Chief S. Ola Apena is the Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State. Our Lagos Bureau Chief, SAMUEL OGUNDIPE, had a brief chat with him about the latest national concerns and the update from his party’s campaign trail in Lagos.
Top APC chieftains, including Governor Babatunde Fashola, have maintained that President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the South-west was aimed at giving the Yoruba pecuniary benefits in return for their votes and you’ve been fingered as one of those who distributed the boondoggle. What transpired during Mr. President’s visits?
Mr. President has been frequenting the South-west in furtherance of his campaign. Don’t forget he’s the candidate of our great party in this election and the Constitution allows for any candidate to take his campaign to any part of Nigeria. Also, let’s not forget that Mr. President has a dual personality: he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This means that the entire country is his constituency, so he’s free to move about in the country and hold discussion with all manners of people for the greater good of the country.
To those who say I participated in the sharing of the largesse, well, they’re entitled to their stupidity. There’s no truth whatsoever in their claim. The president didn’t come to the South-west to dole out money or projects to anyone. Those who said he came to share money must be saying that the traditional rulers in the South-west are poor individuals. That is nonsense. I wasn’t at the State House but I can guarantee you that no money was shared. The president only came to campaign for himself and to let the people know that there are a lot of things to be benefitted from his leadership.
My party’s position on the use of PVC is simple. You see, at the initial state when we were first hearing about the use of PVC in the upcoming elections, we were very happy because we had thought that the new mechanism being put in place will prevent rigging and other electoral malpractices. But after Jega started showing us how electronic voting would work and the botched distribution of the cards, then we began changing our position because we cannot allow a lopsided execution of distribution of voting materials. Jega distributed more PVCs in the war-torn Northeast than he did in the peaceful areas like ours, like Lagos. The truth is the credibility of Jega having been contaminated, he doesn’t appear to be ready to conduct a free, fair and credible elections.
How safe was Jega’s job heretofore and how safe is it from now on?
Well, Mr. President appointed Jega. All those screaming on the pages of newspapers and electronic media have no idea what they’re talking about. You cannot like the INEC chairman more than the person who appointed him. Mr. President appointed him because he trusted him and knew that he had basis to trust him based on his academic and social antecedents. Having said that, I believe it’s difficult for anyone to say Jega has been playing his role neutrally. He’d become partisan overtime and the president could sack him if he deemed fit. Those saying the president cannot sack him must have forgotten that he nominated him in the first place. The president has availed Jega the needed independence, which is why he conducted elections in Osun, Edo, Ondo and Anambra States where the opposition parties emerged victorious. Nobody said anything then, the ragtag opposition that called themselves progressives were screaming “victory for democracy!” If Jega is sacked, the elections will go on and the country will not burn.
Your party’s strategy for winning Lagos seems to be focused on consolidating the votes of the minority groups in the state, especially the Igbo. Don’t you think you need to appeal more to the Yoruba? And what is the latest from your campaign?
Well, let me correct that notion. First and foremost, we’re not concentrating on any minority group. We, as a political party, are here to win elections and Lagos State has a high number of minority residents. So we’re reaching out to all Lagosians, notwithstanding their ethnicity or creed. This is why we’ve taken our campaign to all local government areas in the state. The reason why some people keep saying we’re pandering to the Igbos is because we recently went to Ladipo International Market, which incidentally has a high concentration of Igbos, to campaign. But the other parties have always been to the market to campaign. So this is campaign season, we’ve been everywhere and we hope that all Lagosians will vote out these progressives. The minorities, especially the Igbo, are particularly angry with the APC because they’ve been humiliated, extorted and all sort of dehumanising treatments had been meted out to them. They will not vote for a party that put them in a van that are used to transport animals and transport them back to their land, under the guise that they are destitutes. This is after they were put in a solitary confinement for three months under a dehumanising condition. These are people who have contributed and continued to contribute to the economic development of this city. The Igbo, the Arewa, the South-South people and the Yoruba have decided to vote out these shameless clowns. Our campaign activities continue across the state. Our candidate, Jimi Agbaje, has been visiting different suburbs in the state to tell the voters what he would do to them if voted in. He has better vision for the state than those parading themselves as progressives. And I am sure Lagosians will give him the opportunity to serve.