*Buhari remains the best candidate for office he occupies
*It is irresponsible to say wars against corruption and terrorism are no success
By BASHIR ADEFAKA
While it is no longer news that the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) one of its strongholds in South West, Oyo State, both in presidential and governorship elections of 2019, what many are yet to be told is detail of why the losses, who was responsible and how it happened? Bosun Oladele, immediate past Member, House of Representatives and former Oyo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, tells the story in this ‘unputdownable’ PERSONALITY OF The DEFENDER interview as our guest for the week. The constitutional lawyer speaks on NDDC corruption, national security and other interesting matters including Eighth Assembly and why David Lyon’s judicial sack as governor-elect in Bayelsa was a travesty of justice that must quickly be revisited by him going back to court to enable him partake in possible re-run soon, following the nullification of Duoye Diri’s election. Excerpts:
Your House of Representatives was not the issue in the Eighth National Assembly but the Senate, I want to believe because everybody was saying Yakubu Dogara was not the issue but Bukola Saraki, but eventually Dogara had to move along the way of Saraki. You were there for the four-year tenure. But the question I want to ask is this, what did you see, why did you not return to the House in 2019 and if you compare that Eighth Assembly where you belonged to what was there before and what is there now after you, what would your sincere rating be?
Well, let me start by saying that we have a National Assembly made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. And you will agree with me that whatever we do, the House of Representatives cannot do it alone and could not have done it alone. Or, in most things the House needed the concurrence of the Senate just like in most things the Senate needed the concurrence of the House. I would also say that Yakubu Dogara, our own Speaker under the Eighth Assembly, toed the line of what I would say, in bracket and in quote, bandwagon.
Bandwagon in what sense?
Bandwagon in the sense that he was following the line toed by the chairman of the National Assembly that is the Senate President and you wouldn’t have expected anything less because, if you look at the chairman of the Senate, His Excellency Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House, Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara, they had their antecedents in the PDP.
So at the inauguration of the Eighth Assembly, it was a tussle between the PDP elements and the progressives elements that is the APC: ACN, CPC and all the rest. If you look at that clearly, the likes would attract each other and that was why it ended up the way it did that we had people that had that particular background heading the two arms of the Eighth National Assembly.
But, regardless of what anybody would say and regardless of the tussle that saw to the emergence of Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker, he was still able to provide a measure of leadership. Although there wasn’t any way you wouldn’t have reactionary forces and there wasn’t any way you wouldn’t have people that would feel dissatisfied, but just look at the number of things that happened in succession, people would criticize the National Assembly and say, “Oh, you buy exotic cars for yourselves, you do this, you do that.”
I remember very well that each member of the House was given a Peugeot 508 and it was subjected to a very heavy debate, serious debate on the floor of the House and at our different executive sessions. And when I talk of serious debate, I remember we were looking at whether to go for Volkswagen products and somebody said, “No, Volkswagen products the owners of that business in Nigeria are having issues and the Federal Government is in court with them and they are being investigate for corruption or whatever.” That was it, we wouldn’t go ahead and lend support to such an establishment at that point in time. So we gathered and that decision was taken, Volkswagen products were jettisoned.
Then, do we go for any other foreign brand? The answer was no. What do we do? If we are able to go for Peugeot products, we would be able to put more Nigerians at work because those are the ones assembled in Nigeria. At that point in time maybe they said they assemble a figure less than 20 monthly and the House of Representatives would need more than 400 cars and I tell you what; it took two years for each and every one of us to get an official car.
“If every administration from Obasanjo till date had done half of what Buhar has done in terms of rail development, don’t you think of where we would been today, after 20 years of democracy? South East invested so much in PDP, in Jonathan administration up to the point that they went and exhumed his name that he had already abandoned ‘Ebele, Azikiwe’, yet, what did the administration do for South East? What did Obasanjo do for South East? We can begin to name all the roads that Buhari is completing in South East.”
And you actually got your supplies from Peugeot?
Yes. But some of them were actually imported because Peugeot could not meet the demand but the major part of the vehicles were bought from Peugeot Automobiles. That is one patriotic showing that the House of Representatives really stocked with in the Eighth Assembly. That is one. Two, there were so many laws, debates were as transparent as possible.
But you would agree with me also that the concurrence of Senate at times could slow things down because, it’s like a towed-boat, if a towed boat is being affected by waves, definitely the boat that is being towed will also be affected by the waves. So the kind of things that affected the Senate in terms of administrative and procedural issues were also affecting the House of Representatives.
And I would say, by and large despite its own bits of ups and down and in my own estimate, that the House still proved itself to be better than the Senate in the Eighth Assembly. Of course, people may see me as being biased because I belong to the House but, from my own perspectives and from where I am seeing it, that is what I would say.
