Distinguished Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon popularly referred to as Sen. GOS has weathered the storm when it comes to politics in Nigeria. Currently spending his second tenure in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Senator GOS is the Minority Whip of the Senate and represents Lagos West Senatorial District in the Senate. Before his election into the Senate, Senator GOS was two-term member of the House of Representatives. It is also pertinent to note that before his election into the National Assembly, Sen. GOS was duly elected as Chairman of Mushin Local Government of Lagos State. Now gunning for the highest political office in Lagos State, Senator GOS spoke on his governorship ambition and his life outside politics in this interview with Cityrovers.blogspot.com
What is your reaction to speculation in town that you’re vying for Lagos governorship seat to bargain for a return to the senate?
I don’t know where they got the notion from; I will want to take them back as far as 2005 when we first made our intention of vying for the governorship seat of Lagos State. My desire to be Lagos State governor has been on from then to this time. I want them to assess the seriousness with which we have started this project and also quantify the kind of efforts we have put into it whether it shows any level of unseriousness or whether it indicates a ploy to bargain for another position. Nothing other than the governorship. In 2007, we acceded to the leadership of our party that we should allow the incumbent governor to return to office, and as an obedient party member, we agreed. And here we’re today, we started this project two years ago and we have put efforts that are required into the exercise. Unless if anybody wants to be mischievous, nobody can easily conclude that we are doing this to bargain for something else rather than the governorship. I have also heard where someone said maybe, I want to go back to the senate, but I have been emphatic and said it categorically that nothing will take me back to that National Assembly. I feel untapped and unused if I stay too long in a particular position. Moreover, this is a project I and my team have been working on for close to a decade, it is not something we just woke up one day and decided to go into.
In your previous attempt at the governorship seat, the leadership of your party prevailed on you to step down. Have you been prevailed by the leaders to step down this time around or continue with your campaign?
We have submitted our manifesto to our leadership, we have talked with them and let them know our intention and the response we received is quite encouraging. We laid our readiness to serve in governorship position through our party on their table. We grew up under these leaders. We might even conclude that we had our tutelage under them so they know what our worth is. It is very easy selling ourselves to them because they know us and we also know them. Regardless of what anybody says outside, we have been receiving good encouragement from them.
The issue of imposition has become a big deal within the party, but because of the tenacity of people like you, the leadership has agreed to do the primaries, the date had been fixed, do you still think the leaders are still keen on imposing any candidate?
We’re not leaving anything to chances; our leadership has come out to say there is going to be primaries, there won’t be any imposition of candidate. But we’re going to be watchful. It’s paramount to us that there should be a level playing field; if we all believe and proclaim the leadership of our party as our true leaders, we expect them to treat us equally. It won’t be a question of anybody manipulating the process to favour a particular aspirant or trying to bankroll a particular aspirant. That will amount to giving undue advantage. We now have an enlightened electorate and party members who want to be part of the process of electing their own candidate. They are interested in the personality of the candidate while they’re also interested in the party that is promoting its candidate. So there are lots of factors to be considered this time around. Any party that takes the electorate for granted this time around does so at its own peril.
If you are to put yourself side by side with other governorship candidates in this race, what edge do you have over them?
With all sense of humility, I am better equipped than anyone of them and I have the experience than anyone of them, and that put me in pole position over all of them. In terms of election, I have participated in more elections than anyone of them. In term of holding political offices, I have been in more political offices; I have been in political office over many of them, if not all of them. And for every time I participated in an election, it’s a vote of confidence from my various constituencies. I have my score sheet for all my position, which will be made public for people to see. And you cannot at this time again gamble with political office, not after four terms, it was excusable the first term, second term, third term should have been excusable; right now, it is not excusable to put a square peg in a round hole.
We must look at somebody who has the required experiences to fit into any position you want to put them. We cannot afford to take two steps forward and three steps backward. Certain experience you cannot buy, certain experience you cannot also learn in school, you get experience from being a practitioner and that is what I have that is going well for me for that position.
There is general belief that the alfa and omega of your party is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. What kind of relationship exists between both of you?
We have cordial relationship, relationship of a leader and a loyal follower, relationship of a father to a son. The relationship that has been existing since he became the governor of Lagos State. We’re together when he came back for the governorship race, even when he had some challenges, we’re together and he accorded us the recognition. I hold him in high esteem.
Should you be elected the Lagos State governor in 2015, what are those things you think Governor Fashola has done that you want to consolidate on and what are the things you feel he has not done enough that you feel you have to put right when you eventually get there?
