By Eric Elezuo
With most parties beating INEC’s deadline to submit the list of their parties’ candidates for the 2019 general elections, one man and his party seems very certain of wrestling power from the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State. He is Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In this interview, the don revealed his mastercard to silence the ‘big’ parties and candidates. Excerpts:
May we please know you?
I am Adetokunbo Pierce, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party for Lagos State.
That’s a huge one, just one more step to becoming the governor of Lagos State. How does that make you feel?
I have always had ideas of what I think Lagos should be; what elected officials should do and how they should behave; improve and construct infrastructures to make Lagos a better state, not just in Nigeria but in the world. Much as I am not overtly ambitious to make it a do or die affair, I believe that the truth will prevail and if I am the one to make the life of Lagosians better, then I will get into office.
As you have gained the ticket to run for SDP, what are your antecedents? What credentials do you have to present to the people of Lagos State?
I’m coming from the academic background. I am an intellectual I have been a teacher for 35 years now; 20 years teaching in the American university, about 12 years teaching at the University of Lagos, and before, then I was in the administrative arm as Secretary to the Admission Committee at the Bayero University, Kano.
I have also been involved in many political endeavours both in the US and here in Nigeria. For instance, I was a Political Consultant to former President George Bush Jnr. In the same vein, I was political consultant to Senator Hillary Clinton when she was running for the Senate. In 2004, I also ran for Congress in Brooklyn District 11 in New York. So I have quite a number of experiences and a pile of work done.
I returned to Nigeria to support my good friend, Funso Williams in his governorship bid but then unfortunately, two weeks after my return he was killed. It was then that Chief Bode George invited, and told me that he knows all the good work I have done in the United States and wanted me to support him. I was with Mrs Funso Williams as her campaign manager; she was then the preferred candidate at the time. So, we went for the primaries and Mrs. Williams won and we had been told then in PDP that if a candidate wins by simple majority, he/she has won. When Mrs. Williams won they said there was going to be a run-off between her and the person who came second. We went into that one again and she won. Mrs. Williams read her speech, she was heard by all and sundry, the media carried it and some days later we heard the election had been overturned.
Feeling very cheated, many of us were invited to APC or rather ACN at that time by Bola Ahmed Tinubu who approached us with the argument that we had been cheated in PDP and he was offering us a better platform. That was not really the major reason I went. It was actually because my good friend, Mr. Babatunde Fashola was running for the post of Lagos governor then and I felt here was an opportunity to help someone I know very well. Moreover, Fashola himself had called me and asked me to help with his campaign. He actually told me that Tinubu who was the then governor had told him to go and look for his own people and he called me as I was one of the most experienced persons he could think of, so now I was in ACN with a number of bigwigs; Gbajabiamila (Femi), Tinubu (Bola Ahmed), Mamora (Olurunimbe), Bayo Williams amongst others.
We know you were recently in the PDP, what led to your decision to move to SDP?
At the December 9, 2017 National Convention of the PDP where we were to elect a new national chairman, there was a truckload of problems. Already, in Port Harcourt, Modu-Sheriff had been announced as the chairman and that created fallout and split the party into two because Senator Ahmed Markafi was announced winner also. I took sides with Modu-Sheriff because I felt if this man was to be removed as the Chairman, it must be done democratically. You can’t just wake up and say this man is no longer the Chairman.
Between 2013 and 2014, even early 2015, there was so much acrimony in the party then, the Markafi group were against the Modu-Sheriff group. I was the Publicity Manager for the Modu-Sheriff group in Lagos state and I would go to the media and say things about the Markafi group and the Markafi group would do the same. Then I thought about it, this cannot be healthy for the party and if this continues, we would all sink. And we were so divided, so weak that during the 2015 election, the fabrication called APC was able to defeat us.
Now, after the Supreme Court injunction which recognized Markafi as the chairman and gave him power, I thought now this feud is over, let us all line up beside Markafi and support him but the Markafi group were not dignified in victory, and began to punish everyone from the Modu-Sheriff group. At that point, I said I was not going to support anybody, I would go back to being a Political analyst.
