Lagos State Chairman, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Otunba Oladele Ajomale spoke with Deputy Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU on the party’s preparation for October 22 local government elections, among other issues.
How is the Lagos State ACN monitoring the activities of the government?
We are monitoring the activities of the state government. The party and the government sit down, at least, four times in a year; with the leadership of the party, to Jaw Jaw and see how the party can contribute to the development of the state. Anyway, there is no way they will do the state’s economic summit and the party will not send its economic experts there. We are looking at the interest of the people and have best it can be achieved.
Is the party doing the same in connection with the local governments?
We do that. we monitor them. But this time around, we are establishing what we call the Planning and Strategy Department in the party secretariat to monitor the activities of the local governments. We have had so many reports from our people at the local government level and we are not very happy. Therefore, we are setting up the Planning and Strategy Department to oversee the progress in each local government.
How is the Lagos State ACN responding to the complaints of members who felt that they were left in the cold when Governor Babatunde Fashola was setting up his cabinet?
You cannot call the meeting of the whole party to select those who are to work with Fashola. It is never done anywhere. I have never seen anywhere they’ve done that. We are talking about people to work with him and i think that he has the priority to select the people, which will make the party proud. So, it is not an issue that is thrown out to every member of the party. We have over one million members for Christ’s sake in Lagos alone, registered members. Can we call a meeting of one million people to decide that at the stadium? That is absurd.
Many members complained that leaders who handled the short-listing and screening deliberately yanked off their names from list recommended to the governor…
I don’t know about that. The people were to work with the governor and they should know that the governor has the priority to choose whoever he feels he can work with. we don’t impose people on him. Tomorrow, if they fail, he will not say that the party imposed people on him.
The local government election is around the corner. What are your expectations?
The people of Lagos State have made us proud. The only thing is for us to reciprocate and ensure that they have the good things of life and dividends of democracy in the nooks and crannies of Lagos. We must ensure that the promises we made are fulfilled. Lagosians have stood by us. They have been supportive. We have fulfilled the promises before and we will fulfill them again. We will not take the people for granted. That is why we are different from the PDP.
Our candidates for the council elections were vigorously screened by a committee and the list is our. we have ensure that those there are responsible people are going to be responsive to the yearnings of their people. Many of them are professionals, not pack of illiterates. We now have professionals in politics, like me. I am a lawyer. The man sitting down there is an engineer. Our former deputy governor is a chartered accountant.
Could you give insight into the criteria for selecting the candidates?
We are not going beyond the LASIEC guidelines. We ensure that you are a member of our party. You have contributed your quota to the party. In term of age, your age must be the one stipulated by the law. You must not have been to jail before. All those ones were verified. The certificate claims were verified.
How is the party responding to the feud brewing between the National Legal Adviser and House of Assembly Speaker?
I don’t see that. I don’t know about any feud between them. I think it is a misunderstanding, which we have been able to settle. And since then, there has never been any problem. It is a misunderstanding. It is not a feud.
The National Legal Adviser wrote to the party that the Speaker violated the party’s guidelines for the election of the principal officers of the House and the party issued a query…
I wrote a query based on the allegation made by Banire and I sent it to the Speaker to reply and the Speaker had done that immediately and we have looked at it and we have resolved it.
What was the reply of the Speaker?
You know I cannot tell you.
Could you explain the mechanism for party discipline in your party?
We have enforcement. That is, we suspend anybody who violates the party’s guidelines. There is party discipline. I have just spoken with somebody this morning, that nobody is above the constitution of the party and we will go strictly by the constitution of the party. If you go wrong, we suspend you. That is the highest we can do. Only the national convention can ratify dismissal. We will not get to that before whoever that is being disciplined steps back from those attitudes.
Councillors have complained that they have not been allowed to carry out the responsibility of impeaching some chairmen who have erred…
We do sometimes. Sometimes, we call them and we call the chairmen. You cannot say that you are impeaching the chairman because you asked for money from him and you are not given. That is wrong. That cannot be supported by us. If it is on the basis of non-performance, it s a different thing. But, if you lower yourself to that level by asking for money that the chairman cannot give, and because of that you are suspending him or you are impeaching him, who gave you that right? There must be a reason. We are the watchdog. We cannot allow that to take place. They will be destroying the reputation of the party. They will be insulting our integrity. If the public hears about that, what will happen? So, we have to step in and ensure that the right thing is done.
How is the party monitoring the members of the state and National Assembly members elected on its platform?
We always have meetings. I sometimes go to Abuja to discuss with them. The national chairman also have meetings with them in Abuja. So, we have very good relationship. Those from Lagos come home every month to attend meetings with their constituencies. We have made that mandatory. They must come home and report to their constituencies what they have done. In return, the people will tell them what they want. When he goes back, he will be able to adequately represent his constituency. It is a two-way thing.
What is your party and government doing to actualise the goal of special status for Lagos?
There have been moves by our members in the House. There is no where in the world that the capital is moved and the former capital is neglected; a former capital, which incidentally is the economic nerve center of the country. It is the gateway. When people come to Nigeria, they land in Lagos. So, how can you abandon that strategic state? Lagos cannot do it alone. Lagos is like a mini Nigeria. There is no ethnic group in Nigeria that is not represented in Lagos.
What are the elements of the economic integration which your party and governments are pursuing in the Southwest?
Some committees have been formed to look at the possibility. The report will be out. The programme will catapult our economy in each state to a higher level. It is a good idea.