Tinubu Cannot Impose Ambode On Us As Governor..Ex Lagos Commissioner

Dr Leke Pitan was Commissioner for Health and later Commissioner for Education under the administration of former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State. The politician, who is now seeking to represent the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 governorship election in the state, speaks with BOLA BADMUS on his aspiration, among other issues. Excerpts:
You have thrown your hat in the ring for the governorship race. Why are you interested in becoming the next governor of Lagos State?
It is the party members, leaders and people that say I should offer myself for the position. It is a personal ambition and an offer by our people, especially given the fact that our party has offered a social welfarist manifesto, which we launched in Abuja. Therefore, the party requires a candidate who the people can trust as one to implement the programmes.
Naturally, the party needs somebody like me who has been tested and used in the past to deliver such programmes, who the party and the general public are familiar with. It becomes easier for the party to ensure victory at the election if the party has somebody like me. I am not saying I am the only person in the party, but the leaders and other people in the party beckoned on me to offer myself and I agreed with them. I am close to the stakeholders in the party and I believe that with my pedigree, the party needs me at this point in time to deliver the manifesto to the people. That is the reason I am offering myself and the reactions have been positive.
What are these welfarist programmes and why do you feel you are the most qualified to deliver them to Lagosians?
The party mentioned in the manifesto, programmes like free health, free education, job creation and empowerment of people, mass low income housing scheme, economic empowerment, as well as necessary infrastructure. You are aware of my track record as commissioner for health and commissioner for education. You will remember the various programmes we initiated and implemented, including open heart surgery, free eye screening, surgery and eye glasses, free ambulance service, free education, which included the inclusive education centres for the handicapped. We constructed 29 centres all over the state. Those who are handicapped have access to education. I believe that the number one meaning of governance is sincere provision of safety net to the populace, from which nobody should be allowed to drop, no matter their level. It is the business of government to make sure that you are covered. And if you have cause to fall, that net will be there to save you. That is what we are talking about. These are the things that made me offer myself for service.
Have you not joined the race because the governorship slot has been zoned to Lagos East?
No. I have not mentioned anything about zoning or religion. All I have said is a question of merit and programmes. I said the party had offered the people a welfarist manifesto and it does not talk about zoning. The manifesto is a national affair, not about the party in Lagos alone. All chapters in the country have endorsed it. If the party wants to convince Lagosians that in Lagos State, it is going to implement that manifesto, it must put forward somebody they will believe, who has the experience and confidence to deliver. I have not said anybody is not qualified and I have said nothing about religion. These are the things for the party to decide. But we must approach the issue on basis of merit, logic and reasoning. We want to clothe the people, so, you send a tailor to them, not a carpenter. As a tailor, I am competent. I have been delivering good clothes to the people on behalf of our party and I am confident of making it easy for the party to convince the general public. The party is out to win the general election in the Lagos of today, where a lot of awareness has taken place. Now, even a fisherman has access to the internet and beggars have phones. That is the environment we are reacting to and my party has to offer the public an appropriate candidate. I consider myself one and the people agree with me.
The party leadership has not only zoned the governorship post to Lagos East, but has reportedly handed the slot to Mr Akin Ambode. How would you react to that?
I am not aware of that. I don’t know that has happened. I believe it is mere speculation, which sometimes happens in politics. I don’t think it has happened. I want to believe it will not happen.
What makes you so sure this will not happen?
I don’t think the party will do that. The opposition is there and it is an empowered opposition. Don’t forget that they are controlling the Federal Government and they have a president who wants to do second term. Don’t forget that their president was outgoing but now, he wants to do second term. And we have record of how the opposition party rigged past elections. I don’t want to go into the details, but I am saying that my party cannot afford to take that risk. We cannot afford to take the risk we took in 2007 now. I don’t think such a thing has or will happen.
Are you saying that you have the support of the party’s leadership?
Not just the leadership, but also the followership. The reason for the support of leadership is not really an issue to be put on the table. What should be put on the table is merit. There is a round hole, are you a round peg? That should be the issue – a round peg in a round hole, as opposed to a round peg in a square hole. And then, you talk about the questions: are the leaders going to impose you? Are they going to support you? These are certainly not part of what I am putting on the table. That is not to say I am in the bad books of the leaders. No, I am not, by all means. We started the party together, right from the Afenifere days and through the various metamorphoses.