Although I would still want us to discuss how Dogara was toeing the line of the Senate President, Saraki, but before then, you would observe that many of the revelations coming out now on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) corruption regard contracts awarded to members of the National Assembly were not things that happened largely in this Ninth Assembly but Eighth, Seventh, Sixth, Fifth and thereabouts. Chief Godswill Akpabio and Professor Pondei said the new Speaker knows nothing yet the probe panel members pushed themselves to the point of now popular “It’s Okay! Honourable Minister, please off your Mic.” Considering Chief Edwin Clark’s letter to National Assembly leadership, what did you observe during your time in the House of Representatives of the Eighth Assembly?
I must say that there is no right thinking person, no right thinking Nigerian that would not feel pained by what has happened and what is happening in the Niger Delta. The truth is that, when you tune your TV or you open the pages of newspapers, you see a lot of agitations from this same Niger Delta. But one way or the other, most people from that part of the country have failed in leadership and they have failed in using their resources to actually steer the ship their zone out of poverty.
People should be ready to call to question the activities of their representatives, and when I say representatives I am not limiting it to the lawmakers alone, I am extending it to every facet of representation in and from that area. If you look at the list that was going round – I don’t know if that has been confirmed or not – but the names you keep seeing there are names from that zone. If you look at the media today, the area where you have agitations upon agitations in respect of developmental issues and resource control is still the same zone. And if you look at the billions upon billions running into trillions that have spent, that have been budgeted and appropriated every year right from 1999 till date or let’s say right from 2003 till date, it is still for that zone.
But go and look at the ecology system of the place. Go and look at the infrastructural development of the zone. Look at the security of the zone. Look at the social sector. Look at the welfare of the zone. As a matter of fact you would say that poverty walks stack naked in daylight in that zone.
Is it that difficult to reign in their people? Is it that difficult to call their people question? Is it that difficult for you use what has been allocated and appropriated to develop your zone? If not for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration; look at the local content building, look at the NDDC headquarters. They kept spending so many billions every year paying rent, whereas those billions could be put two years, three years into that building and it would be done. But the fact is that a lot of people made more money and make cream off others from all those rents that were being spent. Nobody cares.
And it has occurred to me that the people that creaming off the suffering of the people of Niger Delta, they only rub Peter to pay Paul, at the end of the day share the money occasionally and people would forget it. And that is the reason why, up till tomorrow, people of Niger Delta, especially the youths, prefer to live off free bills, handouts. It’s the only zone, and probably some part of South East, where if you have a developmental project going on and they will hold the contractor to ransom. Unless he gives out some money, they won’t allow him to continue to embark on the infrastructural development projects.
You see, some people in the Niger Delta should embark on soul searching! They should look inward, call each other to question, address their problem inwardly and then decide to take decision to develop their zone and ensure that if money is appropriated, it is used for infrastructural development of their zone.
I was alarmed when I saw a chart showing that NDDC spent so many billions and none of these was on capital project but on training, estacol and so on and so forth. These are not developmental expenditures. It is fundamental thing, it is basic that when you spend more on capital project, then you are developing. But when you spend on frivolous things, on recurrent matters, where would development come from? That is why the common language around that zone is ‘Chop ‘I’ Chop’.
And I want to say that it is also part of the antecedents of PDP. I’m not sorry to say that. It’s only those that have failed to see the reality that would still be deluding themselves. If you see corruption walking on all fronts in Nigeria and we shout it today, it didn’t start today. It has been ingrained in our firmament and it’s issues like this that establish the fact that corruption endemic.
Let me take yon that point of corruption as an endemic problem. People say corruption is more endemic under President Buhari-led APC government than it was in the PDP era. What about that?
If you look at the efforts of the current administration in fighting corruption, I have heard people say, “Oh, they are recovering looted money, they are not fighting corruption.” Has this kind of expose ever been made since 1999 till date? Have we seen from 1999, not until this Buhari administration came in, have we seen high net worth people, VIPs are going to jail? It is only this administration that is raising that trail, even if the trial started long ago, we all knew that those trials were just a roost. They were just something to divert attention. No much seriousness has been shown.
But look at the number of trials that have been conducted in the last five years, which is Buhari’s administration, and look at the kind of convictions. Look at the ones he inherited, look at the kind of convictions. Look at the trend. It shows that you can only run but you cannot hide.
And if every administration has done its bit in terms of fighting corruption, we cannot be where we are today. I will tell you what, we are not where we want to be but, definitely, we have left where we used to be. That is one.
