Philip Olabode Aivoji is the Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party. A day before the March 18 governorship polls, he called on the party faithful to support the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. The PDP’s governorship candidate, Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, came a disappointing distant third, leading to the suspension of Aivoji from the party. In this interview with MAYOWA SAMUEL, the suspended state PDP chairman explains his reasons for supporting Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, instead of Jandor and warning those trying to get him out of the party to desist forthwith. Excerpts:
How do you describe the crisis going on in your party in the state?
There’s nothing going on, they’re just wasting their time. They’re just lying everywhere. They approached the court, but the court didn’t grant them their evil desires, so they decided to just do nonsense. They’ll face the wrath of the law.
Who are the people actually behind this?
We know them, there are five of them doing this in connivance with the committee they chose but the law is not a respecter of persons.
The move to unseat you as the chairman was orchestrated by your ward after they suspended you for anti-party activities, before the state party leadership ratified it. Why are you still this confident?
You must have seen the publication of the Ward that this was a lie. They just forged their signatures. They’ve also written a petition to the DSS and the police to investigate the matter. So, the ward exco aren’t taking it lightly at all. Every one of them assembled, had a press conference, and on the 12th of May, everyone will be present (at the court). So, they’ve failed right from the beginning. We are undaunted. All the LGA Chairmen, I had a meeting with them, 20 of them, we are together on the same page. So, they’re just wasting their time. Their pay master will be disappointed.
What has the reaction of the national body of your party been regarding the crisis in the Lagos State chapter?
No, they don’t see it as anything; they know it’s just bad politics where people think they can go through the back door to do anything. The national office frowns at such things, because even the ones they did in some states, going through the back door, the national body is still in contention with them at the court. So why will they support such? The national body has the constitution, they know that the state chairman is a national officer, he can’t be removed just by lower level, up to state, unless NEC.
Many in the party accused you of anti-party activities, particularly after you decided to support the governorship bid of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, a day before the election. What’s the actual truth regarding that?
The truth regarding that is that, you know, as a state chairman, I can’t do anything in isolation. We were to have a meeting with our elders. When I saw the result of the presidential election, I was only of the opinion that if we can work together with LP, it wasn’t just me per se. They’re just manufacturing all these things. If we talk of collaboration, we can collaborate where they support us in the area of our strength, that doesn’t mean that we have done anti-party. But the party is taking steps, there’s no move that I made that I did in isolation, that’s the truth.
What is Adedeji Doherty’s role in all of these? Was he also in support of aligning with Vivour during the governorship election?
I wouldn’t know because I’ve not heard from him since all these days. You know there are allegations against him in the media. His own issue was that he went to the APC, they’re just looking for different ways. You see, there are some people behind this, they want to destroy the party the way they did to other parties in the past. But they can’t do that and they’ll be dealt with appropriately.
There was also a letter by Tokunbo Pearse who asked him to explain the allegations of financial misappropriation and anti-party party activities leveled against him. I don’t know if you’ve come across the letter, but what’s your opinion on these allegations against him?
To me, you see, I’m not just starting politics. I was a member of UPN as the Youth Vanguard; I’ve been in politics for a long time. There’s no way that you’ll do an election, then you’ll now discuss your issue of election on the pages of newspapers or social media. If not what these people are doing here and there is trying to destroy the party, we could have set up a high power committee to look into everything concerning the pre-election, during election and after election, and proffer solutions that will be enduring to make sure that such things don’t happen again. If you put them on the pages of newspapers, what are you going to achieve? Do you want other parties who don’t like PDP to join hands with them? So, it’s uncalled for. I don’t see any reason in all those things. By the grace of God, I’m in charge, I’ve discovered that those people that said they were granted ex parte, they’ve approached the court and we’ve seen the ruling, there was nothing like that. They were not granted, they were asked to come on the 12th and they started all this nonsense, so they’ll dearly pay for it, there’s no cause for alarm.
What’s the actual reason for your decision to align with the Labour Party gubernatorial candidate, Rhodes-Vivour? Was it that you saw the handwriting on the wall that your party won’t win the gubernatorial poll after your party’s below par performance at the presidential poll in the state?
We just looked at it as if the two candidates could come together and collaborate, but Jandor was adamant, he was just going to press, he didn’t have any recourse to even speak with me as the state chairman or discuss with elders. He was invited by the elders who sent someone to him but he didn’t go. Rather, he sent some people to go and see the elders. A day before the election, he granted an interview, he lied on air that he’s in alliance with Labour and that the Labour Party candidate has stepped down for him and he had agreed to accept the position of the Secretary to the state government, which were all lies. He sent these things online, so I had to let my party members know the truth. Although we were in collaboration with the Labour Party, what he said was untrue. We mooted the idea that both of them should discuss and collaborate. He was the one who lied, he didn’t show up in any of the meetings and he turned the whole thing to favour him; that was what happened. So, he should be questioned. Anyway, don’t worry, those at the national level know what they’ll do about all these things.
The Point had also spoken with Pa Ayo Adebanjo before the election who said even before the proposed collaboration became a hot discussion in the lead up to the election. He had invited Jandor several times to visit him to try to ask him to collaborate with Vivour. He said he kept promising to come, but he kept procrastinating and didn’t come…
If he could be truthful to himself, some leaders called him at Abuja, we have those facts, we can’t be presenting them publicly like this like I told you. Our issues in the party can’t be presented in the public without us ironing and addressing the internal mechanism to sort out issues. He’s out to destroy the party, we’ll not go along with him, and that’s it.
Before this election took place, you were very confident that there won’t be any room for moles from the ruling party in PDP to achieve their aims in the party and that all plans by the ruling party to infiltrate the party will not materialise. As things have turned out, would you say you were successful in that regard?
After the presidential election, I discovered that people weren’t trustworthy and faithful to the party and this is what we’re saying. If somebody who says he’s a candidate of the party but who didn’t work with the party, who was so arrogant, who just believed he could win election with the Lagos4Lagos movement alone, and now the Lagos4Lagos movement has left him, he’s now trying to destroy the party. He’s sinking, so he wants the party to sink with him, no. They’ve made a grievous mistake. They came to the party and within six months, got the ticket. You said you know how to play the game, but you’ve never assisted anybody to win an election before, you’ve not been in any position of note before, you’ve not been in government before, I don’t know how this type of charlatan came and you gave him the ticket without… It’s an internal problem, we’ll handle it.
The LP gubernatorial candidate, Vivour, has gone to court to challenge the outcome of the governorship election in the state which saw the victory of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Is the PDP already doing the same or looking to do the same?
As it is now, the candidate of the PDP knows. On the day of the election, he didn’t even send a dime to his agents, he didn’t send any kobo to his agents, he just left them. That’s why he got a very poor result, the poorest ever. How would you want to have an election, but you didn’t mobilise your supporters, how will they go and vote?
What has been the reaction of Chief Bode George regarding the current crisis in the party in the state?
I wouldn’t know. What I know is that Chief Bode George doesn’t have a hand in it, he knows nothing. That’s what I can tell