HON. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni has every reason to be joyous and be grateful to God Almighty. The former Chairman of Lagos Island Local Government Council has now been reinstated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the authentic candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Lagos Island Constituency I seat of Lagos House of Assembly in the forthcoming April 11, 2015 general elections.
This was done on the orders of the court which found the substitution of his name in the first instance null and void.
He told ENCOMIUM Weekly what happened and that everything has been settled both by the court and the leadership of his party. According to him, there is no victor, no vanquished. The ultimate victor is democracy and the rule of law…
How do you feel about your victory at the court?
I want to thank God for His mercies. For me, there is no victor, no vanquished. If there is any victory at all, it is democracy and rule of law.
We are aware that you won the primary election by 186 votes to 70 votes. So, how did it happen that the aspirant that got 70 votes became the winner?
I did not know anything until the night of January 27, 2015 when his (Hon. Masha) supporters were jubilating on Facebook and were posting messages that people should go and check INEC website that the name has been changed to Hakeem Masha. That was the first time I got wind of what was going on.
Our argument was that how is that possible? There are clear provisions in the Electoral Act that states that once a name has been submitted by a political party, it can only be changed on three conditions: (1) That either by way of death of that candidate. (2)Voluntary withdrawal or (3) If he is a candidate of more than one political party.
For me, I am hale and hearty. I did not resign and I am not a candidate of more than one political party.
So, to us, it was absurd for my name to have been substituted. We, therefore, decided to approach the court for interpretation. As we speak now, it is my own form that is displayed by INEC. They have not changed the form of my candidature.
Before you can be a candidate of a political party, your form must have been displayed by INEC. That has not been done on his own side. If you go to the local government it is my form and particulars that is displayed by INEC. Thank God the court has answered our prayer. The court said that my name should be reinstated and that he should be restrained from parading himself as the candidate of APC.
What do you suspect happened? Why do you think your name was substituted along the line?
It was a conspiracy. But whatever it is, the most important thing is that God has restored our mandate.
Who do you think is behind this conspiracy?
We don’t know. We are not in the know when they went to change the name. But when we started to investigate after the name was substituted, we found out that the national leadership of the party had already written to INEC to reinstate the name when they also found out something funny was happening there. The leadership of the party had written as at January 15, 2015. We got a copy of that letter and gave it to the judge.
Even the APC in Lagos said it was not aware of any substitution of name.
Who are those that you suspect to be behind the substitution of your name?
God knows them and they know themselves.
There was the rumour that you are being promoted by the leadership of the party to be the next Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly. Could the substitution of your name have anything to do with that?
I don’t know anything about that. All I know is that some people said I should go and contest.
Who are these people?
The leadership of my party in my local government, they said I should go and contest and I went to contest.
Also, there is condition precedent for you to aspire to any position in the House (of Assembly). You must first win an election and become a member. That is what some people don’t want. They don’t even want me to contest at all. We thank God that God in His infinite mercy has restored our mandate. Hopefully, we will win the general election on April 11.
Some of the allegations against you is that you did not resign your appointment as the General Secretary of the party 30 days before the primary election as stipulated by the Electoral Law and that you are one of the signatories to Hon. Hakeem Masha nomination form.
That is most absurd. There is no way I could sign for him. I did not sign any form for him. Probably, what he meant was the slip I signed for him when he submitted his form. The slip was not part of the form. It was just a slip of acknowledgement that he has submitted his form to us.
You signed it then as the secretary of the party?
Yes. I did not sign any of his form. That was a lie. They said I did not resign. They should ask Otunba Henry Ajomale, whether I resigned or not. I resigned as I ought to.
They also said I did not obtain a waiver. The day I was resigning even before I resigned, I already wrote for a waiver and the chairman of Lagos APC had already signed and sent to the national leadership of the party.