I am not in the habit of dodging questions as they come, but in this instance, I will take exception out of it. One, the present governor belongs to the same party with me; what I would say is that the gain of this administration should be consolidated on and we should take the gain of this administration to the next level. We must not remain stagnant, we must come up with innovation that will move to a higher level otherwise it calls to question the capacity of one to lead. And in terms of policies, with the help of the predecessor and those people that have been in government before, you will be able to know which programme one should visit, even there are some programmes that have not seen the light of the day which would be implemented. But the most important thing is for one to have commitment in alleviating the poverty of our people. Whatever the government is doing presently would be worked upon so that we can do more. You cannot do enough when it comes to that because until we have a situation where an average Lagosian is happy and fully employed and fully accommodated, no government should rest on its oars. The present and past governments have done extremely well but it is an exercise that you have to continue.
There are fears in some quarters that APC might lose in 2015 and the reason is that if someone like you is being shoved aside, you might take your supporters to another party. Should there be any disagreement, would you be thinking of leaving APC and if you’re not given the ticket; what would be the next step?
I am an incurable optimist; I believe strongly that I will get the ticket. So, I am not going to talk about what will happen if I’m not given the ticket because I believe I will get the ticket. We have zeroed our mind; we believe we have worked and done greatly for the party than any other aspirant. And this is not about degrading anybody. This is about fact. What we’re saying is that let the party members decide who they want, it is in their wisdom to decide who they want and we will join hands together to ensure our party wins the general election; that is democracy and that is how to institutionalize democracy. If we can do that, the party will move on; whether Mr. A or B is there or not, the party moves on. And that is the essence of what we’re crying for, it goes beyond myself, it goes beyond some individuals, it is a general thing.
Who is Senator GOS outside politics?
I am like any other person on the street. I am modest in anything I do and I try to follow my religion, have the fear of God and I don’t discriminate. I associate with everybody, Most times, I attend church services and vigils than some average Christians. And this is not because of election that has been part of me for years. At times, what I read or heard people say about me makes me wonder whether they’re really talking about me. I have had a situation where people say I drink a lot when I have not taken alcohol in my life, some say he’s a chain smoker and I wonder, are they really talking about me? And I begin to wonder may be it’s because I’m in politics that makes them say all these about me or some erroneous perception flying around about me which are far from the truth.
There are speculations that your party is going for a Christian/Muslim ticket, coupled with the issue of zoning. How would that affect your own ambition?
I don’t see that affecting me in any way. The party leadership has not come out to say that because it is not in the constitution of our party and it has never been done in Lagos State whether consciously or unconsciously that we should have Christian or Muslim governor. I think those factors are perhaps introduced to suit a particular candidate. I think that idea will fall flat, it is not going to work, what we’re saying is that let anybody who is interested come out even if he’s from the zone of the incumbent governor, it is for the party members to say yes we prefer him or we don’t prefer him. Why do we not imbibe what is done in the older democracy but we’re quick to prove our point. Hardly will they come out to say such thing.
If you eventual win your party ticket for the governorship election, why should Lagosians entrust you with their votes?
I have said it several times, they need to look for a candidate they can trust. There must be something between me and my various constituencies for them to have been voting for me. There must be some level of trust, I know some people will go round to say a lot of things, but it is about service delivery. First, you must identify the position you are elected for and you must give good representation to your people. The party is also part of this because I have always said it about the candidate and the party. My party has always pursued masses-oriented programmes and this will continue. And I know that our party will come up with a uniform proggramme, we will also inject the peculiarity of our state to those programmes our party is going to give us because Lagos State has its own peculiarity and we must put this to bear before executing the manifesto and programmes of our party. I have been around for so long with the masses and I know what they want and need.
Of all the aspirants, you’re the most visible in virtually all the local governments in Lagos State in terms of campaign and you must have been spending heavily. How much have you spent so far for your campaign and how are you able to bankroll your campaign?
I will answer these questions this way. In the Second Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was asked that to run for president of Nigeria requires a huge amount of money, how was he going to raise such money and his answer was; thank God we have a huge followership and the penny that they’re going to contribute would be channeled towards it. So in our own case too, we rely on our huge followership, every money they have been contributing, supporting us with has been used to bankroll this project.
For 15 years you have been in politics, if elected as the governor of Lagos State in 2015; is that the final destination for you in politics?
Few years back, I had an interview where I told my interviewer that I have my exit time in politics and that has not changed. Nothing will happen to change that my exit time in politics because you must plan your life and career. You must have time when you’re active when you seek for political office and you must have your time when you sit back and watch others play politics, mentor people and see them through. But I will just beg you not to ask me to tell you when that exit time is.
What are the things politics has taken away from you?
When you go into active politics like I have done, you cannot be talking about your privacy, you will be public commodity, everybody should have access to you. I consider myself as a very patient person; it requires a lot of patience to relate with people who are coming from different backgrounds and attitudes on daily basis. Before now, I had my daily exercise, but gradually that has gone. I go to bed very late and wake up early with 101 things to do. Also, talking about my family, I rarely have time to spend with them. Right now, it takes me weeks to finish reading a book which should not probably take me a week to finish because I have many things to attend to.