashola started the Lagos State Security Trust Fund and it has waxed stronger over the years as we now have the best special security force where we have policemen who are better trained and equipped than the regular policemen.
The APC has been governing Lagos State since 1999. Is the party proud of what Lagos is today considering the enormous resources at its disposal?
Of course, the APC in Lagos State is proud of its achievement in the 20 years of our reign in the state. I must state that Lagos is a leading state in the country and we have demonstrated the level of development that one should expect in a 21st-century state. We have done a lot in the areas of infrastructure, health, education, and security. Our schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure have been very beneficial to Nigerians from all parts of the country that have come to reside in Lagos. The daily movement of residents from other states to Lagos is alarming and it is so because of the level of development.
People also believe that no one can aspire to occupy a political office in Lagos unless the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, gives approval. Why is this so?
That is fallacious and malicious; it is blackmail. Let me tell you something. Lagos is a megacity and it compares with others in the same status globally. People come from all walks of life to settle in Lagos and they become successful without knowing Tinubu. Once you are participating in politics with us and you are contributing to the success of the party in terms of voting and mobilising people you can become anything. Take a look at our present Lagos State Executive Council, there is an Arewa person and Igbo man because of their contribution to the party. These are some of the things that will make you to know that Lagos is such a place that opportunities abound.
The state House of Assembly recently invited a former governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, to appear before it over allegations of corruption. What is the position of the party on this?
The House of Assembly has simply invited the former governor to get issues sorted out. It is part of efforts to clear the air on some allegations. We are operating under a constitution and if you do anything while in office, you must have the constitutional backing for your actions.
Some people believe that it is not just a mere invitation to clear the air on certain matters, but a move to disgrace the former governor. What is the party’s position on this matter?
In whatever we do, we want to ensure that we do not fall foul of the law as a party. We also want to ensure that we do not create acrimony and unnecessary conflict amongst our members. So, we are working to ensure that everything is being done to clear the air.
Why was Ambode not given a second term ticket?
The APC as a party started from Alliance for Democracy. From AD, when Asiwaju Tinubu was the governor, we had a 10-point agenda for the development of the state. These areas touch on transportation, health, education, security, and others. When he (Tinubu) was there, he did a lot in the area of transportation, health, and the environment before he left office after eight years. Babatunde Fashola took over and followed the same programme to the letter and you found development all over the place. When Fashola sought re-election, he won with a very large margin because of his performance. When Ambode took over, at the beginning he was adhering to the programme of the party but after some time, he deviated. That singular mistake cost him his second term.
I will tell you how. The people of Lagos were disenchanted with the performance of his (Ambode) government. In the area of environment, Lagos was taken over by dirt, maybe you have forgotten because it is so easy to forget. In the areas of roads, there were potholes and the major road projects embarked upon by Fashola were abandoned. These were not part of our dreams and vision for Lagos. We plan to have very good management of wastes and complete projects. We did not plan to have abandoned projects and potholes everywhere. We could not wait to look at that kind of thing that was why we took the necessary step to ensure that our programmes for the improvement of Lagos and making life better for the people are strictly followed. That was what cost him the second term that he wanted. Some of the projects Fashola embarked on were the railway and the express road from Mile 2 to Badagry. He (Ambode) abandoned them. We also had conspicuous housing projects, one in Ilubirin that he abandoned while the waste management system was run aground. As a party, we have to be responsive to what the people want otherwise we would become a failure. Along the line, another brilliant man, Babajide Sanwo-Olu showed interest and of course, the whole party embraced him. He won the primaries and he is the governor now. You can see that he has started righting the wrongs. He has started addressing the road and engaging the traffic gridlock frontally at the different points in Lagos, while waste management is getting better. Abandoned projects are now being kick-started. Once you have a programme, follow the letter because Lagosians cannot be wrong.
What is the position of the state chairmen over the calls for the resignation of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole?
Our national chairman was elected by the majority of the APC members for four-year tenure in office and he has only spent one year and some disgruntled elements are calling for his resignation because of their selfish agenda. Adams Oshiomhole is a human being with some weaknesses but we elected him for four years. So, why don’t we allow him to serve out his tenure and I think that is the legitimate thing to do. Of course, if there is gross misconduct on his part, it is a different thing entirely. He is the party leader and I know he is trying to instil discipline but some people are resisting that. Any political party that wants to survive must accept the tenets of party supremacy. If there is no party supremacy, there will be impunity and indiscipline and this will lead to disintegration and destabilisation of the party. Just three weeks ago, the man (Oshiomhole) led the party to victory in Kogi and Bayelsa states, so, why call for his resignation for being successful? Do you change a winning team? Under the same leadership of Oshiomhole, a few months ago President Muhammadu Buhari got re-elected for a second term in office, so, why do they want him to resign now when he is winning? The purpose of contesting an election is to win and Oshiomhole is doing it well for the APC.
What is the role of the state chairmen in settling the raging dispute between Oshiomhole and the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki?
As a forum, the state party chairmen attended the NEC meeting of the party about two weeks ago and it was revealed that a committee has been set up to wade into the Edo State crisis between the national chairman and the governor. We are waiting for the committee to do its work. The committee is headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege. So, we are waiting for the outcome of that intervention.
The party has just won elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, but there are claims in some quarters that the exercise was marred with violence and there are shreds of evidence of people who were killed. The APC has been accused of perpetrating the violence, what are your views on these claims?
All well-meaning Nigerians will generally condemn violence. It was unfortunate it happened. But people can easily conclude to accuse the party whether justly or unjustly. We feel that there is no evidence to show that the violence erupted because APC members were violent. We believe that the violence erupted from the tension generated before and during the elections. There was tension in the states because all the parties involved were making efforts to win the elections. Of course, within those states there were people who wanted to take advantage over the other. So, it could not be blamed on the APC. This is where the investigation should come in, to unearth the causes of the crises. It will be wrong to attribute it to the APC members alone.
It is believed that Bola Tinubu is likely to contest the 2023 presidential election. What is your view on this because he is from your state?
At the appropriate time, I will address that issue. It is too early in the day to pass any comment on the matter because it is still speculative.
Should the party zone the presidency to the South in 2023, don’t you think it should be the turn of the South-East to produce the president?
Again, no action has been taken on that and whatever discussion that is ongoing is speculative. We should wait. The time will tell on what is going to happen. For now, it will be too premature to comment on what is to happen in the march towards 2023.