Dear Ms. Sola Salako, I must commend your efforts to mobilise support for the APC candidate in the just concluded Presidential elections, President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari. I also must commend the zeal you’ve shown in further mobilizing and energising support for Akinwunmi Ambode, the APC candidate in the forth-coming gubernatorial elections in Lagos. However I must confess that I am disturbed and alarmed by some of the reasons you have adduced in comments on your Facebook page as to why we should vote for Ambode and not for Jimi Agbaje.
According to you, we need to vote in an APC government in Lagos State so as to be in sync with the government at the Federal level so as to enjoy the benefits that accrue from being part of the “mainstream politics” as the saying goes. This has several implications and connotations, none of which are good. Personally while I do not have a high regard for the PDP, I do believe that there are a few competent and capable men of integrity within its ranks. I also believe that people should be allowed to choose and vote for the leaders and political representatives of their choice based upon their perception of that person. However in your statement about enjoying benefits that accrue from the Federal level, I not only sense an attempt at coercion of the will of people and an implicit blackmail. And what this means is that any state where the citizens are “stupid” or “wilful” enough to want to choose political representatives of their choice as governors should expect to receive nothing from the Federal level if those governors are not APC governors. Which then begs the question: Is that the way the APC at the Federal level wishes to proceed? By developmentally stalling the growth of non-APC states because the people dared choose their leaders freely? How then would the APC be any different from the PDP? Is that the change we voted for?
If that is the method by which the APC seeks to operate, then non-APC states would suffer some sort of double jeopardy. In 16 years or so of democracy in Nigeria, I have noticed a trend. What you could call a rule. And the rule is this: While APC governments are basically corrupt; they do manage to do some modicum of work in the state where they govern. They get some things done. On the other hand, PDP governments are not only corrupt, they are inept. If there is any PDP governor that can be said to have achieved anything while in power, I’m sure I could name 5 or 10 APC governors (from any of its iterations e.g. AD, ACN, CPC) who have done more. For instance, I want to university in Edo State and I remember Edo people complaining after Governor Lucky Igbenedion’s first term that he had failed. And this was in spite of the fact that Edo State gets the 3rd highest allocation from the Federal Government as derivation revenue. One of my enduring memories of his government was his inability to fix the drains in front of Okada House, a property that belonged to his father and which during his tenure was the PDP secretariat in Edo State. As the story goes, his father then pointed out that if you send your child to school and they say he has failed, won’t you tell him to repeat? Therefore since the people of Edo State were saying that his son had failed, he obviously had to repeat. And repeat he did. Unless a person is being extremely partisan and unreasonable, no one can deny that Governor Adams Oshiomole is a significant improvement on Igbinedion.
I must mention that the exception to the rule of non-performing PDP governors is Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State. However everyone was knows he won two consecutive elections on the platform of the Labour Party before decamping to the PDP. So he had performed before jumping ship to be part of mainstream politics. Now the fact that his Deputy Governor jumped ship to the APC (allegedly with a few commissioners) a few days before the Presidential elections, aggrieved that he had not received his own “share” of the over N1 billion President Jonathan allegedly gave the governor for election campaigns gives an indication as to why he went back to the PDP.
In light of this, states in the South-South and South-East, who to borrow the words of Marc Wilmot, have human disasters as governors are going to be further impoverished if the only states the Federal government will help are those with APC governors. I have friends from the South-East who have PDP governors in their home states. They complain bitterly about the lack of development and corruption. All the governors seem to be concerned about is emptying government coffers and buying up property in their states, Lagos, Abuja and overseas. Considering that all the able bodied men of Eastern extraction have seemingly migrated to the Western and Northern parts of Nigeria, it’s obvious that the governors are doing a lot wrong. However I believe political affiliations should be by choice. The threat (or promise) of withholding or giving of Federal help should not be a carrot to get people to switch political allegiances. This should not be. While the PDP was the dominant party in government, I never could understand the boast by President Jonathan and members of the party about how many governors they had when all Nigerians knew most of them (if not all) were incompetent, inept and corrupt.
