Olakunle Olapade is the Peoples’ Democratic Party chairmanship candidate for Ifelodun local council development area for the July 22 local government election in Lagos State. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Civil Engineering graduate of the University of Lagos spoke about the divisions in his party, the massive under development in the council, and his chances at the polls.
PREMIUM TIMES: Why do you want to be the Chairman of Ifelodun LCDA?
Olakunle Olapade: About four years ago, I began to take interest in the society especially when I began to see and hear of the challenges people go through and I said to myself, how can I change things? I could not stand by and continue to watch things degrade. This is the new millennium, year 2017, I believe things should be better than this. Development should be improved compared to what we have presently especially in our local government.
Other local government also get allocations yet they are more developed than this one. There are no basic infrastructure, we have only one secondary school in Ifelodun which is too poor. One of our schools at Alaba there, Olaniyonu Primary School, the past (council) government sold a portion of it to the market and if you go and see what is left of the school, you will see in some classes more than 80 pupils; the classes are not enough. Too many challenges, some of the properties owned by the local government have been acquired by some past government for their private businesses. There is insecurity in this area especially in the Alaba area, that’s where the biggest threats are; the area boys cause fracas every time and from our investigation which is still ongoing, it is a clash of political party factions of the ruling party. Since they lost out in the last elections, they have become enemies of themselves. If I get the opportunity to get into government, I will bring about a lasting solution to the security issue plaguing this community.
PT: When you say security measures and a lasting solution, what specifically do you have in mind?
Olapade: Security measures; apart from that we are going to dialogue with the youth of the environment. We want to know what the main issues are and how we can reintegrate them into the society. How do we help them? Maybe it is because they lack employment or vision that is why they do what they do; but when we talk to them and empower them. If they are engaged in something, they will have less time to cause trouble and be more useful and responsible citizens of the community.
PT: Since 1999 we have had National Assembly members, LG chair persons, and so on, all of them doing empowerment, yet we are here again talking empowerment, what do you think is responsible for the current situation in Ifelodun?
Olapade: We have not witnessed a good representation. Like the Owodunni, Ifelodun area, those areas are linked to the Express way. Could you believe that as it is raining now, you cannot walk through the place? The whole place would be flooded. The people of the community have gathered themselves and they have been to the State Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning. When they got there, they discovered that that road has been allocated twice, that was when HKT (Honourable Kolawole Taiwo) was in the House of Assembly on a two tenure, they have allocated that place. But they diverted the project, they did not do anything there, but on the plan at the Urban Office, the road is already done. Some federal roads also have not been done. I met with our Honourable Rita Orji, when she got to the House, she said the Appropriation Bill that there is no single federal project for the past 16 years in Ajeromi Ifelodun. So now she is the one fighting for us.
Our former representatives were not active, like the Otto Wharf road now, a temporary measure is being put in place courtesy of Hon. Rita and so also the Kirikiri road that leads to Berger area. She has fought for the rehabilitation of that road but she told us she is facing some challenges because they do not want the glory to come to her so they are still refusing the project and if you see the Otto Wharf, it was so bad that cars and especially lorries fall there. So, with her own effort, she has been able to push forward that something be done about the road; she is even spending her money because if that road is blocked the highway will be very congested. The road serves as an alternative route for the people of Ajeromi Ifelodun.
PT: Apart from Rita Orji, every other elected person on the PDP platform in the local government have joined the APC. How are we sure that when you win, you also won’t join them?
Olapade: I will never join APC. The people that were in PDP that went to APC, they have betrayed the people of Ifelodun. Why I called them betrayers is because if the people of Ifelodun know that this was how it was going to end, they would have just voted for APC directly. I would say it is 419. Service is to the people and not for your pocket. I think they moved to APC so that when they do not work, no one would question them, it would have been better if the people voluntarily voted for APC. They voted for PDP because they wanted something different. You now took their mandate to the other party. Up till now, they have not done anything, like our own Honourable Dayo Famakinwa, the only project he has done with our own constituency allowance is just about 10 street lights; five at Alaba and five at Ojo Road, that is the only project I know he has done except he can come and prove otherwise and we have a lot of challenges in the local government.
PT: What is the first thing you will do if elected?
Olapade: Actually, there’s a lot of challenges. Part of the manner I want to get involved in the affairs of this local government will be different. First of all, there will be a series of town meetings, we will come together and look at the priorities because we have education and health challenges. The drainage system is nothing to write home about especially in the canal area in this rainy season, you cannot walk in the 50 to 100 meters radius of the canals because they are all blocked and flooded and it is flooding people’s houses; some people are already packing out. It should not be. I pity those who live around the canals, they are like 25 per cent of the community so the area is one place we would also like to focus on. The primary school, health care and security also all need attention. Those are the four things I think should be first tackled before anything.