Back to the NDDC, if I am in the current National Assembly, my opinion will be that this matter that has called out names of some Assembly members should be investigated. It should be. There are committees for ethics and all the rest in the National Assembly, the committees have their terms of reference. They could discipline members, they could recommend discipline of members of the National Assembly.
But why are they not doing that?
I don’t want to believe that they are not doing that.
It is not clear that they are not doing it because I read a report of the legislature explaining why they could investigate the accused members. How do I also mean? Chief Edwin Clark wrote letter to leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly informing them that “Some of your members have been alleged to be part of the corruption in NDDC” and these same people are frustrating the Forensic Audit ordered by President Buhari but rather want to be judge in their own case to be the ones to occupy the panel to investigate the same NDDC corruption they are part of. He said the National Assembly should purge itself those allegedly corrupt members. But Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila still went ahead allowing the panels occupied by these same people to carry out the probe. Could they have been right to initiate this probe any further at all after all of those warnings and knowing that a Forensic Audit was on?
Well, investigation is part of the functions of the National Assembly. So, whether they are right or wrong in taking up this one, one may not be able to hold it against them because it is part of their duties. That is number one.
Number two, I’m sorry to say this but I have to be blunt about it. We should forget about the letter writing by Chief Edwin Clark. I respect the old man but the question I would ask is, where were his pen and ink when Goodluck Jonathan was President and he was the godfather of Nigeria? I’m talking of 2011 to 2015 and so, where was he? And if now is the best time he thinks he can write letter, they know themselves in the Niger Delta. As an elder statesman in that region, let him call a Town Hall meeting and address this issue. Yoruba people would say Ile ‘lati nkeso r’ode (meaning, charity begins at home).
Let’s not play to the gallery by writing letter exposing it to the press so that everybody will think you are doing well. That’s playing to the gallery. What have you done subsequently? The same Chief Edwin Clark that you and I know, if he wants to have an audience with the Speaker or the Senate President, would anybody deny him?
I’m not sure if anybody can deny him?
That is it. So, it is playing to the gallery by writing letters. That is the conduct. If you have anything to discuss, you have access to those institutions. And if you have gone to them and you have been denied, grant an interview and let us know, rather than trying to play the ostrich burying your head in the sand while the rest of the body is exposed and everybody is seeing it. So, I don’t want to go along that letter being something to me.
But I want to say categorically that the current leadership of the House of Representatives will not sweep this matter under the carpet. I want to believe so. I’m not the Spokesperson of the House but I believe in the leadership.
Having trashed the NDDC issue as regards the National Assembly alleged cover up, let us go to Bayelsa. The state’s Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja has just nullified the election of Governor Duoye Diri on the ground that INEC excluded the ANDP candidate despite that he substituted the deputy’s candidacy within legally permitted period. Considering the cost of re-run of such elections, why do you think that INEC should bring itself into costing the nation this kind of situation, vis-à-vis the earlier sacking of the Governor-elect also on the ground of similar reason?
Let me start by saying that a lot of things have gone wrong with Bayelsa gubernatorial election. I say a lot of things have gone wrong looking at the way and manner that the APC candidate, Chief David Lyon, was disqualified or let me say denied his mandate because of the disqualification of his deputy. And it is the same type of thing that reared its head in respect of the current judgment of today, 17th of August, 2020. One flimsy thing somewhere, the mandate is gone.
I would have thought that we look at it from the beginning and my considered opinion, which is personal to me based on my own understanding, is that the APC candidate Lyon should not have been removed in the first instance.
I would say because he was the candidate and his deputy was nothing but deputy. Not governor. I would cite an example. Look at the Constitution of the Federal Republic. There is a provision that says that before a governor is sworn in after having won an election, assuming that governor dies, his deputy will take over and be sworn in. After that, the implication is that the deputy will issue proclamation for the Assembly to convene. After the Assembly has convened, the deputy will now nominate another person to deputize him because he is now the governor and that person will be approved by two-third major of the House of Assembly.
Assuming there is anything that is wrong with the qualification of that deputy governor, would you disqualify him and ask the governor who has nominated him to also go? The answer is no. I am referring to Section 181 of the Constitution. You won’t say that the governor should go because the deputy that he has just nominated to join him in governance has been faulted based on his qualification. That is why in my opinion I said it is travesty of justice because, up till tomorrow, I was still thinking that I would sleep, wake up and discover that, that judgment has been revised. Because if we are not careful, it has done a lot of damages to our jurisprudence; if you look at the Constitution, it in this Section 181 that the deputy governor is mentioned.
And there is nothing that talks about joint ticket whereby once one leg defaults the other leg is gone?
There is nothing like that in the Constitution, although certain provisions are in the Electoral Act.
