Dr. Adegbola Dominic, Lagos State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this exclusive interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI speaks on the outcome of the 2019 general elections, brickbats between the party leadership and its governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje
The 2019 elections have come and gone. Do you think it is an improvement on the 2015 elections or a decline?
It is far worse than the 2015 elections. We’ve never had any election like this before in the history of this country. There were irregularities in the 2015 elections but obviously, this one is worse. Most of the results have been predetermined even before the election. INEC has a set of rules for a particular area and another set of rules for other areas. Card readers were mandatory in most of the Southern states whereas it was mostly abandoned in the core Northern states. We have reports of results being written and handed over to INEC for announcement, while the Electoral Officers simply adopted it and signed under duress. Look at the number of killings that we have witnessed in this election, especially in Rivers as if we are in a war zone. We have situations where military officers invaded election venues and collation centres, arresting and killing civilians, destroying ballot papers as well as other electoral materials. These are soldiers in uniforms deployed by the Armed Forces and President Muhammadu Buhari by virtue of his position is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. So, in clear terms, he deployed these soldiers there to cause this mayhem. To me, this is unacceptable in these modern times. The elections should be totally cancelled in some of the states. In some places, the results announced are more than that of accredited voters and that was accepted by INEC. So, what kind of election is that? Whereas in some areas, even when the accreditation is okay and voting commenced peacefully, just because the validly cancelled votes are more than the difference in the figures, the elections were declared inconclusive and in some places, suspended. In Rivers state for instance, the election went well except for few places. The results are already there. All INEC need to do is to collate the results brought from the polling booths and announce. Why do they have to suspend the elections? Because it didn’t favour the powers that be and it didn’t go the way they wanted it, they decided to send in the military to disrupt the collation of results. It is very unfortunate and to me, this is the worst election conducted since 1999. It has never been this bad. We are heading for a fascist regime now.
Coming to Lagos, your party performed well and got eight seats in the Lagos State House of Assembly. But now, APC cleared the 40 seats leaving none for your party. Were you surprised by that development?
To some extent, I was shocked because it was total sweep by the APC. I personally was not too happy with developments within the party especially towards the elections. You could see our performance in the presidential election. We actually won the presidential election in Lagos state. There is no question about that. But we had a governorship candidate who just decided to do things his own way. He ignored the party completely. I as the party chairman in the state was never invited to even a single outing of the governorship candidate. I didn’t know what he was doing and his plans. He didn’t carry anybody along in the mainstream of the party. Agbaje seems to have his own league of friends who are going about with him. He didn’t hold a single rally and the party too did not hold any rally because the governorship candidate believes that rallies are not important. He kept on sneaking into areas in the name of holding Town Hall meetings. I am from Alimosho Local Government area. As the party chairman, I was informed that Jimi Agbaje, our governorship candidate has crept into the local government and was holding a Town Hall meeting. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the meeting until some party members phoned me asking me if I was aware. The Town Hall meeting was scantily attended because the mainstream of the party and members are not aware. That is what happened across the 20 local government areas in the state. To start with, how can a governorship candidate unilaterally chose a running mate without consultation with the party? He was working with his friends many of whom are not members of the party. So, based on his attitude, the mainstream of the party did not go with him. They were all angry with him. Right now, many of the party members are disgruntled and aggrieved because of the attitude of the governorship candidate which greatly affected the party’s chances.
What about the area of finances, were you hampered due to shortage of cash?
We are not in government. We don’t have much money. The little we have we would have spent and maximized it judiciously with careful planning if the governorship candidate had cooperated with the party and we would have had enough to spend for the governorship elections. So, it was a disaster we brought on ourselves and because the governorship and house of assembly elections were going on together, it impacted negatively on our votes in the House of Assembly. Those who are supposed to thumbprint for our logo, the umbrella, were angry with Jimi Agbaje and so they decided not to vote or voted or in some cases voted against us.
You also accused him of congratulating the winner, Babajide Sanwo- Olu, don’t you think that is an act of sportsmanship on his part?
That is another indication that there might be some agenda that we in the mainstream of the party are not aware of. We were not consulted before he made the call to Sanwo-Olu, the winner. We just heard it on the airwaves that our candidate has congratulated APC. Such circumstances make one to suspect that he probably may have sold out even before the elections. Jimi Agbaje would not have needed to be struggling so hard to prove that he is not an APC mole in the PDP if he had not been seen to be undermining the interests of the party in his acts of commission and omission. Our candidate almost could not wait for the APC to be declared winner before congratulating Sanwoolu. What further evidence do we need to prove the lack of commitment to our party’s cause by our own candidate? But we are going to go back to the drawing board and rejig the party. We will also instill discipline because if we don’t do that, these things will repeat itself again.
In the statement issued by Agbaje, he said you admitted at an open meeting that you supported the governorship candidate of another party against him. What was your reason for not supporting him?
That is not true! Because he was looking for some excuses to cover up for the shame that he has brought on the party, Agbaje alleged at that meeting that I, as the state chairman of the party was sponsoring and adopted another governorship candidate against him. He also said that he has evidence to back his claim. At that meeting, I expressly said his claim was false and that there was nowhere that I sat with anybody to adopt any other candidate. In spite of the urging and pressures from a large number of members and leaders that we should find an alternative candidate to Jimi Agbaje, I refused and I stood my ground that he is our candidate and we won’t replace him with any other person. So, if that to Agbaje amounts to supporting another candidate; that is a very unintelligent interpretation.
