Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi is the Action Democratic Party (ADP) candidate in the last governorship election in Lagos State. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on sundry issues. Excerpts…
Looking at Nigeria after 59 years of independence and 20 years of uninterrupted civilian administration, is this where we are supposed to be as a nation?
It is not. Malaysia got independence in 1960, same year we got ours, from the British. Compare Nigeria to Malaysia today, and you will see a clear difference.
At the end of the day, it is not about how large your economy is or how big your population is, but how comfortable each individual in that country is, that is, the per capita Income of the people. Per Capita Income of Nigerians now is less than 3,000 dollars per annum, while that of Lagosians is less than 6,000 dollars per annum, and Lagos is the most prosperous state in Nigeria. So that tells you the story.
When you compare Nigeria with Singapore that became independent unwillingly in 1965 when they were kicked out of Malaysia.
The Per Capita Income of an average Singaporean in 2017 was 60,000 dollars.
When we start talking about population, it’s really density that matters; the amount of space available to each citizen in that territory. The population density of Lagos is approximately about 4,900 people per sq.km whereas that of Singapore is 7,500 people per sq.km., so Singapore is clearly more crowded yet you don’t see as many people as you see on the streets of Lagos. Why? Because they have infrastructure, crucially, a mature railway network, which Lagos lacks.
What is your take on the recent border closure?
The policies are feudal policies; they are policies that belong to the Middle Ages, they don’t belong in societies that are looking for progress. They belong to the societies where tyrants are looking to consolidate their hold on power. It is clear that the closure of the border is targeted at the Southern economy.
The Northerners have never hidden their disdain, fear, jealousy and envy of the South from the days of Ahmadu Bello. If you search Youtube you will find videos of Ahmadu Bello making all sorts of incendiary statements against the South, especially against Igbo. You will see the real attitude of the average Northerner today in the things that Ahmadu Bello said in those days.
Substantially, there has not been any real change in their attitude, behaviour and conduct in terms of their relations with the South and how they see our continued partnership, if you want to call it that, because it is not that anymore.
It was a partnership up until 2015 but from 2015 the North has actively resolved to dominate every aspect of our lives and to subjugate totally the South.
Are you implying that the closure is not to improve our economy as claimed in some quarters?
It is not, when you put it together with the attacks by Fulani cattlerearers on farmers. People have failed to notice that the attacks are not random. They appear to be random but if you look closer and you take a broader view of the attacks that have been going on, you will realise that it is the farming communities that have been attacked; that is to say the people that produce food. And if you also take that into cognisance with the border closure, the recent seizure of food products produced in Nigeria by Nigerian Customs Service; there are reports and allegations that Customs officials have been accosting farmers in the borders areas in Ogun State and even in Lagos State, coconuts were seized from locals in Badagry on grounds that they were allegedly imported; you will perceive an overarching starvation strategy.
Who bans trade with neighbours if they are not absolutely and utterly bereft of ideas? Trade is the lifeblood of the economy of Singapore. For instance, Singapore has no mineral resources and no natural endowment to speak of and yet somehow, they managed to become one of the world’s top economies by just trading. If you say you don’t want to trade, then obviously you are looking to die. For instance, I can tell you that the economy of Lagos has been suffering because of this wrongheaded policy.
Lagos has been a trading post and it has been an international trading post since centuries before I was born and it has remained so up until this confused administration that doesn’t seems to know what it is doing and that is determined that everything we need, we must make by ourselves. We can’t make everything. And those that have kept their economies open like Rwanda have managed to attract the BMWs of this world to come into their country and set up manufacturing plant. If we continue to maintain a closed economy, then we will die eventually and Nigeria as a project will die.
That seems to be the intention of this administration. It is not about what they say, but about what they do and so far, this Buhari administration has done everything in their power to destroy Nigeria. There is nothing that the Buhari administration has done that has uplifted Nigerians. Nothing. Everything they have done has worked either deliberately or accidentally to diminish Nigerians the more.
