Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire is the National Legal Adviser of All Progressives Congress ( APC). Before his present position, he was a member of Lagos state cabinet from 1999 to 2011.
But in recent times, he has been at loggerhead with APC Lagos chapter over imposition of candidates in the last LG elections. His stance has led to his purported suspension from the party by those he called impostors, jesters or clowns.
In this interview with Jimi Disu on the The Discourse on Classic FM 97.3 on Sunday, September 3, 2017, he bared his mind on his suspension, his relationship with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and many other germane issues.
Read the excerpts of the interview as recorded by Tolani Abati who monitored the programme.
Q – Can you give us an insight into your suspension by your local constituency?
A – That is not my local constituency. That is just a gathering of people I called impostors, jesters or clowns . You must have seen the advertisement by the authentic members of the party. That is why nobody has dignified them with any response not even the national party. Just ignore them.
Q – Were this the same group that went to demonstrate to the government?
A – Exactly.The same set of people.
Q – But the government honoured their presence. How do you reconcile that if you say they are not from your constituency?
A- I can see at the barest minimum 2019 jittery and I don’t see any reason for it.
Q – Are you running for 2019 ?
A- Certainly not as at now, but I can change my mind to tell them they don’t have capacity to so do. But as l am talking to you now, I have no interest.
Q- Not even when you are offered on a platter of gold particularly from Bourdillion.
A – Certainly not.
Q – What is your problem with APC in Lagos?
A- The problem is simple and narrow. Comply with APC constitution on primary. No imposition of candidates, no impunity, simple and direct. I am not a busy body or a meddlesome interloper. As a National legal adviser of the party, I have a duty as compliance officer. That is my problem with them.
Q – But, Mr. Bamigbetan said you benefitted from imposition in the past.
A – I replied him. Anybody that says so must have deficiency in grammar . When you talk about imposition, you are talking about a situation where you by pass the rules. But in appointment, there is never rule, it is discretionary. It’s where you have rules like we have in the party constitution and you by pass those rules then it becomes an imposition. I have never attempted to contest any election before, much more contesting. So imposition can never be applicable to me. I have never been part of it and i have never benefitted from it.
Q – Are you saying now that the candidates presented for election were imposed?
A – If you ask me as a legal adviser and from my knowledge, I am not aware of any that has gone through the primary process. I am not aware of any.
Q – Where is the problem of imposition coming from?
A- As far as I am concerned, it is Lagos state APC officials who have the responsibility. That is the institution who has the responsibility of the conduct of the primary. So, I hold them culpable.
Q – Are you talking of the chairman specifically?
A- All of them.
Q – Have you ever tried to have a dialogue with Chief Ajomale?
A – Not only that, prior to that election, I went to attend their executive meeting at ACME (APC Lagos Secretariat) where I enlightened them largely about the import of constitutional provisions and they were all happy. Unfortunately he was abroad then. The meeting was presided over by the deputy chairman , Cardinal Odunmbaku.
Q – You said that state machinery was used to distribute those press releases against you. So, you are also holding the governor and his team liable on this matter ?
A- If you are talking of the smear campaign,of course yes, and l am enjoying them.
I have copies of some of them on the letter headed papers of Lagos state government. But the governor can feign ignorance about what has happened.
Q – Did you bring it to his (governor) attention ?
A – I have been unable to access him.
Q – That means you have tried?
A – In fact, he would have seen my text. I have sent him texts apart from calling.
Q – Are you telling me that as an APC Legal Adviser, you cannot access Governor Akinwunmi Ambode within 24 hours?
A – That is the reality.
Q – That tells something, doesn’t it?
A – We have our different styles. Maybe that is his own style . For example, when Governor Fashola was there most of us that were in his cabinet knows that certainly, if you want to reach him, just try him from 11pm to 2am or 3am. Maybe that is his style that he doesn’t deal with phones. That is the only way that I believe that you can reach him.
