“How I Got My Mandate Back 1 Year After”

•Senator MUSILIU OBANIKORO’s Son, BABAJIDE

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After one year of legal tussle, the Local Government Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja, Lagos last week declared Ibrahim Babajide Obanikoro, son of popular politician, and immediate past Nigeria High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro the duly elected Chairman of Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area. The 5-man tribunal headed by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (rtd) ruled that Obanikoro was the lawful winner of the election held on 0ctober 22, 2011. The tribunal ruled that Obanikoro who was the candidate of the PDP in the election won with 3,780 votes as against 3,248 votes scored by Adewale Adeniji of the ACN. When the judgement was delivered last Thursday, Babajide Obanikoro was away in London. He however spoke with TOPE AILERU in this interview from his base in London on the development. He spoke about his experience during the one year legal tussle and the role his dad played in seeing him actualizing his political ambition. He also talked about the next moves he will be making following the landmark judgement he got from the tribunal, his relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other Lagos ACN bigwigs among other issues. Excerpts.

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How did you receive the news that the Election Petition tribunal has declared you the winner of the Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA in Lagos and how did you feel after you got the news?
I was not in Lagos as at the time the tribunal was giving the judgment, but I have my ears on the ground. So my absence at the court was actually not obvious. The struggle is not just about me, but rather a collective effort of my party, my supporters and my campaign team. We had a strong team on ground at the court. When I got the news of the judgment through the phone, I received it with so much joy. I was highly impressed that the tribunal could upturn LASIEC’s decision to declare my opponent in the election winner, when it was so obvious that I was the actual winner. I feel so glad about the development and I give all the glory to Almighty Allah.

All the while you were fighting the legal battle, did you have the conviction that the tribunal will rule in your favour or you had your doubts?
It was actually a mixture of many things. From the outset, I have been very confident that the decision of the tribunal was going to be in my favour. My confidence was boosted when the respondent was unable to present any evidence against our claims. However, as the proceedings progressed, I started having some fear. In my case, I was also fighting for 3 other PDP councilors to have their mandate restored. Things however took a new twist when the tribunal dismissed the case of 2 of them. At that time, I became really scared. I even became more scared when the case of the PDP candidate in Badagry Local Government whom I thought also had a good case was dismissed. But despite all the doubts, I was still confident that we will have victory.

So, what is your next line of action going to be?
We will be studying the developments that will follow the tribunal’s judgement. I think the law should be obeyed without further delay. However, if our opponents feel they still have further legal means they want to explore, we will be preparing for them. In the absence of this however, we are ready to commence all the processes that will usher us into office, including the swearing-in, so that we can begin to put our programmes in place to better the lots of our people.
What is your impression about the PDP in Lagos state? A lot of people believe the party does not have a strong structure in Lagos?
I am going to leave that to the leaders of the party in the state to judge.

But do you see a brighter political future for yourself in the party in Lagos?
Of course, every politician must surely work for his future. Though it is good to belong to a strong political party, what is more important is the work the politician is able to do for himself. The people of Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA have reposed much confidence in my team and that made them gave me the mandate at the polls. The onus is now on me to deliver unto them all that I have promised them and that will also go a long way in determining what the future will be like.

Tell us about the trying moments you went through in the course of this ambition?
It has been a long, taxing journey. It has been an onerous task since the time I contested for the House of Assembly in 2011. Before the election, it was obviously a tall mountain to climb for anyone from another party to challenge the ACN in Lagos. So during the local government election, LASIEC played many pranks to frustrate us. One of the things they did was to disenfranchise many of our supporters on the day of the election. On that day, they did not deliver election materials to areas where we have strong presence. But despite all their pranks, we stood against all odds to get victory. The task became harder when the final results of the election were rigged and the candidate of the ACN was declared winner. During the battle at the tribunal, the ACN and LASIEC also did everything possible to frustrate our case. Their respondents tried so many times to always have the case adjourned. In fact, before we could do our final submissions, we had like 4 adjournments. However, I must appreciate the effort of my vice, Jubril Miringa, my campaign manager and team, the IBO Crew, our party members and the media who played a very big role in the actualization of our mandate.

Tell us about the role your dad, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro played in the whole issue. A lot of people believe he is the major force behind you?
He played all the roles of a father that everyone would have expected of him. He gave me all the support I needed for me to actualize my ambition. He supported us financially, physically and in every way. On the day of the election, he stood against all the odds from the ACN to make sure all the votes were counted, which was not easy. You were aware of the reports then that he even escaped death by the whiskers as he was shot at by ACN thugs. He has been there from the beginning.
There is this gist going round that you may have entered into a pact with the ACN and that was why the tribunal ruled in your favour.

The gist goes on to say that when you eventually get to the office, you may likely dump the PDP for ACN. What will you say about this?
Apart from the personal platonic relationship I have with most of the top shots in the ACN in Lagos State, I don’t have any other dealings with them. I have relationships with many of the ACN bigwigs in the State, including Asiwaju Tinubu, but I can tell you categorically that I do not have any pact with the party and neither do I have any plan to defect to the party anytime in the future.
Will you agree with the fact that the success you are recording in politics today is built on your dad’s name and influence in Lagos politics. Of course I can’t deny that fact. But I must also say that it is one thing to have the opportunity and it is another thing to make a good use of it. It is obvious that my dad has built a big name in Lagos politics, which I am building on today. But on the other hand, it places a big responsibility on my shoulders. I have a big task of living up to the name and also do even better. I however thank God for blessing me with good parents, brothers and sisters who have always been there for me.

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