What is your view about recent rulings at the elections tribunal? It is clear that the 2019 election was rigged, of course, you know that I was a participant in that election; it was shamelessly rigged. In Lagos, an APC leader, in a clandestinely recorded video, stated that at the presidential election, APC won only five local governments out of 20 in Lagos State. So that is an indication. If that could happen in Lagos, where Nigerian media is headquartered, just imagine what could have happened in the other states. We witnessed the governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti states, we saw what happened there; open violence, open buying of votes, violent voter suppression, open rigging.
We saw electoral officers, academics that suddenly did not know how to add one plus one. These things are obvious to the outside world; they are watching us. And we just look like a country of 200 million jokers. That is what we look like to the rest of the world.
If our professors suddenly become innumerate when their numeracy skills are most required, then that begins to ask questions about us; who we are as a people. If we are able to accept these sorts of rubbish that have gone on in the name of elections, then we need to start asking ourselves who and what we really are in the Nigerian context; citizens slaves. The judiciary should have addressed these problems and you find that in a lot of cases involving the National Assembly; senatorial and House of Representatives seats, the APC has lost quite a lot judicially and yet the Supreme Court in a judgement that will go down in history as one of the worst judgements ever delivered anywhere in the world on elections stated that the president won the elections.
Posterity will judge. Many thought you would challenge the victory of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Why did you refuse?
I foresaw what happened to Atiku Abubakar and I could see clearly that was waiting for us too. And it is that there would be very serious miscarriages of justice. In a situation where judges of the presidential tribunal argue the case of the defendant in t h e name of d e – livering a judgement, one is left wondering whether they are defence counsel or judges. I could see it coming.
I could see the moving around of judges, the harassment of the judiciary, and I knew that it was all towards one end and that was to remain in power by all means necessary.
People have started talking about 2023 elections. What is your view about this?
It is not too early for Nigerians to start looking at the dramatis personae that are coming to present themselves for office in 2023.
We have made the mistake in the past of saying it is too early but I don’t think so now. In fact, not only should we start looking at 2023, we should also start looking at 2027 even at this stage. We should start preparing ourselves for the elections, especially for those of us that are politicians as well as the electorate. We should start looking at the people who will present themselves and start investigating them; find out who they are and get ready because the 2023 election is not looking like it is going to be just an election; it looks like it is going to be all out war, based on recent elections.
Why do you think the 2023 election is going to be war?
That is because of the attitude of the ruling party during the 2019 elections. They are building up a situation where people will go to extremes to make sure their votes count. Look at what happened in Rivers State at the general elections, and in Ekiti and Osun, If that happens all over the country, and people come out vehemently and violently to defend their votes against suppression, rigging and open manipulation, what would be left of the country?
So, what I am saying is that Nigerians must be ready to defend their votes with their lives if necessary, because many people have lost their lives during elections due to the sit-tight attitude of those in government. You have seen that Tinubu is doable in 2023, you have seen that of Seyi Tinubu as well, apparently putting together groups of people to campaign for the governorship in Lagos State.
So his father, Bola Tinubu wants to run for presidency, and he wants to run for governorship in Lagos. We have seen the Lagos State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri- Okunola apparently positioning himself and getting ready to run for governorship as well. So, let us stop deceiving and fooling ourselves and hiding behind political correctness. The fact is that, campaigns have already started for the 2023 elections at least in the APC, so other parties must not sit back and think that everything is going to be okay and they should wait until 2021.
All Nigerians must not sit back and think that political activities had stopped. No, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has proved to be a biased umpire and that is something everybody must take into cognizance. I really don’t think anything INEC says should be taken at face value.
Why did you say INEC has proved to be a biased umpire?
It was obvious at the presidential elections tribunal. It was obvious during the elections that they were partisan for those all of us that participated in that election. It was clear that INEC is a partisan organisation; at least under this administration.
How do you see ongoing tussle between the North and the South over the presidency come 2023?
