The Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State Mr. Ganiu Taofeek has said that his party will go into the Lagos State local government elections more united than the All Progressives Congress (APC). He speaks with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI. Excerpts…
Let’s talk about the local government elections in Lagos State, it appears there are no signs that the elections would hold this year as expected, what is your take on this?
We cannot say that there are no signs that the elections would hold. The only thing that can be disappointing is if at the appropriate time the state Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) does not release the timetable for the election. It is not going to be the dictate of a Governor or that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) specifically, everything is constitutional. Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, guarantees democratic elected officials of local government councils and that is the area in the constitution that is emphasised that should be democratically elected. Not even states or Federal Government is emphasised like that. There is also the provision for an independent electoral commission, which has been put in place to the best of our knowledge and headed by a retired judge of Lagos State. We are expecting that they should not think of any person up there, they should go through their work as expected. We expect that there must be local government elections as and when due. The weakest point that would see to the defeat of the Governor in the 2023 elections will be his decision not to hold council elections because that is where the people have their own true representatives. Also, you cannot deprive the people by saying you want to have caretaker committees for them. We know that in 95% of the local councils in Lagos State, it is zero performance, they did not perform and they know. Recently, the Lagos State House of Assembly set up a committee to investigate two local councils; Isolo Local Government and one other one. In regards to this decision, we are commending the decision of the Lagos State House of Assembly headed by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa. We are saying that they should go beyond that because that may be an intra-party acrimony. We are saying that 95% of local government areas in Lagos State are not performing. You may be lucky to find performance in Odi-Olowo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in one of the balkanised area of Mushin Local Government. You may be lucky to find some sort of development and performance in that area because this is what was shown on television, and what was aired on radio and everybody could see that. Even as the strongest and the major opposition in political party in Lagos State, I mean the PDP, we are not claiming that we can win elections in all the areas, but the elections should hold. Like I said, earlier, it is clear that some local government chairmen are working, those ones would return. They could even go to the Federal House of Representatives or go to the senate. Like I said, the Chairman of Odi/Olowo Local Government in Mushin, Hon. Rasak Olushola Ajala, has performed well. At the risk of being challenged by my party members, I can tell you that it was obvious in the activities of the burial of the first executive governor of Lagos State that there was a local council chairman in place. All the roads that should be tarred were tarred and people even confirmed that he is a working chairman. You find a situation, where this person can even be the mirror of the APC going into the local government elections. But we are insisting that the local government elections must hold, and winners must be declared. But for there not to be local government elections, it is certain that there will be anarchy at that level, there will be obvious disenchantment with the government of Mr.Babajide Sanwo-Olu. It will now mean that he cannot even win any election again in the state. So, we are suggesting to him, by way of counselling, though he does not belong to our party, we are saying that the best point for him to be defeated in 2023 would be his inability not to conduct elections into local government councils in the state.
How ready is your party for the election because we don’t know if you have received any notice from LASIEC on the elections?
The PDP, like any other opposition party in Lagos State, has always been ready for all elections, including ward and local government elections. That is why we challenge the APC to be bold enough to let us have credible elections and not a situation where election results are written. Local government elections must hold, it must be free and fair and any party that has candidates and win elections must be given the mandate. The APC itself would be the one to rise to claim their mandates. You will be surprised to know that the information that we have now for there to be local government elections is coming from within the APC. There are a lot of APC members, who are disenchanted with the APC people who are in government. This time around, it is going to be a watershed for democracy in Lagos State. If there is no election nobody will respect any local government authority again. They will not pay any dues to any local government in the state unless there is a free and fair election and the people’s representatives are in the councils.
Have you had any correspondence with LASIEC concerning the election and is your party prepared for the primaries as the elections should hold soon if it will hold?
We have already put in place many of the things that would lead us to having candidates for the elections. We are not going to expose them, they are our internal arrangement. What we can tell you is that the next election in Lagos State would reflect the true performance of the government. As we speak to you, even within the APC there is a lot of opposition. We are not going to hide from the fact that they are in government and with the paraphernalia of office they can rig the election, but we will admonish the LASIEC to rise above any sentiment or interference, and they should give us free, fair and credible election. That is why for now we are not going to raise any eyebrow on the election by LASIEC because the actual period that we necessarily must have the timetable is not due. If that is due and they do not do it, we will tag them as an arm of the APC. We expect that they would not allow that to happen. We don’t have any reason to have any correspondence with the LASIEC for now because the time is still there. The law for the conduct of local government elections in the state has a period, it is about 60 days. So we still have about four months to the elections. But we can tell you that we have our searchlight on them. We have our people already in the system, so if there is need for those to support us to fight those who want to undermine local government elections they are there. We are going into the cities, we are ready to support LASIEC to even stage a protest in case they have difficulty in funding and other logistics. If the state house of assembly has to put things in place for the election, they have to start it now otherwise we will be forced to act. If the people cannot have their representatives at the local government level, we will support such people not to obey illegitimate government.
Let us assume that the elections do not come up and the government decides to have caretaker committees and they invite your party to be part of it, what would be your response?
The constitution of the country is greater than all laws and any arm of government. The constitution does not allow caretaker committees. It says there must be democratically elected governments. Why did we not have caretaker committee at the federal level? There was smooth transition, which is why we have President Muhammadu Buhari as our President today. There was smooth transition, which is why we have Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the Governor of Lagos State today. There must be smooth transition at the local government levels too. It doesn’t matter if we have the 20 local governments and 37 LCDAs having APC chairmen, but we must have that symbolic elections. We will not support any caretaker committee. Caretaker Committees are illegitimate and we will support people rising against illegitimate government in the country.
Will your party recognise the 37 LCDAs in the state or you will field candidates in only 20 local governments in the state if the elections take placer eventually?
For the deliberate strategic decision of not wanting to be disenfranchised, we are going to participate in all manner of nomenclatures in the local government elections. If they like, let them create 200 LCDAs or LCDAs of LCDAs, there is no trick that they would bring out to deprive us or to discourage us from participating that we will allow. In whatever form, in whatever style or arrangement, we are going to participate in the election. We will not only support our candidates, we will concede to any party that has candidates who are strong in those areas. We will insist that there must be free, and fair elections.
How united is your party, the PDP, to face the elections because there are insinuations of divisions in the party in the state?
As I speak to you the common objective of the PDP in Lagos State is to win the coming local government elections. We, members of the PDP in Lagos, are resolute to unite for the local government elections. We are united now and I can tell you that the PDP will be more united than the APC for the elections.