Gbadebo couldn’t have won Lagos election, he sent a lot of people away — Ex-LP chairman

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Gbadebo couldn’t have won Lagos election, he sent a lot of people away — Ex-LP chairman

The immediate past Chairman of the Labour Party in Lagos State, Olukayode Salako, tells AYOOLA OLASUPO how he was forced to step aside and the circumstances that led to the defeat of the party’s governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour

You contested the House of Representatives election after you resigned as the chairman of the Labour Party in Lagos State.Can you recall that journey?

I didn’t resign as the chairman, I was forced to step aside. The Obidients said they could not trust me with the campaign funds the presidential candidate, Peter Obi, wanted to send to Lagos because my wife worked for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s presidential bid and the All Progressives Congress. They saw me as Tinubu’s man, so they said I was a mole in the Labour Party. They said if any money was sent to Lagos, I would divert it for personal use or work for Tinubu. For those reasons, I was forced to step aside.

Were you a mole and who were those behind such accusations?

I wasn’t a mole. It was Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, whom I discovered and I worked hard to get the governorship ticket for, that orchestrated my removal. He betrayed me. He wasn’t doing well with the party as the governorship candidate and I reported him to the Forum of Leaders and Elders’ Council of the party for them to tell him to do the right thing. Instead of that, he decided to make me his enemy and he became vindictive. He pushed me aside and was working with strange people that did not know how he got the ticket. He didn’t run anything by me and because there was no way he could operate without working with the state chairman of the party, he chose to work with some persons for me to be removed and he did that in connivance with the current state chairman of the party, Dayo Ekong; the secretary, Sam Okpala; and his running mate, Islamiyat Oyefusi. They all thought I was a mole who would not make them win Lagos State, but we can see what happened afterwards.

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What was it like when you worked together?

He started misbehaving the day after he got the ticket. However, I was already deeply involved, so I couldn’t go back at that point. I had to continue working towards his success at the poll. After he got the ticket, he became arrogant, intolerant to opposing views, and started calling himself my leader. His type cannot rule a local government let alone come to rule Lagos. He didn’t carry me along. I ran the office of the state party chairman for five months without anybody giving me ‘shishi’ because they saw me as Tinubu’s mole. I didn’t betray anybody but Gbadebo and those party chieftains in Lagos betrayed me, and God does not reward betrayal. I felt betrayed and badly treated by the Lagos State  chapter of the Labour Party and I am not happy at all.

Your party did well in the presidential election in Lagos, what do you think was responsible for your loss in the election?

It was because all of us were involved in the presidential election. Peter Obi should have known that he was running an election against the ruling party, a progressive political movement in Nigeria, but he was banking on the credible votes of Nigerians. He got it wrong because power is not served free. Even Tinubu said that power is to be grabbed. You grab, struggle, fight for it and run away with it. That is the cultural operational mechanism of the man Peter Obi contested against. INEC has declared the winner and Peter Obi is already exploring options to challenge it in court. Let’s see what will come out of it.

Many people found it surprising that the LP could defeat the APC in Lagos, were you surprised too?

That party has a collection of mentally endowed, smart, progressive individuals and political actors across Nigeria. They know how to deal with any system and they know how to compromise a system and they will do it perfectly well. The structure of the APC took 24 years to be built. It is a proper political structure. Although the Labour Party has been in existence for about 20 years before Peter Obi came on board and he came with political revolution. The #EndSARS movement was a factor. Nigerians were tired of their situation and the economic situation made people join the revolution. They wanted a change, another political platform and government because they lost hope in the abilities and capabilities of the ones running it to give them the kind of Nigeria they desire, so they aligned with the political revolution of the Labour Party. I wonder if that revolution will still continue like that in the next four years when we are going to have another election. A lot of political gladiators who were aggrieved defected from different political platforms to join those on the ground in the Labour Party for the party to achieve what it did in the last election. The state party chairman has worked very hard to achieve that and by the grace of God, the Labour Party was able to win in Lagos State for the first time in 24 years. No opposition political party has ever achieved that in Lagos. Winning an election in a state like Lagos goes beyond telling people to go and vote during election and you expect that everything will be free and fair. Any political person who has operated in this part of Nigeria knows that this is the age of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Jagaban of Nigerian politics. That was the mistake GRV and Labour Party made, but now, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been declared to continue to run the affairs of the state for the next four years.

