Navy Captain Tunji Shelle (rtd.) is a former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he speaks on factors responsible for the party’s dismal performance in the just concluded governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of the 2019 general elections and the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? Do you think it is an improvement on the 2015 elections or a decline?

The 2019 general elections to me, is an experiment that failed. Those in charge of INEC were given enough money to get the best result, a lot of resources were put in to have a successful election but the law guiding the electoral process was not tidy. President Muhammadu Buhari failed to sign the Electoral Bill into law and this brought a lot of confusion, leaving room for manipulation, malpractices and loopholes. Above all, the introduction of the military into the exercise, directly or indirectly made it a very untidy exercise at the end of the day. From Lagos to Ogun, to Oyo, Osun, to Borno, Yobe, Gombe , Plateau and Benue in particular, everything was awful. I don’t pray we witness this kind of election again. I thought we would have learnt our lessons from the 2015 elections and prepare for a much more better election now but we had a setback. The reality is that the system has failed. There is leadership failure. Nobody is in charge. INEC lost its focus. They were only trying to remedy a bad situation and that is very unfortunate.

In Lagos, PDP did well in 2015, winning eight seats in the House of Assembly but now, the All Progressives Congress (APC) cleared all the seats. Also, you had lesser votes in the governorship election. What do you think went wrong?

The situation in Lagos, especially as regards the PDP is a long story. We did well in 2015 because of teamwork. We tried to accommodate our differences. We brought in a new person into the party so that he could at least help us have a new direction. It was deliberate because we knew we were sitting on a fragile soil. All our possible candidates or aspirants then were shaky. We thought we could introduce a new dimension and stabilise the situation so we could have a new beginning in Lagos. We had a lot of rough edges but we successfully managed the situation. Since then, things have not been that smooth again. Some people have chosen to be on their own. Everybody is claiming to be the leader. Even somebody who joined the party four years ago wanted to become the national chairman of the party. That is the root cause of this result that we had in Lagos. Somebody who came in newly, that a lot of love was shown to him, a lot of support was given to him so that we can put the party on a solid footing and start on a clean slate; the same person brought in a serious crisis and division, he polarised the party and brought a lot of indiscipline into the party. He disrespected the leadership of the party. I believe where there is no leadership there could be no progress. In every party, you need a leader who you can serve as a rallying point. We have that person in Chief Olabode George. He is not only the leader in Lagos; he is a leader in the South- West and at the national level. He spent his money, time and intellect for the sake of this party. He appears in television more than any other person in the country fighting the cause of PDP, challenging the opposition. Just and go and check the records. However, somebody that we brought in and introduced to the party is challenging the authority of this political icon? There are two or three other leaders in Lagos who have no bearing whatsoever in this fold. They have no bearing whatsoever. All they do is to keep pulling down somebody. We have cases of thieves calling other people thieves. That is the kind of thing that happened in Lagos. We have a situation where somebody said he could work and achieve victory alone. Meanwhile, he doesn’t know anything. Rather than show cooperation, he was arguing and fighting people who could help him. Even when things were going bad and help was to be rendered, he said he doesn’t need help.

While all these were going on, why didn’t the national body intervene?

Well-meaning people intervened to rally everybody together in Lagos. They called us to a meeting and asked us to help him but he refused, saying he doesn’t need help. He became a lone ranger and stand-alone person. Even when we were trying to reinforce his campaign team, he told us point blank that he couldn’t work with people he can’t control. He wants to be a master of all and subject everybody in the party under his control which is not possible. You can’t control everybody because PDP is not your private party. So, we decided to leave him to go and do the job alone and at the end of the day, that is the result we got in Lagos. That is the major reason why PDP failed in Lagos

If not for the sympathy votes we got from people who are tired of APC and felt there is need for leadership change in Lagos state, we could have gotten lesser votes in the governorship election. To be frank, our governorship candidate was our problem in Lagos state. He defeated the party and defeated himself. The most unfortunate thing is that he doesn’t feel the pain of what he has caused. Also, there was mismanagement of resources too because everybody left him to his fate to do whatever pleases him.

So, what is the way forward now?

I am sure he must have realised the fact that he is not acceptable again. He himself knows that the party has rejected him. He should just go and hide somewhere so that PDP can have peace. We shall rise again because this is the last chance of APC in Lagos. They will not have it that easy again in future elections. There will be nobody there for them to manipulate the minds of Lagosians. APC has to leave Lagos. Lagosians need a change from APC government. Look at the campaign they did. A lot of money was wasted on propaganda, campaign materials and billboards running into billions of naira. Just do a research on how much APC spent on this election in Lagos and you will be shocked. These are monies the state should have used to develop infrastructures in the state so that Lagos can be a better place. I am sure when PDP comes into power in 2023, all these things will happen.

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