Fouad “Alade” Oki, by his antecedents, will qualify for recognition as a strongman of Lagos politics. The APC chieftain, who has been a thorn in the flesh of Senator Ahmed Tinubu since they parted ways politically, took a victory lap while discussing the ruling party’s politics with LANRE ADEWOLE.
Your faction of the party in Lagos wanted the dissolution of the Tunde Balogun exco and a rerun of the congresses. Both wishes have been granted by the national leadership, then do we say congratulations?
Thank you, my brother. You will recall during my first press briefing after the May 2018 daylight political robbery that, we shall do everything legally necessary to fight the injustice. I knew that we shall get here one day. I was convinced that, the battle was going to be a marathon and was prepared for the race. The John Odigie Oyegun-led National Working Committee at its last meeting confirmed the irregularities in the conduct of congresses held in Lagos State. It set up a committee to seek a political solution to the imbroglio. Unfortunately, the committee did not take off because of the bull who took over the China wares shop to play. I am talking about Adams Oshiomhole, who at that time was playing Emperor. I keep saying one thing throughout the struggle, that the issue was about light and darkness, no matter how far a lie travelled, surely and surely the truth will catch up to it. Today, the party will be reformed and reorganized on the basis of the constitutionally-recognized wards and local government that is 245 wards and 20 local government political configurations. Finito.
But your camp has lost a lot of ground to the faction loyal to Senator Bola Tinubu before the dissolution. They produced all elected officials from the state, what are your plans for recovery, sir?
You obviously do not know what we stand for and your perception of losing ground or producing all elected officials do not show your understanding of the issue. For your information, we approached the court soon after the bull in the China wares shop (Adams Oshiomhole) became autocratic and would not listen to anyone except his benefactor, the Emperor. Our prayer at the court is very simple, for the court to interpret the following: whether the congresses in Lagos State conformed with the intendment of the constitution of our party; whether the congresses in 377 wards and 57 LG/LCDAs conformed with extant sections of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended; and whether the said congresses conformed with the guidelines issued by our party which states very clearly that, congresses should hold only in wards and local governments in INEC-recognized wards and loal governments in compliance with the Electoral Act 2015.
Therefore, it behoves that we should not participate in their illegality as you cannot place something upon nothing. I am sure that any sensible person will not join in their shenanigans. The state chapter was not the one we took to court, it was the national chapter that conducted congresses in Lagos in breach of the law and guidelines and you may want to ask them why they rushed to join the suit. I have no business with them. So, there is no comparison between a law-abiding faction and a beneficiary of skewed and illegal congresses. They are the ones to let us know their plans for recovery post dissolution. How do you explain the blow that has been dealt them from being the substantive officers to temporary officials whose tenure was not only truncated due to irregularities and given a palliative succor from the wounds they are suffering? They are goners (igbo rere), you will see it by April ending 2021.
When snakes want to shed old skin, they rub against rough surfaces. Is that what your party is doing right now, to rebuild from bottom-up like the President admonished?
Politics is local, all political activities are played at the grassrooots, on the street and inner neighbourhood where people reside and participate in day to day discussion about how they are governed, how their lives are impacted by government policies born out of a robust party manifesto, etc. For us as a people to have a country that can fulfill its objectives and attain its potential, we must have a political system that is devoid of primordial sentiments or inequity. Political parties in saner climes operate bottom-up, not the way it is played in Nigeria. The President’s determination to bequeath a robust party to its members is a commendable effort in the right direction. The era of godfather and party ownership by a few individuals would not take us anywhere, Political parties are joint ownership by all subscribers (members) to the objective and tenet of political association. It is a bottom-top thing, that is the only way to go. It has become very imminent that our party must adopt this approach to politicking.
But all party politics have gatekeepers, like Asiwaju and others, who are wielding influence in your party. Do you want to wish them away?
I am an Ekolite, the hallmark of every Omo Eko is called Omoluabi. I have a very strong pedigree; both cultural and social. I was brought up never to speak ill or wish anyone away. After all, most of them are ajeji (foreigners) here in Lagos but have chosen to make Lagos home, so would I want to wish them away? Honestly, if there is any gatekeeper in Lagos, I believe very strongly that I am. I do not need a godfather as I already have with me, on my side, God (Eledumare) as my Father who has stood by me and my struggle, singularly, against all odds. He has placed on my path very well-meaning Nigerians who believe in equity, justice and fairness and that is what has played out. I shall forever glorify my own gatekeeper, Eledumare. Remember that, the one with God is a majority.
