In this interview with MAYOWA SAMUEL, a former Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party in Lagos State, Navy Captain Tunji Shelle (rtd), bares his mind on the politics in Lagos and the worsening security situation in the country. Excerpts:
How would you describe the All Progressives Congress administration in Lagos State as led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu?
Well, I don’t know exactly how to place him. He inherited a lot of projects on the ground. Most of the projects, the way I see them, are white elephant projects. His predecessors tried to do as much as possible but they are acquiring too many loans at the expense of the state and the leakage is so large that you can’t quantify it. Look at the project at Oshodi, is it really worth it and at what cost? Look at the project at Ikeja terminus, is it really worth it? Is it serving the purpose for which it was built maximally? Look at the project at UNILAG, the jetty, you build jetties but you don’t buy boats, you don’t put people there who will put boats, so why are you building a jetty? You built one there at UNILAG, you built another one at Falomo, another one at Gbagada, you built another one at Ikorodu, do they really serve the purpose?…The state government said they are meant to give Lagosians transportation options as well as decongest the roads.Well, they have not done that, it has not achieved its purpose because they are not inter-linked. They did the road from Okokomaiko, we don’t know the completion date again, and it was supposed to be delivered in 2013. I’m talking generally about the regime of APC before I now come back to Sanwo-Olu. So, look at the rail line, why did you not start at Okoko, stop at Mile 2, if that’s what your money could carry. From Mile 2, you get to Iddo and you stop for a while, before you take it across the water. Ferry boats could have complemented and road transport could have complemented from Iddo down to Lagos Island. The thing is stuck, they are acquiring loans, debt upon debt, that’s not fair to Lagosians and he came in, he too wants to achieve a lot but his hands are tied because it’s not a sincere government they are running. They are only running the government for somebody. Look at the amount of revenue that comes in, how do they dispense it? How much of it is spent on infrastructure? The schools have not changed much, the hospitals have not changed much. The road network, in some places, made some impact, maybe some places in Ikoyi and some places in Lekki but when you get to Oshodi, Mushin and beyond, going towards Ikorodu, you are in a serious predicament. I wish we could have a better place to call our own. Look at touts, a lot of touts are becoming billionaires, people who should be put in the background. Because they use them for elections, they too can become billionaires and all of us are watching.
…Anybody can become a traditional chief, or a traditional leader in a place like Lagos
Well, this is not the Lagos I dreamt of. This is not the Lagos our parents left behind for us and it’s very unfortunate. Governance is a continuum, somebody will come one day and make a difference but so far, the revenue in Lagos is not being applied judiciously. If you see how much they are giving to themselves, how much the cost of a contract is, you can’t query them. We just know that one day, everyone will account for his stewardship but we can’t continue like this.
As a former Lagos PDP Chairman, what do you think your party would have done differently as against what the APC is doing?
“The APC is an ungodly arrangement from top to bottom, no leadership, no clear cut leader, everybody is just struggling to be in power or to steal money
Individuals make a lot of differences in governance. There are people of conscience; there are people who have lost it. The only difference I can imagine is that there will be no godfatherism as it concerns anybody that comes into the PDP, gets the ticket and wins in the general election. There will be a lot of difference because there will be checks and balances.
What we are lacking now is checks and balances. Their domineering influences from members of the governor’s advisory council, godfather and a lot of other things. The civil servants have no say per se, they are just tools in the hands of politicians. PDP I guess will do better because godfatherism will reduce. Some of us who are not hypocritical about issues will continue to put whoever is in office on his toes. We just need checks and balances; we need people of morals, people of conscience. We need less touts surrounding the running of the government. I live in Lekki Phase 1 and I learnt that touts come to collect levies on transportation, even in Lekki Phase 1. I pay tolls to come in and go out. If not for the ENDSARS that happened that made them not to collect tolls anymore, we are always sweating. Sometimes, I drop at the foot of the bridge and walk the entire Lekki-Ikoyi bridge, waiting for the driver at the end of the bridge, sometimes I will be sweating. By the time your car starts overheating, you will come out and tell them why don’t you open this Lekki-Toll gate for people, when it is free, you will start collecting your toll back, you don’t even have a sense of conscience. I pray that things will get better and pray that God will touch everybody’s heart. I don’t know what we want to do with big money, I can’t understand. People steal as if stealing is a part of life, it shouldn’t be.
