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Lai Mohammed not relevant in Kwara politics –Fagbemi, APC chair

The Kwara State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Sunday Fagbemi, shares his thoughts with DANIEL AYANTOYE about aggrieved members of the party, those who defected to other parties and other issues

Some members of your political party, who defected, are now contesting as governorship and senatorial candidates of other parties. Are you not concerned that this will be a minus to the APC in next year’s general elections?Infomation Guide Nigeria

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Naturally, one will not want to lose any member of his family but in politics, it becomes inevitable. There will always be alignment and realignment. So, those that can be brought back, we are trying to ensure that they are back, and since we have individual differences, I will not want to cast any aspersion on anyone, but at the same time, you will see that some people that also probably left did so because some of them are bad losers; some of them personally believe that they are something, and if that something eludes them, they will go and look for it elsewhere. It happens everywhere. On the issue of the All Progressives Congress losing some people, the political party has also gained some people. It is neither here nor there. There is no party that is the same all the time in terms of membership.

Some aggrieved members of your party alleged that primaries were not held in the state in line with the Electoral Act. What can you say about this?

They should go to court. If you are aggrieved and you are seriously convinced about irregularities, there is always an arbiter, that is the court, and it is free for all. I will not allow anybody to cheat me. So, I will not cheat anybody, and if somebody cheats me and I feel bad about it, I will surely look for a way to get justice.

Senator Oloriegbe alleged that the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, hijacked the APC primaries by handpicking candidates. As the state chairman of the party, whose primary was allegedly hijacked, what can you say about this allegation?

I think that question will be better directed to the national headquarters of the party. We did not conduct the primaries, there was a committee that was sent from the national headquarters and when the members came, they met with the stakeholders and gave their briefs. Before the conduct of the primaries, all the candidates were allowed to address them, and they all agreed within a time that the game was being played by the rules and could not be changed after the primaries. They congratulated each other. From the report that I got, everything went well and there was no delegate that was unduly influenced. So, after they announced the result and congratulated each other, we began to hear a lot of things. If there were irregularities there, as a senior lawmaker and a statesman, a party man, there are processes to be followed. So, I don’t believe that it should be something that will now become a subject of public discourse. If he (Oloriegbe) felt aggrieved about it, there was an appeal committee that followed after the primaries. And the governor was not there anyway, he was not at the venue of the primaries. Only the delegate and contestants were allowed into the premises. So, how could the governor have unduly influenced the delegates? I don’t know.

It was mentioned by another aggrieved member that delegates present at the primaries were not known members of the party, and since it was the national headquarters of the APC that conducted the election, do you think some outsiders or non-members of the party could have been imported to be part of the exercise?

It is not possible because there were congresses before the primaries where delegates emerged and it was the national headquarters of the APC that sent in the people that conducted the congresses. After the congresses, there were appeal committees where the delegates emerged, so that if anybody was not satisfied with the conduct of the exercise, there were opportunities for the contestants to lay their complaints to the appeal committee. Also, it was the committee that took away the result of the congresses to the national headquarters of the party. The list was compiled from the national headquarters of the APC, the people sent to come and conduct primaries came from the national headquarters. They came with the list of delegates. Senator Oloriegbe is a gentleman, but when it comes to election, many other things will manifest in the character of people.

Some of the aggrieved members have vowed not to work for the party in 2023. Do you think the APC will be affected by their absence?

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How about the people that were voted in? Don’t they have followers? Some of these people are just issuing empty threats, otherwise, why didn’t they retain their seats? Where were their followers when we conducted the congresses? Why didn’t they emerge as delegates? It is whatever God does that is perfect; it is God that gives power. The time he gave it to them, some people were aggrieved, yet it pleased God to let them win the elections. Now, nobody should come out and say without him, nothing will happen. It is only God that has that attribute.

What is the party doing to placate and bring the aggrieved members back to its fold before the elections?

We are trying our best; it is only God who can crown the effort with success. But we will not relent; we will keep on engaging them.

The Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State some weeks ago alleged that the APC leadership was planning to use security agencies to clamp down on some of its notable members. How true is this allegation?

You know that is their modus operandi. That was what they were doing. So, they will expect others to do the same. We are not like them; that is the difference between us and them. Let me tell you, on the eve of one election, when I was the state chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, they made false allegations against me and my secretary, saying that we wanted to go and burn the INEC office. They cooked several allegations that were strange to law, and based on that, we were taken away; we were incarcerated for over a month until the election was over. So, it’s not surprising that they are making allegations because that is the way they know how to do politics. Ours is different because we are civilised people.

Some people are saying they don’t feel the impact of the APC-led government, especially in the area of infrastructural development despite the massive funds that the administration has received. They are of the view that the governor has failed the people. What is your reaction to this?

My reaction is to invite you to come to Kwara State and investigate and see for yourself what is happening in the state. Kwara State is a transformed state now. We have left the state of apathy to become the state of civilised members of the comity of nations because the counterpart funding that was not paid before has been paid now, and civil servants have continued to smile to the bank at the end of the month. They get their salaries and not just percentage as they were used to.