PT: These projects need money. Apart from the allocations that you expect from the FG, how else do you expect to raise the funds for these projects?
Olapade: I intend to meet some NGOs for support and we are going see how we can generate some revenue from within. If people pay up their taxes, the local government will have enough that can help in our work; I believe our IGR is worth something. I believe it can go a long way if we are able to manage our resources based on upfront whereby when our allocations come we will pay in instalments. We can’t just wait till we get the whole cash before we do anything; we are still going to seek loans and do some of these things so when we get our income, we will begin to pay back. We can’t just stand and be waiting for the cash to come we have to do something with the little we have.
PT: Looking at the diverse ethnic makeup of your local government, how do you intend to carry everybody along?
Olapade: You see, PDP is a national party and it is not tribalistic. And when you look at Ajeromi Ifelodun as a whole, it is a place where you can find people of different ethnic groups living together. We come together as one family. I also intend to make this local government one for all. One tribe has not made up this community, you find people from everywhere in Nigeria here and we call them together and have meetings with them and those are the people that make up this community. And there is no marginalisation and that is what is going to be in our government. Everyone would be carried along no matter their religion or ethnic group. That is the only way we can have peace and progress.
PT: How about if you are accused of bringing in non-indigenes into your government?
Olapade: We are going to manage ourselves because only the Yorubas have not made up this place. At least we see the examples of other climes. Some Nigerians are mayors in the US, some are Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom, some of them were not even born in those countries but majority of us are born here so I don’t think there should be complaints as long as they are the best hands to do the job. It is the mutual understanding that the party has and process and the belief we have also. One tribe cannot know everything and we have talents that can help from everywhere. You can’t know it all, you can’t have it all. So, I believe from different cultures and ethnic groups, ideas can be gotten that would help improve society.
PT: Are you in any way aware that this local government has been reallocating projects that had already been done?
Olapade: Yes. I am aware of that. Last week when we went to the constituencies here, I went to somewhere in Town Hall, when I got to the street, I was talking to people discussing with them that what do they think is the challenge they have? Even before asking them, I knew they had a road challenge. The road is very bad. There is a crater in the middle of the road that even foot cannot scale. You have to walk on the edge of the gutter if you wanted to pass to the other side and it is being assumed that the road has already been done twice and that was what everybody was telling us. They awarded the project twice and paid out monies but nothing has been done except the gutter which is also a shoddy job. When we got there the people of the community told us all these and asked us if we were also coming to do the same thing there. That’s why I said it would be one of the major things to do. I don’t know if they can call back for the project contractor because nothing has ever been done there.
PT: Do you think the electoral body has provided a level playing ground in this election?
Olapade: Yes. Before now, we have not been doing elections. With the person in charge now as the LASIEC chairperson, I believe she is an open-minded person that is not ready to sacrifice integrity. She is trying to incorporate some laws which some political parties have taken her to court for and they have fought over it and I am happy that the chairperson said she was going to use the INEC electoral law to do these elections. Doing that is going to make the whole thing plain to see and fair unlike what has been happening before. I learnt that they are going to use the card reader but formerly Lagos insisted against it but with the help of the person in charge, things will go on just like the last elections at the federal level. Before, they take the results from the polling booths without counting to Yaba, before it gets there, it would have been tampered with but with the system whereby counting would have started even from the polling centres, it would be harder to fabricate numbers.
PT: In your campaign so far, has there been roadblocks from the state government because you are in the opposition?
Olapade: Yes, I have had such cases. The first bill board I erected at the street light, they came one night and removed everything but later we put another one but this time, they did not touch it. Meanwhile, the last time, they removed some of my banners and left the one for the APC candidate, I don’t know why they did that.
PT: The division in the PDP, how has it affected party at the local level?
Olapade: The party is a little shaken but I think it will be resolved but at the state level we have some aggrieved members. I believe there’s no more faction because many of those who feel offended have moved to other parties so we know those of us who are left. Those who want to leave have left. The people on ground now, I believe there is no faction. And it applies from the federal down to the local government level.
This last primary was different from what they were usually used to. Before we had the godfather kind of primary where a candidate was just imposed but this time around, everything was done the way a primary should be done, but it offended some people. We have to learn how to contest for positions and not just expect to win a nomination just because we know some big shot in the party. This politics of imposition is one of the challenges we have had in Lagos State. Now the people disagreed with that style and we did the primaries, some incumbents who knew they had no chance of winning an election refused to contest but still wanted positions they did not contest for and that is what caused the division. They started saying the primaries were not legitimate. Some of them left the party because of that and moved to APC, Labour Party, and others.