How do you plan to do better than Governor Babatunde Fashola?
I am sure you will agree with me that two talents are better than one. Governor Fashola wants somebody who will do better than him, just as we prayed that those who were going to succeed us before would do better. Fashola has done very well and he would wish that those who would succeed him would do better. It is the prayer of the party and Lagosians. With a politician and technocrat of international level, I am sure you don’t need to be a genius to know that he would bring more dividends of democracy to the people.
Don’t you see yourself getting into conflict with the powers that be in the party?
No, no, no. I don’t think so. On the contrary, I feel the party leadership appreciates the need to win the general election and so they will naturally prefer to put their best forward. I don’t see any conflict or confrontation whatsoever because at the end of the day, winning the general election is the ultimate, not winning the control of the party or winning the primaries. This is just a bus stop along the way. The ultimate thing is to win the general election and deliver services that will make the people happy and proud to identify with the party. So, when you look at all those things, you make sure you are able to deliver on all fronts. The party leadership naturally thinks twice and they always try to put their best foot forward. You know, we are not discussing local government election, we are not talking of LASIEC, we are talking of INEC; we are talking of federal police, even the SSS and so on.
So, what belongs to us and which we must cultivate are the people. They are our own garrison. The people must have confidence in our candidate and by extension, our party. The general public knows the difference between promise and delivery. This is an urban Lagos where even the poorest have access to information. You will be amazed how the people argue among themselves at newsstands, even those who cannot afford to buy newspapers. You hear a lot of robust arguments.
You are yet to officially release your programmes to the public...
My programmes are the manifesto of the party. Are you talking about the details?
Well, what would your programme look like between 2015 and 2019?
Just as my party said, free health, free education to the level specified by the party.
What exactly would you do differently to improve on Fashola’s record?
First of all, the incumbent has done very well and I intend to continue his programmes. It is a government of continuity because in fairness to him, he continued our programmes. He built on the foundation we laid in the first eight years, between 1999 and 2007. He has built upon what we did and taken Lagos to the next level. We will take Lagos higher. For instance, we will deepen the free health scheme and ensure that people have more access to it. He has built about six flagship primary health centres. We intend to do more.
During my time as commissioner for health, we added five general hospitals in Somolu, Ifako-Ijaye, Alimosho, Ibeju-Lekki and Mushin. He has added maternal health care centres. During our time, we added LASUTH and brought back Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, the popular baby factory. It had been shut down for about 10 years before we brought it back and thank God it has been serving thousands of Lagosians. A lot of programmes we did passed through his table then as the chief of staff. We were colleagues, he understands the terrain. These decisions were not limited to health and education sectors, they affected the judiciary, especially as they concerned the establishment of the Office of the Public Defender to help the poor and taking the IGR of the state to a level higher than we met it. These were things we decided and worked on in our first term. We created an internal revenue body called LIRS, which is semi-autonomous from the civil service.
The acclaimed creative rule of Fashola has been criticised for causing hardship for many. How would you advise people with such opinion about the APC government in the state?
I don’t agree with you on that. I think it is good to be fast and creative but if you want to put that in a negative way, I would disagree with you.
But some people are complaining of hardship...
They should be patient and appreciate the necessity for the things being done now, which people will benefit from in the future. But more importantly, they should also know that there is always room for improvement in style and modalities. As we go along, there will be improvement.
Your party’s congresses have generated crises with some members said to have headed for the courts. In the light of this, how will the party have hitch-free primaries in October to pick its governorship candidate?
If that be the case, I won’t dabble into such area. I would rather leave such cries to the party leadership to resolve and where they need our help, I am also a party leader, I am available to assist however I can. We need a peaceful, cohesive party and it is something we must work to achieve. The opposition is not within but outside, so, we must all work towards ensuring that our platform is solid.
If, based on the wisdom of the party leadership, you are eventually asked go to the Senate or the House of Representatives or become a commissioner again rather than vie for the governorship, would you agree?
You are creating a hypothetical scenario and we haven’t got to such a bridge yet. We don’t know how high the tide under the bridge will be or whether the water under the bridge will be very dry, and you want me to decide whether I would go under the bridge or walk through the stream? It is too hypothetical. There are many ifs. I feel you should let us get to the bridge before we start to think of how we will cross it.


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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