Battle lines drawn in Lagos as Odutola, APC chieftain vows not to step down for Tinubu’s wife

A senatorial aspirant on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos Central Senatorial District, Barrister Adetokunbo Odutola, has vowed that no amount of pressure or intimidation would force him to step down from contesting the party’s ticket with Senator Oluremi Tinubu who is currently representing the district at the upper legislative chamber in Abuja.

According to the legal practitioner, who once served as a Special Assistant to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu when he was governor of Lagos State, he would not succumb to any pressure to drop his ambition.

“Many people have expressed surprise as to why I’m seeking Senate ticket in Lagos Central District where the wife of our party leader, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, is currently representing, but I tell them that I’m coming out to run because my people in Surulere Constituency want me to go to the Senate to represent them. There is no going back on my ambition. I’ve collected the form, and I ‘m now preparing for the party’s primaries where I will slug it out with Senator Oluremi Tinubu to decide who gets the party’s ticket. Nobody can force me to step down,” he vowed.

Odutola, who was also a former Vice Chairman of Surulere Local Government Area, spoke on other national issues in this interview with ’TUNDE THOMAS. Excerpts:

You have come out to declare interest in running for the senatorial race on the platform of APC for Lagos Central Senatorial District, why are you aspiring to the Senate? Have you sought an elective office before?

I’m not a neophyte in politics, and this is not the first time I will be contesting elections. In 1999, it was a real battle then in Surulere Local Government Area when I sought to become the chairman of the local government. Although another candidate won, I performed very well during the poll.

But why Senate now?

The legislative drafting aspect of the National Assembly to me appears to be wanting. We could do more. I believe I could add more value to that aspect of our legislature if I become a senator.

With my background as a lawyer, I believe that I have something to contribute to that aspect of our lawmaking. Again, I’m bothered about the high level of unemployment and increasing poverty. I believe that we need to start a social welfare scheme designed to alleviate the sufferings of many Nigerians, even if it’s peanut it will still make a difference in the lives of these suffering Nigerians. Nigeria has the wherewithal to sustain such scheme, and it is one of those things that I will fight for if I’m elected a senator. What stops us from starting a social security scheme where those that are underprivileged or jobless can benefit from.

In most countries of the world, their legislative arm are filled with experienced legal practitioners. You need people who can go lobbying. We need to have a round peg in a round hole.

Are you saying that the present National Assembly has not met the expectation of Nigerians in that area?

I won’t put it in that way. Let me just put it this way, where Mr A’s ability ends, another person’s own starts. To a large extent, members of the National Assembly are doing what they are competent on doing, but I believe that there is still room where much can still be done.

If they give a draughtsman a design, there is a limit to which he can do compared to an architect. We need to have some changes in the area of legal drafting.

How would you rate the chances of APC in Lagos State in 2015 as some people have expressed views that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might spring a surprise by sweeping APC out of power in the state?

I don’t see PDP defeating APC in Lagos State. APC is very strong in Lagos. Their leaders are just making noise. They can’t make any impact in Lagos State. APC is still much in charge in Lagos State. PDP is only involved in propaganda. APC’s administration in Lagos State right from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed’s time to the present Fashola’s era, Lagosians have been enjoying good governance. They are benefitting dividends of democracy.

How would you rate your chance of clinching the senatorial ticket of APC in Lagos Central Direct because it is the same district that Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the party leader, is currently representing at the National Assembly, she has expressed interest in running for a second term to represent the district again in the Senate?

It is all about democracy. My coming out to contest the party’s primaries against Mrs Oluremi Tinubu shows that APC is a party of true democrats. I’m a member of APC, and political offices in the party are open to all members. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu can’t say because his wife is seeking re-election for the same seat that I should step down for her. My coming out to contest party primaries against Mrs Tinubu doesn’t mean that I’m coming out to run against Tinubu himself or that I’m being disrespectful to him.

There is no provision in our party’s constitution that says a particular position or office is hereditary. APC is not a dynasty. The slogan of APC is change, and what I’m doing by coming out to run against Tinubu’s wife is part of that change.

Don’t you think some people may view your action as a kind of rebellion having worked with Tinubu before as a Special Assistant?

Asiwaju Tinubu is a progressive. The Tinubu I know very well will not be angry that I’m running against his wife, rather he will see my action as a positive development for our democracy. There is no act of cowardice in politics, and that is why I’m seeking the party’s ticket, and I believe that with hard work and backing of my supporters, I will win the primary. I won’t allow any distraction. As a democrat, I believe I’ve taken the right decision and there is no going back.

But if Tinubu calls you today and prevail on you to step down for his wife, what will happen?

The Asiwaju I know doesn’t think that way. Asiwaju is a man of the people, it is where people are going that he will go. It is time for change to manifest. It is time for true democracy to manifest. It is time for people who actually belong to the political class to take control.I’m sure Asiwaju will support my aspiration.

Some people might say that Tinubu is sponsoring you to create the impression that he is a genuine democrat, how will you react to that?

I know what I’m doing. I stand by myself. I’m not being sponsored by anybody. I’m an adult, I’m responsible for my own actions. Tinubu is not in anyway connected to my ambition. I’m responding to the call of my people in Surulere. They are the ones that are urging me to run. We have always been together, and there is no way I can say no to them. Nobody can fly a plane if you are not a pilot. An aircraft requires a professional pilot to fly it. I have been in practice as a lawyer for over 26 years. I have been with the grassroots since 1999. I know their pain. I feel their pain, and I’m accessible to them. We need people that will go to the Senate that will look deeply into our bills and laws and effect necessary changes to bring about development and good governance in the society.

We have been clamouring for a long time that Lagos needs to be accorded special status to take care of various challenges confronting the state as a result of population surge and explosion, but up till now, Lagos State has not been accorded that status. There is one thing in being in the opposition, then it is another thing in being capable of lobbying. Parliament is all about lobbying. You must know how to lobby to get what you want for your people.

How would you rate the choice of APC against PDP in 2015? Some people have declared that APC is not capable of defeating the ruling party, PDP, in 2015?

It will be an illusion for anybody to think that PDP will retain power in 2015. Between 1999 and 2014, what has PDP-led Federal Government achieved? Nothing. It has been tales of woes for Nigerians. PDP has become a burden to Nigerians.

Many people are waiting for 2015 to punish PDP with their votes. President Goodluck Jonathan is going to be the last PDP president. The day of reckoning has come for PDP. APC will not only defeat PDP next year, it is going to inflict crushing defeat on PDP. Whoever emerges as the flagbearer of APC will defeat President Jonathan.

Source: Sun

Publish Date: 

Saturday, 8 November 2014