Wale Oluwo, an associate of former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, and the Chairman of the Akinwunmi Ambode Campaign Organisation, recently joined the 2023 governorship race of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has not impressed the people of the state with his performance, vowing to unseat the incumbent
Where is your base in Lagos and what have you been doing?
I was born in Somolu and I grew up there. My local government of origin is Epe. I am 56 years old and I have been in the private sector. I am also a former Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources in Lagos State under (former) Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
What is your political track record aside from being an ex-government appointee?
In 2006, I prepared myself to serve the state and part of that preparation at that time was that I went to Epe Local Government to contest for the House of Representatives seat but I did not contest. In 2007, I emerged as the deputy governorship candidate of the ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party) with Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi. So, by and large, I am not new to politics. I have been in the political arena since 2006 till now. I have been around for more than 15 years.
In 2007 when I contested as the deputy governorship candidate of the ANPP, the party was the second-largest party in Nigeria at that time with now President Muhammadu Buhari as candidate. I was appointed as a commissioner in 2015 from my local government in Epe and I gave a good account of myself and served my seat in the capacity that I was appointed and in line with my oath of office.
Can you trace your journey into the All Progressives Congress?
I joined the AC (Action Congress) after the 2007 election. I remained in the party and it transformed to the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria). I was in the party all the way till 2014 when it merged with others to form the APC. I was a founding member of the APC in 2014. It was in December 2018 when I resigned my appointment as commissioner that I resigned my membership of the APC but I’m back to the APC now. I was away for three years and two months.
Why did you leave the APC in 2018 and where did you leave for?
I left for the Peoples Democratic Party. The way the APC was operating at that time made me leave. There was no level playing field; there was abuse of power; there was a manipulation of the democratic institution; everything that connotes democracy was happening at that time and I didn’t want to identify with all of that. So, I left the government and the party at that time. It was a personal decision.
Was your departure connected with the fact that the then Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was denied second term ticket by the Lagos APC?
Yes, it was a response. I raised some of those issues in my resignation letter as a commissioner. I raised the issue of internal democracy and the violation of the democratic process and the abuse of power.
Why did you return to the APC now; has the situation changed?
I returned because the kind of party that we had in 2018 that made me leave the APC is not the kind of party that we are having now going into the 2023 elections.
What has changed in the Lagos APC?
I am a founding member of the APC and I registered in 2014. What has changed is that there has been a convention that has produced a new leadership. I have confidence in that leadership and AMCO (Akinwunmi Amnode Campaign Organisation) has confidence in that leadership. We want the leadership to give us a level playing field. We didn’t have that level playing field in 2018. There was no primary election. The result that they supplied was cancelled by the man who came to superintend the election and the same man announced the cancelled result the next morning at the airport. Who does that? All those gimmicks and shenanigans, with this leadership that we have now, I think we have tremendous confidence that this leadership will give us a level playing field and that is why I came back.
You picked up APC governorship form to challenge incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the party’s primary. What are you bringing to the table for Lagosians that is different?
I’m going to focus on five major things. I’m going to focus on improving the security of Lagos because we are a coastal state and we don’t have enough security around the coastal areas. I am going to focus on the security of the state and it will involve neighbourhood security, marine security, hinterland security in areas like Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ibeju-Lekki and Ojo. We have to be very careful in these days of kidnapping and banditry. We cannot afford to neglect those areas because if any kidnapping will embarrass Lagos State this time around, it may likely come from those hinterlands. I am going to be very strong on hinterland security and I will also make sure that there is a complete overhaul of the security architecture in a way that our people can feel safe and secure.
The second point is energy. I am going to focus on the major areas of energy; one is electricity. I must increase the electricity supply in Lagos. Lagos must generate its own electricity to power the state. The second leg of that has to do with petroleum products and I will put the federal authorities under pressure to ensure that we don’t run out of petroleum products. I don’t want to see those queues that we have every time. The third one is renewables. We need to start introducing renewables to our energy means and the fourth one, of course, is the gas. We have enough gas in Lagos that can power us for the next 200 years but nobody is tapping this potential.
The third point in infrastructure and the major one is transportation; goods and people must move at very fast speed. Anyone that is not focusing on transportation is not going to help Lagos. People spend hours in traffic to commute to and fro but I am going to see that I reduce that tremendously. Also, the health sector and the social service will be focused on. The Smart City Project will also be a focus of my government. We will not be a serious government without focus on the Smart City Project.
The APC governorship was sold for N50m. Who are your sponsors?
I’m a man that has reached the height of my career in the private sector. I have been general manager, executive director, managing director and chairman of major companies, like Intercontinental Capital Market, and others. These are large corporations. If they sold the forms for N200m, based on the work I have done and the wealth I have created over 30 years, I could buy it.
Do you have the support of Ambode for your governorship ambition?
Absolutely; I am member of the Ambode Campaign Organisation.
What is the grievance of AMCO?
There is no grievance. We are participating in a democratic process. We have a national party open to all groups and all individuals and we are participating in the internal democratic process of APC. There is no grievance; we are all members of the same party, we are not enemies, we are just adversaries seeking the same position – there cannot be two governors. So, there is no way that you will say only this man (Sanwo-Olu) will be governor. No, people must compete. AMCO is not fighting anybody.