Has your faction followed NEC’s directive to withdraw all litigations over the emergence of state excos which have now become defunct? As an addition, what is next for APC in Lagos? Are there moves to reconcile you and the leaders of the other faction or are you talking already?
After the June 2020 emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party where a decision was taken on the future of the party and the then Adams Oshiomhole’s National Working Committee was dissolved, due to several issues bordering on impunity and incompetence, the NEC admonished all members that had taken the party to court to withdraw same and pursue conciliation with the caretaker committee (CC). My faction wrote a letter to the CC appropriately in line with the directives, out of respect for the party but more importantly, out of deep regard for President Muhammadu Buhari. The APC in Lagos is only one chapter out of 36 states, hence cannot be different in structures from the other states. However, like-minded people and I across the two factions will work together to develop a party that will live up to its billing. Nigerians want to see a truly political party that can deliver a government which will meet the yearnings of its citizens. A party in which equity, justice, fairness and respect for all will prevail. I led those calling for a revolutionary reform in party politics, we can’t continue like this, we are worse than laughing stock amongst other party chapters; that we have all been enslaved by an Emperor who has held Lagos by its jugular. We must encourage the participation of young men and women, challenge them to play leading role in our affairs. After all, they are leaders of today, not tomorrow.
You asked if there are moves to reconcile me and leaders of the other faction or if we talking already? There is nothing to reconcile as our differences were not personal, rather they were about what is right and wrong, what is legal and impunities. I demanded and stood by what is right without compromising my belief and values, shikena! Don’t forget that some of them are my brothers, we talk from time to time whenever we meet at social levels.
So, the cases have been withdrawn sir.
Yes. In compliance with the party’s NEC directives. More importantly, based on the assurance that they (sacked excos) are going home and that future congresses will hold in strict compliance to the constitution of our party; extant sections of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended; and only in INEC-recognized wards and local governments in compliance with the Electoral Act 2015.
Colliding ambitions have been consistently identified as the core of the multiple crises rocking your party. The dissolution of the state excos, doesn’t appear to be cooling things off. In specific terms, what can the party’s national leadership do to bring it back from the brink?
Politics is about conflict and resolution; aspiration and ambitions are good and legitimate. I do not understand how an individual’s ambition can collide with a collective or corporate objective. It is about individual’s integrity and not feeling above board. People must understand that no single individual owns the party and therefore should not see an aspiration as fait accompli. There must be rancour and differences in politics because of several factors; some are religious, cultural, ethnicity, etc. and all of these form part of the shenanigans that come into play. The dissolution is long in waiting to happen. The 2018 congresses and convention were a contraption that was just a matter of time to burst. So, I am not surprised or how do you explain what happened in Lagos State or Rivers, Zamfara and other locations where there was non-cohesion or synergic relationship in the party? We paid dearly for it.
Zoning, particularly of the presidential ticket, is also tugging at the heart of the party. Do you confirm the claim of former Governor Babatunde Fashola that a gentleman’s agreement in the early days of the party, says it is the turn of the South West. I ask you sir, is it the turn of the South West to produce the president on APC’s platform, despite the Vice-President being from the zone?
I cannot answer that question. Number one, I was very far away from where or at the level where such agreement held. Those that have alluded to such covenant have spoken out and I believe them. However, I am at a loss at the statement credited to someone from Lagos, not the Honourable Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola, that the agreement was for South West to take a shot at the presidency in 2023. That statement smacks of idiocy and foolishness. It shows the man’s level of ignorance.
That someone was the chairman of the state caretaker committee, Hon. Tunde Balogun and none of those he mentioned in his claim, including the President, has disproved his claim.
You should understand something very clearly; do you remember a statement made some years ago by Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola that you don’t play in the mud with a pig? Exactly, that is the reason why reputable people did not join issue with him.
Why the imputation that you are trying to upstage Senator Bola Tinubu as the leader of the party in Lagos? I know your grouse isn’t personal, but what are those things you are pushing to change in the way things were being done when you were together?
I leave the imputation to those involved. I am sure you know that Emperor Bola Tinubu is addressed as the national leader. Is it possible for a national leader to condescend low to be a state leader at the same time? Whoever imputes that is not fair to the man. I leave that to their imagination. It is instructive to state that by right I am a leader, not just in Lagos politics, but generally. Today, those that can claim to be my leaders in Lagos politics are not more than five people that are alive. They are uncle Prince Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi, Hon. Bushura Alebiosu (Bush of Africa), Chief Dapo Sarumi, Baba Taiwo from Oshodi Isolo, and my mentor Alhaji Kolajo Oseni. Apart from these leaders, all others may be my senior in age, not in politics.
