Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is the Labour Party (LP) gubernatorial candidate for the 2023 election in Lagos State. He was also the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Lagos West in the 2019 general election. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke on his vision for Lagos; why he dumped the PDP; the chances of the Labour Party in the next year’s general election, among other issues. Excerpts:
Why did you defect to the Labour Party from the Peoples Democratic Party?
The PDP is a party I love dearly; I joined them formally in 2017 and it was a very positive experience for me. I became a candidate in 2019 and ran for the Senate.
In ten local government areas, I had a historic run with huge support. I have a very positive relationship with the party, unfortunately, the new entrance who emerged as the party’s governorship candidate, created a lot of problems in terms of deception and intrigues.
I was convinced to withdraw from the gubernatorial race and be his deputy and this was done with his knowledge; a decision taken by party leaders. These are people like Akintoye, Bode George, and the rest. They are national BoT members of the party in the state, you can confirm with them what was discussed.
It was after I withdrew, that he started changing the narrative and eventually nominated four others to be screened as his deputy. But suddenly, he submitted a petition against me through a lawyer. It was all about deception; not straightforward.
You spend all that money for a few years building your structure and after also spending so much money to buy form you are not allowed to compete, and later he brings a stranger to the party to be his deputy.
No discussion with me, no compensation plan and for someone that just joined the party to behave like that, it is really despicable. It is unfortunate the party has found itself in this situation, but I am not the kind of person you bench like that.
I know in his opinion I may be a small politician but we would see on the field.
Do you share the same vision with the Labour Party?
Yes, all my political life I have advocated for the working class, for people that believe in dignity of labour. People who are called the silent majority to stand up to their responsibility and not just leave the election to thugs, because Lagos State is made up of so many people.
Those people also want their voice heard. The Labour Party is about the Nigerian worker, people that believe in dignity of labour. They have agreement with the people and the Labour Party’s logo says it all.
Since your emergence so much has been said about your candidacy; how true are reports that you are sponsored by some people for their selfish interest?
Was I sponsored to contest for governor under the PDP platform? I want to be governor; I believe I have the vision to take Lagos State where it should be. I believe I can fix and deliver projects, without godfatherism and the interest of the people would come first. I am not here to mark attendance, it is to give the best possible for the people and form the next government in Lagos State.
I am not sponsored by anybody; in fact, Lagos State has opened more opportunities and gives us confidence that we would form the next government.
We are the hope of Lagos State; we are the arrowhead of people that believe in vision, servant leader, with high cerebral capacity and empathy that is what we represent. Anybody making such an insinuation is building a castle in the sky.
But the party’s state chairman, Awamaridi claims he is the authentic gubernatorial candidate, threatening legal action. Is this a big problem for the labour party to solve?
It is not. The Labour Party was not prepared for this overwhelming attention, but at the same time they knew that things like this would happen.
Awamaridi should bring the receipt for the form he bought. The Nomination form for the Labour Party is N15 million, let him bring the receipt of the form and let us compare.
A placeholder is a placeholder, and to be a placeholder, your name would be submitted, you sign a letter of withdrawal. Your name would not be submitted without a letter of withdrawal.
Also, INEC would not attend the substitution primary when the placeholder had not withdrawn. Almost ten INEC staff were present at the primary between me and Moshood Salvador some weeks back. INEC will not just go and monitor when the process is not followed. The party did the right thing, which is the reason INEC came to monitor.
If you ask any INEC staff now they will tell you that the Labour Party had its primary and I am the candidate. My name would be published, but there is a process which follows. The name will have to be sent from Abuja and then it is published in Lagos. They also have a timetable for that.
Do you mean his accusation is not true?
The party has cleared the air on that, the Deputy National Chairman, and South West leaders were at the primary. Also, the Legal Adviser and Publicity Secretary were there.
We have been speaking to Awamaridi, but everybody can go to court, if this is the process he wants to follow; we would meet him in court.
The procedure is being followed, party form is not free. People cannot be paying for form and you want to get it free; how does that work?
Why are you aspiring to be governor of Lagos State?
Because Lagos State deserves someone better; Lagos State deserves someone, where the funds that are generated in the state are used for the development of the state for the benefit of the people. It should not just be to enrich a group of people and their associates.
Lagos State deserves a visionary leader, a solution to problems. We can’t continue for years to sit in traffic, where the health system is non-existent. No primary education etc. Lagos was called a centre of excellence for something; people pay taxes, how is it affecting the people?
What is the total amount the state is generating? A state that is accountable to the people and not waiting election period to commission projects, playing gimmicks.
So much has been generated, there is no accountability; we need a Lagos State that is visionary. There is nothing excellent about Lagos State. You generate money; how is it affecting the people? Service that should have been delivered a long time ago, but the election is coming.
That is when you now run to do it. We need a Lagos State that works, having the private sector works and not starving them by multi-taxation or having to give kickbacks to the people in government so that you can run. So, that is the kind of government that we are going to run after 2023.
Which areas would be your focus?
Transportation, affordable housing and affordable health care. People would benefit from a transparent government that would put the people first.
Do you have the numbers and support across the state to defeat the incumbent and other candidates?
When people talk about all this, the incumbent, the grassroots I asked; what is the percentage of voters’ turnout with all this money and power they have had for 20 years.
Less than fifteen or sixteen percent, that is APC plus PDP. That is less than nine percent, and that is with the massive rigging. You know what happened in Oshodi/Isolo, Amuwo-Odofin, Okota in the 2019 election.
If they are doing well why are they always afraid of free and fair elections? Let it be clear that we are trying to create a record turnout in the 2023 general election. We are not even bothered.
We are building new voter demography in 2023 and they are not coming out to be bought or intimidated. As long as there is electronic transmission of results, you would see the votes in Lagos or those manipulations would end and we would see the real voice in Lagos.
A lot of people have dismissed the chances of the Labour Party in the 2023 election; they say the party lacks grassroots structure. What is your take?
It is not true; the Labour Party is the future of Nigeria. Let everybody key in first, but the people that would key in are the people who live in the cosmopolitan Nigeria.
Cerebral people that understand the vision; that it is not how you can dance, or shout; ‘emi lo kan’, but you don’t have vision. What is your understanding of the vision when you say you would employ fifty million youths and feed them on garri and beans?
But you see people excited about the Labour Party, it is people who have vision for themselves. You see what happened at the NBA conference, was that social media?
Were they not human beings on the ground excited? APC, PDP don’t have much to offer, the structure is very important to them so that they can share rice and beans, and buy votes. But we have the people and they are excited to come out.
So, you can build structure when you have people. It is not hard; it is just to tell them where they fit and their roles. You would be surprised that we have the structure. I was in Alimosho over the week and was surprised we have the entire ward chairmen complete.
We have NLC that is structure. When they say we don’t have structure, they would be surprised, what Labour Party has not had for a long time is someone who would come and put it into shape. I tell you we are forming the next government in Lagos.
What about finance; can you compete with the ruling party?
What is it about finance;is it for buying votes? If you see the `Obidient` movement we don’t give money. People are donating money, donating their houses. The time has come and Nigerians are after this election, things cannot be the same again in the country.