Senator Musiliu Obanikoro has been one of the leading political lights in Lagos State since the advent of the fourth Republic. He was Senator in 2003 and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP gubernatorial candidate in 2007. Following that election which he lost, Obanikoro popularly known as Koro, was nominated as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana. Having completed his diplomatic circuit, he was recently appointed as Chairman of the Industrial Training Fund, ITF. In this interview ,Obanikoro discusses the pace, politics and performance of the administration in Lagos State and returns a damning verdict. Excerpts:
WHy did you opt out of the Alliance for Democracy, AD for the PDP?
With the benefit of hindsight, I did the right thing by pulling out of AD. There was no internal democracy in AD in those days and they carried this style to ACN. You can recall that in ACN and other parties that now refer to themselves as ‘progressives’, they don’t do primaries. What they did was to anoint candidates.
Their leader will just stand up and say this is the party’s candidate and his word is the final word. It still happens till today and that is why they worship the so called leader. I decided on my own to quit AD when I saw some of these shortcomings of the undisputed leader of the party. I saw naked abuse of opportunity as an insider and I felt that some of these things cannot be defended anywhere.
You all saw firsthand what happened when my son won the chairmanship election of Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA as a PDP candidate. The ACN under the guise of Lagos state government went to Appeal Court to impound the victory of that young man. That shows the type of people we are dealing with. That level of impunity shouldn’t exist in any society; such recklessness should not exist in any civilized society.
Somebody won an election that was free and fair and a judge sat somewhere and on technicality, said the person should not be sworn-in. It was a shameful exercise, and the judiciary let itself to be rubbished.
But why did people of Badagry, Epe and Ikoyi-Obalende remain silent on the issue?
I disagree with you. Number one, at Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA, I personally led the protest for about four days. I don’t know if you noticed that a retired Chief Judge of Lagos State declared the election result without stating the vote scored by the party that won and the parties that lost. We asked this question but they couldn’t provide it because they were working to the answer. When we went to the Election Tribunal, the results which they refused to read earlier were read in the open court by the judge and the results were pronounced. Don’t forget, the judge is a retiree, so there was no need for favour of promotion from the government. They now took the results to Appeal Court where they manipulated those judges to give judgments in their favour.
Bode George/ Ogunlewe
And those ones were so reckless by not looking at the results made available before them; instead, they based their judgments on technicality that the Tribunal which we didn’t have control over, the Tribunal which ACN deliberately delayed the proceedings knowing full well that they can influence those judges at the higher level to do their bidding.
And the judge came out to tell the whole world that he has annulled the votes of residents and citizens of Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA because the tribunal sat longer than necessary. Can you imagine that? That is absurd. We strongly believe that this is not the direction which we want our state to go and we are prepared to challenge them and debate them anywhere, anytime, any day.
But you are never united in Lagos PDP to make any impact or take power from the ruling party.
Well, they are not united either. What you are looking in their party as unity is a peace of the graveyard. Any honest member of their party will tell you all is not well in that party either. All what you see them doing is make believe. With time, you will also come to this conclusion. They will be torn apart. In a system where a single person determines who becomes the Councilor, the Council Chairman, members of the National and State Assembly including the governor, then you should know that the alleged peace in their party is that of the graveyard.
Did you think the market women and men in the state are happy that the same man anointed his daughter to become leader of market women and men in the state? People like us cannot just stand by and allow all these to go unchallenged.
When last did you meet with other party leaders like Senator Ogunlewe, Chief Bode George and others?
Recently we had meeting at the party secretariat in Ikeja. Our leader as you know is not in the country for now. I spoke with him for about an hour yesterday. We are all united now. As I speak with you, Lagos PDP is one big family.
Have you all agreed to work together for the same purpose?
I don’t know why you are particular about our party’s internal affairs.
Because members of your party in Lagos are used to fighting one another?
We don’t have to see things from the same point of view all the time but I think we are more united now than ever before and we are coming out to say enough is enough.
What is your assessment of Lagos today?
The overall decision I will talk in terms of performance of Lagos government in the last 15 years, for me, is slightly below average.
People may be saying they have done some new roads, they have done this, they have done that; one, we must look at the costs of these roads and then, a state that has a debt profile of about N1 trillion as we speak today.
I schooled in the USA, the biggest investment that country made that is still working for them is in education. We have not done such in Lagos State despite all the noise they have been making.
As we speak today, people of Lagos will not voluntarily send their children to public schools in the state. That to me is failure on the part of the government after 15 years in the saddle.
Public schools in the state are not functional in the true sense of imparting knowledge in our children.
Today, our hospitals in the state are mere consulting centers. Even the consultation is minimal in the true sense of it. Everybody that is somebody now goes overseas for ordinary medical check –up.
Their leader and ex-governor of the state had a medical challenge recently and he was flown abroad to take care of ordinary knee injury.
This minor health challenge could not be treated at the Lagos State University of Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) after billions of naira they claimed they have sunk to upgrade the facility. In the area of health, Lagos government has equally failed.
Today, Lagos State does not have the required capacity to handle emergency situation. And you know how much this state generated monthly as internal revenue? They are still struggling in the area of refuse management.
Looking at the Olusosun dumpsite at Ojota and the level of pollution that is injected to the atmosphere on daily basis says a lot about the state government that has been in power since 1999. Where have you seen such big dumpsite operating in a metropolis anywhere in the world?
The best investment the state government would have made is to invest in education but it failed to do so. Instead, the government increased tuition fee from N25, 000 at LASU to above N250, 000. Worse, if you visit LASU main campus today, you will discover there is not much physical development at the institution. The government of the day increased the fee claiming it cannot subsidize education of indigent students in the state but they can subsidize their own habit. That to me, after so many years management of the state economy is not acceptable.
If you’re still reflecting whether to contest 2015 governorship election in 2015, then it means there is problem somehow?
No! You got it wrong. Let me tell you that I am eight years older than I was when I contested in 2007. A Yoruba proverb says …An elderly person doesn’t act like a child. I have focus. Don’t forget that I have also done other things since 2007. I’ve served my country meritoriously as an ambassador. May be the diplomatic part of me is having greater share of me this morning. I want to let people know that we, the Lagos PDP are serious about 2015 and we have what it takes to dismantle this oppressive, insensitive and elitist government in Lagos State.
How do you compare the corruption as seen by you in Lagos State with the corruption at the federal level?
What is good about the federal level is that whatever people of the country complained about, we don’t hide them or put them in the closet. We are dealing with them; people are being arrested and put in jail. Tell me, how many local government chairmen or councilors have they tried for corruption or put behind bars since 1999 they have been managing affairs of this state? There is a cesspool of corruption in Lagos State from any angle you may look at it.
But the PDP Federal Government has also been very soft on corruption?
It will be very unfair to ask such question because we are looking at an uninterrupted 15 years governance by two political parties. It will be very unfair of you to reduce focus on only Jonathan’s administration. We are saying we have history of dealing with corruption. Do they even have any
What about the current Oduah scandal in the Aviation sector?
Oh yes! Accusation has been made in the open. Panel has been set up to look into the matter, the president has received the report. I am sure in good time; he would come out with a position. Be that as it may, nobody can sweep under the carpet what PDP had done to tackle corruption. Their party has not done anything; that is what we are saying. Everything they have accused us of doing, they are worse off.