Also, gone are the days when children were learning under the trees. Go round the state, the governor has renovated and reconstructed over 600 schools in Kwara State and the health sector has got a big boost, we have made sure that all the clinics all over the states and the local government areas are now functioning and when you see them, it’s not like those days where you go to a clinic, rather than getting cured there, you get infected. It is a different thing entirely.

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When you look at the level of joblessness, over 4,000 teachers were engaged in the first year, which has never happened in the history of Kwara State. The economy is turning around because it is when money is in circulation that everybody will have a taste of it. Pensioners now get their pensions as and when due. Look everywhere, take a look at the road to my community; they have awarded it more than three times in the last administration, the money went somewhere else. Now, just with a single award from this government, the project is on. They are doing this in all other places. Go to Kwara North. The emirs and the citizens are now very happy and they know full well that this government has demystified governance.

You can walk to the Government House and see the governor. Even when a mischief maker will abuse him and say all kinds of things, he knows that it’s a distraction. So, he faces what he is doing. If it were to be during their time, they would be picking people up and putting them in jail. Things are different in Kwara State now. This is not campaigning, go and investigate and see for yourself. In fact, we have no time for propaganda. No wonder they are telling their party members to continue serious propaganda and start to peddle lies about.

Are you referring to the PDP when you said they?

Yes of course, we can’t refer to any other party, because none of them has had the opportunity of governing the state.

Your party’s slogan, ‘Otoge’, was very effective during the last election in the state. Do you think it will be effective again and do you think the performance of the APC-led administration in the last four years in the state deserves the vote of the people for a second term?

Let me tell you this, ‘Otoge’ has graduated; we left ‘Otoge’ for ‘Otope’, from ‘Otope’, we are now at ‘Isenlo’, which means work is always in progress. Nobody should arrogate any importance to himself. Some people have bloated ideas about themselves, because they relate with the press and so on. God will spare all of us to see the next elections. I am telling you without any doubt in my mind that the margin that the APC will win the coming elections will be greater than what we did the last time. Everything is around the corner. Is it the performance of the governor that people will complain about? Mention any place in Kwara State and I will tell you what is happening there in terms of projects and progress that has been attained there. There is no place he did not touch in Kwara State.

Can you say the same for the Federal Government? Has the Federal Government really fulfilled its promises to the people?

The situation of the economy is not peculiar to Nigeria. All over the world, things have not remained the same, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the world. In terms of security, it’s an issue that is not peculiar to Nigeria and we are not fighting a conventional war. The government is doing its best and it’s a work in progress. What this present government has done in terms of infrastructural development, there is no other government since the return to democracy that has done it. We can take the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a case study. How many governments have come and gone without doing anything there? Even the Abeokuta-Lagos Expressway, the Second Niger Bridge; look at the dualisation of roads, look at what this government is doing. I think this government has tried but one Yoruba adage says, ‘No matter what you do, your enemy will never see anything good in it’.

Some have said the presidential candidate of your party is not fit health wise to be the President of Nigeria. Do you also think the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket will fly for the APC?

First, Asiwaju Tinubu is fit health wise, academically and intellectually to govern Nigeria. On the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket, there have been precedents. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, when he was running, he chose a running mate of the same religion and nobody raised any eyebrows. When Chief MKO Abiola chose Babagana Kingibe, they belong to the same religion, nobody raised eyebrows and they even won the election before it was annulled. So, why is it an issue now? Religion is a thing that is personal between a person and his God. We are talking about Nigeria; ethnicity or religion should not be brought to the forefront. There is no nation that is as religious as Nigeria, but are we godly? Do we fear God? Look at what Japan and Germany are doing, what religion do they practice? I think in fairness, President Muhammadu Buhari has done very well to deserve that his party should be voted in again and more so, the personality that we have taken is a special and exceptional Nigerian who has touched many lives and has performed greatly in known areas of jurisdiction even without Federal Government allocation. Is it religion that will transform Nigeria for us? Is it ethnicity? I think we should focus on real things and not mundane things.

During the Ekiti and Osun states’ governorship election, your party was among those accused of having engaged in vote-buying. What is your take on vote-buying and other forms of voter inducement?

We don’t encourage vote-buying because it’s wrong. What I can also say is; how many people have been prosecuted? People are just accusing one another. I know that in Kwara State, we don’t need to buy votes. Our work will speak for us.

Is there still a faction in Kwara APC, or has the issue with the group loyal to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, been resolved?

There is no faction in Kwara; we have only one APC; the other place where we were seeing APC loyalists before now was the SDP secretariat; we don’t know of any faction in Kwara APC.

Is the party working with Alhaji Lai Mohammed ahead of the campaigns in Kwara?

He is a member of the cabinet of Mr President and he has not denounced being a member of the APC; I believe that he is still one of our leaders.Jamb Result 

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Emediong Silver

Emediong Ekpe is a graduate of English. A professional Sports journalist/analyst, and a spoken word artist. He is passionate about decimating information and putting smiles on people's faces via news writing. Whatapp: 08088735884

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