Then we were going to have the election for National Chairman and I felt that this could integrate us back together. I was the Spokesperson for Tunde Adeniran who was then contesting for the position of national chairman. So, there was a meeting and it was stated that the Chairman should come from the South, we from the South then had a meeting and in that meeting we felt that the chairman should come from the South-West because South-South had just been president and national chairman but Governor Wike of Rivers state disagreed and said it was going to be from the South-South and it was going to be Secondus (Uche). We had the national convention and Secondus emerged after a crude and unfair electoral process.
We then went to them and said we have run a good race, we have done our best, now please give us a role to play but Wike and Secondus said no, South-West has not contributed anything to the growth of the party and we could go to blazes. So, Jerry Gana and Adeniran, the founding fathers of the party decided it was time to leave and I felt if my leaders are leaving, what would I be doing, hence I came to the Social Democratic Party and I have not regretted that decision ever since.
Here is a party built on the ideology of democracy, committed to building and growing a new and formidable Nigeria in all ramifications.
Okay Sir! Returning to Lagos state, how do you and your party, the SDP plan to wrestle power from the incumbent APC and the major opposition, the PDP?
First of all, the reason why the PDP has not been able to win governorship elections in Lagos state, going to 20 years now is because of the disunity in the party, the imposition of candidate and the lack of communication between the national leaders and the state chapter. All these things are absent in the SDP, we are a united party and there is fellowship and brotherhood and because of all this we are hopeful of emerging victorious.
As for the APC, the reason we are going to defeat them is because they have failed at the national and state levels. Even the party itself has come out to say its current governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is a failure, very myopic, short-sighted and vindictive, and the people are looking for a change which is myself and the Social Democratic Party, and we are coming with great vision for social welfare, free education, free healthcare, affordable housing, mass transportation and we are going to argue with the Federal Government on devolution of power; that the state must have control over its natural resources. You cannot take money from here and use it to develop other areas where the leaders are not ready for development. What that does is create loss of confidence in state’s ability to work for itself.
Ondo state is a good example; with the third largest deposit of bitumen in the world but they cannot touch it. I remember listening to Governor Segun Mimiko some years back complaining bitterly about it; it makes no sense. When I get there, I would get the other governors to see things from this angle and we would raise our voice against the Federal Government.
Also, the extravagance of APC governors where they spend lavishly and live like emperors would stop; we would fight against that kind of attitude. It would be more money for the people and more money for investment.
It has been said that Tinubu exerts a lot of influence in Lagos State and his influence even goes to the grassroots with structures to garner support, even to asking a sitting governor to step down. How can you match that?
Point of correction, influence in APC not in Lagos State and he can ask a sitting governor to step down because he belongs to his party and he is his puppet. Now, he has brought Sanwo-Olu who I called Sanwo-Bola because he has come as a puppet to serve Tinubu, so Tinubu’s power is just in his party. If Tinubu was so strong, how come Jimi Agbaje with a divided PDP at that time almost defeated Ambode. You would find out that all their candidates are always weak and vulnerable and when they face a united SDP, they will crumble.
Tinubu and his party are not as strong as they seem, look at Ekiti State, inconclusive same as Osun State before they finally did their rigging and malpractice to win. So, a party with all the federal power and still struggling to get the people’s backing says a lot. If they come to Lagos State, they will fail and falter. People are tired of the congestion and gridlocks on the road because the governor cannot say to the Federal Government we do not want all these trucks on our road. People are tired of living in houses that are worse than what people lived in 50 years ago. People want a situation where the said change is obvious and imminent. Tinubu is not going to win the election with all his rigging and evil machinations because 2019 is going to be the voice of the people. Since Fashola left, the party has been failing, look at the roads, no attention to sanitation. Think of the tollgates, for example, the one at Lekki, the fee is ridiculous. If you forget something at home and you have to go back, you would be spending about a thousand naira, that is unfair and a crime against humanity. What of those earning 30,000 naira or below? And even if you must collect that much money, there must be a social consciousness to help those who cannot afford that much.
I understand that these days the commissioners cannot sign a cheque of 5million naira, who is signing it then? The governor or an autocrat? These are some of the things that must change, so at SDP, we are promising to change the change. Who told you that you have more knowledge than the commissioner for housing? My commissioners are going to be real commissioners not somebody’s puppet and you would live in your own house. Jakande lived in his own house; no one is buying any house for you. I would live in my own house so these monies can be channeled into something more productive.