Now considering that the governors in the East and South-South are non-performing which is why their kinsmen have all run to Lagos and Kano, there will be those who will ask why they are coming to Lagos to flex their political muscles when they can’t seem to get the governors in the East to be responsible to the needs of the people. However the fact is that as long as they are law abiding and contributing their quota to the development of Lagos, especially by paying their taxes, they have right for their voices to be heard especially in the way they vote. I therefore wonder why some see it as a “gang-up”. If the government was responsive to the needs of the people, there would be no need for a
gang-up. If you want more people in the East to vote for APC then the proper thing is for pressure to be exerted on people like Governor Rochas Okorocha to work and show that there is an alternative to the PDP in the East. Also, government should in my opinion do more for those states to show that the APC cares rather than trying to spite them for their choices. Psychologists tell us that people respond better to encouragement rather than force. On the other hand it’s not as if the APC has shown that it’s a great a party of noble men and women who are full of integrity and honesty. As a lawyer if I lived in Rivers State, I would not vote the APC candidate because of the way Governor Rotimi Amaechi has decimated the judiciary and the legal profession in the state, denying many lawyers most of whom earn their living through the courts the ability to do so because of his inordinate ambition to appoint a yes man as Chief Judge. And like I pointed out above, the APC is also full of corrupt men and women.
I remember listening to the news and hearing that the “footbridge” added to the pre-existing Falomo Bridge was constructed at the cost of N2.7billion. I can still remember laughing hysterically and manically. Nowhere else in the world (except in Lagos, Nigeria) can 30 metres of water, sand, cement plus labour cost N2.7 billion. While I am not a contractor, I am not a fool. I’m sure if I gathered a few civil engineers and used a few unemployed Nigerians for labour, we could have built that “footbridge” for less than N700 million and this brings me conveniently to my second point. According to you, people only want to vote for the PDP because of an “unreasonable hatred” for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Instead of answering the criticisms, you have danced around the issue and made light of people’s concerns as if they don’t matter. Actually they do.
I pass through the Lawanson area fairly frequently and whenever I pass along the main road, I remember Tinubu. The road was one of those done during his tenure. Sadly the drains have been blocked by passers-by and the dirty habits of those with shops along the road. If you were to ask me, I would say that Tinubu for me is the best governor Lagos has ever had, even better than Fashola. Frankly, to be honest I really don’t see what all the hype about Governor Fashola is all about. A friend recounted a tale of a meeting with a Director in the Land Use Charge
office who was gloating about how poor house owners in Lagos were rushing to come and pay the Land Use Charge fees so as to avoid prosecution by the government. The picture he painted got me thinking. I thought that had begun as a tiny spark that niggled and disturbed me crystallised and I came to conclusion that the great Action Governor of Lagos wasn’t as great as people were making him out to be. Under him, success has become a curse in Lagos and I’m sure Lagosians must be the most taxed people in Nigeria, yet because there is no accountability or transparency, there is no commensurate development. All we have is inflation of contracts and a lot of noise. A lot of people have pointed out that the cost of the Lagos Light Rail Project is significantly higher than
the cost of another light rail project approved in Abuja yet no one understands why. Fashola introduced a new Sales Tax and yet we can’t see the effect of the heavy tax burden that we bear. And yet he’s supposed to be the best governor in Nigeria. That is a scary thought. If that is true then the country is in trouble. My view is that internally generated revenue is greater under Fashola than it was under Tinubu yet there was greater development under Tinubu.
With regards to the allegations against Tinubu, we’ve all heard them before. If the reports are to be believed, he owns an airline, a TV station, a radio station, a hotel, collects a certain percentage of the money collected as tax or internally generated revenue in Lagos, owns a transportation company, owns the company responsible for tolling roads in a part of Lagos, owns part of a medical diagnostic company, owns houses and land in the choicest part of Lagos and much more. And all these are believed to have been obtained as a result of being the former governor of the state. Even if half of the allegations are true, then there is good reason for people to be angry. Yet you describe their anger as “unreasonable” hatred. In the immortal words of David before he killed Goliath, “Is there not a cause?” As a Christian, I believe that when a person works, he is practically exchanging his life for the salary he is being paid. Government then forcefully collects a certain percentage of the money that you have exchanged your life for in the form of tax under the guise that they want to develop the country or state. You then hear that the same money you’ve exchanged your life for is being poured into someone’s pockets. Do you expect people to be happy?