Q – Maybe he doesn’t recognise your number?
A – Of course, he is used to my number.
Q – In essence, he doesn’t want to talk to you really ?
A- He is at the liberty to so decide.
Q – That means there is a problem and that APC in Lagos is divided. How much of following do you have?
A – I am on my own. Only God is with me.
Q – Is it because of imposition that you lost Osun ( Senatorial District election)?
A – I believe so to certain extent .
Q – I believed that Adeleke could jolly well have been your candidate in APC but because of imposition he was thrown away?
A – That is my view.
Q – Where does that leave your party then?
A – We have to re-strategize particularly when it comes to the issue of internal democracy. We must take it seriously.
Q – Does Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has any involvement in this imposition in Lagos state ?
A – My position is that as far as the issue of imposition is concerned, I will not lay the blame on his doorsteps because he is not one of the members of the state executive.
Q – Are just being diplomatic?
A – I am not being diplomatic. We must start recognising institutions not individuals.
Q – Have you spoken to him (Asiwaju)?
A – I have not spoken to him because largely he is not even in the country these days.
Q – Has he spoken to you?
A – On this issue?
Q – Yes.
A – Not at all.
Q – Has the APC at national level had a meeting on the issue at all?
A – Yes certainly.
Q – Tinubu doesn’t have to be in the country for you to speak to him. Or are you tactically avoiding him?
A – My believe is that under the rule of law you must continuously build institutions. Deal with institutions. Do not turn all these things to family affairs always. It is this family affairs that is causing problems. Anybody can influence things, but my position is that just comply with the provision of the constitution of the party.
Q – In essence, you don’t have any problem with him ( Asiwaju)?
A – I have no problem with him at all.
Q – On a personal note, when was the last time you spoke to him?
A- About nine months ago.
Q – The national legal adviser of APC has not spoken with Tinubu for 9 months and they are from the same constituency. Doesn’t that sound odd to you?
A – No. In the first instance, I have to look for my own survival here and there. Two, as the national legal adviser, l am responsible for the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. I get about three to four matters from each state in a day . Where do I have the time that l used to have before to go to Bourndilon ( Tinubu’s residence). I do not believe people should read meaning into it at all.
Q – There is something wrong if you haven’t spoken to Jagaban for nine months.
A – Honestly speaking, I don’t think there is anything wrong at all. Honestly.
Q – At least, to extend courtesy. Didn’t you wish him barka da sallah? He is your political leader.
A- When it comes to barka da sallah , that can always be done in several manners. You can do that by extension of ram, rice or you send card or text. You can even call.
Q – Did you send a ram to him ?
A – The recession did not allow me. This recession is a serious case (general laughter). Really, I sent a text .
Q- Why do you people are being imposed?
A – I think the tendency of every human being is to be domineering. That is a natural tendency.
Q- Who is being domineering in this state ?
A- In this state we have multiple godfathers . We have ward godfather, we have local government and state godfathers. Depending on which unit you are talking about. In such situations it is just natural that people want to dominate. That is the condition that brought about the change in the constitutional provision to say no , you cannot. Because, if you want to impose, he wants to impose, there will be confusion . That is why we all have to subscribe to rules and regulations in respect of nomination.
Q – Is APC factionalised in Lagos state?
A – To the best of my knowledge it is not.
Q – It is just a pocket of personal interest here and there ?
A – Certainly.
Q – Chief Ajomale has been the chairman for how long now ?
A -Ah! As long as I can remember.
Q – Don’t you think it is time to hand over to younger people?
A – Honestly, I believe so. I certainly think so. Because if people like us are already thinking of retiring already and allow the younger ones, I think he should be anxious too to leave that stage for the young ones to come in. I absolutely agree with you on that one.
Q – But it is not likely to happen very soon?
A – It will. The young ones are taking over gradually. The social media is assisting them greatly. So, I believe very soon they will take charge. People like us must be seen outside to be giving them just back up, not to be on the scene again.