The Lagos PDP congress did not go as planned because of the violence that took place at the venue. What level is the party now, in terms of resolving all internal issues?
Somebody truncated the state congress but it’s being repackaged. There is a caretaker committee in place now and they are to conduct a proper congress between next month and February and that one will put a proper exco in place and those of us who want to ensure that they run properly, we will support them. Election is very close now; people will start preparing for the primaries to elect candidates. So, I pray that we get the best out of it.
What is your political aspiration for 2023?
I don’t want to say that I want to participate actively but I will support whoever is good enough to manage the affairs of the state at all levels and in the course of that, if I’m called to serve, I don’t mind but I won’t stick out my neck to go and compete just for the sake of competing. I want to make a difference and society should be ready for such a difference, if they are not ready, I’ll keep my cool. I’ll do the best I can to support this state to survive, that one I can promise. I don’t have to be in office to be able to support and get results. Ordinary contribution, talking frankly and proudly of wanting to render service is enough for me. But if people don’t want it, well, good luck.
Many say the scuttled congress is a pointer that the confusion in the PDP will make it difficult for it to challenge the ruling party come 2023 as it has been the case since 1999. Do you agree?
That’s why I said there is a caretaker committee in place. Very soon, every issue will be resolved but there is worse confusion in APC. How many congresses did they do? They have about three factions. Some ran away completely from that ungodly arrangement and we will be happy to receive them very soon. The APC is an ungodly arrangement from top to bottom, no leadership, no clear cut leader, everybody is just struggling to be in power or to steal money.
About the defections you just mentioned, recently, a large faction of the ruling APC in Lagos, the Lagos4Lagos Movement, led by Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, aka Jandol, who is aspiring to be Lagos State governor, verbally defected to the PDP, which will soon be formalised. With some PDP members who have long been nurturing interest in assuming that position, don’t you think that will unsettle the party?
Politics is a game of numbers, a game of structure and a place where you open all gates to all comers. As long as somebody can add value, fighting for a ticket is open. There is no godfatherism in PDP, we shall do primaries. It’s not like in APC where they will say they are doing direct primaries and they will continue to recycle between people, force people to go and vote for Sanwo-Olu instead of Ambode, that’s not decent. We are looking forward to a free and fair primary and that’s why some of them want to join us. If they have the structure and are able to add value and are able to convince the electorates, why not? I don’t have anything against anybody, as long as the person, at the end of the day, serves the interest of the people; it’s the most important thing. We need youths to take over. All these people who don’t want to go, they will be forced to go, these youths will displace them. Youths show exuberance, energy, fearlessness, courage, let’s give them a chance and let’s see the difference. People are on ground, no doubt, let them compete. I would love to be a governor too but I’m not desperate. If I see somebody who has more energy than me, I can’t beg for money, some people can do it, but I will join a team that is ready to serve the interest of Lagos, that’s all, not that somebody will come and impose himself on me, I hate that. All I hate is cheating and oppression, once that one is ruled out, everyone will be happy. If you are a retired person, you will be happy, if you are a retired teacher, you will be happy, if you are a retired civil servant, you should be happy. It’s not that somebody will be collecting four cars every four years, get a house in Ikoyi, get a house in Abuja and every other thing, earning fantastic salary after retiring, what’s all these? So, until we change that attitude, Nigeria cannot move. People who have made money through illegal, illegitimate means are the ones who want to continue to be in power, they want to be in charge of Toll Gate, they want to be in charge of roads, they want to be in charge of hospitals, there should be an end to this thing at one stage or the other. Somebody who is ready to compete, who is ready to build structure and mobilise to win in an election clear-cut, is welcome. I don’t have anything against anybody.