The North created the situation. They wanted a rotational presidency, it is informal but it has become convention. And because it has become a convention they have no choice. The presidency has to rotate to the South at the next election and if they insist that they must hold on to the presidency by all means, then we can start renegotiating Nigeria itself, the very existence of Nigeria.
Do you think the South will get the Presidency in 2023?
If the North could present somebody as bad as Buhari; who can be worse than that in the South? Let us be frank. Who are the likely candidates the South? Tinubu is not one of them. That I can assure you, but he won’t get it. You have seen what he has managed to do with Lagos.
He has rendered Lagos unlivable by every index that you can imagine. Why do you think Tinubu should not be President? We have seen what 20 years of Tinubu has done to Lagos. Lagos, according to virtually every global agency, is one of the worst places in the world to live in.
It is the most insecured city; at one time it was the third worst city in the world to live and so on. And that has been after 20 years of domination by the Tinubu School of politics. So, if that is what he was able to make of Lagos, I would hate to see what will happen to Nigeria with Tinubu in actual power rather than just wielding influence.
But some people are already rooting for him as next president?
They are hungry people with no principles whatsoever, every single last of one of them rooting for him and I make no apologies to anyone about that. You have shown your interest to govern Lagos on about three occasions but your ambition didn’t see the light of the day. Looking at the present state of Lagos, is this the Lagos of your dream? Of course it is not. I don’t think there is any Lagosian or resident of Lagos right now that is happy with the way Lagos is.
This current governor to be honest with you even though I ran against him at the last election, I can actually see that he sincerely wants to change Lagos for the better, however, I can also see very clearly that he has certain institutionalised impediments in his way, one of which is his godfather and his interests. And until and unless he can find the courage to shun those interests and ignore those interests and serve the people the way he wants to serve the people, he will go the way the previous governors before him, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode went.
The same way they went, he will go the same way. That is exactly what will happen to him unless he starts serving the people in all honesty and ignores his godfather in the interest of 24 million Lagosians. His godfather is just one person, just one individual, and he has the interest of 24 million Lagosians to consider. I have said this before and I am saying this again, the executive governor of Lagos is Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu not Bola Ahmed Tinubu. However, the substantive governor appears to be Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Babajide Sanwo-Olu who now says we shouldn’t call him ‘His Excellency’ anymore, should stand up and be a man. How can he be a man… He just needs to be of good courage. He just needs to be focus. He needs to develop a backbone and he needs find his voice. How do you see his decision about telling people not to call him “His Excellency” anymore?
That is just a title; that is neither here nor there. It doesn’t have any impact on governance and it doesn’t have any impact on the benefits for the people. What benefit will you accrue from not pronouncing “Your Excellency.” Do you get any benefit from it, no.
That is just theatre as far as I am concerned. Based on what you have said so far, do you really see Governor Sanwo-Olu fixing Lagos in the next three years? I hope so; I hope he does. In the interest of all Lagosians, I hope Governor Sanwo-Olu can ignore the influence of his godfather and focus his entire being on serving Lagosians. I hope he can. I have seen flashes of intents in some of the things he has done and I am hoping that those flashes will develop into full eruption of performance. Why has it been difficult for opposition party to win Lagos State in the last 20 years? Bullion van and I won’t say anything more than that.
But don’t you think disunity among the opposition parties is also a factor… I will repeat bullion van. Are you saying other political parties don’t have financial resources to prosecute election in Lagos? My party, Action Democratic Party (ADP) doesn’t have bullion vans and I doubt that the PDP had any bullion van. But in the past, especially during the 2015 general elections, there were reports that former President Goodluck Jonathan pumped a lot of money into Lagos PDP and the party still lost the poll. I don’t have any evidence of money been brought to Lagos. In 2015, I was in PDP and I didn’t receive any money from anybody.
And I don’t know of anybody else that can say that they received money from anybody from government. I am aware that some private donors who have no connection whatsoever with government donated money to the PDP gubernatorial candidate at that time. I am aware some of them donated good amounts of money because they wanted to see the end of Tinubuism in Lagos. But I didn’t receive any money, so I can’t tell you that I saw any bullion van. But we saw evidence of bullion vans leaving or entering Tinubu’s residence on the eve of the last presidential election in 2019.