Presently car owners in the Victoria Island-Lekki-Ajah axis, while going through a 20 or so kilometre stretch of road have to pass through two different toll gates (soon to become 3) between their homes and their places of work. Now, if a person has the double misfortune of living in Badore while working in Victoria Island and owning a personal vehicle, in a 22-day working month, to go to and from his house to his office and back, he’s going to spend over N10, 000 to pass through the toll gates. Then you think of the hundreds of thousands of people who pass through the toll gates daily. And then you think of the fact that the toll gates are going to be there for the next 30 or so years. And then they tell you that everything is going into one man’s pocket. And you think people do not want to be free from that? It’s also quite interesting that the toll starts just after the hotel that allegedly belongs to him so his guests from Victoria Island and Ikoyi don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of paying toll. While I am not against PPP’s, there must be transparency. Do you think that those who live in that axis or pas through the toll are happy? Do you think they won’t vote for a person who will promise to take away the toll and the financial burden it imposes while making someone rich? Is there not a cause?
While governor, Tinubu created 37 Local Government Areas in addition to the existing 20 at the time. I stand to be corrected but I can say categorically that none of the chairmen are doing anything of note. All they do is share the monthly allocations that accrue to them and then siphon the money into their personal accounts in conjunction with other council officers. They do not see themselves as accountable to the people or the governor as they believe they owe their allegiance to Tinubu alone and cannot be told what to do. Hence the ineptitude. I was in a bus recently and I heard the story of the APC House of Representative candidate for the Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency who fainted and ended up in hospital when he heard the results of the election. Why did he end up in hospital? Because he expected to win since he had the backing of Tinubu. According to those in the bus, he had done absolutely nothing for the community. He took the people for granted and ended up in hospital. According to rumours, even the chairman of my own council in Oshodi-Isolo lives in Lekki. In my area in Isolo, Okota is populated by a lot of people from the East. Even I think that the state of the area is deplorable and the government, both local and state have not been good to the area. The main road through the area that state government has been constructing for the last 5-6 years remains uncompleted. They voted massively for the PDP in the last election. I expect more of the same come Saturday. Do you think Lagosians are happy with unresponsive and unaccountable representatives? Is there not a cause?
Thirdly, no matter how much you or the APC leadership try to demonise Jimi Agbaje, it won’t work, just like the demonization of General Muhammadu Buhari by the PDP did not work. Personally, if people voted for candidates and not parties, I would vote for him in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even consider Ambode for a second. I have heard only good things about Jimi Agbaje from those who know him and have interacted with him. The only problem he has is the party he belongs to and the perception people have of the leaders of the party both at the national level and in Lagos. As much as I want Lagos to be free from Tinubu’s grip, the thought of people like Bode George and Musiliu Obanikoro as party leaders in Lagos gives me great pause. For a long time before the news was official and rumours were still swirling, I had asked myself if I could vote for Jimi Agbaje if he joined the PDP. His comments about the Niger Delta perpetrating violence if President Jonathan lost and his silence in the face of the rampage in Lagos by thugs and miscreants of the O’odua People’s Congress have hurt him in my estimation. Like I said, given a straight choice between him and Ambode, I would vote him. All that is left is for me to decide who I dislike the more, Tinubu or Bode George. Of course Bode George wins hands down.
I would have preferred if Olasupo Sasore was the gubernatorial candidate of the APC. Apart from the fact that he’s a fellow lawyer, he’s cultured and well spoken. These things would have made the fact that he would be a Tinubu stooge personally easier to bear. For me, whenever I see Ambode, with his chubby cheeks and round head, he reminds me of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Ikuforiji and that is not a pleasant association. Whenever I see Ikuforiji, the things that come to mind are the 3 T’s. Thug. Tout. Thief. And because of this association, I ask myself why I should vote for Ambode. So I have decided that I will most likely not vote come Saturday unless of course a third popular choice presents itself. As much as I want to vote Jimi Agbaje, I can’t stomach the people behind him. However I know a lot of people who voted APC in the Presidential Elections who have vowed to vote PDP in the gubernatorial elections. Whoever wins, I will accept the outcome of the elections. The question therefore is, if the APC loses the election, will it accept the result? President Jonathan has set the bar high by conceding defeat and all eyes are now on the APC in Lagos. Just like the Presidential Elections was some sort of referendum on President Jonathan’s performance, some see the election in Lagos as something of a referendum on Tinubu’s popularity and influence. If the APC loses, will it accept the result and wait for the next for years to win back the state? Or will it unleash violence on the land in the hope of achieving by violence what it could not achieve through the ballot box? I understand from a relative that both parties are busy mobilising thugs in states like Ondo, Lagos and Edo as they see these states as must win states. Acting with impunity will get the nation nowhere. President Jonathan declared that his political ambition was worth no person’s death. I wonder if the leadership of the APC believe that. Judging from the comments attributed to the Oba of Lagos, it seems not.
Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.