Taofik Gani is the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State. In this interview with ANAYO EZUGWU, he speaks on the crisis in the state chapter of the party and what the party is doing to reposition for the 2023 general election, among other issues
What is the latest development in Lagos PDP following the suspension of the state chairman and counter-suspension by the chairman?
We have moved on as leaders and elders of the party from within and outside the state intervened.
As it is now, it is the position that all should hold fire pending when there will be final resolution because the issues are so fundamental.
However, we are not going to be distracted by such internal wrangling because the primary reason why we are officials of the party is to manage it well, particularly to win elections.
Does it mean that you did not appear before the disciplinary committee setup by Deji Doherty led executive of the party?
There was never a disciplinary committee; it was just the making of the chairman unilaterally and it didn’t have the consent and approval of all other members of the party.
There was no committee and nobody sat on the matter and all the people alleged to have been suspended were waiting for the so-called committee to get across to them but it never happened.
In any case, we have moved on like I said and we expect that the chairman as the administrative head of the party to be ready to work with everybody. This is not a company thing of a boss and staff.
Everybody in that state exco was elected and voted for presumably; he is just happened to be the first among equals but not a master.
What is the position of Lagos PDP elders on this issue?
They called us and admonished us. They even went as far as rebuking us; that we must know that we are managers of the party. Everything is momentary and a time will come when we will leave offices.
So, they have actually acted well as elders of the party and they are not happy that we have such acrimony within the exco and we are happy that they have followed that line. Some of them have called us individually and have spoken to us and we are ready to abide by their advice.
Has the national body of the party responded to the crisis?
It is not for the national to reconcile per say because it was something that even the national knows that usually occur within the system of a political party. Can’t you see what is happening in the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)? Can’t you hear of people been suspended?
The most important thing is that at the end of the day we are able to reconcile. So, the national won’t rush into the Lagos PDP issue because they know definitely that it is just one of those things that happen in a political party. But to the glory of God, I think everybody has moved on.
However, specifically speaking in view of the planning towards the 2023 and all other issues, the national already has a standing committee to take care of issues of acrimony in all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
We are also lucky to have the same adopted for the South-West PDP headed by Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State. The two committees were constituted by very experienced hands and those who can talk to anybody. So, we are happy that happened.
How are you planning for the membership drive in Lagos ahead of the 2023 general election, considering the people’s perception for APC in the state?
I’m not happy that we will be using this abysmal, disappointing and reactionary style of government from the ruling party as reasons to want to invite people into our party.
But it is just obvious that it is only somebody who probably is not clear with his lifestyle that would still want to continue with this ruling party. So, people naturally would troop towards PDP as the only potent and major opposition in the state.
This country has been balkanized and the economy has been destroyed. The state in particular is not reflecting the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) not because the governor does not want to perform but because of the systemic arrangement in the APC that gives everything in the state in form of IGR to their national leader.
This is the problem that we have; there is no governor that would operate in Lagos State and would be able to perform optimally unless a governor that is far away from this issue of godfatherism. Godfatherism is the reason for the misrule we have in APC since 1999.
What do you make of the crisis in South-West PDP; is it about who controls the zone ahead of the convention or positioning for 2023?
I won’t be able to assert the issue of the South- West convention as the reason, all I know is that at every point in time, leadership is made and authorities are there legitimately and it behooves on any person who is a member of any organization at any point in time to respect authority that is legitimate.
To me, I feel that the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has showed that he is not going to be bias. A committee has been setup, so any warring faction or individuals should take their matters to such committee.
By the special grace of God, the South-West is going to bounce back because what I see is that this disagreement is going to take us back to agreement. We have disagreed and we are going to agree. It will go naturally to mean that the PDP in South-West is going to bounce back to win all the states come 2023.
How are you going to do it, especially in Lagos State, considering the fact that your party has never won the state?
The interesting and coincidental thing is that we have levels of government that are control by one party. This has never happened. It has always being shifting the blame on the ruling PDP at the federal level. Going into 2023, the APC will have no alibi. They won’t be able to campaign to people that the local government is not performing because the states are under PDP. They won’t say that the states are not performing because the Federal Government is controlled by PDP. Unfortunately, if you want to go on the issue of roads, the roads are inadequate and you have a former governor of this state as minister of Works and Housing. We have so many areas of campaign but we will definitely not go out to start campaigning. No matter godfatherism, intimidation and cohesion that would be brought up in 2023, the people will resist the continuation of APC in government. So, the PDP is like home and dry to win the election and if you want to look at it, is there going to be such unity in the APC to be able to do that cohesion and rigging, the answer is no. Because that house itself is so much divided, so much that some of them are already saying it that anywhere there is rigging, they themselves will be the ones to come out to expose it because they have been enjoying rigging and whenever they rig only few people will enjoy it. That is why up till now, you find a situation where even in their purse, which is Lagos State, there is serious crisis that it will even affect the ambition of their national leader.
How would you respond to the state government taking over the clearing of Apapa road?
I’m not going to play blind politics and that is one of the reasons why we have endeared ourselves to Lagosians.
The people will ordinarily hear from the PDP and support the party because we speak the truth. We are not distorting, we are constructive even in our criticisms. It is high time that the Lagos State government take care of that road. People have suffered enough and since 1999 up till just recently, we have been suffering on that road and what that has reflected in the economic fortune cannot be quantified.
So, if a governor is coming up now, it is for us to support him. Some of these projects that the governor brought up that are obviously populist are not going to be the real reason why the PDP would lose or win elections.
When the time comes, we will face the reality and look at so many other reasons because it is not just for you to do roads. Let us know the cost, the beneficiaries and all the rest?
But we must give it to him that one of the areas the people are expecting to be taken care of for there to be real dividends of democracy and succour in the communities is that Apapa/ Oshodi express road, especially the Apapa end of the road. All support that we have must be given to the Lagos State government to take care of that area and so many other areas, especially the hinterlands.
We are saying that we are behind a governor who will be ready to jail even the local government chairman because if you go to the local governments, 85 per cent of them are not doing anything; they are not working.
They are just taking the money and spending it, so we are looking at a situation where one day, we will find a governor in Lagos State that would be ready to face a chairman, get him arrested, tried and imprisoned.
How would you rate the response of government in the fight against COVID-19 in the country?
It is unfortunate that we are having the second wave of the virus and I’m so disappointed that by now a country as wealthy as Nigeria should have paid for this vaccine long ago.
Since the time this vaccine was being tested and approved, a proactive government ought to have made payment. It doesn’t matter whether the United Nations or World Health Organisation would support you with donations or not. But what is recurring in this government is that it always want cheap ways and people to come make donations.
That was why they looked the other way because they are expecting Bill Gate, Dangote and the United Nations to come and donate to them. It is a disappointment. I’m personally disappointed and I know Nigerians are disappointed.