But why as Lagos electorate continue voting for the ruling party in the last 20 years?
Bullion van. What do bullion vans carry? Money to electorate; voter suppression is carried out with money and thugs were paid to fight people.
You saw the videos in the last election showing thugs chasing voters away from the polling units, burning the ballots where they knew they had lost and harassing police. We saw harrowing images of an unarmed policeman trying to fend off six thugs of the APC at the last election. Are you still in the ADP? I am still in the ADP.
There were situation reports that you are not in tune with some of the leaders of Lagos ADP… I was at the national convention of the party just a couple of weeks ago and other members of the Lagos ADP were there as well. We were together and remain together.
Are you going to contest in the next general election?
At this point, all I am interested in is the good governance of Lagos. I know that many people are squaring up for election but at this point I am not one of them. All I am after is seeing that Lagos is better governed than it has been in the past and you will see that I have been doing a lot of facebook videos where I have pinpointed specifics about things that should be done in Lagos that have not been done. Whether I am in Lagos or abroad, I am constantly thinking and talking about Lagos and looking for ways to improve our lives. Is it true that you have returned to PDP? No, it is not.
You asked me a question before about being in ADP and I answered you in the affirmative that I am still in the ADP. But there were speculations that you are planning to return to PDP, how true is that? I really don’t know where people get this sort of speculation from. It is true that I used to be a member of PDP and it also true that I remain friends with many members of the PDP.
I still have a lot of respect for many of the leaders of the PDP and I think perhaps because people who are actually known PDP members invite me to lot of social events, and I attend them. I have friends in the APC as well and I have attended their events. So, maybe because I have not been a member of the APC in the past and people don’t speculate that I might be returning to the APC.
But beyond social interaction, I really don’t have anything else to do with PDP right now. In the last few years PDP, which seem to be the leading opposition party in Lagos State, seems to have lost many of its foremost generals likes of Senators Musiliu Obanikoro, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Hon. Mashood Salvador and Dr. Yomi Finnih, among others to the ruling party. All of these people were in the same party with Bola Tinubu prior to 2003. They have simply gone back to their original home. When they were in PDP (I say this as a former member of the PDP), they added very little value except perhaps maybe for Obanikoro.
The others didn’t add much value to the PDP. In fact, they were the core of the problems in the PDP in Lagos at that time. I identified very few of them as possible double agents in the PDP and I was proven right in the end when they jumped ship as I had been expecting as early as 2010. But some of them did their best for PDP when they were there?
They got from the party; they got ministerial and board appointments and so on from the party, they didn’t contribute to the party. They took from the party; they didn’t give.
But why has it been difficult for the PDP to put their house in order for many years?
Is it bullion van inside or outside the PDP?
You know where we saw bullion van.
We saw clearly that money was moving either from or to Tinubu’s residence. The evidence is there. We saw it and when the man was asked, he said it was his money. And that is a question perhaps Nigerians have not really being curious enough to ask that was eight years as governor enough to need bullion vans to move one’s money?
Why is PDP in Lagos always enmeshed in crisis, especially during election?
It all has its root in money, bullion vans from the opposition party.
Are you saying it is the ruling party infiltrating the PDP in Lagos?
Yes. That is why the PDP has never settled because the Tinubu’s party has a policy despite changing names several times, to interfere in the affairs of opposition parties by placing double agents in the party and assisting them with bullion vans to get to position of power and influence in those parties so that they will never settle. If the opposition is busy fighting, then of course they are not going to be together enough to be able to mount a credible challenge and that is what it has always being about.
You are presently in ADP but if you are called upon by the PDP in 2023 to be the party’s governorship candidate, will you answer the call?
Let us wait and see what happens. Politics is dynamic and things are always changing. I will not rule anything out or in but for now I can tell you that I am a member of ADP and I still remain in my party.