SEGUN KASALI, SYLVESTER OKORUWA and LANRE ADEWOLE engage the combustible factional chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Fouad Alade Oki, on the crisis in the state APC, among others.
IS it still safe to call you an ally of Senator Bola Tinubu?
Forever and ever. Not only an ally, we have relationship which closely borders on the filial. If you know Lagos very well, you would understand what I am saying. In Lagos, you are either first cousins or second cousins. Everyone is related to everyone if you are from Lagos. We have a very close relationship. He is my big brother. He is my leader. He is our leader. We come from the same progressive family politically. So, we continue to be together ever and ever.
So this disagreement is just politics?
Well, it is unfortunate that some people want to situate the issues in Lagos State around Asiwaju. It is not.
Are you saying Senator Tinubu is not the issue in Lagos?
Asiwaju is not the political issue in Lagos State. He is a political enigma beyond Lagos State and it will be unfair if we begin to tie him down to one of several states that make up Nigeria.
Why the faction?
There is no breakaway faction. You see, in a family quarter which is called Agbo-Ile, there is always a head of Agbo-Ile, who is the baba and for everyone. It does not mean that there will not be disagreement and the disagreement in Lagos politics is about ways and means. We must get it very clear. It is about rights and wrongs. The issue is about the door, the inner and the outer sides to it and we must be very clear and careful about how we look at this issue.
After going through the gamut of institutionalised and statutory conflict resolution mechanism, what are you going to bring back to him?
Unless Asiwaju is partisan in this issue which I don’t think he is, we may not be fair to his person. But if we are sure that he is not partisan and he has also agreed and subscribed to the conflict-resolution mechanism by way of appeal, then as democrats let us allow the rule of law to operate. Do not politicise every issue because it is politics. We should look at its legal requirement and appropriately follow suit.
But he is not on the side of your faction. He is obviously on the other side.
I still refuse to agree. I am sure you are feeling like that again because some people said after the sham congress that was conducted in Acme, they went to meet with him. So, to that extent, you must also understand it is his right, which is inalienable, for him to endorse, for him to support.
Has your faction met with him?
I want us to run away from the issue of faction because we are not really factionalised rather we are looking at the same thing differently.
Has your group met with him?
We have not because again he subscribed to the need for us to have a conflict resolution mechanism by way of appeal. So why do we want to go and join “excuse sir, excuse sir, they slap me”. No. No. And you should know that I am from this town. I am omo Eko. We carry with us a lot of self pride and confidence.
Is this all about ego?
Well, call it whatever. I am from Lagos.
Those who are on the other side are also omo Eko
I don’t know about that. As for me, I am from Lagos.
What are the political issues in the Lagos APC ?
The issue is very clear. It is about legality and illegality.
Being perpetrated by who?
Being perpetrated by those that are scared of following for inclusion of everybody.
And you don’t want to mention names?
No. For me and because it is a family affair, I want to run away from mentioning names but discussing the issue.
But people should know those who are involved?
The issue is this, Lagos State was at the forefront of no to elongation of tenure for party officers. Lagos State was at the forefront of yes to election of new party officials that would run the party for four years. Now, the party has said ok no problem, you want to be stickler to the rule of law. As democrats, go and conduct congresses in line with constitution of our party, which must be in tandem with the Electoral Act and 1999 Constitution and a set of guidelines was issued for a set of those congresses. The guideline states explicitly the process for conduct of election. What are the processes? The key ingredient for any democratically prepared election, number one, is delegates’ list. In this case, that is the membership register. Number two is people coming forward to say that there might be election. Number three is a clearly delineated jurisdiction. So in our case, the clearly delineated jurisdiction would be the 245 wards that are recognised by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act and the electoral umpires, INEC with 20 local government recognised by the third schedule of the constitution.
Unfortunately, the state congress committee got to Lagos on Thursday. Before they got to Lagos, the state party leadership convoked a technical support committee which comprises a few members of the state executive who equally are aspirants wanting to contest in election and I am sure you know what that means. And they started selling forms based on a predetermined list unknown to membership of the party. The predetermined list was compiled by a caucus in the party which is the Mandate caucus ostensibly the caucus of our leader Bola Tinubu and the guideline requires every prospective aspirant to go to bank, any of the seven banks that were designated, to pay into the party’s account and thereafter go to the party’s secretariat with the teller and collect a form which he or she would fill to enable him or her to stand for election. So, you got a situation where thousands of party members had paid into the party’s coffers through various banks but were unable to get forms from the secretariat because they were not on a predetermined list.
Who denied them?
