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What I would do to salvage Lagos APC if elected state chairman – Fouad

Fouad Oki is a former vice chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and had also served as campaign coordinator for former governors of the state, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode at different occasions. In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke about his ambition to contest for the chairmanship position of the Lagos APC and why there is implosion in the chapter. Excerpts:

You are a former factional chairman of the Lagos APC, why are you aspiring for the position of state chairman?

Factionalisation would go on for long and ever as long as there is no equity, for as long as there is no justice, and for as long you don’t have fairness in the system. Presently, there is nobody in Lagos APC that I would want to run a faction with. How can I do that with non-starters? I lead a tendency of people who are desirous of playing their roles in our party and they see politics as community service. I lead a people who seek justice and are clamouring for equity and fair play. So, I lead a tendency not a faction. How many of them were in the kitchen when we were cooking?

But your movement is seen to be in a competition with the establishment in Lagos and another group called Lagos4Lagos. Don’t you agree?

You guys make mistake; I have been agitating for a equality, justice and fairness for years. I have been agitating begging those who care to listen that our party is going down. Are you aware that the Lagos4Lagos has a destination? My destination is to have a party that would work for all, where are the similarities? You have two different tendencies that would work for all. These are two aspirations. You are talking about the establishment, who are the establishments? People who do not have a role in the organs of our party? You know this, let’s be fair; let’s have it the way it is. Are there people who are desirous of holding on to the reins of political power in Lagos? Yes. You want to call them the establishment; over 80 percent of them are non- starters who do not have political pedigree or antecedent, records of political achievement.

There is politics and political management and administration, there is politics and governance. Because you fraudulently find your way into some level of government does not make you an active politician. Politics is my vocation; for me and I am very active in its participation and I have come a long way. For us to help Nigerians to understand the issue let situate the issue. The Lagos4Lagos are doing fantastically fine, but they have a destination to seek government power. My leading Democrat has one destination; to be given the opportunity to address the ills that are besetting our party. What are the ills? I mean injustice, unfairness and lack of equity. It would interest you that today the highest vote ever scored in Lagos State is the re-election of Babatunde Fashola in 2011 with close to 1.6million votes. Since then no election by our party has recorded that number of votes, though we have been winning, have we ever achieved a one million mark? The 2019 election was water low for us, with over six million registered voters all we could garner was less than 600,000 votes. And you know why it is so? Our traditional voters are no more interested in us; our ways and means are giving them anxiety. I mean they are now looking at us as people who cannot be trusted. Because we give promises we don’t fulfil. Our party members are disenchanted because there is no equity in the system. You have situations where members work for the party only to be discouraged when our members seek offices. You know what happened in the last local government election; where chairmen were elected with 5,000 votes, councillors with a little over 500 votes. Right now the situation is sad and worrisome. As we are talking now, some people are saying leave the party, let us go and bring a chairman from another senatorial zone, our people would vote for us. Because we want to appeal to our general voters and check those who want to work for our general voters to vote for your party.

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Charity begins at home, when your house is leaking you say let us be cosmetic, is that the answer? No, we need a bridge builder. The majority of the party members trust and believe the problem is in harmonising, that is; let us give A and B to you, so that you have a sense of belonging. You have people in the party holding strong views against your ways and you are not bothered. You would agree with me that our party is not united in Lagos State; our party has never been this divided.

Have you made efforts to meet the leaders and tell them your grievance?

I tell everyone that cares to listen that our problem today is our unity. You recall that if not for my efforts and some others you would not have had the Local government poll some months ago. I made an open appeal to the governor. And let me give kudos to the governor, I think he listened. Let us also thank LASIEC, even though they did not do well, but I have written several open letters which I think about seventy pages show the way to go about these issues.

Today, our party in Lagos State is the least popular party and danger is looming, INEC just told us some days ago that they are adopting Bimodal for the 2023 general election. Meaning that there is no one step verification, your face and fingerprint would be used. Meaning that fraudulent act would not be possible in 2023. We must make our voters believe in us for that to be possible. We must have a unifier, bridge builder; unfortunately there is grave silence in our party. Some days back, I was trying to reach out to delegates, I put them on a platform, but they were told by some people that all of them should delete themselves from the platform but who is losing? Me?

