Senator Ganiyu Solomon is a second term senator representing Lagos West Senatorial District. Before then, he spent a term in the House of Representatives, representing Mushin Federal Constituency, where he also served as local government chairman.
A complete grassroots mobiliser, Solomon is one of a handful of aspirants in the race to succeed Governor Babatnde Fashola. In a recent chat with newsmen he spoke on some issues that are shaping the Lagos contest. Excerpts:
How would you react to claims that the establishment in your party is not looking towards you as a gubernatorial candidate?
The business of governorship cannot be left in the hands of a few people. Let me quickly say that democracy translates to participatory governance, which means everybody gets involved; you participate and that differentiates it from a dictatorial government. Dictatorial government is just about a few people, and that was what we had during the military era.
So, when we are talking of democracy or, in this instance, governance in the state, it cannot be in the hands of a few, no matter how enlightened, no matter how ‘powerful’ they are. It has to be in the hands of everybody. I am sure nobody has come out to say we’re not looking in your direction; we’re looking in this other direction.
We may have some perceptions, or interpret certain utterances, but the level we are now – for instance, in my party – we are in a new party, and the leadership of that party, from day one, in response to cynicism from some people, said, ‘look, we are guaranteeing internal democracy.’
Some people may say the body language of the leadership is tilting towards this person; at the end of the day, it’s about perception.
As far as ‘am concerned, any way, the issue of the senate is closed; ‘am not going back to the Senate. Maybe we should start with that: ‘am not going back to the Senate; that is settled.
But the Oba of Lagos recently claimed that the leaders of Lagos have settled on Akin Ambode?
Let me say that in making the pronouncement, Kabiyesi was expressing his preference. He has also expressed his personal opinion. We’re talking of a party now; I don’t know which part or provision of the constitution of the party says a traditional ruler endorses or can endorse. Whatever he says is his personal wish, which is not the same thing as the wish of the generality of the people.
At the end of the day, we have a party structure. Let me also tell you that he made the pronouncement at a time when we had not even concluded putting party structures in place.
So, it couldn’t have been in consultation, with who? Is it with the political leadership? Is it with the traditional leadership? We’ve had different opinions since then. We deliberately did not come out to say anything about it because we felt it was a political statement.
And what do you do with political statements? You either respond or you leave it. In this case, we decided to leave it.
We believe you’ve been consulting with political leaders in the state. Have you consulted with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and what did he tell you?
Yes, I’ve consulted with him. There’s no way you’d want to run for governorship, or any serious political office and you don’t meet your leaders.
I met him and he said, ‘well, you can go ahead with your ambition; at the right time we’ll roll out the party programmes and so on, but right now we are busy putting up the party structures.’
We agreed that putting up party structures will not stop me from meeting people, going ahead with my plans. That is it.
Have you met him since the (Oba Akiolu’s endorsement) controversy?
No, because he (Tinubu) came out to say the party had not endorsed anybody. That was an open statement.
The party itself came out to say, ‘no, we’ve not endorsed anybody. So, whatever Kabiyesi said was his personal opinion.
So, I saw no need meeting him again on the same issue. I’d take whatever he said openly. He’s been the leader of the movement, our party, from AD to AC to ACN, and so on. He knows what is right to do and what is not right to do.
Even if, and where, he has a preference, he cannot now say he has a preference. He cannot say that, he cannot. I trust he would not say that.
You have claimed to draw ancestry from the East? Where exactly?
My dad is from Ipakodo. You go to the palace, they will tell you. They will tell you also his role in upgrading the Obaship. My mum is from Ituwolo, and my maternal grandmum is from Ibeshe.
So, whatever way you want to push it, I am there. They can’t talk of zoning as a way of stopping anybody. It is also not a provision of the party, which means anybody, even from the Central, can run. It is the party members that would say, ‘no, we prefer this person.’
I have given you an example of Bola Tinubu beating all other aspirants from the Central. Anybody would be pardoned then if he’d concluded that the zoning arrangement now is to the Central, but he came from the West and clinch the party ticket. He defeated all of them.
So, whosoever comes from the Central, from the West, is also free. That is my own opinion. It depends on who the individual is. You go ahead, just leave party members to their thing, that again would promote democracy. It would make the candidates to talk to people, to talk to people across the other senatorial districts.
You just don’t fold your arms and say because somebody has zoned it to your area that is the end. You also need the other districts. At the end of the day, you’re not going to be governor of Lagos East only; you’re supposed to be the governor of Lagos State.
Have you consulted Governor Fashola?
I said any serious contender will do a far and wide consultation with the leadership of the party, and when you’re talking of the leadership of this political party – I don’t know how you read – by the time you mention a few names, and you’ve not mentioned the governor, you still don’t know where you’re going, you’re joking.
He’s a leader of the party, both at the national and state levels. Definitely, he’s one of those I’ve consulted.
What would you do if there was a free and fair primary election and you did not win?
A free and fair primary election? Oh, I’ll queue behind whoever wins. If there was none – we ‘ll leave that to that time. We will act accordingly.
If you win what happens? If you lose in a flawed primary what would you do?
Even with the first one, it is not settled. It is the beginning of a greater work, because we still need to sell our party; we still need to sell our party to the general populace, which is much more important, and that is why I will not engage in a bitter fight, because at the end of the day we still need to come together to fighter a greater ‘devil’.
The second option, where there’s a close margin, where there is free, fair transparent primary election, the people would have spoken and there nothing you can do, it becomes our party issue. You rally round whoever emerges, and try to work out things together. As for the last scenario, where some people think they can outsmart the others, we’ll act accordingly.
You’re so passionate about governance, what drives that passion?
I believe I can serve, I believe I have what it takes to govern Lagos; not just to govern so that they call me ‘His Excellency’. It’s not about ‘His Excellency’, it is about impacting on the lives of the people. At this point in time it is the uppermost thing that should be on the mind of anybody. Look, this is 2014.
In 1959 when Chief Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, when they mounted the rostrum, they would say ‘we’ll give electricity, we’ll give you road,’ they would clap.
We should move beyond that now. They would say, ‘we’d give you education, and it would liberate you from ignorance.’
We don’t say that in 2014, we’ve moved beyond that. We should impact positively on people’s lives, we should develop them.
You cannot reduce such investment on people to Naira and Kobo; it is invaluable. So, that, to me, is governance.