A former Minister of Works and Housing, Adeseye Ogunlewe, speaks to ‘SOLA BABARINSA on his backing of the rumoured presidential ambition of a former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, among other related issues
As an experienced politician who was a member of the Alliance for Democracy, the Peoples Democratic Party and now the All Progressives Congress, what, in your view, could make the PDP to win the governorship and senatorial elections in Lagos State?
Planning. By planning, I mean the conviction to win. If you don’t have the conviction that your party can win then you cannot win; it has to do with your state of your mind. If we want to win an election, what must we do? One, we must accommodate all members of the party; all the tendencies. Whether you oppose me, you like me as a leader or you don’t, it should not matter in an election. Two; you must have the right candidate; the candidate that must be loved by all. Not a candidate that half will work for and the other half will work against. Three; you must have the money and the money must be invested properly and not converted for personal use. Given that the money is meant for a purpose, once you deviate from that purpose you will lose the election. Also of importance are your manifesto and personality. The person who is leading you; what is his pedigree; where is his own community; where is he going to vote; can he win in that community? This is because when there is no assurance that the leader will deliver his ward or local government area, that party can never win. It is like contributing to a common purse. In politics that is how to win. That means if you are from Alimosho Local Government, another person is from Ikorodu and another from Epe, what is their respective contribution from their local governments to enable us to win the election? So, if you don’t have the commitment, forget it. You can never win an election without the commitment to win; you would only be wasting your time.
People saw you as a politician that is very formidable, how would you say you impacted the political parties you have been affiliated with?
It depends on leadership; you cannot do it alone. When I was in the Alliance for Democracy, it was not a difficult situation because we formed the grassroots that made the AD. I mean the network. We had the structure. Structure means you must have certain individuals in each of the wards who can deliver for you. If you don’t have them there is no way you can win. We had them in AD. However, because of some confusion and conflict, we moved to the PDP. We had it in the PDP as well but the leadership was not ready to win. Once the leadership is not ready to win or deliver, no matter how hard individuals in each local government work, how can you win? You would always be frustrated. So, it is a problem of leadership.
You once won the election to be a senator on the platform of the AD. Since your defection, some people say neither you nor those from your camp have been able to win an election again in the state. Why is that?
That is not correct. In 2010, in my constituency, Lagos Constituency II, we lost a House of Assembly member, Rotimi Shotomiwa. He belonged to the Action Congress of Nigeria. So, there was an election between the PDP and ACN and I delivered and won. Gbenga Oshin won that election because the leadership was committed. The presidency was committed to that victory and we won. If during that period, you were not recognised as somebody who could deliver, what can you do? We were totally handicapped.
When you were a minister, the then governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, erected billboards, saying some roads belonged to the Federal Government and appealed to residents to bear with his government. How did you feel about that?
We repaired all the roads they (Lagos State Government) put ‘bear with us’, because they were federal highways. It was easy for us to do federal highways. In the federation, 60 per cent of the roads belong to the local governments, only less than 35,000km belong to the Federal Government, so it’s very small.
As a minister, you were the rallying point for the PDP in the state, would you say your popularity earned you that or it was because of the position you occupied?
It was so contentious. Leave it to researchers to give you an evaluation because if I begin to tell you about how I did it; how important I was at that time, it’s not going to be useful.
You led a campaign against Tinubu then with lots of cartoons, saying the real name of Tinubu was Sangodele and that he was from Osun State. Do you still hold that belief?
Times have changed. That was my perception at that time but the man has outsmarted everybody. He’s an extremely clever person and you have to study him, either to criticise him or to love him. If you are not discerning and you cannot see facts, you will be having the same thoughts that you had of him ten years ago. Honestly, I am so perplexed about the way he has been able to perform this magic. I didn’t believe it but he has done so. Who in the entire country can install the President, the Vice-President, the Senate President and the Speaker? For eight years? One person! Don’t you think there is something in that person we have to admire? He would determine who was going to be governor of Imo State; Yobe State; Ogun State, Osun State, and he would be correct. He would determine who was going to be ministers and those people would be appointed. He would determine who was going to get appointed as ambassador and such persons would get it. Whether you like him or you hate him, just focus on his person. How has he been able to get to this level? That is what is amazing to me. You see people groping in the dark: he is this, he is that, but the man has moved on. Are you going to sit down with your frustration? The man doesn’t even know that you are frustrated. This man, one single person, installed a presidency in Nigeria. Who has done so before? He is the rallying point for Nigerian politics today and he has the background of political development; he has the knowledge. Hate him or love him.
