interviewBy Dapo Akinrefon
Days after part of his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State was recently engulfed in flames, a delegation of the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP visited to empathise with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But beneath the veneer of the consolation was Obasanjo's own admonition to the chieftains of the Lagos PDP to put their house in order, for according to him, winning Lagos State was doable.
But the condition, President Obasanjo said was for the different tendencies in the party to put aside their historic infighting and fight as a united team. In this interview, the The chairman of the PDP in Lagos, Mr Tunji Shelle said the ACN in the state is jittery over his party's readiness to take over Lagos come 2015. Excerpts:
President Olusegun Obasanjo recently advised members of the PDP in Lagos to unify for them to win the state. Are you heeding the advise?
We are working seriously to ensure that we bring back all our members together under one umbrella. Obasanjo's advice was important and that has been the reason the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has been jittery. ACN has realised that if someone like Obasanjo can throw his support behind us ahead of the 2015 governorship election in Lagos, then their chances of retaining power is slim. Obasanjo did not only advice us but he also prayed with us.
ACN believed it has worked but we are going to outwit them. If we take over power in Lagos, we are definitely going to turn the state around for better. I believe Obasanjo has done nothing wrong to warrant insult form ACN. I don't think it makes sense to insult an old man the way ACN did, but by the time we finish mending fences, we shall be well positioned to wrestle power form the ACN in 2015.
Are you inferring that the PDP house is now in order after Obasanjo's advise?
I want to thank Obasanjo for telling us the need to close ranks, which we have already done. In response to his advice, most of our members are now in talking terms. For instance, people like Dr. Oluyomi Finnih, Senators Adeseye Ogunlewe, Musliu Obanikoro, Chief Bode George and others are now on talking terms and they have all agreed to work as a team for the interest of the party and for the benefit of the people of Lagos.
What are the things you feel the ruling party is not doing that PDP would like to address if it takes over power?
There are many areas that the ruling party has failed the people of Lagos. The fact is ACN has succeeded in destroying the legacy of Alhaji Lateef Jakande who built the Lekki-Epe Road without collecting toll or concession and without obtaining loan. ACN simply improved on the road and tolled it.
If ACN had constructed the coastal road and tolled it, people would not have complained. The coastal road has been an ACN plan but they did not construct it. If they had done that, the Lekki/Epe Expressway would have been an alternative to the coastal road.
It is exploitation on the part of government to give a private company the leeway to toll the road for 30 years. They have turned the road into private business. How much did they construct the road in the first instance and if they toll it for 30 years how much are they going to make from it? It cannot take more than two years to recoup the cost of the construction.
They believe people along the Lekki/Epe axis are very rich but forget that there are also villages and hamlets along the same axis. The toll gate is also congested because it was not well planned.
Are you not afraid the crisis in the Southwest zone of your party could affect your chances in 2015?
PDP is a very big party and politics is dynamic with people having various interests. What is happening now is interest. PDP is so big and large, it is controlling about 26 states and dominates the National Assembly you will realize that most of us have different backgrounds. All these put together will one-way or the other affect the dynamics of the party.
All that is taking place now is just politics of 2015; and between now and May, these problems would have been resolved and taken the same direction to face the rival parties. CPC, ACN, APGA, ANPP and others put together are like ants before the PDP. So many things will work against them. Their leaders cannot form a common front because none will want to step down for another. PDP has been able to manage its difference in the last 15 years.
ACN is a regional party, CPC is a regional party and ANPP does not have focus, so how can they work together? We will take advantage of this. The National Secretary of PDP, Olagunsoye Oyinlola only went on a short holiday he will soon come back.