Q – You make it sound as if you are almost retiring yourself?
A -Since l joined politics, I have been telling people that by the time I am 50, I will leave before people start to throw pure water sachet at me.
Q – There are people who are still in politics in their 80s .
A -Those are those ones. We all have different desires.
Q- May be it is easier for you to say that because, you are a lawyer and a SAN, obe tiwa nle (You have something you look up to).
A – That is the difference truly. This is the difference that consistently will draw the difference between professional politicians and professionals in politics. The professional politicians are the problems of the entire nation, not only in Lagos. People must have alternative job. Once they don’t have, they become desperadoes . That is what we are witnessing all over today. I believe we must not have professional politicians.
Q – Are you one of those who believe that there is no vacancy in Alausa in 2019?
A- I heard that it was our Kabiyesi (Akiolu), that has so declared.
Q – Kabiyesi is not a politician, he is not a member of APC ?
A – As national legal adviser of the party, even as an ordinary party member, I believe the stage is always open.
Q – But do you think Ambode has done well ?
A- He has done his best.
Q – I am not talking of his best. By your own ranking, has he done well?
A – By my own ranking it depends on issue by issue. On issue by issue, l will tell you where he has failed and where he has done well.
Q – If we take an average of all , do you think he has done well ?
A – It is one question that honestly speaking if you allowed me, I will not want to answer.
Q – Okay on issue by issue, which issue would you like to talk about?
A – Environment. I do not enjoy what has happened to the graze . They balkanised a lot of areas now . For example Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, where they placed the green where they displaced graze for road. I don’t just subscribe to it at all. There are other ways of dealing with such issues . The way they trimmed the trees along Bourndilon area, I wasn’t happy with it.
Q- What about the new policy on refuse collection ?
A- I don’t subscribe to that equally.
Q – There seem to be some level of arrogance in Lagos APC because they believe they don’t have any challenge. Do you agree with me on that ?
A – To a large extent, I think I will agree with you. I think that will need to continuously run an open government . When we were in government during Fashola’s time, our phone numbers were open to everybody and compulsorily you must respond to the text messages that comes to you.
Q – Do you think that this government has Fashola hangover or Fashola complex?
A – It is not only Fashola. I used to think it was Banirephobia before. Because I tried as much as possible to put a lot of suggestions across but, I don’t get any acknowledgement of it or even appreciation . But I will continue because I am a Lagosian. I can’t leave the state. So, we must continuously be offering our own suggestion through any means we can.
Q – Do you think the APC made a mistake by making Ambode their candidate?
A – It is only APC that can answer that question. I am just one of them. Whether they made mistake or not, of course, that will be a question of time.
Q – That question of time, can you clarify it?
A – It is when they have tested you that they will make their own assessment. His assessment cannot be done now until towards the end of his tenure.
Q- Are you suggesting that there is a strong body within the Lagos APC, that will give Ambode a run for his money in 2019?
A – I don’t have any idea honestly? The way things happen in politics you just suddenly find somebody from somewhere. For example, even the current governor was not in the calculation until the last minute.
Q- Was he a member of the party then ?
A – He wasn’t. He came in towards the tail end.
Q- Who facilitated his entry?
A – I wouldn’t know. He must have decided on his own.
Q – He couldn’t have decided on his own to just come in like that?
A – He is an adult. Not only him . I don’t want to start mentioning names. There were about five other people like that who came in at last minute.
Q – You didn’t want to say Jagaban (Tinubu ) facilitated his entry ?
A – You could be offered something and reject it . It is not in all situations that you accept a gift. If that were so, he could have declined. So , he must have decided on his own to say I want to run.
Q – Who will be given such an offer and decline? If Jagaban had offered you, would you have declined ?
A – I would have declined. When people were talking that I was interested in running for governor, I was just laughing. Some of us are very sensitive to being referred to as a thief. Very very sensitive to it . Stigma is a bad thing.