ACN Has Always Rigged Elections At All Levels – BABATUNDE GBADAMOSI
Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi is an Entrepreneur, Tax and Property Consultant, and was one of the gubernatorial aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State in the 2011 general elections. In this interview with Murphy Fadairo, he spoke extensively on a lot of issues ranging from governance, politics, deregulation of the oil sector, security challenges and his guber ambition come 2015. Excerpts:
My name is Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi. I was born into the well known Gbadamosi family of Ikorodu. My patriarch was the late Chief Suleiman S.O Gbadamosi, the first indigenous industrialist in Nigeria and one time National Treasurer of the Action Group as well as a Member of Parliament in the western region. My father the late Fatai Gbadamosi was a great manager of men and I was able to learn a lot from him from resource management; not just financial resources but also human resources most especially. My uncle Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi is also a well known industrialist, public policy formulator and analyst. He is also a pioneer in his own right having been the first founder of bottled water industry in Nigeria, RAGOLIS which is a household name now. My family has also been in the public service one way or the other; my Aunt was once an Attorney General of Oyo State, also once a Director of Public Prosecutions in the federal ministry of Justice Mrs. Wonu Folami. So I come from a family where public service is seen as the benchmark of one’s humanity. Yes you must make your own personal achievements in life to make a mark but then you haven’t actually arrived until you have given off yourself to the service of humanity in some way or the other. Coming from that kind of a background, I was fortunate to have been quite popular as a child in the family. I was raised by three fathers first my uncle Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi who played a big part in molding the person that I am today because I lived with him for the first 15years of my life and he has been a great positive influence in various aspect of my life; then my father late Fatai Gbadamosi who taught and gave me several practical tools that I could use to live a very practical, for trait, honest and straightforward life. The one thing that also marks out the Gbadamosi family is this attitude that we have that the best name we can give our children is education; there is formal academic education and there is life training which can only be imparted more or less at home. The target of the training that we get is mainly to make us independent to give us the ability to independently forge our own part in life. I was in the UK for over 17years from 1990 to 2007 and at that time one went from (without overusing the cliché) grass to grace. I started out doing all the usual menial jobs that young Nigerians of my age did back then to survive in the UK office, street cleaning and all that kind of stuff. I met my wife in the late 90s; together we grew an IT business from a small 50sqm office and built it into something big in a prominent high street position in South London. As we were doing that we also ventured into property investment and were able to build up a sizeable portfolio that helped pushed in the return back to Nigeria; then we decided to make the move in 2007 to come back home.
I really don’t know when I will say I ventured into politics. I think there is a mistake that Nigerians make regarding politics as some kind of profession which in fact it’s not. I know there are some people who see it as a profession and tend to view those people with great disdain. Politics is not a job; it is something that arises out of concern and I would like that belief that everyone that has an opinion on how things are been done by those in charge of our resources is a politician. I think I got into politics as far back as I became aware that some people were in charge of how things were run and I became to form opinion; that is when I became politically aware. I have been in politics for a while; I will say I have just been a concerned onlooker and then as an active participant in 1995 when I got involved in the Anti Abacha movement back in London. A pro democracy movement basically because late MKO Abiola was in jail, Ken Saro-wiwa was on trial, Mrs. Kudirat Abiola was murdered, a lot of atrocities committed by the then military junta. We realized what was going on and then we realized if we didn’t take action to sensitize the world about what was going on in Nigeria because there appear to be a media blackout on issues concerning Nigeria at the time. But if we didn’t take action to make it public so much would go on and the military would get away with everything. We got ourselves together; I happened to be one of them and we fought to make our voices heard and let the world know what was going on in Nigeria. That is where I first got involved; then when I came back to Nigeria in 2003 we were on and off before we now took permanent residence in 2007. I was always a supporter of the PDP because of its policies which Obansanjo pioneered in terms of getting the country out of the woods, sorting out our external debts problem, fixing telecoms which he did rather rapidly. He also promised to sort out electricity which unfortunately he couldn’t do but I do understand why he wasn’t able to do it. I have always been a sympathizer but actively supported PDP in 2007, a card carrying member since 2008 and I decided to run for office in 2011 mainly because I felt that with my experience and knowledge of physical development which the people of Lagos state needs right now more than anything else. We need more roads, power, means of transport, water; we need to sort out sewage problem which has not even been addressed by past administrations. This is something that can be dealt with, the right sort of attitude; an attitude of working without seeking acclamation. It seems the acclamation is more important to this particular government than the actual work and that is something I have a problem with. So I decided that it was time for me to come into the system actively to serve my people and that’s why I decided to run for office.
Why Governorship as first shot
My talent would have been wasted elsewhere. I couldn’t go in as a legislator because that’s not me and am not a talk short type of person and I could not go in as a council chairman because I need to have unfertile executive power in order to achieve the things I think we can achieve in Lagos state. There was no way I would have wanted to be appointed as a commissioner because one still will want to bow to the whims and caprices of the governor. You might have great plans as a commissioner but if your governor can’t see your dreams then they are dead. I see myself as helping people achieve their dreams so I thought as a governor I would have helped Lagosians achieve their dreams of becoming a true 21st century state.
