28th May, 2010
The Lagos State governorship candidate of the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) in the April 2007 elections, Mr. Joseph Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje, here speaks on his activities since he lost the election and why he may not contest the 2011 election. The pharmacist cum politician andÂ Lagos indigene also speaks on the new President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and other topical issues
Q: What has been happening to you after you lost the 2007 governorship election?
A: Iâ€™ve been very much around. After the election, we went to the electoral tribunal and the Appeal Court. After the appeal, we accepted that it was our fate as far as the 2007 election was concerned. Since then, Iâ€™ve been involved in my pet project, the Jimi Agbaje Outreach. Basically, it is an empowerment programme established to help the needy by bringing people out from poverty trap. We put them on what we call the first rung of the ladder of development, working with some of the micro finance institutions and then aiding them to grow from there on. Of course, Iâ€™ve been very active in my party, the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA), trying to maintain our structure and manage the prospects of the next election.Â In the Yoruba nation, we have the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), which I am also part of and we work very hard in trying to achieve the goals and objectives of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his group, which was formed in 1961. In recent times, weâ€™ve moved on to the Save Nigeria Group (SNG). The Afenifere Renewal Group is also a key participant and promoter ofÂ SNG, so we worked with Pastor Tunde Bakare and his group to some level. Then, of course, Iâ€™ve got my business which I was not around to manageÂ during the last campaign. I think Iâ€™ve also been able to do a bit more work as regards my private business and try to get a bit of my personal life back.
Q: Do I address you as Chief or Honourable?
A: No. Iâ€™m simply Mr. Jimi Agbaje.
Q: Are you saying that as a politician, you donâ€™t have a chieftaincy title?
A: I donâ€™t have any chieftaincy title at this point in time. Itâ€™s not on my list of priorities. I can actually claim royalty by addressing myself as a prince, having hailed from the Onilegbale Chieftaincy family of Lagos. Titles do not mean very much to me.
Q: You and some people were not picked as the Action Congress (AC) governorship candidate in 2007 and this made you to defect to another party. Were you aggrieved or did you feel betrayed?
A: From experience, I donâ€™t get hurt, I mean not in that sense. Betrayal does not arise. It only occurs when you reneged on an agreement or an understanding but that did not arise. I never went into any understanding or agreement with anybody and nobody assured me of anything. Donâ€™t forget that the circumstances of the 2007 primaries were such that there were a group of us that felt that the field appeared not to be level and we decided to take a joint decision and that was what really happened.
Q: But most of them went back to AC and they are now benefiting from the present administration?
A: Well, we are different people and thatâ€™s why I said that I have my own guiding principles. Like I said, the issue was that we were taking a position and I stood by my position at that point in time.
Q: Okay, thereâ€™s this rumour that you have defected to Action Congress, how true is this?
A: I think youâ€™ve answered the question that itâ€™s a rumour, because that is what it is. Itâ€™s just a rumour. My presence at the AC National Convention at Onikan, Lagos, Nigeria, has been explained and itâ€™s very simple. If you recall, the time of the convention was the time the progressive in the country were working on an arrangement to have a common political party platform. It was at that time the AC convention came up and I believed it was in the spirit of the arrangement that the AC invited the National Chairman of my party,Â Chief Olu Falae, to grace the convention. But unfortunately Chief Falae was already committed to a family programme, so I represented him. My presence at the AC convention has nothing to do with me defecting to AC.
Q: Do you intend to go back to AC?
A:Â There is still a lot of work going on in terms of realignment and the truth is that at this point in time, nobody knows what would happen. We hear talks of alliance, we hear talks of changing the party platform, changing the party name, even dissolving the structures and building new ones. I think I must say I would be part of a political structure that will share common ideology.
Q: 2011 is fast approaching, what is your ambition?
A: To remain in politics, but in terms of running for an office, I think there is still an unfolding scenario of different options. Until we see how they unfold, it will be better to just say that I will remain in politics. As to what option, if Iâ€™m going to run at all for any office, that is not yet determined.
Q: Will you still contest the governorship seat in 2011?
A: Well, we are looking at events. It could be anything else, I donâ€™t have to be a governorship candidate. I can be candidate for any other office, there are so many other offices. What matters for me is that we are able to bring a lot of people out of poverty. I am not going to run for election if I find that we are not going to have credible elections in 2011.
Q: People are clamouring for the implementation of the Justice Uwais’ electoral reforms but nothing has been done, whatâ€™s your view?
A: I am quite disappointed at the reforms that the National Assembly has put together, in the sense that they are not far reaching enough. But then, we are running a democracy and I wish we get more far reaching electoral reforms, because what they have done does not go far enough in terms of ensuring that the votes of the people count. There are some fundamental issues like that of the umpires (the chairman and commissioners), the kind of ballot system we are going to have; whether it is modified open ballot or not. These are some of the things that we need to look at. But there are some good points made on the electoral reform which I think is worthy of note. For instance, the issue of finance, where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will get its money direct and not from the executive. The challenge the new President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, faces now is to bring about credible elections in 2011 or else, he will have no legacy to leave behind.
Q: What advice do you have for Goodluck Jonathan?
A: That his messages on the electoral reforms must not be by words but by action. It should be very clear that all those involved in electoral malpractices would face the law;Â that the people would not be protected or encouraged by the presidency or government. Therefore, this government must be very hard on these enemies of democracy because that is the only way we can have credible elections. And, of course, one of the reforms that did not come to pass, was that of the electoral offences, that is, the electoral commission to bring electoral fraudsters to book.
Q: What jail term do you recommend for those found guilty of electoral malpractices?
A: I think it depends on the level of the offence. It should be between one and 10 years, depending on the severity of the offence.
Q: How would you want to describe Chief Bode Georgeâ€™s predicament?
A: It is unfortunate, unfortunate because Chief Bode George is, first and foremost, a Lagosian, so to that extent, it is not something I should be proud of. But then, I keep saying that you cannot be preaching the rule of law and then begin to object to some issues. So, it is well the law, in terms of due process, has found him guilty at this point in time, but the same rule of law allows him right to appeal and should be able to prove at the Appeal or even at the Supreme Court that he was wrongly sentenced. I am definitely not happy that he was jailed.