•Says he is in contest to win
•The reason some Fashola’s programs must go’
By Olayinka Ajayi
PDP gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Mr Jimi Agbaje, in this interview, speaks on his aspiration.
Your emergence as the governorship candidate of your party was enmeshed in controversy. What effort did Chief Bode George contribute to your emergence?
If you remember, I ran for the governorship of Lagos State in 2007 on the platform of the DPA. That 2007 campaign generated significant goodwill and I retained interest in running for the office a second time. This time however I decided to use a stronger platform and engaged with ALL the leaders of PDP in Lagos State, including Chief Bode George, Chief Ogunlewe, the state Chairman, Captain Shelle, Rahman Owokoniran, who is now my campaign DG, Mrs Aduke Maina, Bode Oyedele, even Senator Obanikoro and many other leaders of the party. Most, indeed nearly all of the leaders were amenable to my candidacy and supported me in the primary election. Chief Bode George, of course, is one of the leaders and he supported us too, just like most of the other leaders.
Governor Raji Fashola has taunted you as being too old to govern the state. What is your reaction?
I think most Nigerians and Lagosians have answered the governor appropriately on that issue. If you look at his party’s governors in several states, some of whom are seeking re-election, they are my age-mates and some are my seniors. Their party is in fact presenting a man who is about 15 years older than me for the presidency. I am healthy, virile, agile and certainly very well prepared-mentally, intellectually, politically, policy and administration-wise and in any other way for the governorship of Lagos State.
You have gone round the 20 local governments holding townhall meetings in the state. What has been your message and how has the reception been?
The reception has been fantastic and certainly very encouraging. We decided to go to town halls to engage directly with our people before commencing our rallies. The town hall meetings are a very good opportunity to listen to the people, to feel their pains, to hear their complaints and suggestions and also to deliver our message of hope, shelter, trust and a government focused on the needs of the people to them. The reception has been very good and we think it has been a very worthwhile exercise.
The bad blood generated in your party by your emergence as the PDP candidate created so much apprehension about your party’s chances. Can we know the inside story of the mending of fences that resulted in the current unity of purpose in the party?
There is really no bad blood. It is to be expected in a democratic political system that some people may be unhappy about the outcome of party electoral processes. We have certainly put all that behind us now and we are all united by the imperative of reclaiming the freedom of our people in Lagos State. Senator Musiliu Obanikoro is fully behind our campaign and we are all working together, along with all other leaders of the party.
It has also been said that you are sitting on a tripod of god fathers, considering the powers believed to have been responsible for your emergence. What do you make of that?
I said categorically in an interrraction with the media and I repeat today-I have no, absolutely no godfather or godfathers. When I ran on DPA platform, who was my godfather? The reason they rejected our candidacy in the other party is because they knew we were not the kind of person that would accept to be a puppet or stooge for their designs. Acting under the commands and manipulation of a godfather is contrary to my personal inclinations and they know that. I proved that in 2007 . I have no godfather.
I will work with the members and leaders of the party and indeed the generality of the citizens of Lagos to govern Lagos responsibly and in the interest of our people, and not for the benefit of any godfather. Lagosians actually know on what side of the divide they should be worried about godfathers and god sons or puppeteers and puppets!
You have said that if elected governor, you will retain 37 LCDAs in the state. Don’t you think doing that would contravene your party’s stance on the matter?
It doesn’t. Our position today is that we have moved on, on the issue of 57 LGAs/LCDAs. I certainly would retain the 37 LCDAS. In fact even our party structure recognises those LCDAs.
Your proposed reversal of some policy actions of the APC administration has come under criticisms, from those who argued that you are not bringing anything new to the table.
Yes I insist and reconfirm that there are some things that need to be reversed! I certainly would not collect toll on the Lagos-Epe Expressway which is no longer a PPP project as the state government has already bought out the interest of the private investors (for N30 billion more than the original amount even though the road was not completed!). The road was a pre-existing road, initially built with state resources and it is unfair to ask people to pay tolls to get to their homes and communities.
You said recently that PDP remains your last bus stop, what would you do if the governorship election goes the other way?
I am in this contest to win, and I believe that we will prevail. I am not countenancing the prospect of not winning.
You have been accused of being a mole for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the PDP. How true is this?
Of course that is absolutely without basis, and illogical! There can be no logical basis for any such hypothesis. I am not, and can never be a mole for anyone, certainly not for Bola Tinubu.
Also, when and why did you fall apart with Tinubu?
I think it is normal in politics for individual perceptions and interests to diverge. Bola Tinubu is not my enemy, but we are also not as close as we used to be. But I think that is the nature of politics. I think some politicians often get to a point where they want only subservient people around them. I don’t believe in that type of politics. I view politics as a sacrifice and service and I view it as the most honourable of vocations. I believe politics should actually be about truth, integrity and service.
APC seems to have outspent you in terms of campaign funding as the party’s candidate is visible in all parts of the state through adverts, posters and billboards. Are you having a funding challenge and is this not a threat to your aspiration?
No one expects us to match APC in terms of spending! They have ruled over Lagos for 16 years and some people have described this election as somebody’s attempt to have a fifth term! They have access to all the resources of Lagos State! Our campaign is resonating in the hearts and minds, the homes and communities across the state and, in spite of the noise and posters, we believe our campaign is gaining traction where it matters and I am convinced that we will prevail.