Politics, Seat of Power

‘I should be offered the ticket unopposed’ – Demola Seriki

Demola Seriki, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former Minister of State for Defence and later Interior Ministry, is one the four aspirants interested in Lagos West Senatorial district.

He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview that as a former minister, the party should have offered him the senatorial ticket on a platter of gold. That people like him who have served in the highest policy making body like Federal Executive Council (FEC), National Council of State and National Security Council, should be accorded the privilege to serve in the Senate without any hindrance.

He also argued that senatorial election is state wide issue and therefore aspirants should be allowed to contest in any senatorial district of their choice.

What will you say informed your joining the senatorial race for Lagos West senatorial district?

demola_serikiObviously, there is inner lifetime ambition and that is being very consistent with my readiness, my preparedness and affection for the job.  I ran for the first time in 1992, second time was in 1999, third time was 2007. This is the fourth time.  God in His infinite mercy has considered it then that it wasn’t time until I have the prerequisites. That prerequisite was ministerial of which I had a huge opportunity to serve Nigeria, to serve my state and to serve myself and to benefit my mental alertness and wisdom. So, I think that prerequisite is what I consider the huge crystal platform on which He (God) is taking me to be in the Senate.   Experience is something that money cannot buy.  When Nigeria has invested on someone overwhelmingly, you cannot afford not to make the usefulness of that person. Anything otherwise is uncivilized and of course is a disservice to the benefit of our people and our children’s children.

The first three times you contested for the senate were in Lagos Central senatorial district,  why now in Lagos West senatorial district?

Because I am a proponent of senate to be a state wide election. When you look at the House of Representatives and House of Assembly they can be localised.  Secondly, I am native Lagosian.  There is nowhere I cannot contest from in the whole of Lagos.  I can even contest in the (Lagos) East.  I am from Isheri which is in Kosofe Local government area of the state.  It is those people who have handicap to go anywhere that cannot contest for election anywhere in the state. For instance, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu contested here (Ikeja) and the Tinubu family are from Lagos Central. Senator Afikuyomi, from Lagos Mainland came to contest here (Lagos West). Same thing for Senator Wahab Dosumu.  He became a minister from the central. But he was native Lagosian. (Senator Ganiyu Olarenwaju) Solomon, of course, his father is from Abeokuta and his mother is from Ikorodu.  It doesn’t really matter.  My father has houses everywhere.  One of his houses is the one I am using in Agege.  I can claim Agege, I can claim Badagry.  In fact, I became so bewildered about which of his houses I should choose from between the one in Agege and the one in Badagry.

For those who don’t have a place to claim they will still be looking for somewhere or a house to rent in a particular area.  I don’t need to rent a house anywhere. Nobody is my landlord and I am not a tenant to anyone in Lagos State.  As a result I am a native Lagosian.  Most people living in Agege, Surulere and Mainland are all from Island. I have a lot of family members living in Agege.  I have a lot of aunties spread around Lagos. So, as a native Lagosian, I can contest anywhere. We are not like the Ijebus, Egbados and the Egbas who are of different cultures and different people. That is why Lagos is cosmopolitan. You people should not be asking questions about contesting in one district or the other.  Such questions come from people who are trying to be mischievous.  If you are not a mischief maker you will not be asking such a question.  Because such a question is not relevant to our state.  Our state is different, a colourful state, a cosmopolitan state. Look at New York State. New York is like Lagos State, I often say that all the time.  Senator Robert Kennedy was a senator in New York. Hilary Clinton was born in Illinois, Chicago.  All her political life was in Arkansas (State).  They invited her to come and become a senator in New York State. Lagos is cosmopolitan.  The cosmopolitan status of Lagos State does not embrace all these stuff of you contested here and so you cannot contest anywhere else.  (Senator) Ashafa can contest in Lagos Central because I knew he grew up there.  I can contest in Lagos East.  I can contest anywhere. We need to cancel this idea of Lagos East, Lagos West. Have you ever heard of senator from New York West or New York East? Have you ever heard?

No.

Exactly.  So, we must cancel it.  I am strong proponent of senatorial election should be a state wide election. We should not have west, east or central. No. Such should be limited to House of Representatives and House of Assemblies.

Lagos West is the biggest of all the three senatorial districts in Lagos State with 10 Local government councils and 17 local council development areas. How prepared are you to go round all these areas?

I have contested for the governorship of the state before and I went through all the nooks and corners of the state.  There is no part of the state that I cannot reach.  I don’t have any limitation as to where I can reach in the state.  Look, if not because of zoning, I will run for the governorship.  If not because of zoning, I am qualified to be the president of Nigeria and I will go through the entire length and breadth of the country.  In fact, in Europe before you can become the prime minister or president you must be a minister first. Have you ever heard of a governor in UK? There is no governor in Europe.  It is the ministers that become their presidents or prime ministers.  Being a former member of FEC (Federal Executive Council), being a former member of NCS (National Council of State), being a former member of National Security Council, I am privileged to know Nigeria very well, including the workings of the Senate.

How prepared are you for the senate primary of your party?

That is why I am here (Lagos House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja).  I am fully prepared and I am giving it my best. I don’t do politics with poverty.  I do politics with resources.  God has given me the resources to pursue this.  A lot of people may want to go for something, they may not have the resources to pursue it.  I thank God that I have the resources to pursue my own.  You know politics is all about money in this country and where necessary you give them. There are a lot of people who believe in me and have been following me, those ones are not asking for money.

But those who don’t know you will ask for money.  So, you have to bear that in mind that from time to time you must do more to change people’s orientation about this attitude.  If someone is contesting for an election and you ask him to bring money, how do you expect such a person to bring any form of development to the people when he gets there?  We must put people in office because they can do the job, not because they spend the money.  We need senator who can articulate the problems and yearnings of his people.  We want senators who can read and write proficiently.  If you are not a proficient writer, how can you vet letters emanating from your people?  So, you must combine all these skills together. You also have a network.  Networking is very important.  Today in the Senate, we have 18 former governors and 38 former ministers.  It is not a joke or by coincidence.  From that level you are the best that can do the job.  Right now, I am sure you are aware that quite a number of serving governors are going to the Senate. So, the Senate is for the big boys.  For those who have been in highest capacity of decision making in the country.

Are you saying being a former minister you are more qualified than the other aspirants for the seat?

That is among others, it is not just that.  I am enigmatic.  In a place where there is morality, I should run unopposed.  I am the only minister running on APC platform.  So, that should be a plus to the party.  May your road be rough.  It is good that I am going through these rough patches.  It doesn’t matter to me.  All I know is that the delegates are not gullible.  They are more exposed and educated.  They know that we must go with our best team. So, I am one and half more than any other person running.

Do you nurse any fear about the primary?

I don’t entertain any fear.  I have put my faith in the Hands of Allah.  I will respect the people’s wish.  If their wish is for me not to be there, fine.  But I know that among those who have the courage to come out, I am the best and they know it. Because, giving the political antecedents and CV (Curriculum Vitae) of all the aspirants, I am the best this party can present. Look at our colleague, Isiaka Adeleke is going (to the senate) from Osun (State).  He is unopposed.  That is the kind of things leadership must be able to assert. The delegates are not gullible. With all humility, I am even a presidential material.

-TOLANI ABATTI

 

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