Local Government Elections in Lagos
It is not. We are still engaging the people; you saw the result of that at the last local government election where PDP won in virtually all the local governments but of course the ACN administration felt that the wishes of the people were to be disregarded, mocked and trampled upon. We had an outright situation where in Badagry a PDP candidate was announced as winner; it was recorded, it’s all over the internet and then the same day in the evening the chairman of LASEC who was not present at Badagry and could not know the result announced on TV that ACN won Badagry without giving the figures. I have never seen that happen anywhere in the world where a candidate will be declared winner of an election without figures being made public. I can’t come to terms with it and so is many Lagosians; Lagosians are fed up of the ACN and their antics. People are beginning to see that perhaps when the President said that the South West was too important to be left in the hands of rascals; perhaps he was right. It’s also clear to Lagosians what the PDP have been saying that the ACN have always rigged every single election. I have no doubt in my mind that every ACN member in the national assembly was rigged into office by the ACN rigging mercenary like financial inducement, conspiracy with the judiciary. That is the situation and it needs to be addressed. The media unfortunately has not been on our side. We have been treated unfairly because we are the party in power at the centre but that is mainly because we really are the most popular party in Nigeria spread across the country. Whereas our friends on the other side choose to concentrate on the South West where perhaps we still have a lot of followers of PDP like it was clearly shown in the last local government election in their heartland Lagos.
I would really hate to see what happened in Libya happen in Lagos state but if the will of the people is not allowed to be supreme then the people will find no other means than to impose their will. One day the proverbial pieces will lead a ventilating device and all hell will let loose; this has to stop. This has nothing to do with me; it has more to do with human nature. You can see how it is happening in the Arab world, the West; you can see Occupy Wall Street, Occupy New York, all these things are happening before our very eyes because the people are not getting what they want from their government. So Nigerians are also human being, Lagosians are human beings too and it will get to the point if the ACN are not careful people will erupt in spontaneous rebellion and take what belongs to them.
Security Challenges in the Country
First of all President Goodluck Jonathan is confronted with a security challenge, the type of which Nigeria has never seen before and it is quite unfortunate that this has come at a time when he is president; it could have been any other president. There is no doubt about it that there are very serious security challenges particularly in the North Eastern part of the country and that the potential for it to spread to other parts of the country is not in doubt. Some people call it sectarian violence but I think it’s just plain naked terrorism and there is no doubt that that terrorism will spread if it is not carefully managed. But I think that considering the capacity these people (it’s not just Boko Haram), there are other groups hiding under the Boko Haram to perpetrate all sorts of evil deeds. The capacity of these groups to wreck havoc is something that cannot be washed away therefore the security agencies have to gather their machinery as they have been doing and step things up a bit more. There is no point treating this matter with kid’s glove anymore; we need to go out there if Boko Haram leaders need to die then so be it. If there are any foreign organizations behind this perhaps we should go after them.
Removal of Fuel Subsidy
Subsidy is a false economy. The people importing the fuel are being guaranteed that it would be bought at a certain rate by the government from them. When government buys at that rate, they now sell into the country at a cheaper rate to allow Nigerians get petroleum cheaper. But then what happens is that what is sold into the country; a huge proportion of it sometimes much as 80% get out of the porous Northern borders into neighboring countries like Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Republic of Benin and apparently Nigerian tankers have been seen as far as Congo. So in reality it is not Nigerians that are enjoying the subsidy; it is a few people the people importing and the people exporting illegally thousands of tankers daily. The regime of subsidy really does need to stop in order to get enough refining capacity to drop the price really in the country. Competition is what is missing in the petroleum sector. Once you remove the subsidy and everybody knows that I can produce and sell at whatever price I want; they will set up factories. Yes prices will go up as soon as the subsidy is removed but that will remain so only for as long as there are no refineries and that will not last because importation will become unfashionable (unprofitable) when you remove the subsidy. The importers will be forced to build refineries or buy the federal government owned ones and operate them efficiently. If we have 30 refineries in Nigeria it is not too much but the government cannot do it; it has to be the private sector and the competition will drive the prices of the products down.
Last PDP primaries and Future Aspiration
At the last PDP primaries, mistakes were made by me and by the party; we have learnt from those mistakes. I think we have realized that the method we used in playing politics at that time was not what it should have been and we saw that the blunder we made at that time became very obvious during the election itself. Lessons have been learnt, certain people have shown the caliber that they are made of, people have been seen either as loyal or disloyal to the party and the party has grown as a result; that growth was reflected in the last local government election in Lagos State. That is not to say winning the election in 2015 will be easy because of the constitutional infraction that the ruling party is known for which has led the people to penury. They will fight tooth to nail to remain relevant but I tell you it is a fight that they will lose because Lagosians are now aware of the fraud, rascality, thuggery, theft of mandate that the ACN represents. I am contesting in 2015 by God’s grace and I am coming out strong. We will make history.