The Director-General, Koro Campaign Organisation, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse, the campaign group of a former Minister of State for Defence and governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos, Musiliu Obanikoro, in this interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, says leaders of the party in the state were unfair to Obanikoro
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos, Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe, prior to the governorship primary of the party, alleged that Obanikoro was too controversial to emerge as the party’s candidate. What is your reaction to that claim?
How can anybody determine who the candidate will be? The only way a candidate can be determined is if we go to free, fair and credible elections. We went to that election so that the voice of the people – the delegates of the party – would determine who gets the nomination. It is not for one man, whether (another chieftain of the PDP) Bode George or Ogunlewe, to determine who is or is not a good candidate. That just tells you that they are not democratic; they are dictators; they are oppressors and pretenders.
What of Ogunlewe’s claim that Obanikoro does not have a clear track record?
Obanikoro’s record is clear. He has been Council Chairman of the Lagos Island Local Government Area; he won his election. He has been Chairman of the Board of Bulk Purchase. He has been appointed Commissioner in Lagos State. He ran for election as a senator and won. He was appointed Ambassador (to Ghana) and then Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Who is Ogunlewe to say such a man has a bad record, except that Ogunlewe is being personal and has his own prejudice against Obanikoro? It is a personal issue; we should ask him what he has against this man. What is the personal vendetta that he and George hold against him, because logic does not support what they are saying.
But Ogunlewe and George are said to be aggrieved with Obanikoro’s comments, following the outcome of the primary election. Should Obanikoro not have taken a different approach?
Obanikoro said Ogunlewe and George are bad leaders; that they had not shown leadership. It is like having children and treating one as special, while undermining the other. It is not fair. He spoke against them and he made clear allegations. They have been (party) leaders for the last 16 years of democracy in Lagos and they have not won anything. It is time for a change of leadership in Lagos. Otherwise, PDP will not win anything. That is his (Obanikoro’s) allegation. Then, George called him a disrespectful small boy. Imagine calling a 54-year-old grandfather a small boy. Obanikoro is a father, a grandfather, a former minister and an ambassador. What does that tell you about the one who refers to such a person as insignificant? He (George) is the one insulting Obanikoro, not the other way around.
Would it not be better for Obanikoro to call their bluff and wait till 2015 to see whether the PDP leadership in Lagos made the right decision on Jimi Agbaje or not?
They have a right to their opinion as the leaders of the party. They could say, as far as they are concerned, Agbaje would be the best candidate. But they are not God. And in a democracy, what do you do? You table your interests before the people and they vote; then, they decide whether or not to support you. Just because they feel this person is the best candidate does not mean that is the best candidate, as far as the people are concerned. The first rule of democracy is the principle of equal opportunity. Allow the people to express their opinion. They (George and Ogunlewe) didn’t do that; they are trying to tell us that they know best, whereas there is a system in place called election.
Are Obanikoro and his supporters considering defection?
I have not discussed that option with Obanikoro, but I told him today (Wednesday) that I have heard people saying we’ve already defected. There are rumours all over the place, and yet, these leaders are not interested in finding out. They do not care. The same thing happened in 2007, when aggrieved members left the party (PDP) for the Action Congress of Nigeria (now the All Progressives Congress). This has made the party so formidable today. George did not raise a finger to stop us from going to the ACN. Ogunlewe also did not lift a finger. In fact, he sent half of his people to the ACN and stayed within the PDP to keep causing confusion and fighting the system. These people are so disingenuous and they cannot be trusted. I don’t think they intend to win anything. The right thing to do is for them to call us to talk, but they don’t care what we do; they don’t care where we go.
Ogunlewe is alleging that Obanikoro is exhibiting traces of opposition. Is this true?
Everybody in the PDP today came from the (defunct) Alliance for Democracy. Therefore, all of us have traces of the AD in us. He, who is saying someone is showing traces of the opposition, should hear this from me: As God is my witness, up till this primary election issue came up, everybody in the party, including George, believed that Ogunlewe was an agent of the APC. I am quoting, and God is my witness. He is a double agent within the PDP. Whether they want him to destroy the party (PDP) is left to the leaders at the national level. But I am telling them now that actions speak louder than words. Who is a better member of the PDP -the one that is fighting for democracy to prevail in the PDP or the one that is using dictatorship to destroy the party, tear it apart and cause acrimony?
A group has called on the PDP to suspend Obanikoro because he took the party to court. What is your response to this call?
If they say Obanikoro should be suspended, then I would say, ‘For doing what?’ I say to you right now that George and Ogunlewe should be expelled from the party, having failed the party in 16 years of their leadership. They have not taken us anywhere; all they have done is cause rifts, dissension and acrimony in the party. They have divided the party. Even as we speak, why is it that they have not called Obanikoro and his people together to say ‘instead of fighting, we should settle this?’ They should say, ‘We accept that we made a mistake and we know you are not happy with it. Let us work together, so that we can win in 2015.’
If these leaders do not call Obanikoro and negotiate, they have expressed clearly that they do not care if Obanikoro and his people, and myself, go anywhere else. If that happens, then it shows that they don’t care if they lose in 2015. I don’t see any indication that they intend to win any election. I don’t see them showing any interest in winning in 2015. Let us say mistakes have been made and that Obanikoro and his group are not happy. If they are genuine and sincere leaders, what should they do? If they are positive-thinking leaders; if they are fair-minded leaders, they will call the aggrieved party and say, ‘Please, don’t be angry, let’s work out a deal.’ Instead of that, they are exchanging words with Obanikoro. They could have called me, but I guess I am too small to be called. I am 56 years old; Obanikoro is 54 years old. We are children, as far Bode George, who is 69, is concerned. And then, they expect us to respect them, when they don’t respect us.
The onus is on the leaders to call the aggrieved parties, to negotiate with them, so we can move forward, work together and win in 2015. If they don’t do that, it is a clear indication that they do not intend to win. It means they just want money for the election, which they would pocket. Agbaje would not see a fraction of the money to campaign for this election. He has already failed in this election because of the leadership of George and Ogunlewe.