They were denied by the former chairman of the state Chief Oladele Ajomale and in extension by the so-called technical committee headed by Funso Ologunde. At least, I can mention eight of them who were members of the technical support committee, to assist the state congress committee that has come to conduct congresses, who were participants in the contest.
Were you part of the technical committee?
No. We have been excluded since February when efforts were made to suspend me for establishing the United Broom Movement (UBM). So, we became persona non-grata and also need to be careful because the secretariat is a personal property of one of our leaders, Senator Tinubu. So, when they say you cannot come, you better be careful.
Because it is a private property.
Being used for party activities?
But it is still private property. You will come to agree with me what happened thereafter. So, I raised a three-page letter of observation not a petition now, because I did not want to be pre-empting. So, I raised a handwritten three-page letter and sent onto the whatsapp not only of the state chairman of the congress committee but other members too, inviting their attention to the composition of the technical support committee as being illegal as virtually every member of that committee was also a prospective aspirant to one of the congresses. I raised another issue, the issue of the membership list. I demanded to know the voting model whether again for clarity the congresses would hold as stated in the guidelines in only INEC recognised wards. I did not get a reply.
Who was the chairman of that committee?
Chief Theo Okoh.
And you were sure they got your letter?
Yes and they did everything objectively and humanly possible to be non-partisan. I should say that, but were overwhelmed by pressure. But the chairman did one thing which we must also state here very clearly when he got my letter of observation, he acknowledged it and he raised those issues with the state chairman and the next thing the state chairman did was to call Senator Tinubu that this person seems to be giving us problem in this place. He is asking some questions and they gave the phone to him and he asked from Asiwaju that “sir, how many local governments do we have in Lagos State. Asiwaju said 57. The man asked, “constitutionally sir? He replied 20, but that we went to court on the 37 created, up to Supreme Court and we won and the man said you won and he said yes. And I drew his attention again that why don’t you call National Working Committee (NWC) and seek appropriate directive in this regard. But they went ahead to conduct congresses illegally in 57 local governments which translate into 377 wards. Now, you want to ask why would you do your congress separately because on Friday, eve of the congress, two lives were lost in Ajeromi/Ifelodun Local Government Areas, particularly Ifelodun constituency and that seemed to be a signal for us. It was that very night we said this struggle was not worth one life and therefore let us conduct ours and we look at the guideline, because you also want to understand that the ward congress committees that were sent to the various wards were also nominated from amongst members in their various wards. That has been the case with them that in each ward they nominate among themselves those who will conduct congresses in line with the requirements of the guideline and that is why you seem to have the so-called graveyard peace which they want to celebrate. It is because we run away from whatever that would cause loss of lives.
Why did you not join Acme when there were no threats?
There have always been threats and I am coming there. That was the first step and you know what we did. We wrote appeals letter in its thousands to the ward appeals committee and submitted the following day on sunday preparatory to the closing of the submission of appeal. The Appeal committee started sitting on Tuesday and the appeal committee listed the format for hearing appeals via senatorial districts. So, some of our people were attended to on the first day. On the second day, some of our people were attended to. On the third day when myself and few others were expected to appear before the committee, we were there waiting for our turn when all of a sudden members of the committee were blasted with teargas.
By the leadership of the party because it was their secretariat.
Would they have access to canister?
I do not know. May be you need to ask Chief Ajomale or Ologunde that question. And what happened was that the committee members packed their books and left. That is how we were not attended to. Now with the ward congress inconclusive, we were expected to go ahead and begin again with the local government congress. Again we raised another letter drawing attention of that. So we were supposed to submit the letter on a Monday. We were at the secretariat to submit the letter and the committee was there when Asiwaju Tinubu came in and drove the committee out of the place.
All by himself?
Were you an eye-witness?
I was not but I was told reliably by some of our colleagues who were there to submit our petition.
Why did he do that?
I did not know. I can’t know.
What did they tell you happened before such action was allegedly taken by Asiwaju?
Asiwaju went to meet with the committee. The committee had started sitting in the hall. Asiwaju left not more than 10 minutes before the committee members wound up. When asked questions they said Asiwaju has told them to leave Lagos. But you also must understand something, a day before the appeal committee came into Lagos, information has it that some people had gotten wind of the chairmanship of the appeals committee. So they protested in Acme that they don’t want the chairman of the appeals committee.
With everything that happened, would you say that Tinubu aided the alleged illegality that took place during the exercise?
That is very obvious. If a telephone call was put to him and he confirmed or he told or encouraged the state congress committee to conduct congresses in an illegal manner.
So, he was part of the illegality?
Of course.Very well.
But you have been winning elections?
You see, that is why we started the United Broom Movement that the way we have been coming and lest we try to placate those that have been injured, unless we try to reconcile everybody that we are not likely to win any election again, especially against the background of our dismal performance in 2015. Because when you look at the margin of victory for a party and a government that has been adjudged to be doing very well, it calls for any discernable mind’s interrogation.