Where do you belong; do you love him or hate him?
I’m discerning. I’m marvelled at how he has been able to lift himself up from almost nobody to this envious position that every Nigerian knows his name today.
Was that what informed your decision to switch sides from PDP to the APC?
No. In Lagos State, there is nothing like PDP. The leadership is corrupt. They would make noise today on the television, tomorrow they are dining with the man. Believe it or not, many politicians and even those that are politically minded know what I’m saying. People have seen it, they have witnessed it that these PDP people make noise that when election comes they will perform magic because they want to get money, but what do we see?
Some said your defection was because you were broke and needed state patronage. How would you react to you?
I have never been a contractor. I don’t have a company. I don’t get any patronage from anybody. I’m a civil servant to the core. I grew up in the civil service, so where will I get a company to use to seek for a contract? People will talk but ask them for proof. I have held enviable positions in this country; that can never make me broke. I was the Permanent Secretary for Land and Housing and Survey from 1986 for at least three years. All the lands at Victoria Island, I shared them. Talk of Victoria Garden City and Dolphin, I built them. The Housing Scheme at Ebute Metta, I built them. I built the 10,000 Housing Scheme in Lagos State under (the late Lateef) Jakande. All these houses tagged ‘Jakande Houses’ I built them. I built the roads; I built the schools. How can somebody that has gone through that ever become broke in his life? So, apart from me having the opportunity to have properties, I have extensive goodwill. Do I want to build a new house or buy a new car? Somebody that is broke will have no house, but if you have a house you cannot be broke.
Talking about housing, Nigeria clearly has housing deficit that seems insurmountable. Why is this so?
Is housing part of the policy of the government? It has to be part of your policies before you decide it is an issue. Did the government say it was going to build a certain number of houses? Unlike the Lateef Jakande period, when the governor said he was going to construct 10,000 units of houses in four years and he did so. So, if providing houses is not part of your policies, how can we now judge you by the number of houses you are able to build? It is not part of your policy so it is not an issue at all.
You and Chief Olabode George were political allies. Did you discuss with him when you chose to leave PDP’s umbrella to pick APC’s broom?
Honestly, I tried my best to make sure that he saw things the way I saw them but he didn’t and I didn’t want to be frustrated, so I had to move to where I belong. APC is progressive and it is the offshoot of AD. I was a member of AD so I simply came back home to people that have similar ideals and views in politics like me.
George recently recommended supporters of Tinubu, including you, for check-ups. He wondered why you were never consistent. He also said you had made what he described as vicious comments about Tinubu before. How would you react to that?
The question was, if they zoned the presidency to the South-West who would you support? So they just talk without addressing the question. Anybody who is saying something else should tell me if they zoned it to the South-West this is the person I will support, so don’t abuse Ogunlewe. The question is who will you support if they zone it to the South-West? Make your choice.
Are you ready to take on George on the suitability of Tinubu for the office of the President or not?
No, it is not a personal issue, it is a political matter. If Olabode George wants to be president he can come out too. If Bola Tinubu wants to be president, he can come out too. Whoever wants to follow Bode George will follow him and whoever wants to follow Bola Tinubu will follow him. Where is the competition there? I’m saying if they zone it to the South-West, I will be the campaign manager of Bola Tinubu, that doesn’t mean any other person cannot be the campaign manager for another person. I’m talking about myself so there is no competition at all in whatever form.
Apart from being discerning, as you said, what other things made you turn around to recommend someone you claimed while serving as a minister was not suitable to govern Lagos State to be President of Nigeria?
His capacity to build human resource; capacity to predict things; capacity to be a lot reasonable in whatever he wants to do and get it. If you know how the presidency under the PDP revered Bola Tinubu, you will not believe it. (Former President Goodluck) Jonathan believed that Tinubu is a magician. Let me give you an instance. In 2011, during the general election, we were about to defeat ACN at that time. Bola Tinubu called Jonathan to cancel the election in Lagos State and he cancelled it at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on the day of the election which we were winning.
Why would Jonathan, a PDP member, cancel an election that is going in favour of his party?
