IDEAS Radio 21 December 2018
Aghogho Oboh: Welcome to Countdown 2019 on 99.3 Nigeria Info, where we discuss all the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 general elections. You can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019NG, @RotimiSankore, at radio … @ideasradiong, @aghoghooboh, @sandrazsekwesili @NigeriaInfoFM, so all of those handles you can follow and tweet. We’re also live, which means you can watch this on Facebook! Just check for Nigeria Info FM Lagos, you will get the link.
Today we’re speaking with the Sustainable National Party’s presidential candidate, but before that rather, we’ll speak with the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse. You can tweet at us at our different handles. Tweet if you’ve also got questions. You can send questions also to our Whatsapp number which is 08095975805.
Ayo Obe’s IDEAS segment is up now, but before that, let me just read the profile of Dr. Tokunbo Pearse. He is a senior lecturer, Department of English, University of Lagos. He’s also a public affairs analyst. He lived and worked in the United States from 1986 to 2006, and was actively involved in politics, working on the campaign teams of a number of congressmen and also of former Governor of New York, George Pataki. He was Associate Professor, Department of African Studies, Brooklyn College. In Nigeria he worked as the campaign manager of Mrs. Funso Williams in the 2007 Lagos Governorship poll. He was also the Director-General of the Musiliu Obanikoro campaign for the governorship of Lagos State. And then Director-General Lagos State for the re-election bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice President Nnamadi Sambo in 2015. On the 4th of October 2018 he was returned unopposed and declared as the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party for the 2019 governorship poll. His motto: “Education is the antidote to Poverty”. Thank you very much.
And over to you Ayo Obe.
Ayo Obe: Oh, thanks very much Aghogho. And welcome to Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse. Dr. Pearse, I guess that you know that in this our section we deal with Integrity Democracy, Ethics and Accountability? And I guess that the first question that, since you were able to emerge unopposed as the gubernatorial candidate of your Social Democratic Party, the first issue that comes up, in an election … in a political climate where there’s so much resignation to the idea that there are only two main parties, how do you get your message across in a way that reflects Ethics and Accountability and Integrity? How do you get it across without joining in some of the practices that we have been condemning if we want to uphold those values?
Adetokunbo Pearse: Well, the first thing I will say is that the opportunities such as this, to be able to speak to what I stand for and to talk about the way the Social Democratic Party has re-evolved. That’s how we’re going to get the word across, that compared to the other political parties, we are the party that will provide the best quality of life for our people. And if the people are convinced that that is what we are, then they will vote for us, irrespective of the moneys that the other parties have, irrespective of the big names in the other parties. Everywhere you go now, you see billboards, they’ve bought the whole of Lagos, and that’s not going to make the difference in election.
AO: So how is your campaign going to be able to deal with that? I mean: do you have volunteers going door to door, or what do you have?
AP: About a week ago, there was an online poll that gave the PDP candidate first place, governorship race, and the APC candidate second place, and myself the third place. And I tell you, I have not even put up one poster yet. And if I can come that close, it just tells you that there’s hope.
AO: Well, I will say, that when I was trying to put out some publicity about this, I looked for the Twitter handle of the Social Democratic Party, and I’m sorry to say that I found so many, that I had to give up. That they all seemed to be different. So maybe your …
AP: You’ve talked about volunteers. Let me tell you how this works. We had elections at the ward level, round about July; so we have, out of the 245 wards in Lagos, the SDP is now in about 185. And then we had the LGA elections; out of the 20 LGAs – we are operating the ones that have been approved by the Federal Government – 20, we are in 19 and very active in about 17. So, and our state executive, from the Chairman to the Youth Leader, all of them – people there. So this is how it works. When I’m ready to roll out my flyers and posters all I do is call a meeting of all the LGA structures and hand it over to them and say: Look, when you get to your location, your state, your local government, spread it around. Give them money to buy starch and to put it up. So when I’m ready to start campaigning from local government to local government, the same thing. They invite me, I go. So the structure is there, and the reason why most people, every … most of the media have been they ask me, they say: But you don’t have structure, you don’t … I say the reason is, we didn’t have fighting. We didn’t shoot each other when we were doing our elections. The primaries was so peaceful, because we …
AO: Well if there was only one candidate and you were returned unopposed, why wouldn’t they be peaceful?
AP: Well, that’s part of it. The reason why there was, there were no, not too many candidates was because it was not about the money. Frankly, I will tell you the way I emerged. I myself, I was the organising secretary and the publicity secretary of the party. State publicity and organising. And I was actually mandated to look for a candidate for governor. I did everything. I won’t mention the people I went to …
AO: And then you looked around and you found yourself!
AP: Yes, because … no I … Look, I asked everybody, including some people running in these major political parties. They didn’t want to have anything to do with the Social Democratic Party because we always ask one question: If you want to come to our party, are you committed to restructuring? Are you going to be able to stand up to the Federal Government and say we must, there must be devolution, there must be state empowerment. For instance, you have all these trucks on our roads, the Federal Government is involved in activities that’s creating problems in Lagos State, we must challenge that, and this is what …
AO: Don’t you think that we’ve had a situation in the past when Lagos State has been challenged by the Federal Government and had to stand firm?
AO: But I also want to ask you, because you said that when you roll out your programme, and part of the virtue, or the value of Integrity and Accountability in particular, is that you have to have offered something, then people can hold you accountable to see whether you did what you say, and if you are a person of your word. And so I wonder does your party itself have particular policies, because restructuring, in and of itself, is not really an issue that is about Integrity or Accountability, even though it may be something that you promised, but does it really make government itself more accountable to people?