Nothing like Joint Ticket in Constitution
Eventually, if you a provision that says you can appoint your deputy, it is when the governor has won the nomination, that’s when he appoints his deputy. It is not a joint ticket seeking nomination from day one. That is our political parties are run.
How come therefore a court of competent jurisdiction would make that kind of judgment against the APC candidate, I mean the Bayelsa State governor-elect David Lyon?
Yeah! That is where I said something still baffles me till tomorrow regarding that judgment.
And then somebody would say it is the same Constitution that empowers or gives way for the Electoral Act and so that whatever Electoral Act says is backed up by the Constitution, therefore?
YES, but whatever the Constitution does not say, must you impune it on the Constitution? Must you infer whatever the Constitution does not say? If you are talking about constitutionality, this Section 181 should give us an insight into the scenario that will created if a deputy governor is invited to come and deputize by a governor that is already sworn in and is sitting and you now find out he is disqualified, would you say that, that governor should step down? The answer is no.
And I cite another scenario. We have witnessed it times without number in our polity. A governor and his deputy would be in office and the House would impeach the deputy governor. If the House initiated the impeachment proceedings against the deputy governor, can we say as a result of finding him liable to impeachment, the governor is also invariably impeached?
And in most cases the governor has always not been impeached…?
So it is something that doesn’t give a clear direction. It’s still going to lead to confusion in the nearest future. I can say that. It is high time we need to get the judiciary to be in … with electoral umpire and interpret categorically based on clear provisions of the law; either the Electoral Act or the Constitution. Because, I would tell you, the laws are clear. It is the interpretation that is the problem.
Which is the reason the court is there?
If you say the court must be objective and impartial habitat, let’s look at objectivity. Is it possible for a human being to be 100 percent objective? It is subject to some measure of subjectivity. So, where does that subjectivity lie in that judgment that we are talking about in Bayelsa? And how has any tint of subjectivity affected delivery of that judgment; the consideration of the issues and interpretation of the law? Nobody can say. It is only ‘My Lord’ at that level that can say, and not jointly but individually.
But don’t you think that INEC is the victim here?
Let me correct you. INEC is probably a collateral victim, APC is the victim.
David Lyon is the biggest victim.
Because former Military Governor of Ondo State, His Excellency Colonel Moses Fasanya in our last PERSONALITY OF The DEFENDER interview wondered that INEC would take action to sanitize the electoral system by deregistering in active parties and a court of jurisdiction would order their re-instatement – reason I asked if INEC is not the victim. Are courts not supposed to be stakeholders in the building the nation?
Well, INEC is a fall guy for everybody in an electoral process. And you see the duty or expectation of the INEC is to defend their position to say, “We conducted this election. We did so in good faith and everything was perfect.” No more than that. In the same way INEC is bound to obey every decision of the court concerning the political party. That is why I said INEC is the fall guy but not the main victim. INEC will not defend you beyond the fact that that election was free and fair. When it goes to technicality, INEC will just be an onlooker.
When INEC deregisters, if you look at the provisions of the Constitution, there is freedom of association. At the same time, that provision for freedom of association is not just at large. You cannot say because there is freedom association; you are a Muslim, there is the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), can you say because there is a freedom of association you want to join that? You must be qualified. Just giving an example, and so, there is still a limit. It is not just freedom at large. And if INEC says so, which the Constitution allows it to do, you must comply with that rule to exist as a valid political party.
So, if INEC has gone and court and has said for failing to comply with that rules or standard, you would be deregistered, the court should take a more cursory look at that respect the right of INEC to regulate as long as that regulation is within the extant laws.
Still on David Lyon
If I want to adviser David Lyon, I would ask him to go back to court, primarily, to seek the interpretation of that judgment vis-à-vis his own qualification or otherwise. Because, to me, it was the deputy governor that was disqualified not the governor. The governor is qualified by virtue of his qualifications and whatever and that will determine whether or not he can contest in this (re-run) election and he has to be fast about it.
Now moving forward, on this very seat in this same office in the build-up to the 2015 election you said Obasanjo bequeathed us President Goodluck Jonathan and that General Muhammadu Buhari would definitely emerge to put a halt to that. That has happened and has been on for five years now. How far so far, I mean would you say Nigeria is what you said it would become General Buhari and APC at that time?
Yes. I said it while we were preparing for the 2015 general elections. And I would restate it that given the circumstances we are in, President Buhari remains the right person to have been where he is today.
Looking at the past five years, I have submitted in the course of this interview that we may not be where we want to be yet but, definitely, we have left where we were. In terms of preventing the intrusion of insurgents into the heart of Nigeria, before now, Abuja was no longer safe. As a matter of fact in about 2013, 2014 in Abuja, you couldn’t go out as you wished. Wherever you stood outside, especially in public places, you would be there conscious of the fact anything could go off in terms of bomb or attack at any point in time. But go to Abuja now and see night life, peace and security are now restored. Go to every state capital across the country, it’s the same thing.