How far are you ready to go with it?
I still disagree with you. I am an arrowhead. I want to be seen very differently. I want to be seen that when people say that Nigeria is bad and my question is what have they done to redeem this situation. We have all contributed in one way and another to the anomaly which we are trying to correct. Therefore, all hands must be on deck. For me, I am just an arrowhead of people say this is not right and that we cannot continue to do things this way. This is the way we should all do it. If you were at the conference hall during the congress, when I was invited to address the congress, the first statement I made was that I want to apologize for whatever action or inaction that I have taken or been part of, over the years. That I want to apologise on behalf of all of us that have one time or the other caused them anger, pain and hurt and genuinely see this coming from the heart and appropriately forgive us so that together we can work as a team and the crowd said we are not expecting anything from you but we have forgiven you and others and we have buried the things that have angered us and now ready to work together.
So, what is the way out?
People exercise their franchise. All I want is people finding my party worthy again of reposing confidence in. As I speak with you, I have 4.4million registered voters out there who did not vote in 2015 and that is my worry. How do I galvanize my colleagues in the party to translate these 4.4million voters into votes. My determination is ensuring that in 2019, Lagos State will deliver to PMB and our party at the national the highest aggregate number of votes. We have it and my target is to see that I mobilise every single one of the 4.4 million people. If I can have a little bit a million votes and I can add the 4.4 million people, Kano, Kaduna or whatever states will queue behind me, they will trail behind me and that is my determination. That is the resolve of the generality of our members in the APC and that is what we are going to do.
If this is not resolved before nomination, is it not true there will be two governorship candidates?
That is a bridge and I will be most unfair if I tell you what the destination is. What I know is that the destination for us is seeking justice and equity. And then I alone cannot say if this is this, this is what it will be. We take our situation by the day. Our pre-occupation now is rekindling the hope and together I know we will rekindle hope.
If Tinubu invites you today for a resolution, will you honour the invitation?
I don’t need to be invited. We are in the month of Ramadan. If I feel like doing my iftar there, nothing stops me. Nobody at that gate will stop me. It is my house.
If you are asked to step down for the chairman in the other faction, will you?
Let me tell you one thing. I did not even step up on my own. Unknown to most people, I did not buy the form myself at all. People were there. That is what I am saying if you make me your arrowhead, I will not misrepresent you. If you really ask me where I want to perform, I would have loved to be the chairman of the South-West zone, but because they said no this is where they want me to be. It would interest you but you don’t have to believe it, those who bought my form, bought it on Friday.I was doing my own, trying to coordinate and everything. It was at our meeting that they said we have nominated you. The particular thing is that it was Honourable Dayo Bush who bought the form and he told me that they sent me to you and I said this is what I want for me. But then, if that is what you want me do , I will. It is not about wanting to be the chairman. It is about whether we have done the right thing. So the issue is not about coming to negotiate about anything. The issue is about what is right and what is wrong and I want to beg that our brothers and sisters of the fourth estate of the realm should be very careful. You have a responsibility to help us to grow our democracy. To help us in guiding our party politically. What do I mean? When there are issues like the one we are currently facing in Lagos, don’t jump into the conclusion, that can we negotiate this issue? Let us first interrogate the issue. Let us know what is right and what is wrong. Let’s call a spade a spade. You that are even thinking that you are right, maybe your interpretation of the constitution is even faulty. If it is the other side you should let them. After that, you think how we move together. It is not the issue of will you step down or step up. It is about have you done the right thing before man and God the creator? It is about are you fair to all irrespective of creed? Those are the questions which should at this point be relevant.
Do you know it is the only court of law that can establish legality or otherwise.
No. We have a conflict resolution mechanism process which is the appeal and for some reasons some people did not allow the appeal to look at the issues in Lagos. Therefore, the appeal has gone to the national and I trust in the capacity and the capability of the National Working Committee of our party to be fair, to be objective and justicious. So when that happens I am not sure that there will be need for any interpretation of our rules. The issue at hand is about the ways and its means and that is the important thing.The issue is we must be bold enough to call a spade a spade whichever side that has disregarded either brazingly or fragrantly, the rules and extant laws and does not have respect for democratic ethos. When you have such situation, you don’t beg the issue.
Are you saying with all good conscience that you don’t have a Plan B, if you are ruled out?
My only Plan B is in ensuring that we get interpretation of our laws.
And if you are ruled offside by the NWC?
If we are ruled offside by the NWC, we will come back home reporting to those who sent us out in the first instance and whatever they say we will be willing to so do.