A former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, speaks on the chances of President Goodlluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr Jimi Agbaje in February’s elections, in this interview with journalists. BOLA BADMUS brings the excerpts:
Why did you set up the Lagos Independent Presidential Campaign Group for President Jonathan?
I set up the group to deepen the president’s presence in Lagos State and take his message directly to the people. There is a lot of misinformation going on and a critical way to counter that is through grassroots mobilisation.
Do you see the president winning the coming election?
I have no doubt in my mind that the president will win. It is going to be a close election, but I have no doubt in my mind that at the end, the president will carry the day. However, from the distribution and collection of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), it is clear that the All Progressives Congress (APC) wants to rig in the North. How do you explain states like Borno and Yobe with the dislocation of insurgency recording 80 per cent collection of the PVCs? The APC is setting the stage to write election results. I am more convinced about this, because their candidate is not a known democrat, so he doesn’t mind doing or condoning whatever it takes to win. He has no history of promoting the rule of law.
Do you foresee any outbreak of violence after the presidential elections?
I hope not and that is why I am happy about the peace accord signed by Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Let’s not forget that it is his silence that escalated the violence we are witnessing today. After his loss in 2011, his followers went on rampage and he kept quiet. This degenerated into the activities of Boko Haram. Prior to that, the activities of Boko Haram were not as deadly as they became after the 2011 elections.
What are the chances of the PDP governorship candidate, Mr Jimi Agbaje in the coming election in Lagos State?
I am confident with the feedback I am getting from an average person on the street of Lagos that the people are clamouring for a change that will end one man’s control over our resources in Lagos. They are clamouring for a government that will invest in education as a way to end the slavery in our state.
Just recently, the Lagos State Government placed a N10, 000 fee on children sitting for Junior Seconday School (JSS 3) examination. This is wicked and grossly insensitive on the part of a government that promised to give hope to the hopeless. And when education is no longer affordable, how can the people have hope? So, I am confident that the mood of Lagos State at this time favours the victory and emergence of Agbaje as the next governor of the state, and we are putting in everything legitimately possible to make this dream a reality.
Do you think there is a level-playing field for political campaigns in Lagos?
Not at all! The APC government in Lagos is not concerned about democracy. They are trying to kill the opposition in the state, while we have created space for the opposition at the centre. In Lagos, they are hiding under LASAA to deprive us, the opposition a voice. In today’s Lagos, an average person cannot contemplate running for office because of the huge cost of running a campaign. This is what they are doing consistently to ensure only their posters and billboards are out there. This is a recipe for an unnecessary crisis, because when you remove other candidates’ signposts, billboards and posters, they, on their own too, can retaliate and this can lead to violence. I believe the people deserve to know what the opposition is saying and put it side by side with what the APC is saying. On another level, the APC campaign has been largely crisis ridden. Just recently, three people were killed in Somolu during one of their campaigns. They have also officially christened their thugs, Team Lagos, and they have bought lots of deadly weapons that they want to use on Lagosians. I think it is time for the police to begin to beam their searchlight on these people.
Propaganda is being employed by politicians to promote their acceptance. Do you see that approach in politics as healthy for the country?
A lot of mudslinging and misrepresentation has been made of the Jonathan administration. People are trying to sell blue as white to Nigerians. We cannot afford to go backward. What we are expecting are brighter days that the Jonathan/Sambo administration will bring, not darker days. The change they are selling is backward change. That is why we are putting all energy to ensure victory for Jonathan and Agbaje in Lagos. The best thing that can happen in Lagos is to have Jonathan and Agbaje at the centre and in Lagos, respectively. If the PDP takes over power in Lagos, it will give the state more edge and more advantages. It will help the state to move forward more and get more support at the centre without antagonising the Federal Government to the detriment of the people of Lagos. The best thing for Nigeria is to stay with Jonathan. It’s either we embrace the future or go back to the trenches as we inch closer to the election day.