Tokunbo Wahab is one of the 13 aspirants gunning for the governorship ticket of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State. He is probably the youngest amongst those jostling for the party’s governorship ticket.
He says his edge over the other aspirants are the youths which he represents and which constitute a large proportion of the electorate. He told us more in this exclusive interview held on Wednesday, November 12, 2014…
What informed your joining the APC governorship race in Lagos State?
At 42, I don’t think I am too young to be the governor of Lagos State. Bearing in mind that the incumbent, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) became governor at 43. You need also to take a closer look at the political space globally, the world is shifting from the old generation to the new generation. I represent my generation.
At 42, I am an accomplished attorney at law. At 42, I have gotten the best of training in Harvard (university) on leadership. In my university days, I was a union leader during the military era. It gets to a point in the life of every individual that you must leave your comfort zone. If you don’t offer yourself for service, if you don’t offer credible alternative, the people will be left with no choice.
We must put apples against oranges, so that apples will stand out. We are not lemons that have occupied the political space of this country. At this stage, if I represent the generation that has the largest population in the demography of the country, over 70 per cent, I think we need to have genuine and credible voice. I also strongly believe that the Lagos of the next few years is a Lagos that has to continue and consolidate all the gains of my party as envisioned by the party leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and actualized by the incumbent, Babatudne Raji Fashola (SAN).
What I am coming to do is to continue and consolidate on the gains. I am bringing in youthfulness, the energy of the youth with freshness of ideas. That is what I am putting on the table.
For how long have you been a member of APC?
I have been a member of the party from Alliance for Democracy (AD) days from where we evolved to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now to the All Progressives Congress. I have been a member of the party all my life.
Have you held any elective position before?
Deliberately, I chose not to. The reason is very simple, I have heard people talk about you need experience to govern. Globally, there are two positions in the world that you don’t need experience. These are the presidential and the governorship. All you need is a very clear vision. You have a party that can set an agenda for you. All you will be doing is to follow that template and see it through as a leader. So, it is not about experience or whatever. If it is experience, the United Kingdom will not go for a (David) Cameron to be Prime Minister. Neither will US will go for an Obama, a fresh Democrat in the Senate as the president at the height of their depression. So, you bringing in a fresh idea of how to do things and let those old men, with due respect to them, guide us through it. We have gotten to a stage now that they (old politicians) must cede authority to us. If they don’t want to cede it to us, we will simply grab it. We are galvanizing our base. Our base are the youths, the generation that has taken over the population. I believe strongly we shall make that decisive change in few weeks.
For how long would you say you’ve been nursing this ambition of being the governor of Lagos State?
Interestingly, all my life. That someday, sometime will come after all the studies, after building a career, you must offer yourself for service. I come from a place called rural area in Lagos State – Epe. I come from a place where they tell us we are the back water of Lagos. I have trekked the length and breadth of that community from when I was young. I see poverty all over my people’s faces. I have traversed a lot of Lagos. If my party now said they have zoned the governorship to Lagos East and they want a Christian, I believe I am eminently qualified to represent my people. My coming to the race is per their yearnings and aspirations.
In what way do you think you are better than any of the other 12 aspirants going the same position?
I strongly believe that for a man to wake up and pick up a nomination form for any elective office he must have a clear idea of what he wants to do and how he wants to go about it. What the party will give you is the agenda and the vision that you must work with. What separates our party from the umbrella party basically is that we have a clear cut agenda. To that extent, I believe any one of us is eminently qualified. But what I am bringing to the table is age. You check the other aspirants, they are above 50. With due respect, I am not saying they are not capable but Lagos needs a man that has the energy to drive that vision for the megacity dream of Lagos. That is what I am bringing to the table. That stands me out.
Have you gone to inform Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of your aspiration?
It will interest you to know that there was a meeting with the leadership of the party on Sunday (November 9, 2014) and the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, did make it clear to all the aspirants that, they should stop name dropping. That, he has not endorsed any aspirant for the governorship of Lagos State. That in the interest of the party we cannot afford to cede any other state in South West. We have hawks in the other party hovering round us and we can’t allow any crack to allow them into our space. He made it clear that we must work together as brothers and that the stake is about Lagos not the individual.
Does he know you personally?
I believe so.
You believe so or you know so?
I know so. I am a party man through and through.
Can you tell us a little more about yourself -your family and educational background, career and marital status?
I was born May 17, 1972, to late Mr. and Mrs. Muyi Olugbenwa Wahab. I hail from Ketu in Epe. I am from the royal family of Atoeshinmara Otuyewu in Ketu. I am from a family of eight, the second born and the first male child. I did my primary and secondary school in Epe. I proceeded to Ogun State Polytechnic where I read Mass Communication. After my OND, I went to read Law at University of Benin, Benin, Edo State. At the University of Benin, I was the president of the Law Society and the Student Union afterward. I had my battle and scar of war with the military junta of late General Sani Abacha. I suffered detention and persecution. Today, I am one of the very few that came out of it alive with my career intact. I am married to my university lover, then Miss Oluwatosin Esho and we are blessed with two kids. My son is Omosijuade Wahab and my daughter is Omofaderewa Wahab.
