Sunday, May 29, 2016 1:01 pm
Chief Henry Ajomale wears two political caps. He is the Chairman of All Progressives Congress in Lagos State. Also, he is the Chairman of all states APC Chairmen in Nigeria. He was part of the process that wrestled power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which boasted that it would spend 60 years in power. That bragadocio went off in a puff when the APC juggernaut hit it! Ajomale told ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE and LANRE BABALOLA the factors that made the defeat of PDP possible. He appraised the one year in office of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State. Ajomale revealed that despite his being older than Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the two are great friends and political knidred spirits.
It is one year that the APC government came to power. Let us start by you briefing us on what actually happened that APC was able to torpedo the PDP which boasted that it would rule for 60 years. As an APC insider, how was that feat achieved?
Well it was possible because if there is a will, there is a way because if the people decide to join hands, there is nothing that cannot be achieved. There was unity of purpose. We started this by the leadership of the core party initiated by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and when we started this we were able to get our party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Buhari’s party. We started this together in Abuja, many of us delegates from each of the party, I think we were 32 from each of the party that met in Abuja. Then the following day, we spread our dragnet to capture All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). ANPP came in and that was how we started and we were joined by APGA, the wing of Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha. We held this meeting and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members and leaders could not believe because of their pride. They entrenched themselves, that nobody could shake them, and nobody could move them. Stupidly, they thought Nigerians are gullible, that they could continue to dominate the scene for 60 years as they claimed.
Unfortunately, they could only do 16 years out of the 60 years! When we started, they were looking at us that we were birds of different plumages that can never flock together, that we had opposing views. They didn’t know that when God makes something possible nobody can change that. It was a correct time, the time we decided to unite because Nigerians were tired of the PDP ruling because they were taking us to that abyss of no return. If they had won that election, we would have probably been a begging nation by now because I was thinking when Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela was telling the world that Nigeria’s economy was buoyant then, and I was wondering: Can we be an island to ourselves? When other countries, including American, Britain and all the developed countries are having effects of global economy that is creating problem for everybody, Nigeria alone is saying that nothing is wrong with its economy.
That governemnt said “We are this, we are that”. Then we knew they were reeling out lies. And then we started with forming the name of our party, logo and all. As we were doing these, it was going freely, they thought we would disagree amongst ourselves, the pressure was going on among the governors who were united up there and ensuring that those of us who were in that committee were convinced that we much needed this change in Nigeria. It is a question of determination but the governors gave us the impetus, the energy to move ahead to break all barriers because when they thought that the name would separate us, we were united. They thought the logo, the colour, the manifesto were going to divide us, but God said no, this is the time. We continued, we were able to achieve what people thought was not achievable, and when we were doing that, we had this rebels from PDP who decided to opt out…
Can you assess the significance of the contribution of the five PDP governors …..
Yeah it had an impact at the beginning but everybody had his own motives of jumping on the bandwagon and that motive is what is happening now because those who came later, some of the governors who came with us later on left. It had an impact, serious impact because Kano for example, with the population, was very crucial in this election, so we were happy when the three of them came, though Kwara could not have been significant than Kano but Saraki himself is very key to ensuring the victory of the party. And that had a profound impact on our plan. Like I said we were planning that the generality of the party that if we won, the people had spoken because the people were tired, tired without them seeing what was going on, we probably would not have won that election but they were tired
It is only the Southeast that felt comfortable because they were able to be part of that government, so they were making their way. PDP got much support from south south where Jonathan came from, but if you look at the north east, north west, north central and south west, those four, population wise, they are far more than what we can expect, we were able to bring them and we made them realise that there is a better tomorrow, that the government can be better ruled, controlled and the benefit can be for the people of the country. That was because as at that time unemployment was so high, the poverty level was so high and up till now, that is the result of the last administration that we are still suffering now.
Now when we came in we saw the tremendous damage that has been done to our economy. What did we do? As a matter of fact, nobody knew that it was going to be worse than what we thought because when we were doing our manifesto, we put there, free food, salary for unemployed graduates and because at that time we were relying on the information from the government without knowing that they had destroyed the economy to the level that there is nobody that will come in there that can perform miracle. If the economy had been ok, we would just ride on to be able to ensure that there will be a continuous progress of what was left, but what was left was the rot that we inherited. So it became so massive. The treasury has been so looted by the outgoing administration to the extent that Nigeria was almost bankrupt, because when you look at the foreign reserve, how much did we have at the time we took over? It cannot even last one month.
You talked about the damage done by the last administration, but all along you knew that the government there was corrupt and you made promises, people are saying that majority of the promises you made are difficult to fulfil.
The major problem is that nobody was a magician to know the extent of damage that has been done to this economy. We relied on the information from them. That the economy is buoyant, nothing is wrong with the economy, we relied so much on it because we did not expect them to lie, it was when we got there we saw that if the government did not take over probably by now, we would have been bankrupt or people would have decided to flock to other countries- if not by the grace of God that this government came to power. The salvage that they are doing now is just for some time, because we are just one year. Nigeria’s name had been bastardised, they don’t even trust us, America didn’t even trust us, they are not ready to give us anything because if they advanced anything to Nigeria, they felt that it would be diverted, that is the level of corruption.
So when we came in, it now dawned on us that nobody would want to come into government because of coming sake, because you want to become president, you must be able to do something better that the person you took over from. That is what the people expect but some people were even saying that, forget about corruption, face your own, how do you face the governance without having settled the problem that is on the ground?