Do you think you stand the chance; the incumbent is being backed by powerful forces?

I would not have started if I would not have stood the chance. I don’t have powerful forces, except party members, but let me tell you today and I am just sounding a note of warning when people refuse to do the right thing. Accepting is the truth, what we have is graveyard silent; people know where their heart is.

Are you ready to seek alliance with other groups toward achieving your ambition?

It is not taken; you have to expose yourself with delegates to that congress, and you now reach out to party members. For instance, this interview is a way of explaining to party members about the state of affairs and the way out. Also, this is what I am doing to lead the party and I have my manifestos.

Have you bought your form, because we hear they are hoarding forms?

Yes, I have bought my form. This is what they are doing in Lagos; they are hurting themselves because the national leadership had explained the process to buying form, which is by making payment at any bank and subjecting your teller to verification. After that you can pick your form from anywhere in Nigeria. It is a generic form; it is not a form that is a costume made for any state. During the ward congresses, national leadership sent some officials to come and sell forms in Lagos; those officials were hijacked at the APC Lagos State secretariat. Somebody bought all the forms running into hundreds of millions, just because you don’t want the Fouad Oki tendency to buy form and the likes.

You have only made the national secretariat richer. So, we went to the national secretariat with our evidence of payment. At the Local government congresses it is the same; they hijacked the person sent here and bought all the forms.

The guy that was sent here was hijacked by a non-starter, a prominent member of the party. At the appropriate time we would mention the name of the party member who did that. Because they don’t want us to buy forms and unknown to them I was the national secretariat to buy our forms. It is unfortunate when you don’t allow a level playing field democracy would not thrive; which is what they are doing. Whether you like it or not, they need a Fouad Oki tendency in our party more than our party needs them.

What is your relationship with Lagos4Lagos political group?

The visionary of Lagos4Lagos is my brother, I have cordial relationship with him, I am not a member of Lagos4Lagos, and I have never been a member.

But because of the relationship I have had to sit down with him and give my opinion and suggestions on what he does even when it was the Eko-Ebile group. Also, I lead a tendency; with my years of experience I can’t subject that to any new group.

Do you support what they are doing?

I spoke with him some days ago, when I saw some dirty politics being played by some people in the party who are not thinking deeply on what may be right in the party. I called him and said is this true that you claimed to have the support of this traditional ruler? For me, it is about our party and not about individuals, and he explained something to me which shows that some people are just desperate. Those who want to be chairman of the party should not resort to telling lies. Those with aspirations should not go and tell lies. He is my baby brother; I am not a member of Lagos4Lagos.

Have the controversies that led to parallel congresses been resolved by the appeal committee?

We forwarded a position paper to the group and we also expressed our reservations. No state chapter appeal has been held so far for reasons best known to them. They have their plans because they believe there is a need to manage this crisis. It is unfortunate that some people continue to do the same thing over and over with impunity. The same appeal committee sent for the ward congresses was the same one sent for the local government congresses. It is unfortunate. I am a bit worried, but we are studying it. A member of Lagos APC was appointed member of the appeal committee to Lagos. We would expose them at the appropriate time. I have not changed any bit. I am not doing what is different from what we did in the past.

Like I used to tell them, I am not NADECO, it is those who run away that are NADECO. We would subscribe to the tenet of the party, go back and ask them. They would tell you that I am not doing something novel in 2021; I am worried about a party that is in comatose; my preoccupation is about how to save the ship.

The chairmanship election involves a lot of financial cost. How deep is your pocket?

It is about you reaching out to the delegates. You know what; I have what others don’t have. Most of the delegates have worked with me one time or the other and they know me. I know them. I am resolute it is not about you winning, it is about you expressing yourself. If at the end of the day in a free and fair election I lose, that is the desire of the party, I would accept. I am saying let us have an open space and I tell people if I don’t win heaven would not fall. But I would sit down and look at what I put back to the party in terms of commitment and passion and take it up from there.

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