Gone were the times when major Local Government Areas in the North East were under the control of the insurgents where they hoisted their flags. Although the security challenges are still there but it’s far better.
If the situation is far improved but security challenges are still there, does it bring you into agreement with Colonel Fasanya blaming what is left of the security challenges of political class not cooperating with the Buhari administration and its military in the fight against terrorism and other criminalities in the country?
I believe some people are exploiting the insurgency for political gains. I want to believe so. And I want to believe categorically that such people would be ready to come on the media space – at every point in time they do that – to fan these embers of discord. That is why you go on twitter and some other social media and see they have labeled some people as reporters of Boko Haram because they afford this insurgents the publicity they crave for.
Should anybody born with his right senses as citizen of Nigeria do such thing?
No!!! That is lack of patriotism. That is to show that some people are really gloating over the mishap of defenseless Nigerians that were being attacked by these insurgents because they want to use it to throw the Buhari administration to a bottleneck. And they do it disguisedly in the guise of saying, “Oh! We sympathize with this, we sympathize with that.” But after the opening phrase of those sympathizes, go and look at the body of each statement that they issued, they passed blame.
Having we forgotten that the last administration of about six years ago never equipped the military? How soon we got! They would bring in helicopter gunship and it was refurbished. No rotor, nothing. And this same neglect led to deaths of many of our soldiers. But if you have seen real time equipment being purchased by this current Buhari administration, it would show you that we have gone far from where we used to be.
Gone were the days when our soldiers would run away from insurgents and land in Cameroon and we would go and rescues our soldiers again. It was happening here in 2013, 2014, before Buhari came in 2015. But now we see videos, we see news online of their exploits fighting with confidence, morale boosted, till they make the mark and their equipment have been coming in every day. According to the Presidency and military top echelon, some of the equipment have been delivered, some will be delivered in 2021, some will be delivered later this year 2020, some are already being delivered as we speak, some will still be delivered in 2022.
Buhari and governance
If every administration from Obasanjo till date had done half of what Buhar has done in terms of rail development, don’t you think of where we would been today, after 20 years of democracy?
South East invested so much in PDP, in Jonathan administration up to the point that they went and exhumed his name that he had already abandoned ‘Ebele, Azikiwe’, yet, what did the administration do for South East? What did Obasanjo do for South East?
We can begin to name all the roads that Buhari is completing in South East. East and West Road, did it take off at all during those administrations? The Second Niger Bridge, some people social media would say, “Oh, Jonathan started it but the pillars under water”. Which pillars were under water? Go on social, google for it, I knew where Jonathan went and commissioned a three-day … of the bridge during the electioneering campaign. They had to build plank and cover it with red carpet in marshy for him to walk on it and go and commissioner the three-day …
But today we are celebrating pillars, we are celebrating the platform already being laid on the bridge, we are celebrating real time physical development made possible by Muhammadu Buhari government.
Who paid the Biafran pensions? You can go on and on. In the South South we saw it. The 17-storey Nigerian Content Building in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, he just commissioned it. You need to see the picture of the building at night, you would think you are in Dubai. NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, they are already using it. All these are things that we should give to Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Look our Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Obasanjo started it. That road traversed Obasanjo’s administration, Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s and they were playing politics with it. That road will be completed by the grace of God, next year but it is earlier now when you drive on it to get to Ibadan. No longer death caused by road issue now except any overzealous driving. Same thing is Shagamu-Ore Road.
It is only fool that will not remember the accusation by Obasanjo against Aninih in respect of Benin-Ore Road. And right now, a lot of people enjoy travelling better on that road than it used to be.
What about Enugu-Onitsha road? What about Enugu-Port-Harcourt and so on and so forth? Now we have the Lagos-Ibadan rail. It was started by this administration and they are now at the Ports concluding the gas section. Just last Saturday I was speaking with the MD Railways because I was member of that committee that supervised rails. We started it together. Now trains are moving on those rails. You need to see the design of the stations and you would know that those stations would generate multiple employment for the localities where they are operating. Talk of Warri-Agbor-Ajaokuta rail line.
Right now the coastal line rail project has been approved. That coastal line will touch every state capital in the South South and South East. Although it will be different lines but will run all the way from Lagos to Calabar. And in the programme of this administration, the development plan for railways is that every state capital must be linked by rail. Are we not going there gradually? Are we still where we were? No! we have surely moved on! We may not be at our destination but surely we have left where we used to be.
Now let us move to discussion of Oyo State politics.
Oh! Where do we start from?
