By James Ezema
Chief Akin Taiwo is a chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos State. He was a close associate of late Engr. Funsho Williams for 18 years and is one of those who oiled the political structure of the late politician.
As chartered accountant by training, Taiwo has distinguished himself in many respects. In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on the efforts to keep alive the dreams and legacies left behind by late Williams who was gruesomely murdered four years ago, the Lagos PDP and the controversy over zoning arrangement in the party ahead of 2011 presidential election. Excerpts:
As one the close associates ofÂ late Engr. Funsho Williams, how do you feel that after four years, his killers have not been found?
He was murdered on the 27 July, 2006 and we would keep on asking who killedÂ Engr Funsho Williams? It is pertinent now that Sunday is the posthumous birthday of Engr Willians. Born on May 9, 1948, he would have been 62 this Sunday. And as those of us that were close to him remember him, we are asking my friend of several years, the Inspector General of Police, who killed Funsho Williams?
He was the DIG then, in charge of investigations and I worked closely with him in the first few weeks after the murder of Engr Williams when he was deployed from Abuja to Lagos to lead the investigation. He is someone Iâ€™ve known for the past fifteen years and Iâ€™m still trusting that he will put every necessary machinery in place to find those who murdered Engr Williams.
Are you saying that till now there is no clue and no suspect detained over the killing?
I would like you to direct that question toÂ the Inspector General of Police. They are the ones that should be briefing us on the progress they have made on the case.
Most times when people die, their dreams and aspirations are forgotten, what would you say of that of Late Engr Williams?
His legacies remain and are definitely not forgotten. Youâ€™ll recall on the first posthumous birthday of the late Engr Williams, I published a full page advert in one of our national dailies and I said thatÂ for people like us who shared a common dream with him, nothing will stop us from pursuing that dream. I also said that his dream cuts across party lines; it does not matter if some of us are in a different political party.
We share the same dreams of a better Lagos where resources are used optimally. Where leaders are committed to providing the best for Lagosians and making Lagos a model city in the whole world.
As associate of the late Engr Williams, what is yourÂ relationship with his widow and his family like?
She is our wife. In our culture, when somebody who is like your elder brother dies, his wife is the wife of the family. We maintain a good and cordial relationship. And above all, General Femi Williams, his elder brother is also my big brother and we are in constant touch. Recently when I lost my father he was around and he invites me sometimes to hold discussions.
What about his political structure in Lagos State, does it still in place?
His political structure has been divided, there is no doubt about that. But it is like having a reservist army like in the United States where you can call up the reserves when it is battle time.. We have the people and and the hands to rebuild and restructure his political structure any time.
Is there any plans to harmonise and rebuild his political structureÂ aheadÂ 2011 elections?
We will continue to say that the legacy he created is like a movement that cannot die, inspite ofÂ the machinations ofÂ people who always try to destroy otherÂ people â€˜sÂ vision. Therefore, weâ€™ve refused to succumb to the machinations of these people and that is why I can promise you that, yes, there are plans to work with people of like minds to continue to build on what he left so that Lagos can be a better place. The elections in 2011 are coming up and we shall continue to work towards ensuring a better place for Lagosians.
Can you put your finger on specific plans on ground to achieve that?
The important thing in battle is to keep your strategies to your chest. We belong to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and weâ€™re trying to build a strong and virile party in Lagos State, particularly in the face of opposition and the fact that the opposition has held sway in the state for several years. We are sure that if we able to continue at the pace we have started, we shall make better changes.
To bring out these changes, PDP would have to win elections in Lagos and with its history ofÂ election boycotts and protests, how prepared is your party to win elections in the state?
We need to separate the myth from the reality. The reality is that PDP can win elections in Lagos. If you are in Lagos, you will recall what happened in Ibeju-Likki recently. We believe that we can win elections and we have the resources to win in free and fair elections. Yes, we need to keep our house in order, we need to continue to build on what we have in terms of structure. But, definitely, one day, there shall be change. So, you never say never as long as people have a focus, desire and as long as there is good leadership.
However, we must commend the governor for what he has done because we are realists. We note that in the past two years the governor has tried compared with his predecessorâ€™s eight years. But we know that it can still be better.
As one of the frontline politicians in Lagos State, what is your ambition come 2011?
This is a new day for us in Lagos because we believe that the challenges we face in Lagos with the teaming population requires a thorough and committed leader, I therefore remain focussed on the need to make a change in Lagos. As for my ambition, at the moment weâ€™re consulting, the public shall be informed of my specific plans at the appropriate time. The most important thing at the moment is to build the party.
The opposition parties are divided and cannot reach a consensus in a formidable alliance to wrestle power from the ruling party. Is there any plan for the PDP and other opposition parties in Lagos to come together in a political alliance in 2011?
That is a very good question. As I speak to you, I can tell you authoritatively that Chief Dapo Sarumi, former Minister of Communication has declared for the PDP. I can tell you that Prince Kayode Olowu has declared for the PDP, just as I can tell you that former minister Dr. Abimbola Ogunkelu will declare for the PDP. So, these and more are the people the PDP in Lagos have reached out to, and they are coming with their teaming supporters. Hon. Aro-Lambo together with Senator Ogunlewe, myself and others used to meet every Wednesday to set up the NETWORK, the original structure of Engr Williams. These are leaders who have seen the lack of leadership and internal democracy that exist in the opposition where a single individual will pick a candidate without a proper primary.
How did you react when the death of the leader of your party, Late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua,Â was announced?
It was with sock and sadness. May his soul rest in peace. I would wish to put on record that our late leader, President Yarâ€™Adua was a peace loving man, a man committed to the rule of law and a very determined and focussed leader. Unfortunately, illness came and Nigerians could not benefit from his peculiar style of leadership and his committed attention to making Nigeria a better place and ensuring the judicious use of Nigeriaâ€™s resources.. But then, who are we to query God? We just pray that God will look after his family. He was a great Nigerian patriot.
Now that Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has taken over as substantive president, do you have confidence in his ability to deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians?
We mustÂ acknowledge that fact that he is a member of the team, as he, and late President Yarâ€™Adua were elected into office. Iâ€™m sure that before the end of this administration, Nigerians will say, â€˜we had a great team and God that said Goodluck Jonathan should be our president, had done well for Nigeriaâ€™.
There is the argument on the zoning arrangement in PDP as a result of fears that President Goodluck Jonathan may contest the 2011 presidential election. What is your view on that?
We are all Nigerians and we know what the constitution says and the constitution is the ultimate and no law, or arrangement is supreme to the constitution. We look forward to the leaders of our party deciding what is legally possible and what is politically feasible for the growth and development of Nigeria.