A lot of people are complaining that it is one year now and nothing has changed…
Forget about the time! It is not the time that is important but how well. Are you doing it now for the sake of tomorrow? If Nigeria is better tomorrow probably in the next one or two years it would be better. Muhammadu Buhari was given a mandate of four years, so how can you start criticizing him in one year? If they criticize that he travels a lot, they criticize that he doesn’t take care of Chibok girls, is it the spate of bombings that used to characterize the former administration that is happening now for Christ’s sake? Give the government some credit for what they have done, the situation was bad, so bad before, but it cannot take miracles to settle this thing in a year, it is impossible. Buhari feels the cost of administration is damn too high. You know how much time he took before he can get his cabinet together, those who are willing to work with him, we have seen exactly what is going on at the level of corruption, the way Nigerian money was looted, it is coming out everyday, now people can relax and allow EFCC to continue with their job, so that the president will continue to face the administration of the country.
We held this meeting and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members and leaders could not believe because of their pride. They entrenched themselves, that nobody could shake them, and nobody could move them. Stupidly, they thought Nigerians are gullible, that they could continue to dominate the scene for 60 years as they claimed.
How would you access one administration of the APC government in Lagos state
In Lagos, I think, Lagos has even done better in terms of infrastructural facilities. When Akinwumi Ambode came, you know he inherited a very buoyant economy and infrastructural renewal was going on when he came and he started on that note to progress on what was going on. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu established the foundation, Fashola improved on it and that it is how it is supposed to be and the new government is supposed to do better than what Fashola did. So far, what we have seen on the ground is that he has done well within a period. One hundred and something roads were constructed, two in each local government and apart from that, they have constructed so many other roads, rehabilitation of some other roads are on going. So we have now seen that the last town hall meeting that was held in Ikorodu that a new vision has been opened, that the fourth mainland bridge is coming now from Ajah to Ikorodu. Before Ikorodu it splits, which will take you to Ibadan expressway. If they can achieve that within the period we are talking about, if he is going for a second term, I am sure many Lagosians will do that but because of the impatience, when he started, they started crying. Their noise is not doing anything.
But the first thing he did when he got there was to use billions of naira to buy two helicopters for the police, buy security cars, armoured vehicles, motorcycles and gadgets, if you look at the rate of robbery now in Lagos, it has gone down. The level of traffic has reduced, except the oil problem that we are having now there should not be any holdup in Lagos. We have done very well, interms of infrastructure, hospitals, schools – primary schools have been rebuilt in less than one year by this administration. When you look at it again, the rail, the blue rail will be completed soon, at least one line will get to Marina and then terminate in Marina and National Theatre, The one that is going is phase one which will be completed, and when this one is completed, a thousand of people will be moved from Mile 2 and Festac area, straight to Lagos, and those from Badagry axis will benefit because they will park their car in Mile 2 and join the rail to Marina, National Theatre and others.
The other phases are coming, and the road to badagry will commence soon and it is going to be done like the one that has been done straight to Badagry, and it takes you about 30 minutes to get to Badagry when it is completed. It is the extension of the existing one from mile 2.
As they build from Orile to Mile 2, so also it is going to be on Badagry. So the rail line is going to Badagry too, so as you are driving in the inner lane by the traffic, the rail line will take the outer lane, So when that one is decongested, that is no one point that will make Lagos one of the best in Africa. The second phase when it comes, the Fourth Mainland bridge when it comes will decongest Ajah, whoever is going outside Lagos, whoever is going to Ikorodu and the other one to Ibadan expressway, you have virtually decongested all the traffic in Lagos state, Lekki and other environments because it is going from there straight, you don’t need to come to this side at all when you are going outside Lagos.
As somebody who knows much about the APC and the government in Lagos State, people have been talking about: Tinubu, do your own and step aside; Fashola, do your own and step aside; Ambode do your own and hand over to someone else… Is there a particular blueprint that all of them are following?
Yes. There is a blueprint for the development of Lagos State, it is there. It was done during our time, I was a commissioner under Asiwaju Tinubu, so I know it exists.
Forget about the time! It is not the time that is important but how well. Are you doing it now for the sake of tomorrow? If Nigeria is better tomorrow probably in the next one or two years it would be better. Muhammadu Buhari was given a mandate of four years, so how can you start criticizing him in one year? If they criticize that he travels a lot, they criticize that he doesn’t take care of Chibok girls, is it the spate of bombings that used to characterize the former administration that is happening now for Christ’s sake? Give the government some credit for what they have done, the situation was bad, so bad before, but it cannot take miracles to settle this thing in a year, it is impossible.
Despite all the achievements of Ambode within the last one year, people still complains that it floods whenever it rains
There will always be flood. The flooding has always been there. Let me ask you something. In Britain, last year there was flooding, serious one. In Germany, people were being airlifted by helicopter, the thing was so much it covered buildings in some part of Europe during last year raining period. It happened in America.We should thank God that it is only small flood that we are talking about here. If rain falls today and it is flash flood here and there, give it some hours, in less than two hours, the thing has gone, I think we are trying in Lagos and God has been so kind to Nigeria that we have periodic flooding here and there and it is not as much as the ones in Europe and America, where do you derive the word Sunami from? Where did it happen? In Nigeria? So if it can happen in Asia, America, Britain and Germany those that are developed but could not find solution to it because it is a natural thing, it can happen in Nigeria.