I would like us to start from here; why did you return to House of Representatives in 2019?
Alright. In 2018 we had the congress in APC starting from Ward congresses up to the state level. And while we were having the congresses, don’t forget before the congresses there were the Local Government elections. Now the Local Government elections came and majority of members in APC was sidelined and that division had started long ago even when I was a Commissioner, when certain groups saw themselves as SENACO. I would explain that to you presently.
The late Leader and former Governor, Ajimobi, under whom I served as first Commissioner for Information and Orientation, left AD for ANPP in 2007 when he couldn’t get the governorship. Under that, he couldn’t defeat Akala but he came back to join us – at that point in time we were already AC. I was the Youth Leader of the party in the state and it was from AC we transformed to ACN and Lam Adesina, God bless his soul, was our Leader as a former governor and so we transformed to ACN.
Under ACN Senator Ajimobi became the candidate for governorship. And don’t forget he came back from ANPP to join un in AC. We had remained in AD all along, we didn’t decamp. We were only changing from AD to AC, ACN and later to APC, it was still the same line.
So, when (Ajimobi) came with some of his people that left for ANPP with him, our Leader, Lam Adesina called us to a meeting and I was part of the EXCO then, and he said to us, ‘Biola l’aalo. Oun ni kandideti wa meaning, “Biola we are going to use as our candidate that will contest under our party for governorship.” And at the time that was done, I remember that I was instructed by the EXCO and Honourable Wasiu Olatubosun, who is now the Commissioner for Information under Seyi Makinde, was also instructed. He was the Chairman of Ibadan South West Local Government or so under Ajimobi. He was at that time the State Secretary of the Party and I was the State Youth Leader under ACN.
Okay, you said you were instructed. To do what?
The two of us were instructed to go and conduct, in conjunction with the national committee assigned to Oyo State, to conduct the primaries at Olubadan Stadium for our candidate. And since it was only Senator Ajimobi that we were all adopting, we were told by Alhaji Lam Adesina to go to Olubadan Stadium and conduct affirmation for Ajimobi.
Was he that much a favoured candidate?
He was and I must say this, may God bless his soul, Governor Ajimobi was very luck person. Regardless of what anybody would say, he was a very luck human being because of the ways God granted him most of the things he wanted. So, I still remember very well that at that event Olubadan Stadium, some of his loyalists were the ones that pelted us with stones because, after affirmation of Ajimobi, Chief Segun Adesegun, former Deputy Governor to Governor Ibikunle Amosun during his first term in Ogun State, was the National Youth Leader and he was the one that led that national committee that came to conduct the affirmation primary.
Immediately we raised up Ajimobi’s hand and we then went ahead to reel out the names of other candidates adopted for various elective positions, hell was let loose. Some of his supporters pelted us with stones, sachet water and all sort of things just because of them that felt they would make the consensus list did not make it.
After they had successfully produced the governorship candidate?
They didn’t consider that. Vividly I still remember the scenario and I know the actors. But moving on, Alhaji Lam Adesina called meetings and all those rancours were settled and we moved on and Ajimobi won that governorship election of 2011. After winning that election and the government was constituted, out of nowhere, some people started referring to some of us that remained in the party before Governor Ajimobi and his team came back as LAMIST.
And what was wrong about that?
No! It was because they came with the tag of SENACO. At that point in time, coming with the tag of SENACO, the only thing that was appropriate was for them to refer to us as ACN members and that would mean that they had conceded the party to us if they referred to us as original ACN members. So, they had to find a tag for us and the tag they found was LAMIST (to mean followers of LAM Adesina) and that was how SENACO came into being. And what is SENACO? Senator Ajimobi Campaign Organisation.
And did Ajimobi buy that idea from them, his group bringing up that divisive tagging?
Well, often times we heard the governor saying that he was no longer SENACO but he was GOVNACO because he was so far a ‘Senator’ before but now he was governor. Be that as it may be, that division existed but I must say that most of us tagged LAMIST were not looking at that division. We were only focused on the bigger picture and the bigger picture was to provide good governance and to ensure that the government of Oyo State remained with the progressives.
But how come the government of Oyo State slipped off your hands?
I am coming to that. You will discover that, despite the division, long after Baba Lam Adesina had gone, we still conducted 2015 election and still won because we believed in working together – despite that some people felt aggrieved that the so called LAMIST were being sidelined, the so called LAMIST were still the ones that worked very assiduously to ensure the success of the second term.
You were always with me when I was Commissioner for Information and Orientation under Ajimobi, if you remember very well, it was this division that caused me that seat because some people felt that I was a LAMIST and I wasn’t SENACO. But the question anybody would have asked then was that, was I discharging my duties? Am I committed and loyal? I say it up till tomorrow, I will had never addressed an interview meeting to attack Governor Ajimobi before and I am not ready to do it at any point in time because, there should be some decency and modicum of respect even when we are playing politics. That’s my own opinion and I believe it has become my second nature.