Maybe it was by divine intervention. Because when the Lagos chairman signed the waiver, I collected a copy from him and sent it through DHL to the National Chairman and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. When the case came up, I went to DHL to get paper used for the delivery. I was given and it showed that the letter was given to the receptionist at the national secretariat by name, Mr. Jesse. The letter got to the National Chairman on November 8, 2014. The National Chairman signed the letter and treated as at November 10, 2014, and sent it to the National Secretary who ought to have written me. That was where they started to play funny. That was where their master started to play funny.
After that, I obtained form and I was screened. I submitted myself for screening and I showed the Screening Committee all what I have done and they gave me Certificate of Clearance two weeks after the screening exercise, that I was eligible to contest.
The waiver was signed by the national leadership of the party not by Lagos State. Beyond that, he (Masha) said he wrote an appeal to the Legislative Appeal Committee. That is another lie. He never did. He wrote to a different body, which is not known in our constitution or the guideline to the primary election. He wrote to National Appeal Committee. There is no body known like that. What we have is Legislative Appeal Committee.
Two, his petition was written after the primary election not before it. All the issues raised in his petitions are issues he should have raised with the screening panel. He now wrote to an alien body on December 3, 2014, after losing the election. As a lawmaker, he is supposed to have known the guidelines relating to the primary election. He now wrote to National Appeal Committee which is non-existent and alien to the party. So, his appeal was not treated.
He and his matter are not smart at all. Our constitution states that when there is a petition against any aspirant in the primary election, the aspirant must be given a written copy of that petition and he must respond to the petition too in writing. Up till the moment I am speaking with you now, I did not receive any petition against me. Didn’t our constitution grant us all the opportunity of fair hearing?
They also said that they wrote to the party’s National Working Committee (NWC). In the party guideline, the National Working Committee (NWC) is like an appeal court. It is supposed to handle a petition that has already been handled by a lower body.
To make their matter worse, they claimed I was disqualified on December 19, 2014, and he (Masha) was notified on December 20. But on December 22, the National Chairman and the National Secretary of our party wrote to INEC submitting my name as the candidate of the party. Is that logical? Somebody you claimed you have disqualified, you now write again to the same INEC that he is the candidate of the party three days after you claimed you have disqualified him. Somebody, somewhere is just trying to be ingenious.
We are three on that page that my name was written on by the National Chairman and National Secretary as the candidate of the party to INEC. The other two, are Hon. Ramotallahi Hassan from Amuwo Odofin and Adekanye from Lagos Mainland Constituency I. Three of us were on the same page. The National Chairman and National Secretary of the party signed on that page. On 25th, it was acknowledged and returned to them (APC) and I was given a copy. We asked him (Masha) where is your own form? Up till now, he cannot produce the form CF001 or CF002.
We thank God for everything. We have passed that stage now. The court has decided. The leadership of the party has waded in and have appealed to everybody to let bygone be bygone.
That was why I first said no victor, no vanquished. I pray that God in His infinite mercy will grant everyone of us his heart’s desire.
Did the court case in anyway affect your electioneering campaign?
The truth is that at no point did it affect my campaign or my acceptability and popularity among my people. Even when it was done on January 28 on January 30, 2015, when Buhari came to Lagos, it was my picture and my name that was on the brochure for that event.
Subsequently, the party at no time recognized him at any political gathering or rally as the candidate of the party. All the campaigns that the party did it has always been me that has been shown to the electorates as the candidate of the party. Like I said, bygone is bygone. Let peace reign, I wish everybody all the best.
How is your electioneering going?
It is gathering momentum. God is in control, we will surely win. If not by landslide, at least 70 to 80 per cent of the total votes cast.
You do not nurse any fear that things could change against you?
No. We will surely win, God willing. We do not have any fear about the election. We are already connected. The name is an household name. The name is associated with success. We are one of the few people that can be presented and people will not question our choice because they know us as performers.
What do you think would have happened to your candidature if the election had not been postponed?
It was divine intervention. But I think the judge would have used his discretion to dispose off the case before February 28, 2015. Everything has worked for good. We just thank God.
– TOLANI ABATTI