Erstwhile Minister of Works and lawmaker, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe is a leading member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Lagos State and a former gubernatorial aspirant. In this interview he speaks on the crisis in the party at the national level, the extortion problems that have hindered the party’s quest to win the state among other issues. Excerpts:
How will you describe the state of affairs in your party, the PDP?
Well one must show concern, particularly at the national level where we have these seven governors that are thinking that there should be some areas that should be addressed in the national exco and which the president is also addressing with them, sitting down with them to be able to identify their problems and offer solutions. Apart from that I don’t see any problem at the national level.
The issues raised at the national level have continuously been raised even at the state level in Lagos, do you have empathy with those governors…?
No, no, I am a Jonathan person. I am a Bamanga Tukur person. My own take is that instead of moving out of the convention venue to go and constitute their own exco, it would have been more proper for them to have sat down and talked to the new exco to let us know the areas of their concern. But to now say they have a parallel one, that to my mind is not in the interest of the party.
So you don’t have any ingredients of the nPDP in Lagos?
No, no, no! Because it is a political party, it is a caucus, we don’t understand, speaking frankly why somebody should be in a new PDP. It can be a caucus within PDP, but you cannot say you are a new PDP and anybody will take you serious because it doesn’t mean anything to us.
How will you describe the state of affairs in your party here in Lagos?
Yes it is imperfect but it is tolerable. As far as I am concerned what is more important is the candidate you are presenting, not the exco. Yes, the exco can be of concern but if we are able to get the best candidate the people on the exco will not be a problem.
People have expressed concern about the exco you have in Lagos?
What is their concern? I don’t see any concern. As far as I am concerned it is tolerable, there is no perfect exco, particularly where you are not interested in contesting. The exco is there to midwife the party to success. Where they are imperfect, I think it will be cured probably by having a very sound candidate to be the flag bearer of the party and it will cure everything and everybody will queue in. We are only 1% of the voters, the voters want the best candidate to come out, and once the best candidate comes out, every other thing will fall in place.
Do you agree with those who say that the Lagos PDP is resigned to failure and that it can never win Lagos?
My own experience is that the difficulty is not per se, the exco. The difficulty is how the candidate emerges. Where candidates must have exhausted their financial capacity in the system of emergence, and it runs into millions. Wherever the excos is, let us all sit down and pick a candidate that can win for us and I’ll be happy. I will not mind the type of excos we have, where the exco is not extorting money from the aspirant for the candidate to emerge. 80 to 90% of the problem we have in Lagos PDP is extortion. You would have extorted the aspirants to a point that they are incapable of even winning the election; there will be so much tension, attrition in the system before the candidate emerges.
Was this your experience in 2007?
Yes! Even in 2011 the same experience, the same extortion, the same taking money from aspirants by the leadership of the party to the extent that at the end of the extortion, the candidate will so be incapable of winning the election because the leadership have taken all the money! The exco have taken all the money and there will be no money to do the election.
Can you give a mental figure of how much was extorted from you?
If you have six thousand delegates, so to speak, and some people pay N100,000, some are paid N20,000, some N25,000 per delegate to emerge. Can you imagine the amount of money that can be wasted in the process of emergence of a candidate? It is in millions.
But you are not paying to the excos, you are buying the delegates
The excos are also part of it. The exco is part of the delegate that you have to pay.
Did you pay up to five hundred million naira?
No I didn’t get to the position of participating, I withdrew. But I know the amount of money each aspirant had to pay even up to 2011. N100,000 from some aspirants, N50,000 from some and the least was N25,000 and that is what is damaging the capacity of PDP to win election. It’s not so in ACN or AD; they pick the candidate then they now ask people that are offended to be patient, they will be commissioners. But we have even more to offer, we can offer ambassadorial (posts) we can offer ministerial (posts), we can offer many things to people, so we don’t need to fight.
Compared to ACN where you have a father figure, is it not because those of you in PDP have not agreed for Chief Bode George to freely impose candidates?
He doesn’t have to impose. It is consultation. Everybody will sit down and access the capacity of the candidate. Why do you want to impose a candidate that you know cannot win? That is my own concern. We know people that can win let us match a candidate with the candidate of the opposition.
If you are bringing a mediocre candidate because he has given you money, where are you going? You are going to fail. We know the candidates that can win. Lagos is so sophisticated, don’t bring a mediocre again, bring an outstanding candidate that you can sell. There are candidates that when you give them the mandate, you’ve covered 50% of the mileage.
Do you consider Ade Dosunmu, (PDP, 2011 governorship candidate) as such a candidate?
That one is in the past, totally in the past.
When you saw this problem of extortion did you share your concerns with people like Chief Bode George?
Of course, he knows and this time around I suspect we are going to work together to pick a candidate that we know can win and deliver.
We heard that you, Chief Bode George and some other leaders of the party have been trying to mend fences to align yourselves together?
Yes, extensively and we are going to continue. It is to our advantage and it’s reasonable. If you want to make a point, there is no need to be fighting, the more you fight, the more you destroy the party.
So will you say Lagos PDP is now at peace?
Yes to an extent, 80% not 100%. There are still a few that are outside that we have to talk to.
The main stakeholders sometimes refer to Chief Bode George as the leader of the Lagos PDP?
There is no doubt, I agree.
Is he your leader?
Yes, off course. You cannot wish that one away because of what he has achieved politically in the structure of the party. Somebody that has been deputy national chairman of the party? Unless you have somebody that has occupied that position that is when you can now say that person is the leader, there is no doubt to that at all.
It has often been said that there are moles of the ACN in the PDP, is it true?
It is when you are not united they are moles. There are moles in APC, they are moles in ACN. It is when you are fighting that you talk about moles.
So have those moles gone away?
There are no moles. It is when there are quarrels then you imagine moles. But when everybody sit down and you share things and you are a stake holder, how can you be a mole? It is when you’re elected and you have not consulted, you are not regarded as anything, then you can be called another name but where you are given your own due respect you are accommodated, in the scheme of things, you’re listened to, then you cannot be a mole.
Do some of the aspirants like Musiliu Obanikoro, Ade Dosunmu and such who have been presenting themselves for 2015 meet your standard of those who can win Lagos for the PDP?
I don’t think that they are part of what we are talking about
They don’t fit your idea..
Of persons that can be acceptable to the people!
Do you envisage PDP winning Lagos State in your life time?
Easy. Easy. It is the easiest thing when we go for the best.
Candidate based on sentiments
Don’t pick the candidate based on sentiments, don’t pick the candidate because you like the person.
But given the acclaimed achievements of Governor Babatunde Fashola will that not be a dream?
If I am going to score Fashola will I score him a pass mark? In which area? It is disputable and he knows it.
He hasn’t passed?
How can he pass? His child does not attend public school! It is not a good thing for him, it is not a pass mark and that is my own. If you want me to assess you, you must allow your family to participate in the structure of the system that you think is the best. Once you don’t allow that happen, I have my doubts.
Do you ever regret crossing over from the AD to the PDP?
No, no, no. I think of what I have been able to achieve rather than regret. How can I regret being a minister and now pro-chancellor of a federal university? Which type of regrets can I have rather than thank God.