By Dapo Akinrefon
HE was the pioneer Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos State in 1998. Mr Gbolahan Qudus Folami is aspiring to run for the office of the governor of the state in 2011 on the platform of, the PDP. In this interview, he bares his mind on the internal crisis rocking the party at the state level and attributed the problem to lack of internal democracy.
He said he is running for governor to rescue the state from alleged privatisation of the state’s common heritage. Excerpts:
As a pioneer member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from inception, what is responsible for the little impact the party has made in Lagos?
We have suffered from lack of internal democracy in our state branch of the PDP and this was something that started from the congress of November 1999 and unfortunately till today we have not recovered from the repercussions of that congress.
That was the congress that produced the National Vice Chairman and some state executive committee members. The reaction of party members on that day was not just rancorous but also violent.
Since 1999 and now, that lack of democracy has been deepened. And arbitrariness, impunity became the order of the day and in the process a lot of people left the party.
And those that remained were not committed. We call on members to support the party, call on them to serve the party only when there are elections, outside elections they are not involved in the decision making process, they are bypassed and they do not get their entitlement.
Don’t you think the scenario could further polarise PDP members?
These are real issues we have been battling with and that is why I offer myself for the position of governorship flag bearer of the party because it has become necessary to unite the party, give it fresh leadership and also give hope to members that somebody is coming to do it properly.
We must understand that leadership is about sacrifices and you must have a large heart to accommodate diverse interests and the various tendencies in the party. You cannot be a leader and also be a group leader.
These are two conflicting positions, these are really the difficulties we have had and we hope that this primaries will give us the opportunity of throwing up new leadership that will deepen internal democracy within the party and give PDP a new hope in the near future.
You aspired to go to the Senate in the past and dropped the ambition. What is your now level of acceptance in the party considering the various groups?
Apart from the 1999 general elections, which off course we lost to the prevailing sentiments at that time, when I wanted to go to the Senate again in 2003, I was an outstanding candidate then.
But what I said about the lack of internal democracy in the party, it was decided that they wanted to do it differently. In all cases we always put the party first, every time that we put ourselves first or other interests first, we do very badly.
I think that after 11 years members have come to realize that they have really to look at the leadership and access it based on its competence and the results that it has delivered in the last three elections and I think that circumstances today favour a shift.
The authority that they have used over us in the state had been imported from outside the state and I think that also is no longer in place. Now we can begin to think for ourselves. In the course of my campaign and movement round the party, I see that members are now ready to embrace the new thinking.
One major problem of the PDP in the state is that after every party primary there will always be crisis. What is the party doing to ensure that this does not repeat itself?
You are quite right, that has always been the case and is part of what I said earlier, the absence of internal democracy. You find out that those who are aggrieved by the method used outside the guidelines stipulated by the party all tended to leave the party.
This time around, the reason some of us have confidence to run is because we feel that the party will ensure a level playing ground, adherence to rule and full compliance to guidelines as stipulated and if this is done I think we will overcome this issue of rancorous primaries and people leaving the party.
If primaries are conducted properly people who lose will know that they lost fairly, they will be ready to embrace the winner and together we can all match ahead to confront our common enemies.
How prepared are you for the 2011 governorship race in Lagos State?
I am fully prepared. I say to people that I do not have any child going to school. I have accomplished what I set out to do in life and if this is all I have to give back to my state,
I will give it. I believe that I have the background for the job, I have all the qualifications for it and I have a commitment that is beyond the ordinary to see that we do something about the situation in Lagos State.
There is mass deception, one that is unprecedented and the treasury of the state is being assaulted in a way that even previous military administrations were never able to do.
That is why the focus of my campaign is centred around making our democracy accountable and this is really the platform I am running.