AP: Definitely, because if you are standing up for people in Lagos and not answerable to the Federal Government, then you are actually being accountable. But let me tell you where this whole issue of Accountability begins. It begins with your election, your evolution as the candidate. If you see why …
AO: Yes, but you must be running … when you are elected you must be running on a platform, you have a party platform and you have a state platform?
AP: We’re going to come to that. I want to tell you accountability integrity has nothing to do with party politics and party platform. It has to do with individual. And this is the way I emerged in my party. Because I was accountable to the people, to my … to the members of the party, because they saw that I had integrity…
AO: In what way were you accountable?
AP: Because every time I’m looking for candidates for every level, including Governor. So, everybody realised that I was not ambitious, I was not eager to … in fact I was spending my money to build the party. To me what was most important is a political party that has integrity and sincerity and leaders that are not avaricious, that will not dictate to the candidate. This is where we are …
AO: You were previously in the, you were previously running campaigns or managing campaigns for the People’s Democratic Party which is a major party, so are you, is it … your decision to join the Social Democratic Party, is it because of what you experienced there in terms of accountability? Or is it that you found the ideology and the programmes of the SDP more attractive?
AP: The main reason why we ended up in the Social Democratic Party …
AO: Ended up is a bit …
AP: Well, because we were, I was first in the … I’ve been a member of the People’s Democratic Party I’ve been a member of the Action Congress, but the point is, the last round, was the lack of integrity and the lack of accountability, lack of respect for rule of law, laid down rules that I found in the PDP that made us, that is Professor Jerry Gana, some founding members of the PDP, leave the PDP to go to the SDP. This is the first time, in my opinion, that you’re going to have a political party that is totally based on ideology.
AO: What is the ideology of your party?
AP: The Social Democratic Party is a welfarist party.
AO: What does that mean?
AP: It means that full commitment to free education, free health care, affordable housing, mass transport and respect gender sensitivity, and respect for young people coming into the party. And I can tell you how we have put all of these into practice.
AP: Because when we were preparing, looking for candidates, I held several meetings with “Not Too Young To Run” people. I had several meetings with students at the universities, and I asked them: Come into the Social Democratic Party. They said, “Oh, the nomination fees, we can’t afford that!” I said “I’m the Organising Secretary, we can work around that.” And so, this is part of what we do. We have local government chairpersons in our party, women, and it wasn’t that we forced them on anybody. They showed that they were capable …
AO: When you say chairpersons, do you mean party chairs, or do you mean people who have actually been elected into office?
AP: No no no, no, not elected. Local government chairpersons of our party.
AP: So this is what we believe in: Social Welfare Programmes, that is the key. And the devolution of power from the Federal Government to the states, so that the states can be closer to being able to actually account to their people.
AO: It’s very interesting that you would say that, because when the PDP was in power at the centre, Lagosians really saw the, from 1999 onwards, the Lagos State Government did have to fight a lot of legal battles over local government allocation, over control of waterways, over so many things that the Federal Government was laying its hand on and trying to dictate to the state. And, so didn’t you feel then that the issue of restructuring was paramount? Or is it that experience since then has taught you the necessity?
AP: That was not an issue in the People’s Democratic Party.
AO: That’s what I’m asking actually. Why wasn’t the People’s Democratic Party worried that Lagos State was being held down in this way?
AP: Well, this is why I’m not in that party, and this is why we are promoting what we stand for in this, in the Social Democratic Party. And you know, another thing about the Social Democratic Party is that compared to the other big two now, we’re relatively new, and so there was not much fracas within the party, and frankly, no money to share! So you didn’t find a lot of these people coming into the SDP, which has not polluted the SDP, which has kept the SDP …
AO: So you think that money politics is something that diminishes accountability and integrity in politics?
AP: Well, what happens if you are conducting an election and you don’t have the money to pay for the nomination. One of the parties was N22.5 million for governor, another was N15 million, our party was N5 million and negotiable, so it just shows you the difference. And if it was N22 million, I would have to go and beg some godfather who would have paid.
AO: But wouldn’t you then apply, have sourced the money from your teeming supporters across the state?
AP: Well, well, you know, you get teeming supporters when you start campaigning, not before.
AP: Aha. So it’s your party, your friends and so on. And, the bigger parties, it’s all about the money. If you don’t have money, a godfather will sponsor you. When that godfather sponsors you, which is what happens in the PDP and the APC now, the godfather then controls the party. He dictates the tune!
AO: Well I think that the history of Nigerian politics is, the road is strewn with the battered corpses of godfathers who thought they could control their people and found that …
AP: Well, in the meantime the people suffer. In the meantime the people suffer and whatever happens with the godfather, the godson still is corrupt, because he comes there now, he becomes the new godfather. This is what we must stop, and this is what we’re beginning to see the end of with the Social Democratic Party.
AO: And, well, I think that on that stirring note of freedom from godfathers and integrity in politics, liberation from money politics, I think I want to thank you Dr. Pearse for giving us some insight into how IDEAS, that is Integrity, Democracy, Ethics and Accountability, will feature in your position if you were to succeed in being elected as Governor, and I want to thank you very much for being my guest on this portion of the show.
Before I hand over to you Rotimi, I want to let listeners know that you can get our previous episodes on the IDEAS website which is www.ideasradio.ng, and also, you of course, you can also get hold of me on @naijama on Twitter if you feel so inclined.
But I think I also have to say that this is our last programme for this year, and in that wise it behoves me to wish Season’s Greetings to everybody, which consists of Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Bye!
Rotimi Sankore: And you’ll be back in January?
AO: I’ll be back in January by the grace of God.
RS: On January the 4th.