Mr Phillip Aivoji, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State speaks with VICTOR AYENI on attacks on the party members by hoodlums and the general assessment of the state’s political atmosphere ahead of the 2023 polls
What is your overall assessment of the 2023 electioneering in the state?
My general assessment is that the people are already in support of our candidate because the All Progressives Congress has nothing to offer. They have been in power, but instead of improving the economy, everything is coming down. There is insecurity and banditry everywhere.
And you know, for so many years, instead of youths being engaged productively, they have turned our youths into hoodlums in the streets, collecting money with sticks in their hands. You can see where the state has degenerated to at this present time. So what we need is a government that will serve the people and pull them out of this poverty.
Those youths are children of human beings too, and they are supposed to be gainfully employed and responsible citizens, but the power and principalities that have held Lagos State by its jugular for 24 years are behind most of these atrocities because they want to remain in power.
They don’t care whether people die; they don’t care whether they are suffering, what they want is power, forgetting that power is transient. But my own assessment is that we are ready to go to the elections, and we are ready to win. What we hear is that they are trying to manipulate and disrupt some areas. There are several violent areas in Lagos State. Talk of Oshodi-Isolo, Lagos Island, and other areas. So we are ready to work, and we will continue to improve to encourage people to vote peacefully.
This is the first election that I have heard will be conducted properly if the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System works to limit the manipulations of these evil leaders. We are going to win by the grace of God; we are not going into battle with the mindset of defeat. I know the people are on our side, and God is on our side, so our victory is sure.
There have been reports of physical attacks on the governorship candidate, Olajide Adediran, and his deputy, Funke Akindele. A PDP chieftain, Olaniyi Akinyemi, was also attacked by thugs in Ikota, and there was the recent incident in Surulere. What measures has the party taken so far concerning these attacks by hoodlums?
What steps can we take other than reporting to the law enforcement agencies? We cannot take the law into our hands. That is why we want a good government. Lagos has never been like this. If you remember the days of the Social Democratic Party and the National Republican Convention, we could disagree and insult each other. Later, you will see SDP and NRC people sitting and eating together.
But when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu came to power, his instruction to the people was “maim them, break their limbs.” To him, power is not offered; you have to grab it by force. This is why people are afraid to say the truth, and we need people who will stand by the truth.
There have been incessant attacks not only on us but on other residents. They threaten people, saying, “If you don’t support us, we will not allow you to sell your market.” Market women cry to us, and we tell them, “Just vote them out.” That is the solution. Otherwise, this indignation will continue. This is a government that doesn’t see election as if you don’t win today you can win tomorrow, no; they see it as a means to maintain power.
It has been alleged that the hoodlums who carried out wanton attacks and destruction of property in Surulere were sponsored by the APC. Is this your stance?
Obviously, would the PDP be attacking itself? It is not possible. Will I be campaigning and then sponsoring attacks against myself? But you know what is happening; Surulere is the area of the present Speaker of the House of Representatives (Femi Gbajabiamila). They have remained in power for so many years, and they want to remain there. That is what is playing out.
Since the security agencies are not alert to their responsibilities, what else can we do? Yet we want this election to be peaceful and violence-free. You see, what they are trying to do is suppress us, intimidate our people, and demoralise our candidates, which we will not allow. All these things we are doing are not just for us; we want society to change for the better. We want a better Nigeria and a better future.
When we were growing up, we grew up in a peaceful environment, there was sanity, and things were going well. Why should we leave society the way it is now and allow these anomalies to continue? That is why some of us are still in politics—not for ourselves but to make society better than how we met it. Right-thinking politicians should keep this in mind, not just to stay in power.
In the past, people would say that whether they voted or not, they already knew who they would give it to, but thank God, things are changing right now. People want to come out to vote, but they are still being suppressed. Many people are denied the right to vote despite the collection of permanent voter cards. Some people will go to the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission and find that their PVCs are missing. But we will not be deterred or discouraged, and the reason is because we will be victorious.
The Lagos State Police Command once issued a statement saying the cases of these attacks had not been reported at the station but would be investigated. Have the perpetrators of the violence been unmasked and the results of the investigation made available to you?
Who is doing the investigation—is it the party that will do it or the police? What are they investigating? Our job is to report these cases; theirs is to investigate them.
There have been reports that some people allegedly sponsored by the ruling party have been removing and defacing PDP posters and banners across the state. How true are these?
These are not rumors. We have reported these several times. Our governorship candidate has been on the air to talk about this and how other parties are also targeted. This has been happening for a while, and it is evident. That is why we resorted to visiting wards and unit levels from house to house. Now they want to prevent us from doing it, but they cannot stop us, they can only try.
According to one school of thought, the PDP governorship candidate, Adediran, is not strong enough as an opposition to upstage the APC incumbent government. What is your response to that?
Why will they say he is not strong enough? He is a young man, and he is energetic. He moves from ward to ward and is still touring. This has been giving them headaches, so they want to stop him. He is doing all he should be doing to win. He is doing his best.
The only thing they will say is that he doesn’t have bullion vans full of money, but he has people with him. I always tell people that you may have all the money, but we have the people and we have God that we rely on, so for someone to say he is not prepared is wrong.
That is why he travels to the grassroots, the marketplace, the villages, the riverine areas, and literally everywhere, to ensure that we continue to work and do not rest until we win.
With the latest tribunal ruling in Osun State, would you say that the 2023 elections will be free and fair?
We are all studying what happened in Osun State. People voted, and it was evident that that was the voice of the people. I will not say much because Governor Ademola Adeleke has appealed. There are some lessons to be learned from this, one of which is that you cannot overturn the people’s victory. It is not possible.
It has been shown from records of previous elections that less than five per cent of the population of Lagos determines who emerges as governor. What initiatives has your party taken to reduce voter apathy in the state?
If other parties were to do what the PDP is doing, voter apathy would be reduced. We encourage people to vote, and in order to reduce voter apathy, politicians must discourage all these physical attacks because nobody wants to lose his or her life for going out to cast his or her vote.
It is just like what former president Goodluck Jonathan said, that his presidency is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. That is how we should look at it. If you kill the people who will vote for you and you get there, what are you going to do? The blood of those people will always haunt you. No matter how long they think they are enjoying they will know no peace. That is why I pity them because they don’t know what they are doing. They are killing themselves and their own generations yet unborn.
We don’t need violence; you bring your idea, I will bring mine, and parties draw out their plans, and the ones whose ideas the people want will win. That is how it should be, instead of constantly holding people in servitude and manipulating results. A time will come when people will say, “Enough is enough.” This is the time we are in now, and that is why the opposition doesn’t want people to fight for their rights.
The other way we reduce voter apathy is by assuring voters that their security is guaranteed and making them realise that when they vote correctly, they are voting for their future, for economic development, and for the right policies.
Unfortunately, most of these so-called leaders don’t understand what power is, like the one who says, “When I sleep, Lagos goes to sleep.” Is that what we want to sell to the entire nation? A single individual who has taken over Lagos, taken over landed property, and wants to take over the conscience and freedom of the people. When the Israelites were in slavery, God raised Moses for them. We will also arrive in our promised land soon.