Many people took offence about the ‘emi lokan’ (it is my turn)’ statement Tinubu made during his campaign, did you see anything wrong with it?

He made the statement out of frustration. The power cabal in his political party, the Aso Rock cabal , didn’t want him to have his way and you know Tinubu will always want to have his way. He is used to it. That is his culture because he doesn’t believe in impossibility and that is why he will always look for a way. He went to Ogun State and said what he said  and the God of destiny did not because of that deny him that opportunity. Though the credibility of that election is being challenged, the fact remains that as of today, Tinubu is the one holding the certificate of return as the president-elect.

Many people thought your party would collaborate with the Peoples Democratic Party since that would increase its chances, was that on the table.

Gbadebo couldn’t have won that election because he sent a lot of people, about 70 per cent of the main political actors and field marshals in the party, away from his project. Many of us were not involved because he told us to our face that he didn’t need us for his own reasons. He said he had his people he wanted to work with for his election to the extent that he did not even work with the chairmen of the party in the 57 local governments and local council Gbadebo couldn’t have won that election because he sent a lot of people, about 70 per cent of the main political actors and field marshals in the party, away from his project. Many of us were not involved because he told us to our face that he didn’t need us for his own reasons. He said he had his people he wanted to work with for his election to the extent that he did not even work with the chairmen of the party in the 57 local governments and local council development areas. He was only listening to rumours about some members threatening to defect to opposition parties and adopt Sanwo-Olu as their candidate, but he didn’t know how to handle such a situation. He couldn’t even pretend to beg and talk to those people. I told him to beg the leader of the party, Alhaji Moshood Salvador, but he didn’t. My wife, Foluke Daramola, and I discovered Gbadebo. She was a force in how I discovered him and we fought for him to get the ticket. It wasn’t easy but we got the ticket for him. Immediately he collected the ticket, he turned against us. So, he was the architect of his failure. He couldn’t have won that election.  He even told me that with or without me, he would be sworn in as the next governor of Lagos State. He abused the structure of the party in the state. He couldn’t have won because about 70 per cent of us stayed away from his project on the day of election. Gbadebo did not beg Alhaji Salvador,  who had his structure as a former PDP chieftain; he also disregarded me as the immediate past chairman of the party. Do you know the number of my followers? Out of annoyance, Chief (Sunbo) Onitiri and many others defected to the APC.

Your wife, Foluke Daramola, in a post accused Gbadebo of taking tickets from Yoruba candidates and giving them to the Igbo, was that true?

My wife was very right with what she posted. When I was the state chairman, the Igbo were struggling to contest on almost all the stages. They wanted to contest for almost every available political position in the state because they thought because Peter Obi was the presidential candidate, they had dominance over everything in the party in Lagos. As the chairman, I decided to make sure that people who deserved it were given the opportunity, regardless of their tribe. So, we prepared a list; the names of those that would contest the state Assembly election on our platform and fixed all the people whom we felt met with the requirements of the law. We forwarded their names to the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja, though we had a little court case. That was the list the party was hoping to go to the election with and on that list the Yoruba were fixed where they were meant to be, the Igbo too, after all the man that won our House of Representatives seat in Eti-Osa, Thaddeus Atta, is not Igbo but from Delta State. I fixed him there and did not deny him that because he is not a Yoruba. Immediately I left, Gbadebo and the new chairman started preparing their own list about 10 days to the election. They said they couldn’t work with our list. You can see what inexperience can do? They started changing names, which were mostly the Yoruba. Gbadebo was changing them to Igbo people and said those were the people he could work with. For instance, he removed a lady named Oyindamola in Alimosho. She is one of the strong women in politics in Alimosho that our party was banking on. She was one of those who worked for the success of our presidential candidate in Alimosho, but Gbadebo substituted her name with an Igbo man because she was tagged my supporter. Oyindamola got angry and worked for Sanwo-Olu. Same thing happened to Olumide Oworu, who  contested against Desmond Elliot. That is why his name did not appear on the ballot paper on the day of the election. So many other names were substituted.