“The whole national security architecture has collapsed because it’s not well intended. It shows the kind of leadership Nigeria has and it shows the kind of leadership the various segments of the military have
What are your thoughts concerning the president’s rejection of the new electoral act?
There are a lot of issues involved in the electoral bill, the most important one to me, is that of electronic transmission of results. If you use direct primaries, good luck, if you use indirect primaries, good luck, if you use consensus, good luck, that should be a prerogative of the political parties, not national assembly. So now, if they’ve introduced this and somebody says no to direct primaries, he has given reasons but why didn’t he sign that bill and raise an objection about that aspect that it should be reviewed instead of not signing at all, meaning that they have a dirty agenda behind it and it shows the level of patriotism of the leadership of the party because free, fair and credible election is what we want, without electronic transmission of results, definitely, we cannot get it and that’s what they are working towards. Let him sign that bill, let them remove the aspect of direct, indirect primaries or review it and then, we move on instead of wasting time. Those people in the National Assembly who don’t have guts to do the proper thing, they can veto, they can nullify his veto and move ahead.
Do you support their decision to wait till next year before determining their next move?
They are buying time; they should not annoy Nigerians because they will not take nonsense. We want electronic transmission of results so that the results of the election will be credible, that’s the most important thing to me, not that you use direct or indirect primary. They used direct primary to bring Buhari to office, they used direct primaries to bring Sanwo-Olu to office, all they did was organise thugs. Why that is a problem now is the business of the APC, not Nigeria’s business. So, if the constitution, as it concerns direct primary or indirect primary or consensus, let INEC meet with the parties and resolve that, it shouldn’t be something that we should be exerting unnecessary energy on, it’s not worth it because I don’t see the difference. Somebody who can hijack an indirect primary can also hijack direct primary; it’s just a function of loading a bullion van and spending money from ward to ward to local government and then the states. It’s only money bags and people with blood money that do these things, small parties cannot afford to start bribing anybody. So if you can bribe at the indirect primary where delegates are used, how will you not bribe when people are queuing up either in Shomolu, Surulere or Mushin? It’s just a question of spending lots of money on them. Meanwhile, there is no complete register of members, if there is a register, it’s either inflated or fake and on the day of these so called direct primaries, they will bring out party cards and start giving it to whoever can collect N5, 000 to go and vote for a particular aspirant. They must be talking to people who don’t have knowledge. I have enough knowledge of politics that I can assist, adding positively on any issue but it’s not worth it because people are ready to concede their birth right because of money. If money is removed from politics, we shall have a better Nigeria.
You are reputable personnel in Nigeria’s security architecture as a retired Navy Captain. What’s your overview of the security situation in the country?
The whole national security architecture has collapsed because it’s not well intended. It shows the kind of leadership Nigeria has and it shows the kind of leadership the various segments of the military have. Everything put together is not balanced. When you don’t have balanced military outfits, definitely, you will have a wrong approach to policy making and decision making. These things are not balanced. If we have North and South and something is skewed towards a particular region, and everybody is thinking along that direction, nobody to say no, let’s try this other approach, and voices are drowned, definitely, there will be no difference, there will be no change, no new ideas, no new strategy, you can’t even advise somebody, he’s made up his mind on what he wants to do. So many things are badly skewed. So many policy decision making are badly implemented, our borders are porous and they are allowing it to continue. No checks, where there are checks, they are compromised. When you arrest a Boko Haram member, you still reintegrate the same person into the armed forces, that one is killing yourself. And they are not killing themselves, they are killing the nation. So, I don’t think we have a security outfit that can manage the crisis because it’s skewed in a non-proportionate manner that people cannot confidently move around and we don’t have enough personnel to even fight Boko Haram, so it’s escalating by the day. Instead of recruiting capable, intelligent hands, you go and recruit people who have been in Boko Haram at one time or the other. Is that what we should be talking about? These are our problems and albatross, except we have a change of leadership and a change of attitude and we review everything about Nigeria, we need restructuring, otherwise, Nigeria will one day pay a price for using incompetent people to run the affairs of the country.