Aside from Ambode, who are your other supporters?
I have the support of the people of Lagos. If only you know the thousands of messages that enter my phone saying it is time and they are 100 per cent with me. Our people have been neglected. Governor Sanwo-Olu’s performance in the last three years is nothing to write home about. People want that change and they need the liberty to articulate that change and have it delivered through the ballot box. It’s not about us, or AMCO but about the people of Lagos State.
How do you rate Sanwo-Olu’s performance vis-à-vis that of Ambode?
You can’t rate them; there is a clear difference between light and darkness. Let them (Sanwo-Olu government) come and show us what they have achieved. Government is a continuum, of course. I don’t have any problem with Sanwo-Olu but if the performance of Governor Sanwo-Olu had matched that of Governor Babatunde Fashola and Governor Ambode, there wouldn’t be a call from Lagosians for better representation; Sanwo-Olu would have been the sole candidate when he picked the form but the people are saying, no; we cannot have Ambode who performed very well and you say he is not qualified for second term and Sanwo-Olu, who has done nothing, and you say he is qualified for second term? Who does that?
Do you also have the support of former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu?
No, I don’t. I don’t need it; I need the support of God and the people.
What is your relationship with Tinubu like?
I have never been close to Asiwaju but I respect him as a leader in the party and as a former governor of Lagos but that won’t take away our right to political contest as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the constitution of the APC.
What is your relationship with Sanwo-Olu?
He is a friend and there is nothing personal between us but he is running an administration and I belong to the former administration. That is why I tried throughout the three years not to talk about his administration to give the government a chance to prove itself. I am a Lagosian and I am a stakeholder. If he is doing well, it is a good thing and if he is not doing well, I should be able to say it. I am freeborn and nobody can stop me from saying my mind. He (Sanwo-Olu) has not done well and some people are pushing him for another term despite that he has not done well?
Can you state the areas in which Sanwo-Olu has not done well, in your rating?
Let us check it vis-à-vis my five programmes that I talked about. On security, under Fashola and Ambode, when you dialed the number 112 in an emergency, within less than five minutes, help would reach you. Even if your vehicle broke down on the Third Mainland Bridge in the night, help would reach you if you called the 112 number. The RRS (Rapid Response Squad) vehicles stationed at Iyana Oworonshoki and the ones stationed at Adeniji and Adekunle would have moved in to rescue you. All of those RRS vehicles embedded in different parts of the state are no longer there. Nobody picks the call anymore. So, in security, he has not done well. Look at energy; nobody has moved the energy agenda forward. Look at the Airport Road, look at the Interchange, look at the roads in Epe, Abule-Egba and everywhere. We are going to base this on issues and not sentiments or that somebody is endorsing somebody.
Are you worried or afraid that Tinubu has endorsed Sanwo-Olu?
No, I am not worried at all. The people will decide and if they say I am the one they want, no Jupiter can stop that. I have tremendous respect for Asiwaju (Tinubu) but I am competing against his anointed person. That is democracy, it allows anybody the constitutional right to vote and be voted for. He has the right to endorse anybody but the people have the right to vote for whoever they want.
Casting your mind back to 2018 when Ambode lost the APC primary and was urged by many Lagosians to decamp. What would you say were the chief reasons he didn’t decamp?
There was no primary. I was his (Ambode) representative at the primary. There was no primary in 2018. I am not in Ambode’s mind; everyone is entitled to their decision. He is a party man and out of his loyalty to his party and the fact that he didn’t want any crisis in the party as the party was approaching an election, that was why he said he would leave things the way they were and he wouldn’t contest. Those places where the governors were very resistant against imposition of people, you would realise that the result has not been good for the party. Look at Zamfara and a few other places. These may be part of his reasons. Ambode demonstrated that he was a good party man and ensured that peace reigned in the party. That is why he let it go for the party and for peace in the state.
Did Ambode go with you to the PDP?
Is Ambode still running for any elective office in 2023?
I am not in a position to answer that; Ambode is competent to answer that question himself. We are allies and he is my leader but he has not given me any authorisation to make such comment.
The APC primary is just next week; what gives you confidence that you will defeat Sanwo-Olu?
With God, all things are possible. I believe God is on our side. The people and the party members are also on our side. The voice of the people is the voice of God. We have also spent the past three years building our group to have influential people in every local government, so we are a group that has been existing since 2014 and we have been organising ourselves to make it ready for this kind of contest. It gives us the confidence that God is on our side and the people are on our side. We are also confident of the leadership at the national level, not like the one we had during the last election.
What is your popularity like in the Lagos APC family?
Very high. They are excited that I have come out for this race.
Would you decamp from the APC to another party should you not get the APC ticket?
I am a loyal party man, so I don’t want to answer that question. My exit in 2018 is not a basis to say that I will leave again.
Is there something else you wish to say?
I am not motivated by money or position but by the welfare and the security of the people of Lagos. I won’t abandon the people. Anybody that brings N10trn to me to abandon the people of Lagos is wasting his time because I am not motivated by money nor intimidated by anyone. I will run a responsible government that will use the resources of the people of Lagos for the people of Lagos and take back the resources of the people they are taking away back to them. Lagosians want a change and I can bring that change by doing things differently.