The Lateef Raji Interview: Tinubu Deserves Praises For Nigeria’s Democratic Sustenance

The Nigeria general elections have been concluded and it is an open secret that the All Progressives Congress (APC) taking over power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the federal level..

In this interview with journalists in Lagos, the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to the state Governor, Conrade Lateef Raji speaks on the success recorded by the party at the polls.

He also reacted on alleged overbearing influence of the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu among other national and local issues. was part of the interview and we bring you excerpts from the media chat:

Lagos has always been the heartbeat of opposition in the country, recently, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) jolted the All Progressives Congress (APC) by winning some seats in critical constituencies in the state, what happened?

I can tell you that what happened is just a flash in the pan. Yes! It happened and it did because we were too confident, or over confident of becoming victorious. We did not underrate Lagosians, rather we underrated the desperation of the PDP to actually carry out the threat that everybody knew they planned to do. We know how to fight from behind and that is what we did and we have won back the governorship. We rolled out our arsenal and we ran over them. Apart from that, we underrated the PDP, we also lost the areas you referred to based on the power of the Presidency. I can tell you that President Goodluck Jonathan visited Lagos over 20 times before the presidential election and in the week to the governorship election. A lot of money was thrown into the Lagos political ring by the Presidency. Also, the non-indigenes in the areas felt that they owed the PDP a lot by voting for the party partly because President Jonathan is from South South.

Despite the popularity of your party, non-indigenes voted en masse for the PDP…

(Cuts in)…Well! All I can say is that the decision of the non-indigenes is informed by the perception of a Jonathan Presidency representing their collective interest. In Lagos, we have provided the right environment for them (non-indigenes) to thrive better than what obtains anywhere else. Some of their intellectuals have attested to this fact. A social commentator of Igbo extraction even wrote that his people have prospered more in Lagos than anywhere else in the world. As a government official, I know that non-indigenes pay the same set of taxes paid by natives. It is only in Lagos that you have markets dedicated to non-indigenes, particularly, the Igbo speaking people. Thank God that reason prevailed in the end and APC won the governorship and most of the seats in the House of Assembly.

PDP still remains a potent force in the politics of the state…

(Cuts in)…God forbid that PDP wins the governorship of Lagos, sincerely it will take them about four years to understand what we are doing here.  After the Federal Government, Lagos is the most complex entity to administer. Lagosians will never toy with the prospect of a PDP controlled government in the state. Since the advent of independence in the 1960s, the state had always been in the opposition; this is the first time the state is aligning with the government at the centre. What we want to do is to recover lost grounds in our developmental efforts. We want to recover what we have failed to gain since 1960; we too want to benefit from the prospects in the centre.

Flowing from your line of thought, you seem fulfilled that the government, which you are part of has done enough for the people but some people, especially the PDP believe that your policies and programmes are elitist…

The language, ELITIST to me is just a mere political blackmail. When they want to appraise us, they talk about the things we are doing in high brow areas of the state like in Lekki, Victoria Island, Surulere and the likes but the question we ask them is; are places like Alimosho, Agege, Egbeda and the likes elitist? We have done so much in terms of provision of basic amenities in the areas considered as populated by the masses. The suggestion that are policies, programmes are tailored towards servicing the elites is mere political blackmail from the PDP. When they say our government does not have human face in its programmes and policy, I respond to say that we have employed more people than the Federal Government or any state government. The rich and the poor get the same kind of attention in all our hospital facilities. We give residents free anti and post natal medical treatment. We have built schools that are being attended by the children of the rich and the poor. Currently, we are building the largest water works in Africa today in Adiyan. We have toll free lines for emergency calls and people are attended to without any form of discrimination, our emergency ambulance service is there as well. For the records, Lagos is one of the few states in the country where you can sleep with your two eyes closed, it does not come cheap, it comes with a huge price as well.

Despite this rosy picture that you painted, some people still believe that happenings in the state is being controlled by a certain godfather somewhere. How true is this?

This assertion is from chieftains of the PDP whom I consider as idle people. They are rent collectors and for 16 years they have been rent collectors. They are usually happy to be in the opposition. The development that is being witnessed in Lagos today started from the government of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who moved the IGR of the state from paltry N600 million to N8 billion monthly before he left office. To me, Tinubu is a benevolent godfather, a man who sees far ahead of others, especially his contemporaries.  At least someone should come out to tell us that he is overbearing and that he is practically sitting on the head of the current state governor. Fashola has added value to governance in Lagos, the discovery of Fashola by Asiwaju is a unique feat. It is a product of Asiwaju’s thinking.

But some people accuse him of cornering the wealth of the state for his personal use. How true is this?

We listen too much to what the opposition says about him but let me tell you that he has come to see such allegations against him as mere antics of irritants. What we can’t take away from him is that whatever development anywhere in the South West today is traceable to Tinubu because he donated the governors to the states there and the governors in turn are delivering on democratic dividends. As an aide, I can say that I have had to engage him on rigorous strategic sessions on issues relating to policies and programmes, if his overbearing and greedy, he won’t allow that.

Some people say that he imposes candidate on the party during elections. How true is that?

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu works with the leadership of the party when formulating policy or going into electoral battle. He operates a collegiate council where decisions are taken by the elders in the party. Everybody witnessed the fact that the party conducted primaries to pick its candidates for all political offices from those of House of Assembly to the presidency. This gave us the edge that gave us victories at all levels. The issue of direct primaries too has not really helped. In the past, the local leaders of the party would sit to evaluate candidates before presenting them to Asiwaju but sadly, this is the first time that we are losing well over six House of Representatives seats in an election. I am a member of the state executive council; I have never heard anyone saying Asiwaju said this should happen.

What can you attribute to the success of the APC in the last presidential election?

The way the legacy parties came together to form the APC is very divine, divine in the sense that nobody gave us any chance. This is the first time that that a merger of opposition political parties is successful. The leaders of the various parties must be credited for this feat. They deserve the first commendation, particularly, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It has always been his dream to float a progressive platform that can accommodate everybody; he was so dogged about it. He was commited, he was focused and he pursued it with all his vigour.  After the leadership, which cuts across all the legacy political parties that formed the APC, also the way we handled our affairs made Nigerians to see us as serious people, a credible bunch of people, the saw the passion and that assisted us. We were able to show the difference between us and the PDP. The daily revelation of official corruption also helped us a lot as well as the quality of candidate that we presented for the presidency. General Muhammadu Buhari comes clean when you scrutinize him for corruption. Nigerians saw all those things and were able to bring them to the front burner. Nigerians rose up beyond many primordial sentiments that were thrown up by the opposition.

What does your government intends to do for the people of Nigerians now that the party has won the presidency?

We presented a manifesto to the people and we hope to implement it.

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