What about your political antecedent?
Politically, I have been involved in party politics. I have been financing the party at my own level. I have been giving support to the party and I believe strongly in party agenda. So to that extent I think I am good enough to offer my service as the governor of Lagos State.
Professionally, I am an attorney of almost 20 years. I was called to the Nigerian Bar years ago and I have practiced all my life. I started my legal career with Jiti Ogunye Chambers from where I proceeded to Paul Usoro SAN and Co. It will interest you to know Paul is the leading telecoms lawyer in this country. So, I was involved in drafting telecom acts of this country. Then I went to the biggest law firm in Nigeria -Aluko & Oyebode.
They are the biggest law firm in Nigeria?
They are the biggest law firm in Nigeria today and now I have my own law firm. I manage my own law firm rather called Wall & Ace. We are at UBA building Marina, Lagos. So, for me, it is about service. It’s about leaving your comfort zone. We can’t continue to sit in our sitting room and criticize our worst 11. We can’t continue to sit in our sitting room and continue to say the road on my street is bad, there is no power supply, no water, no security. They will ask you what are you doing if you have a better alternative. You must offer yourself. That is what democracy is all about. It is about offering yourself for service for change.
For us, the vision for Lagos is to continue and consolidate on gains of the incumbent. We know it is not rocket science that you must complete the Blue line to Okokomako. Doing that, you have opened up the Badagry corridor of the West. You can now start thinking of low cost housing on that corridor. That will bring development to Badagry by doing that. You also know that it is not rocket science that we must open up the Epe zone because we have the Free Trade Zone there . If licence is given to people like (Aliko) Dangote to refine. So you need a deep sea port and a carriage rail.
We know that if you can dualise (the road ) from Ikorodu through to Epe back to the Lekki corridor you have opened another corridor and you can start thinking of low cost housing. Our people are asking for leadership and that is not too much to ask. Our people are saying we’ve reposed our confidence in you please show us and give us leadership. 2015 will not be different and I believe my party is working towards that.
If you don’t win your party primary what will you do?
I am a party man but I know I am winning. It is a delegate system. By December 3rd it will get clearer. I am certain about that.
That you will win?
Yes. My party men are reasonable people. They are objective and they will choose in accordance to what you offer them.
The question is what if you don’t win, what will you do?
I will be in the party. I am a party man. I have been in the party since AD (Alliance for Democracy). I have never left for one day. And if I will ask you, where will I go? The umbrella party? No. Now that umbrella is torn, it is leaking. So, I will rather remain in my party and build it and make it stronger.
What other elective post would you have preferred aside the governorship?
None. I am a man that believes in his vision and the vision is very clear. To impact positively and directly and more effectually on lives you need executive powers .And in this capacity, I think being the governor of Lagos State will send a very strong signal that my generation can do it. Where a Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, will stop, we will continue.
In Lagos, we can’t go into reverse. If the party had chosen a man at 42 to be governor seven years plus ago, we can’t now in 2015 go and choose a man that is 50+. How do you explain that? We must look inward and we must continue what we have started -progressive governance. And that is what we are offering.
A lot of people believe you are just wasting your time and resources because the party leadership already know who will fly their flag in the governorship election. What is your take on this?
Anybody can drop anybody’s name. But if the man that you drop his name now comes out to say that he has not endorsed anybody, I think we should give him the benefit of doubt. He explained why he cannot endorse anybody. Lagos is not a place you can put at risk. We need to have a cohesive position and a cohesive body to go into the battle against the PDP in Lagos. That is the truth. We lost Ekiti to them (PDP), we won Osun. So, its 1-1 like in football match. So now we are going to the battle royale and that is Lagos. They’ve always had their eyes on Lagos. We have to be united to win Lagos and we can’t afford to have any form of imposition. I know that is why the leadership has come out to say I have not endorsed anybody, go to the field and work, let the winner emerge from the primaries.
My party will be better off by giving us that ticket because, we represent a population, a demography that needs to be connected with. A man of 50 will not connect with a person of 18, 19, 20, 21. We have people that are just entering the electoral age, the voting age. That is the population we are galvanising for this coming election. We are also saying, we don’t just have age on our side, we have the character, I have the capacity and I have the competence to run Lagos.
Electioneering in Nigeria gulps a lot of resources. Do you have such huge resources or you have some people that are backing you financially?
When you have a vision you must water that vision. Without sounding immodest, I think I am using my own resources and I am good enough to go to the primaries and even to the election. People that believe in the vision with us are excited about it and they are rallying around us. These are things that are just coming up. But I believe if you have a vision you must water it for people to come and help to put manure. But if you don’t do that, they won’t do it for you. I won’t want to run for governorship and not have the money to pick up my phone. That is sacrilegious. We have a campaign office and we run a full-fledged campaign there. I believe strongly that these are some of the things that will stand us out. We are not under any loan obligation to any bank. It is only our own hard earned money. Because we believe in the party and we believe in this course and we believe this is how go about it.