What of all the quarters meant for them?
We would find a way to turn it into income yielding for the state. The key we are going to follow is no wastage. If you are travelling, no first class, you go by coach. Money must be used for something responsible and useful, things that the public can see.
With SDP being a relatively new party, how do you plan to muster enough voter education to get people to know about your party and vote for you?
It is not really a new party, it was the party of MKO Abiola and it has even been there before the PDP, so we are just coming in from the PDP to reinvigorate and re-energize the party. It is not a new party; it was even the party of Ahmed Tinubu at one point, so it is a big party. We have structures in 185 wards out of the 200 plus in the state, so we are on ground with officials in every local government and we have people running in varied offices.
Another point of interest is the Presidential candidate the SDP is presenting. A man known for decency, performance and achievement; a man whose track record is difficult to match – Dr. Donald Duke. You know with Duke at the centre, my likes of me at the states, life will just return to the fullest for Nigerians. No presidential candidate as we have them today can deliver better than Dr. Donald Duke!
Many people might not be in consonance with the APC at the moment but word has it that your party liaised and supported the APC in the Osun state governorship election. How do you tell people that you want to oust a party that you recently supported?
We did not support them. It was a singular decision by our candidate, Iyiola Omisore to support the APC; we had no hand in it. People will recall that the national chairman, Chief Olu Falaye came out the next day to distance the party from that alignment. Also, I put it to you that the actions of the APC to Omisore were criminally inclined, how can you say if someone supports you, their EFCC problems are over, that they can be above the law, that his passport that had been seized by the EFCC would be returned and he would be given a ticket to the senate. The problem here is not with Omisore but with the APC and this shows you how criminally inclined the party is. The APC has become a refuge for shaddy characters and history will prove us right, and Buhari is the leader, himself a pretentious hypocrite.
This is why when the issue of Adeleke’s school certificate issue came out; because he himself doesn’t have a certificate, he said forget it. We said it from the onset that this is not the person to lead this nation in the right direction. Look at Senator Godswill Akpabio; the moment he left the PDP to join the APC, he becomes a hero. No one is talking of all the money he embezzled in Akwa-Ibom for which he was brought in by the APC led EFCC and then he became the leader of the PDP in Senate after money had exchanged hand and for three years, he said nothing. Even Musiliu Obanikoro; from the moment he went to APC, no more talks of the four billion naira he was accused of stealing, even those accused of murder just switch to the APC and that is the end. These are the things that people know and we are saying 2019 is going to be the time to let the people’s vote count and if that happens, APC is out of the national and state governments, and we can start building our country again.
Who knows this new man they brought for governor? What pedigree does he have? Nobody knows this guy and even his own party has said things about him that disqualify him. My fight is against two-faced people and if you vote for me, my concern is for the grassroots people, the everyday people, the common people and how we can make their life better.
If you get elected, what would be your major area of concentration, what part would receive paramount attention?
Every area is of paramount important. However, it is my wish to create a drainage system so that when it rains, the water will flow into the canals and into the water bodies. Reason being is that with poor road, when it rains, you are in deep trouble of where to pass and where not to and time is money. The drainage is what spoils the road and they have to keep on redoing it, houses become water-logged and collapse because the roads are bad, we would endeavour to eliminate that and make every place neat and free of flood.
We will work on sanitation and create a new and revamped Lagos. Lagos is an island and for me it is wastefulness and foolishness to focus on building bus stops that immediately the rain comes become useless. We have not utilized our water ways effectively and we must work with other states including Ogun and Oyo to make our state a home for all and sundry.
The antidote to poverty is education and UNESCO suggests that 26% of the budget should be on education. The Federal Government of this administration spends as low as 7% on education and that is a crime because you have destroyed the future of the child. We are going to make sure that school becomes so conducive and children are willing to go to school. Our leaders have been so negligent of the plight of the masses and all that must change. How can you be driving in the most expensive vehicles around? You, a civil servant? Those things must change. They said food in school which is just rice and oil. We will train teachers, reconstruct buildings and make all the difference. How can there be no books in schools? We do not teach History. Our curricula are ancient and antique; when we come in, we would engage the Federal Government for a change.
We are prepared to serve and serve the people we will.
Thank you very much for your time.