So, that was the division that was now orchestrated and when that congresses of 2018 were conducted, most people felt that the LAMIST were sidelined in the Local Government elections. If you monitored the Local Government elections in Oyo State then you would find out that there was a lot of voters’ apathy. There was a lot of it. People didn’t come out to vote because candidates were not picked based on primaries. People who were promised level playing field, they went and bought forms and before then, those that were caretaker committee chairmen claimed they were promised by Governor Ajimobi that they would go for second term and that he would use, allow and adopt them as candidates to contest the real elections rather being caretaker chairmen, if they worked for success of second term. Some of them claimed to have sold their properties to ensure that success and that immediately after the success, they were sidelined.
So, that one was an agitation on one side, then the agitation that some of these people also bought forms, promised level playing field that there would primaries but there wasn’t anything like primaries. They were handpicked, people were protesting and people felt it was only the SENACO members that were handpicked Local Government chairmen and as councilors
If you look at Lagos you have the Mandate Group and the Justice Forum but at every point in time, they always know how to balance things. Everybody has a stake in whatever is going on. But it wasn’t like that. I believe that was what ought to have happened in Oyo State under the so called LAMIST and SENACO – balancing the act. And it was balancing the act that we applied even when LAMIST were strong at the inception of APC where we had to conduct congresses. Most congresses in Oyo State were by consensus, the political offices were held by consensus right from the ward exco to the state exco. That was in 2014. So how come we couldn’t use this same method?
At least the strong party, which was LAMIST did not apply ‘winner takes all’. Anywhere LAMIST produced chairman SENACO would produce the secretary or vice chairman with some other positions. That was the way we balanced the act. So I believe that was what ought to have been but it wasn’t. People felt sidelined.
By the time we got to congresses, myself personally, I represented three Local Governments at the National Assembly (Irepo, Orelope and Olorunsogo). Our people from home called me and said they won’t take this, that the SENACO was in the minority and this was what was happening. So, there evolved the United Forum in APC.
Most members of the National Assembly, I think about 10 of us out of 14 were members of the Unity Forum. And the essence of the Unity Forum was to agitate for fair treatment down the line to the ward level.
But at the point in time the Unity Forum started becoming hydraheaded, and hydraheaded in the sense that members were agitating for decampment and, at that point in time, I told them, I started this based on instructions of my people at home but I also made that Ori bibe ko l’oogun orififo, meaning that beheading a man is not the headache. I told them that I would not leave my party to become a second citizen in another party. So, I won’t decamp. The day they were reading out the list of those that decamped on the floor of the House of Representatives, they called me to come and sign that I decamped, I said no. I won’t do that. But one way or the other, some of them left for ADC, others ADP. I remained in APC.
And the national leadership of our party said those that stood with the party in the tension and rancour, decampment and cross-carpeting would be rewarded with second term, that we had demonstrated enough loyalty and commitment to the course of the party and the welfare of our people. But down the line my former governor, Ajimobi, said no, that where I come from, that is Irepo/Orelope/Olorunsogo Federal Constituency, that we do rotation.
And I look at it this way, there is nowhere we don’t do rotation in Nigeria. Even if we are doing rotation, assuming I was allowed to go for second term, any Local Government that takes off after me in that position will also be allowed to do second term and it keeps rotating like that. And I remember having approached our National Chairman then, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and he said, “Ha! How could you be going for one term in your constituency? You are not only robbing yourself, you are shortchanging your people in terms of quality representation. You won’t be able to lobby and attract real time development to your constituency. You governor should allow you and I will talk to him.” Eventually I didn’t know what transpired afterward.
But what effort did you make personally towards achieving the second term?
I picked the form. The governor called a meeting of all the aspirants and he announced to them publicly that I had gone to another party and that why should I also be there at that forum? And I said I did not go to another party. At least we had some facts that would have pointed to the fact that I had gone to another party if I did. One of the salient ones was that it was a fact that the names were read on the floor of the National Assembly, I was at that sitting and people signed but I didn’t sign to go to another party and so my name was not read. And every meeting called by the Presidency for members that remained with the party I had always attended.
The current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila can attest to that. He told me that he had gone to my governor more than three times to table my case give an insight into the role I had played and that he confirmed that I never at any point in time decamped. He said it to the governor but he did not listen to him.