I had earned my epaulette long before most of them joined politics. Ask them to tell these stories; the Satanic Seven, Bobo la Baba; etc.
They cannot because they were not yet in politics. Ninety percent of people in politics today are not in politics to serve, rather, they are opportunists with no pedigree.
The new dispensation will create an environment of community service, participation, consultation and dialogue. We shall ensure that we hold those in public office accountable to the people and the party and not to a few individuals. There will be regular consultations, meetings and conferences to discuss public policies and programme as set out in the party’s manifesto. There will be a very clear ideological leaning towards progressivism. The party shall create a platform for women and youth, as the cornerstone of political participation. When you give our youths opportunity to express themselves, our women play their role in nation building.
I have always been an advocate of equity, justice and fairness and that will be sacrosanct in our ways. As leaders, we will not take the support of Nigerians for granted. We shall do the right things by doing things very differently.
The impression out there has always been that your faction was in the minority before the dissolution. Only numbers would establish the reality at the end of the membership registration exercise. How ready are you for the exercise?
If we were in the minority, why did they not allow a level playing field? Why are they afraid of fresh membership registration? Why are they afraid of new congresses? You should ask them why they are afraid of Fouad Oki. A robust and credible membership registration will clear that assertion.
In the just-concluded senatorial and assembly by-elections in Lagos, only nine per cent of registered voters voted. Though your party won, does it not look the electorate are gradually giving up on democracy under your party’s watch?
I wrote a letter to the CC long before the party primary where I alluded to a fact that, the Nigerian people would not vote for our party as they used to because they have lost confidence in the leadership. It will get worse if we don’t allow our members to take ownership and allow the participation of our youths and women. Politics should be participatory and that is what will happen going forward.
How much do you think #EndSARS would hurt your party going forward, since the issues in contention have to do with governance as being handled by your party which is controlling the centre?
The #EndSARS issue is a very unfortunate incident. No doubt, we failed our young men and women who demanded for an end to bad governance as they saw it. The ongoing reform of our party has provided an opportunity for our teeming vibrant, hardworking and independent-minded youths to join with us to populate the party with a view to using their numbers to voice their demands and aspirations. The way to change things in any democratic dispensation is through participation in the affairs of a party. Together, we should join hands and put away rubbish from our body politic.
Nearly all those being projected into the 2023 presidential race on the platform of your party are known to you, maybe save for Dave Umahi. If South West is to have it, with the likes of [Babatunde] Fashola, [Ibikunle] Amosun, [Kayode] Fayemi, [Bola] Tinubu eventually contesting, I’m sure you have a pick.
I don’t count my chickens before they are hatched. Let us rebuild the party first. Let us make the party attractive to millions of Nigerians who want to participate and contribute to nation building, then we can look at what is next. All well-meaning party men and women will tell you that they are preoccupied with building the party and not the nonsensical distraction being perpetuated by a few disgruntled individuals, crying wolves. You know the funny thing? They forgot that what goes around must surely come around.
Okay, in one breath, will you or can you, support Asiwaju for President?
Has he made a declaration that he is running for President? Let us wait until we get to the bridge.
Former Legal Adviser of the APC, Dr. Muiz Banire, a senior advocate had a lavish victory parade, celebrating the dissolution of the state excos and their reconstitution as caretakers. What constitutional powers are really available to the caretakers in states and what has really changed with their metamorphosis?
The dissolution was a victory for party democracy. You should read the piece written by Dr. Muiz Banire in his weekly column in The Sun Newspaper of 10th December 2020 titled ‘APC and the proverbial one-eared dog’. It explains the victory lap we paraded.
The only powers available to the caretaker committees are those that are passed onto them. The only responsibility given to them is to warm the party offices with their presence. No more, No less. They are not the ones who will conduct membership registration or congresses. They are nothing other than fidi he (temporary).
Some of them do not know that, by being in the CC will also close the door against them during congresses. Just wait, soon you will hear them cry of “Had I known” They are ragmen dancing naked at night, shortly, the dawn shall come.
But those are loyalists of the national leader. Are you saying his camp will lose out in Lagos?
There is only one political camp in Lagos State, but different tendencies; the reformers and hijackers.