Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Tunde Balogun, in this interview, speaks on the fallout of the recent primary elections to select the party’s candidates for the July 24 local government elections in the state, among other issues
After the conduct of the primaries to elect chairmanship and councillorship candidates for the Lagos council polls, some members of your party who participated in the exercise but lost are asking for a refund of their nomination fees. Will the party listen to their demand?
Nobody should expect any refund from us. If you contest an election, does the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pay you back? The answer is no. So, why should any aspirant expect a refund from us? Yes, they paid for nomination forms but we produced ballot papers and other materials used for the primaries. We also spent a lot of money for logistics.
So, there is no refund for anyone. Those who paid for nomination forms did so on their own volition; it was their choice to do so. Nobody forced anyone to pay for anything and I can tell you that the process was open and transparent. I have never seen any party so magnanimous to allow female aspirants to pay 50 per cent of the nomination fees.
I have never seen any party that has allowed aspirants less than 40 years to contest with 50 per cent payment. We did that so that we can allow as many people to participate. Also, we allowed the physically challenged to pay a meager amount so that they too can par-ticipate. So, there is no reason for any refund. We have spent a lot of money on printing of ballot papers, nomination forms and funds were provided for logistics. Remember, we conducted the primaries in 377 wards across the state. So, the cost was huge. These people are only looking at what they have paid as aspirants but what we have spent as a party is humongous.
Some of the aspirants are threatening to go to court to seek for redress on the outcome of the primaries. What is your admonition to them?
There is an appeal committee. It is still sitting and we will consider its report. I don’t see any reason why any aspirant should go to court. My admonition to them is to wait for the outcome of the decision made by the appeal committee.
But their grouse is that the APC under your leadership released names of successful candidates even when the appeal committee is yet to complete its job. What is your reaction to that?
Of course, the decision of the appeal committee will be binding on us. We will accept whatever they say on the outcome of the exercise. For those querying why we released the result when the appeal committee is yet to complete its job, my response is that we could not have election for one week without giving people the result? What will be my explanation to our party members if the results have not been released? So, we have played our part but we will respect the decision of the appeal committee. What does it take to administer a big party like APC in Lagos State? First of all, you must have vision and mission. Let’s start from the secretariat, the compound has changed. This office has changed. Come back at night, you see how this place is lit up. It is through the use of solar. It is an innovation. Come to our reception, you see the difference. Since you have been coming here, has this secretariat not changed? The party is being run effectively. We are improving here.
On managing people, I have told you that my greatest weapon here is patience. You meet all sorts of characters in politics. You have people who are cool headed. You have people who are hot. You have people who have short fuss. You must be calm. You must be patient otherwise you won’t be able to solve the problems. I don’t ignore calls, except in the middle of the night. I was in charge of Lagos State Fire Service, so I learnt from that. I could save lives and people in emergency situations by answering calls. Through that I was able to save a lot of lives and property.
How inclusive is your style of administration as a party chairman?
It is clear; I work with people who want our administration to succeed. The secretary of our party knows what I do at any time. I know what he does too. I don’t hide anything from him and all the members of our executive committee. The secretary is the closest to me in this administration. And of course, most of our work here are mainly part time. It is not really a full time job. There are few officers who stay here permanently. Some may not see it that way. Some may not feel comfortable not staying here or not having offices here permanently, that is what it is. We are working together as a team. The State Working Committee is united. It comes up with ideas and decisions as the need arises. We have the executive committee. I thank God that we are working well and doing well.
What are you doing as a party leader to encourage more youths to participate in politics?
We are encouraging any Nigerian above 18 to participate in politics. We will embrace them and we are making efforts in many ways to engage the youth in gainful employment. We want to work together with the youths. There are lots of programmes, which the Lagos State government is bringing out and we want to encourage youths to participate in them.