Of course there was an instance when the presidential campaign committee was inaugurated. I had the opportunity of meeting the governor and I was alone talking with him wherein Gbajabiamila came and joined us and said to the governor, “But I came because Bosun’s issue.” The governor said, “Don’t mind him. He went to another party.” And he (Gbajabiamila) said, “No. I told you sir that he didn’t go to another party.” The governor then said, “Well, I believe you, Femi Gbajabiamila, but that situation is a bygone event. Candidate has emerged.” He embraced me and said I should take it like that.
Just like that? And how did you receive that final pronouncement?
I prostrated and begged him that if he had felt offended by my joining the Unity Forum, I didn’t join just because I wanted to malign or spite him but that I joined it on the agitation of my people in my Federal Constituency. I said if he felt offended, he should forgive me. And he said that was alright.
So, but my surprise up till tomorrow is that the governorship candidate in the Oyo State (Adebayo Adelabu) and the candidate that took over from me to the House of Representatives from my Federal Constituency never related well with me because the story they carried about was that I had gone to another party. That was the reason I didn’t go back to the National Assembly.
My people felt I should go to another party and take the mandate. As a matter of fact, ADP called me severally that I should come and take their ticket to return to the National Assembly but I said no.
And you don’t think they would have voted for you if you had sought second term through another party?
Why not? My people who voted for me the first term wanted me to go and seek the second term through another party. ADP called me and said they had reserved their ticket for me. But the question I kept myself was that, if I have to contest on a new platform, it would mean more expenditure and I never had the financial muscle to do that. That’s number one. Number two, it would also mean me now going round against my inner conviction, which was that I don’t need to dish my party and decamp to another political party. So I decided to stay put.
The person that took over from me, I did House-to-House campaign that I funded from my own pocket. I printed posters just to support him. I campaigned for him and all of that and I spent money even for the election. I thank God.
But how did your people now receive and handle your replacement?
Out of the feeling of dissatisfaction, APC lost my Local Government but I thank God that we voted and made our effort.
In actual fact the people revolted. Didn’t they?
Some revolted but I was still able to reign in a lot and at the end of the day the candidate that took over from me was able to make up the vote in his own Local Government. But I can imagine a situation where if I let down the guard, maybe the story would have been different today. But I thank God the leaders of that other Local Governments called me and thanked me at the end of the election for such a wonderful participation and contribution. That has been the story and that was why I didn’t go back to the National Assembly.
Okay, that is bygone like your late former governor said. From what I saw in Igbeti when your people gathered from all the three Local Governments, if you don’t have a plan ahead, it may not be great. What is your plan moving forward to 2023?
The first plan and the most important one is to remain in the party. Of equal importance is due to the fact that now is the time to rebuild the party.
But who are the leaders that you have there now because the party is tearing apart daily?
Well, that is the picture that is obvious to a bystander. This last weekend I was at home. I had gone round to see people. We keep networking, we keep talking just to find a common ground and see how we all can come back together, work together and be able to achieve our goals.
The second most important think apart from remaining in the party is to seek genuine reconciliation.
Which leadership is steering the affair of the party now to achieve that reconciliation?
Like I told you, there has been in the division in the party. So, leadership from every side of the division is involved. Most people that we talk on either side of the divide are ready to come back and to reconcile. Even, for example the caucus that belongs to former Governor Akala, who is one of our leaders, they felt cheated because they were not involved in anyway in the congresses of 2018 despite the fact that he was already a member of APC at that time. That made them to leave for ADP but they came back before the congresses of 2018 due to the efforts of our national leader and the Presidency
Are you also speaking with the former Minister, Shittu?
Yes, the former Minister of Communications, Dr. Adebayo Shittu, and I speak. The current Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Sunday Dare, is also for genuine reconciliation.
Does Sunday Dare not belong to SENACO?
No you see, Sunday Dare has been a very lucky man. He has been one of Asiwaju’s boys and remains so. He was close to the governor and he tried to maintain his tryty and was neutral in the division. And I think his his nomination was due to the fact that he was committed to the party and the effort of our national leader and when they needed somebody that was neutral, he came to hand and that was it. We talk with Senator Soji Akanbi, who also felt disgruntled because he also claims he wanted to go for governor but that Ajimobi did not allow him and he wanted to go back to Senate, he was not also allowed. Remember it was the same seat under which the governor himself contested but failed.
There are a lot of aggrieved personalities in the party but what is important is, the tongue and the mouth are always in contact frictions but they settle.
What is your biggest concern about Ajimobi’s death?
One of the saddest things, one of the most painful things to me about the death of His Excellency Ajimobi was that he wasn’t able to bring about true and genuine reconciliation in the party before his death. Anytime I still remember his death, I feel very, very sad for this particular reason that is of major concern. May God have mercy on his soul and grant him Al-Jannah Firdaus. Amiin.