SENATOR Ganiyu Olarenwaju is one the frontline governorship aspirants of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State. He is one the 14 governorship aspirants of the party that have paid the N5.5m for the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms and ready for the primaries in December 2014.
The consummate politician told ENCOMIUM Weekly that as long as his party conducts free, fair and transparent primary election, nothing will make him leave the party. He was, however, sure that he will win the primary.
One of your campaign slogans is the one that says you are best man for the job. What is it that you have that other aspirants do not have?
What we are telling Lagosians is that we have the track records that they can refer to and that we have in stock the plan to take Lagos to higher level. We’ve also studied what is on the ground and we have that conviction that, to bring prosperity to the lives of residents of Lagos, they need somebody like us to do it. Because we are cued for that. That explains it.
Did you consult with the leadership of the party before embarking on this journey?
Yes, you cannot embark on a journey like this without adequate consultation. We’ve consulted far and wide. It is not limited to the leadership. We consulted with every strata of the party
We asked this because we gathered that your party is poised to field a Christian as its governorship candidate in 2015 and that it has zoned the governorship to Lagos East senatorial zone. What is your take on this?
I am not going to discuss the issue of religion. I have said that several times because religion is a very emotional issue and is going to lead us anywhere. This is the first time religion will creep in into politics of Lagos. That was done deliberately by some people who actually have somebody in mind by coming up with certain requirement that will suit their candidate. I am not going to say much about it. At the end of the day, everybody has right to vote whoever they believe in. We should not start anything that can divide the state. We’ve been working in unison and issue of religion has never been part of our decision making process in the state.
The same thing goes for the issue of zoning too. Zoning, like religion, has never been part of party constitution or the country constitution. So, we need to question the rationale behind the issue of zoning. Anybody can come from anywhere. We’ve had elections in the past that people came from different senatorial districts and different religious background. It was never an issue. Somebody brought it now maybe to serve his own personal interest.
Your names are combination of Christian and Muslim names. Are you a Christian or Muslim?
I am a Muslim but you can see from my names that I have a Christian family background too. We have Christians in my family too.
How confident are you of victory at the primary election?
We got into the race with the confidence that we will get the party ticket and go ahead to win the general election, the confidence has not waned and it will be sustained. Don’t also forget that we’ve been in this race for over eight years. The stage we are now is the outcome of our dogged determination to get there and we are not relenting. We have full confidence that we will get there.
What is your greatest fear about the primary?
I don’t have any fear, none at all. The leadership on several occasions told us and Nigerians that there was going to be primary. They also told us that the primary is going to be free and fair. That it is going to be transparent. So, there is no basis for entertaining any fear then. Because right now, we believe they will do exactly what they promised us they will do.
If you don’t win the primary will you decamp to another party?
How wouldn’t I win? But if there is transparent election, if we don’t win, we will stay in the party. Where it is free and fair, no manipulation, we will be proud to queue behind whoever wins. That should be the spirit for all the aspirants. You can’t win all the time. If your party members did not vote for you to win, then their wishes should be supreme.
It is like you are saying that only if the primary election is free and fair that you will not leave the party if you don’t win?
We constantly hammer on the issue of having a free, fair and transparent primary election. That is very, very important. When anybody asks you, will you leave the party after the primary? You also need to throw it back to them that, the most important thing is having free, fair and transparent primary election.
Are you now saying if the primary election is not free and fair you will leave the party?
No, no, no. Don’t jump into such a conclusion. I am not in this race alone. I am just the symbol of a group and the decision will be taken by all. But we are saying that we will not in any way be a party to a primary that is not free and fair. We will not be a party to it.
Is there any possibility that, if, you are offered your senatorial seat, to step down for a particular candidate you will accept it?
No, I wouldn’t. Some people are already campaigning for my senatorial seat .They consulted with me and I told them to go right ahead that I am no more interested. So, why I will take back the seat? By the time we have our own primary they (senatorial aspirants) would have done with their own primary and someone would have emerged. How do you convince such a person who paid for both the expression of interest and nomination forms to now step down? By obtaining the forms, they already have an agreement with the party which should be adhered to by the party. The party does not have the right to offer me the senatorial district seat someone is interested in. What are they going to tell that person? However, even if the winner of the senate seat agree with the party to offer me the seat, I am not interested. My interest for this 2015 elections is the Lagos State governorship election – no more, no less.
Is there also the possibility of all of you the aspirants coming together to agree on consensus candidate?
I don’t know, I can’t talk on their behalf. Consensus (candidate) is subjective. We should do something that is the norm everywhere and that is the primary election. Let us start to practice internal democracy so that after sometime it will become part of our culture and will sustain the system.
– TOLANI ABATTI