Now that you lost your election, will you consider going back?

Our party’s national chairman promised me that if I didn’t win the election, it was possible for him to reappoint me as the state chairman. The only agreement we had which I always call the ‘Osogbo Accord’, was that I must work with the current state chairman and the secretary and that the three of us should run the affairs of the party together in Lagos and I would be the leader of the team. When we got to Lagos they had been working against the spirit and letter of that agreement and that is betrayal. They have been working against the tenets of that Osogbo Accord and that was one of the reasons the Labour Party lost. When you betray God, He will also betray you. So, my life is in the hands of God.

Are you still a member of the LP?

Yes, I am still a member of the Labour Party while my wife is still a member of the APC. She didn’t follow me to the Labour Party when I left the APC in search of political greener pastures. We wouldn’t allow someone else’s election to destroy our home and now we are marking 12 years of our marital journey. The fact that many bigwigs of the party dumped his project at the last minute to work for Sanwo-Olu justified what I said and I’m happy that God helped me to correct the mistake that I made on March 17.

Did you also work for Sanwo-Olu?

I didn’t work for Sanwo-Olu but I gave him my vote. I did that because he is a man of character who has run Lagos for more than three years now and we all see the way he governs the state. Gbadebo lost his election and nobody rigged it.

There were allegations of ethnic profiling and voter suppression, especially against the Igbo in Lagos State, what are your thoughts about that?

The Yoruba simply defended the sovereignty of their state. The same thing happened in some parts of the South-East. It also happened in the North. It is only in the South-West here that it generates noise. I am not saying it is right. I totally condemn it, but power is not served free. Everybody, including the Labour Party in Lagos State, should have been prepared for that. On the day of the governorship election, Gbadebo didn’t give them ‘shishi’ and he expected them to work for him in their domain. Even during the presidential election, votes were suppressed but he didn’t do anything to avert it. He didn’t prepare to win. If Lagos State is a no man’s land, then it won’t be one of the six states in the South-West and the fact that it is a Yorubaland does not make it a no man’s land.

Some people also accused your candidate of ethnic bias against the Yoruba, is that true, since you worked closely with him?

I will confirm that Gbadebo is more an Igbo inclined person. Anything Yoruba in the party was not attractive to him. That was the reason during his campaign period he went to take three Igbo chieftaincy titles. How many did he get from the Yoruba, and he wants to be the governor of a Yoruba state? What kind of impression was he creating? He cannot speak Yoruba but he speaks Igbo and English fluently and he even came out to say his name is Chinedu. Some of the people that stayed away from his bid were Yoruba elders and Obas, so what does that suggest to you?

What do you think is responsible for you and your wife supporting different political parties? 

The two of us had always been on the same side, which is Tinubu’s side, but I left the APC because for the many years I had been there, I didn’t gain anything as a member of the party. I was only working and it was as if they didn’t see me. I felt if I went to another party and proved what I could do in terms of capability to run things, perhaps the APC would see me. Now, the APC has seen that. If not for Gbadebo that misbehaved, I would have led the Labour Party to win Lagos State because I had everything planned. Everything was in place but the party did not support me with resources, motivation and encouragement to do it. One month before the election, I was asked to step aside and I obeyed because I don’t drag things.

Now that you have proven yourself, do you plan to return to the APC?

I still remain the supreme leader of the Labour Party in Lagos State by the virtue of my appointment as the special adviser in the office of the national chairman of the party on the affairs of Lagos State. I have not left the party. We just finished the election and I don’t know where God is leading me yet.

Gbadebo couldn’t have won Lagos election, he sent a lot of people away — Ex-LP chairman

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