Former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, in this interview with AKINWUNMI KING speaks on his expectations on the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
He is of the view that the 16 years rule of the PDP at the centre was better than what the country is experiencing under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Agbaje also states that there are ongoing reconciliations in the main opposition party to ensure that the party comes out victorious in the general elections. Excerpts:
We have not heard much from you in recent times. Have you retired from active politics?
What do you want us to say, we should just be looking, there is nothing much to say now.
People would have expected you to say something as the general elections are approaching.
There is nothing to say now, elections have not started, the candidates have to settle down. Work is going on, after the primaries, we are doing reconciliation and after that, we will be ready for the elections and campaigns.
Why didn’t you contest for any post at the primaries?
To contest for the governorship election again or what?
Yes or maybe for something like a seat in the Senate…
…I never had any interest in the senate or any lawmaking body, where people will just sit down and be speaking grammar.
One wonders why someone like Olajide Adediran aka Jandor became the party’s governorship candidate Lagos State and Funke Akindele became the party’s deputy governorship candidate. How do you feel about that?
Olajide Adediran put himself through a process at the primary election; he emerged the winner and became the choice of the party. Also, it is the prerogative of the governorship candidate to choose his deputy, though he would be expected to consult. I think he made it very clear why he chose the lady. If you look at the profile of the deputy governorship candidate, she is a graduate, successful in her own field, and she represents the female gender. It is his prerogative to choose the person he feels comfortable to work with. It is important to carry everybody along, which was why we had reconciliation meetings for two days to speak with some of the leaders in the party.
With this, do you think the PDP would win Lagos State in 2023?
PDP has won Lagos State in the past, but the process has always been truncated. We believe that with the electronic transmission of results, all the shenanigans that go on at the collation centres would be removed, and we will now see better results and with that PDP should win Lagos State in 2023.
The youths believe that it is time for change and they seem to be rooting for someone like the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi as against the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu and Rabiu Kwakwanso, what would you say to this?
That is the beauty of democracy. Let the youths come out and vote their conscience. In the past, we had an average turnout of about 30% voters, which was not good enough. Let more people come out and vote, the more they come out the more the wishes of the people are met. When they come out, we will see whether they are right or wrong, so let them go through that process.
What would you say about Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who might likely rock the boat for the PDP as he was not chosen as the party’s vice presidential candidate against his expectation?
I just said that after the primaries and conventions, we have been addressing issues. Obviously, Governor Nyesom Wike feels hurt, but you know in politics, everything can be resolved. He doesn’t have an option of leaving the PDP. How he wants to work with the PDP is what matters, he has to put all his attention and contributions into use for the PDP to win rather than being a passive contributor. So, we are working on this, it is a work in progress.
But, he appears not to be yielding and he has even been inviting chieftains of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to inaugurate projects in his state, rather than people from his party.
…Over the years, Governor Wike has been inviting people from the APC to commission projects in his state, so it’s not a new thing, but I agree that the timing is suspect. In politics, there is no problem that cannot be solved. I believe that at the end of the day, Wike will have his say and it will be resolved. It is in his own interest to have it resolved, just like it is in the interest of the PDP. I’m sure he doesn’t want to lose Rivers State and he can only win the state under the PDP. He would remain in the PDP. But, the challenge of the PDP is for the party to put its house in order, not just for the Rivers State election, but for the general elections.
Don’t you think that choosing a northerner as presidential candidate would work against your party as the APC and the Labour Party have chosen southerners as candidates because there are calls for power shift as the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari’s is ending?
Let me say that the two major parties, the APC and the PDP, have made moves that would not bring quick resolutions. One party went on the wrong track on religion and the other went in the area of ethnic groups. The decisions have been taken and it is left for us to make the best of the situations we found ourselves. The issues are taking longer for resolutions and both parties want to resolve them based on what has been done. The two leading parties have work to do, resolve the issues to face the campaigns ahead.
Some people wonder what your party would do better after ruling for 16 years and left many challenges for the country…
Compare the 16 years of the PDP to the seven years of the APC and I think we have a better report card to show. Also, our candidate has made his positions clear on some issues, but I cannot say the same about the other candidate. He has been totally silent on what he wants to do for Nigeria. Our candidate has spoken about state police, security, economy and others. It is on record that in our 16 years, we have a lot to show than the things that have happened in the last seven years.
Would you advise lawmakers in the National Assembly to allow President Muhammadu Buhari serve out his term rather than talking about impeachment?
It is always better to change government by the people and let them decide. However, even if President Muhammadu Buhari is removed, it is only one person that will be removed, not the ruling party. It would still remain an APC government until an election is done. If it is believed that nothing is happening in the country and that we cannot wait till May 29, 2023, it is left for them if they can get the majority to decide as stated in the Constitution. But, I would want the people to determine those who govern them.
Do you have trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible general elections, especially with what happened in the recent governorship election in Osun State?
All I will say is that the INEC has a good showing in Osun State. But, general elections are different, they are not just one election. But, if one looks at the performance of INEC in Osun State, we can be hopeful that they would do better, especially with the electronic transmission of results and the reform in the electoral act would help INEC to conduct credible elections.
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