Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Lagos West in the last general elections, in this interview with JOY ANIGBOGU, bared his mind on his chances at the election tribunal, the position of the party in Lagos State and other issues of national interest. Excerpts:
Do you think that you can make any head way at the Lagos election tribunal?
We must always try and seek justice, use any available option to protect the mandate of the people who voted for you. There are things that we see happen in this country that take away a lot of hope in the judiciary system. For example what we saw happened in Osun State. I think that was a rape of democracy. It is not all judicial officers that are without integrity. We are hopeful of getting justice.
Don’t you think that the insinuation in some quarters that your party is without structure can work against your hope of getting justice?
All of that is in-house cleaning that will be achieved soon. I also think that the PDP needs a new energy to come into what we want to do. When a general goes to war several times and loses, it will be very difficult for that general to be optimistic about winning. It is actually the PDP that pushed the not too young to run bill and that is why they are pushing a lot of young people like us to bring in new energy and that is what we are going to see in the next few years.
Looking at what has happened in your party recently where the former state organising secretary, Kunle Okunola and a former member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Dipo Olorunrinu, decamped to the APC. Don’t you think this will also rub off on your ability to regain what you called your stolen mandate?
It is good to have the people who have their legs in two baskets leave us alone. The people that remain are those who can go to war with us. It is not about the crowd but about those with integrity, the people with focus. The ones who remain are actually those that can attract more people to the party.
It is good radiance to bad rubbish to have the weak links in the party leave us alone. If you look at those who have left, you will also discover that even before they left they were already having conversations that suggested that they were in two houses. They were actually moving from one house to another.
Some people suggested that older politicians should take a bow from active politics; they actually mentioned Chief Bode George and some other older ones. What is your take on this?
The older politicians still have a lot to teach. They have a vast network. It is not throwing the baby away with the bath water. They still need to take the pride of place. People like Bode George want to retire. They want to get people that they can trust to take over from them and not people that would come and probably sell the party. Once they find them, they would let them control the affairs of the party but they need people with capacity, people they can trust that would be able to deliver. They would want people with passion for the party. People who would be prepared to win elections. We must give our elders the pride of place. We need them to give us advice. We have so much to learn from them, they have a lot of information; they have a lot on network.
Politics is about network. In academia, you would need them. The truth is that you cannot wish the old politicians away just like that. We need to keep them in positions where they can give us information, connect us to the right networks, push us into doors. You must also give them their respect. They have paid their dues. These are the foundation members of the party. You don’t just discard them because they are getting older. Move the party forward, give them pride of price and give them the respect they deserve.
There is also the belief in some quarters that the abysmal performance of your party in the last election was as a result of these leaders, frustrating some candidates and it was also gathered that some of them impressed it upon Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to return some candidates who were presumed to have won elections. An example was Rita Orji, former member representing Ajeromi/Ifelodun federal constituency. What do you say to that?
It is very sad what happened in that regard. It affected me personally because that is one of the constituencies in my senatorial district. We would have done better if some of us had come together. We want to instill the idea that the party is supreme, regardless of our differences.
Our bigger enemy is in the outside of us and not inside of us. When you have a leader that feels that he has nothing to loss when the party loses is already in a failed situation. Regardless of what happened between you and the candidate or the candidate and the party, we must decide to work together in the interest of the party and maybe after that, the fight could continue.
It did not happen in Ajeromi/Ifelodun and I made a lot of effort to make it happen.
We really need a crop of leaders that would rise above these personal squabbles. We also need candidates that are bridge builders that would desire peace. No matter how powerful you are, you cannot do it alone. Even if you want to fight, you must always leave a window for peace to take place.
Rita was one of the best candidates the party had at least in Lagos west. She was very hard working, disciplined and people loved her. She still had to go through so much pain in that election. If everybody had worked with her, we would have had the same experience that we had in Amuwo Odifin where we won by 15, 000 votes. There was no reason why Ajeromi/Ifelodun would not have achieved that because it is the most populated local government after Alimosho. We lost out because we did not work as a team. We need to change all that and that is what we would work on in the next few years.
So what do you think your party can do to address these complaints you have highlighted?
It is time for us to come together. The time to sit at a table and fight is over. If we want to fight, let there be something on the table. This divisive thing should be over. Now that we want to move forward, we would bring people who have the interest of the party at heart; we will need people to play the role of what opposition should be.
We see a lot of people suffering in Lagos state and they need a strong opposition to express their frustration to, and PDP is that party. Lagosians voted for us and we must be able to stand and defend that mandate that is why I am here today, in spite of my age, to defend the mandate. I want to show the people that if they voted for me, I must see to it that I defend the vote even if it means getting to the Appeal Court.
Looking at the strength of the APC in Lagos state, do you think that you have the capacity to put up a fight?
If you don’t try, you cannot win. You must try to succeed. You must be persistent and determined to win. Asiwaju that we talk about today, do you know the kind of fight that he fought, this man that we call Jagaban fought the military. He fought Obasanjo and today, everybody is hailing him.
Power is not given to you, you have to take it, and if you are not able to take it, you cannot get it. The things that I have learnt coming to this tribunal have made me a better politician. There are so many technicalities and so coming to this place I have learnt a lot.