The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 and 2019 General Elections in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, has said that the party is prepared to take over power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre in 2023. Speaking in an interview with Oladipupo Awojobi, the PDP chieftain stated that state police would help reduce insecurity in the country, while also calling for true federalism. Excerpts…
What is the situation with the PDP in Lagos State now?
The situation of the PDP in Lagos State is that we had congresses and we did not conclude the processes, we had wards and local government congresses and the executives have been inaugurated. What is left is the state executive and the national had to appoint the caretaker committee because the tenure of the last executive committee had expired and we didn’t want to create a vacuum. So the committee was set up and their tenure would expire in February and the state exco would come up through a congress, whether by consensus or whatever. So that is what is left as far as the PDP in Lagos State is concerned. You have tried in the past to go into public office and this is the era of declaration for political offices, one wonders if you are throwing your hat into the ring again? The issue does not arise for me, but I remain in politics and time will tell what I will do again. The issue of putting my hat in the ring does not arise for me at this point in time.
In recent times, there have been calls for power rotation to the South and some people including Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Dele Momodu have come out for the presidency and some people are rooting for the likes of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, under the APC. But it seems, your party, the PDP is not keen about that…
At this stage, I think it’s not much of my concern, I don’t think I can talk much on that. When they have a candidate I can talk about him. But as for people expressing interest I think it’s their fundamental human rights to do that. As for personal opinion, it doesn’t arise because it’s a party affair, so let them resolve that and come up with their candidate, then I can talk about him. Definitely he would not have my vote if the person is contesting under the APC. But as far as the PDP is concerned, we have taken a position. We will see how events unfold. There are two perspectives on this, there is a perspective that the presidency should be on a rotational basis, and if it is that,then there would be zoning. Then there is the other tendency that talks about the fact that we should have the best candidate for Nigeria and abandon zoning. But if there is a clear candidate that is acceptable to everybody, and he has to be very clear, then he would be supported. If he comes from the wrong side against zoning, then he will fall flat as far as elections are concerned.
Some people are even of the view that the South Easterners should be given a chance since we have not had a South Easterner as the Nigerian President since 1999… …
Yes, that is what I am saying that for those who believe in zoning, it’s clear where the rotation is going or what direction it should be going. But there are those who are saying that we need the best candidate for Nigeria at this point in time. I say that this can only work where the candidate is a clear choice of the majority of Nigerians. But where the person is not a clear choice of the people then that party would fall flat on election day.
The issue of insecurity is also there and we heard that people are being kidnapped on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and everywhere, what do you think the government should do about this?
That is a matter of concern for everybody. Insecurity is now not limited to any part of the country. It’s all over like the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has become a topic of interest. If you don’t have a secure country you cannot have development. Nobody can invest in a country, where there is insecurity. You can see why we are losing a lot of investment to a county like Ghana because people feel more secure and they don’t have the kind of insecurity we have. Though the bulk of their businesses are in Nigeria, they feel more secure in Ghana. These are some of the issues and we need to address the security issue urgently.
How best can we handle this, should we go for state police?
I have been an advocate of state police from the beginning. State police is not just for security purposes. In a federalism, every state should have its own police because if I am concerned about traffic, effectiveness of my laws, it is not a priority for federal police because they have bigger things to deal with and they are few in number. But what concerns me can only be done by me. In a country, where federalism is practised to the letter, police are not limited to the state, the local government and even the universities abroad have their own police. These are the things that should be obtainable in a true federal state. So, I’m a long-term advocate of state police and it would help tackle insecurity. You can see that Amotekun is also playing their own roles where they are setup and that is an outfit that is not allowed to carry arms and they have played their own roles very well.
How prepared is the PDP to return to power at the Federal level in 2023?
You can see that a lot of activities are going on at the national and state levels. Even the state governors have just met at a well publicised Governors Forum. You can see that we have a new executive and we have done our convention. Moreso, we have been able to show maturity with the way we have conducted our affairs. We have a party that has set up a machinery that is ready for actions. We have an effective machinery to take over power at the centre.
How would you want restructuring to be done in Nigeria as people have said that we are not practising true federalism, do you think this government is moving towards that?
In all honesty I don’t think that the body language I get from this government shows that they are ready to address that frontally. I think this should be an issue for the next campaign, where people are able to break down what they would do in terms of federalism. We mentioned state police, a party that wants to win election should tell us what it stands for. People should be able to demand for this clear position as to what the party and the candidate stand for. Now, we have a situation, where the party campaign for restructuring and the winner of the election says he never campaigned for that. So this time around, I think the people want to hear from the candidate what he understands by restructuring so that it comes out from the candidate and the party. It is then that when you get into office you will be on the same page with the National Assembly. Then you would have campaigned as a candidate and for the party and your members in the National Assembly would be committed. So, it is important that the candidate speaks to restructuring. Break it down and tell us what they mean. Are you looking at the revenue allocation? What quantity should the federal carry and what quantity should the state and the local governments carry?
Do you think the INEC would give Nigeria a credible election in 2023?
I wish I had a magic ball to look at that. Let me say that I hope that they would give us a credible election. Of course, they can only do that, when the new electoral bill is passed into law because there are a number of innovations and clauses in it to give us a credible election. I am not in a position to doubt that, but I believe that when and if the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is passed into law, it would give us a credible election.