Go and ask the Independent National Electoral Commission. That was what happened; I don’t know why. At 5 o’clock, they announced they had cancelled the election. It was so devastating. When I write my book on the things that go behind the scenes in politics that are unknown to people; the magic Bola Tinubu has performed in this country, you will not believe it. When we wanted to use (Mulikat Akande) Adeola to replace (Dimeji) Bankole as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it was a PDP government and House of Representatives was a PDP majority. He single-handedly brought in (Aminu) Tambuwal to defeat our own people and Tambuwal became the Speaker. Obasanjo was the one supporting Akande, still they manipulated it and Tambuwal won. Do you think that kind of man (Tinubu) has got no sense? When he said (Femi) Gbajabiamila was going to be the Speaker and (Ahmad) Lawan would be the Senate President, many people said no, but Tinubu waited, he planned it and put his people there. That is what anybody who is a political scientist should investigate and research. What is the purpose of this man on earth that he could manipulate the entire nation for (Muhammadu) Buhari to win the 2015 presidential election after he had tried three times and said he would not contest again? Who could convince Buhari to contest an election again and how was that person able to convince him?
When you think about the killings going on under the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari, how do you feel that you belong to the same political party?
Anybody that is in Nigeria now and doesn’t have a father and a mother should not answer that kind of question.
Would you say Buhari was the best man for the job both in 2015 and 2019?
I was not part of the party at that so I wouldn’t know, but that was the person they brought and he won. However, PDP should have suspected that Buhari was going to win. I was not in doubt because I knew that Jonathan and his hangers-on were not reading the handwriting on the wall. I was a member of the Presidential Campaign Council for Jonathan and I could see the people surrounding him were not honest; they deceived him. When Buhari lost in 2011, people burned the houses of so many PDP members. They killed some of them; they killed corps members, because the man won that election. It was rigged. In 2015, it was the turn of the North and they were saying no, you are the president, you are going to win. He shouldn’t have contested that election.
Why do you say that?
He was going to fail. There was no way he would win, and he had the information. He had the security reports. Hassan who was his PA, Political was a Fulani man; the IGP; his security details were all Fulani. We were at a meeting and (former Kano State governor) Rabiu Kwankwaso stood up and said Mr President, in 2011, we put up our lives for this election for you to win; we couldn’t vote; our people said we wanted to sell the North to the South, don’t contest. (Former President Olusegun) Obasanjo begged us that you were going to be there for only one term; Also, five governors left the PDP and Jonathan still believed he could win because [the late Chief Tony] Anenih told him not to worry and the South-South was saying don’t worry. What is the number of their votes? He would have been more honourable to say I have a pact with Obasanjo; it’s only for four years, let the North have it. We wouldn’t have been in this position at all. You cannot confront these people. Their own ideology is different from our own. For them to even install him after the death of Yar’Adua was a miracle.
Some feelers suggested that Jonathan’s mistake went beyond his belief in his hangers-on prior to the 2015 election.
No, Nigeria’s politics is not like that. Even if you pave all the roads with gold it won’t matter when it has to do with North and South or when it is Christian and Muslims. It doesn’t matter at all. At that time, they made up their minds it was the turn of the North. Honestly, immediately Obasanjo told him you’re not going again, that would have been the end, because he (Obasanjo) was his backbone. Let me put the record straight, 2011 was the turn of IBB (Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida). We were already campaigning for IBB to come back. He had the structure already. We started the campaign. It was former President Obasanjo who went to Ibadan and called all the South-West governors; he called all our party members that no, it is Jonathan and that anybody who dares me would be in trouble. We then said whatever Baba (Obasanjo) said was the final. He said it must be Jonathan and not IBB and we agreed and it was going to be four years. We agreed. At the end of the fourth year, these hangers-on started to tell the man (Jonathan) you are going to win; win what? Is it so easy to win?
Some people alleged that Buhari doesn’t have certificates while Bode George also accused Tinubu of not having certificates. Does it bother you that the party may be presenting those without considered not to have certificates as its presidential candidates?
Why are we in a hurry? If the man fills the form and he inputs a certificate there; tell him to bring the certificate. If he doesn’t have then we can talk. But I know he has a certificate; Bode George is new to this struggle. We started the struggle. He doesn’t know about the struggle at all. Bode George is new to Lagos State politics. He doesn’t know anything. It is not true that Tinubu doesn’t have a certificate. He went to the University of Chicago but there were so many other things he didn’t have which he included in the form. So, he is not going to be stupid now and fill those things on his form again. He has the certificate. I have a copy. All these things Bode George is saying, he doesn’t know about this struggle at all. How can you say somebody who worked at Mobil, who was our senatorial candidate in Social Democratic Party doesn’t have a certificate? Where was Bode George then? These are new politicians. How did he go to the Senate then?