Why were the party leaders and members pressurising you to look for another alternative to Agbaje?
The party leaders and members were all genuinely concerned and unhappy because there was no doubt that with the way things were going, the party was heading for a disastrous failure. We had a governorship candidate who refused to relate with the party leadership. There was not a single rally held during the campaign for our governorship campaign. In spite of the efforts of the party to organise rallies, Jimi Agbaje kept off and was doing his things alone. Our governorship candidate sidelined the party completely and refused to relate with the party leadership. When we were calling for rallies, Agbaje said he doesn’t need rallies; rather he was just sneaking in and out of various local governments in the name of conducting Town Hall meetings for an election as important as governorship election, against APC, a party that is formidable and has been in government in Lagos since 1999. Based on his attitude, that was when everybody saw that we were heading for a disastrous failure. After all entreaties to him failed, people had no option but to demand for another candidate. But in spite of all that, I refused, saying I will not be party to that which I expressly stated at the meeting. So, how Jimi Agbaje came to interpret my statement as a confession that I openly supported another candidate against him surprises me. That shows how unintelligent he is.
Did you have any meeting with Babatunde Gbadamosi, the ADP governorship candidate few days before the elections?
No. I didn’t have any meeting with him. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo and other Yoruba leaders like Chief Ayo Adebanjo and our leader, Chief Olabode George felt that all of us should come together and they invited everybody to that meeting, including Jimi Agbaje, Gbadamosi and other friends of the party and candidates. It was quite a large meeting. They entreated us to work together and come up with just one governorship candidate that will confront the candidate of APC, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. That was the only meeting I was involved in. I didn’t convene the meeting or invite anybody. I was invited to that meeting by our elders.
Agbaje also said some of the leaders are maligning him because he refused to share money the money meant for campaign among party leaders as it usually happened in the past. How true is that claim?
I didn’t want to talk about the issue of money because I don’t like getting myself involved in issues like that based on my records of integrity. But this was a presidential election. It has nothing to do with Jimi Agbaje. Only the presidential candidate and national assembly candidates were involved in that election held on February 23. The funding came from the presidential candidate of the party himself for his own election. As the state chairman of the party, I was called by one of the aides of our presidential candidate who said I should meet him at a location in Lagos because he had some money to give us for the election. He told me that he was instructed to handover the money to the governorship candidate, the state chairman, a representative of the senatorial candidates and two representatives of our House of Reps candidates. He asked me to call the other people which I did and we met at the hotel where he lodged. We had to break because on that night, President Buhari was going to make a broadcast to the nation and we feared that he might postpone the election. So, we deferred our meeting till after the broadcast. By the time we got back to our meeting place after we discovered that the election will not be postponed, we didn’t meet Jimi Agbaje. I was there with the state publicity secretary and two other persons. The fellow who was to hand over the money to us had told us Jimi Agbaje will soon be around. So, we all kept waiting. After some hours, I had to call the fellow that we have been waiting for more than three hours without him or Agbaje in sight. He now told me that he was sorry, that he didn’t know we were still waiting and that he had handed over the money to Jimi Agbaje. I stated all these during the open meeting that Agbaje was talking about and he couldn’t refute my claim. We all can see guilt written on his face that day. The man who brought the money said he was instructed to handover the money to five of us, including our leader Chief Bode George who said that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the money, that we should go and sort it out and use it for the purpose it was meant for. But now, he was telling me that he had handed over the money to Agbaje and that he had gone. When I called Agbaje, he told me he was in another hotel disbursing the money, without the state chairman’s knowledge and other leaders of the party. He just called in 24 House of Reps candidates about 24 of them and gave them what pleases him after he has taken a larger percentage of the money to himself. I am suspecting there was a deal between him and the fellow who brought the money because if you are instructed to handover the money to six people, why will you hand it over to just one person? This is money for election campaign and party leaders should be involved but Jimi Agbaje personally shared the money the way he likes. Till now, we don’t know how much he took for himself and we don’t know how much he gave out. He claimed somebody instructed him to disburse the money the way he likes but he refused to mention the name of that person. We know that is not true. There must have been a deal between him and the fellow who brought the money. Now, I asked him to give us a breakdown of the amount he shared for record purposes, up till today, he cannot render an account. From feelers we got, he kept one-third of the money for himself and he distributed the remainder.
He got the party’s ticket in 2015 and 2019. If he decides to contest in 2023 under your party, do you think he will succeed in getting the ticket?
No. it is certainly not possible for him to get our ticket again. That is why we are reorganising the party now. We will ensure that the party is supreme and takes control. We will also ensure discipline because if there was discipline in the party, Agbaje wouldn’t have gotten the ticket in 2019. We will also stop the influence of outsiders in the party. Agbaje got the ticket in 2019 because of the influence of forces outside Lagos state. Going forward, we will prevent such things from happening again. Lagos state PDP must be in control of Lagos state, not people outside who do not even know what is happening in the party. You cannot know the ways inside a building except you are inside the building or reside there.
The post It Will Be Impossible For Agbaje To Get PDP Ticket Again –Dominic appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.