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Ondo 2020: Our plan against erring aspirants —APC National vice-chairman

The national vice-chairman (South-West) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Kole Oluwajana, speaks on developments in the party ahead of coming elections in 2020 and preparations being made by his party, in this interview with some journalists. BOLA BADMUS brings the excerpts:


Feelers from Ondo State indicate that the ruling APC is not united. How will the party avert other rancorous primaries in the state, reminiscent of that of 2016?

One thing is very clear: what people refer to as rancour is a normal human behaviour in a particular situation. We are talking of democracy. People aspire; people have ambition; they have their plans. So if somebody tries to express such plan, there is nothing wrong with that. That does not signify disunity. You must also be mindful that it’s in a dictatorial environment that you don’t have people speak out on situations. There is no government anywhere that will not have people that are agitating. There will always be voices of argument. But that does not mean there is any serious rancour. I want to say this with a clear voice that what the leadership of APC as relates to Ondo State wants is that the state must be retained by the party. Whatever you see now is a normal development in an election year. And you’ll probably see more. It happens everywhere, and it’s only where there is no vibrant party that you will not have such people that feel otherwise. I’m happy that you said the way it was in 2016. That year we still had an election. For me, there is nothing unusual in that respect. I must also accept that we have a governor in Ondo State, who appears to focus essentially on infrastructure development. The governor sees the state as belonging to the citizens.

With a population of over three million people, he feels that whatever he is going to do must be about these three million people. I heard a story sometimes ago that some civil servants went to him, and they were talking about the outstanding salaries. I think as at that time he had paid part of the outstanding, remaining one or two months then. He had consistently paid the salaries, every month. I think that particular time, he had about two months outstanding, and the civil servants felt that he should pay everything, and the man said, ‘you are not the only one that owns Ondo State. This is what I can afford.’ I think one of them now said that ‘remember election is coming,” and the governor said, ’don’t blackmail me with election is coming. I’m here to work for everybody in the state. I don’t have free money.’ Everybody knows that he’s one of the most difficult governors to get free money from. And the leadership of the party doesn’t have any problem with that. Our focus is what exactly is he doing? What are the projects that are on? What are the efforts he’s making? What is the road network like? I’m saying it again, people should learn the act of creating activities for themselves, within the concept of government, instead of expecting government to give you free money. So there is no rancour, as such, that is unusual. It is a normal agitation of a vibrant party. As a party, if there are no arguments, then we will know that something is wrong, and that there is nothing to fight for. But when you hear people say ‘I want to be governor, the governor is doing well, he’s not doing well,’ it’s not something I’ll have sleepless nights over. I’ll rather judge by myself whether the governor is doing well or not, as far as development of the state is concerned.

And as far as Ondo State is concerned, I can easily point to two or three things. Now, we have several flights going to Ondo State; before we never had that. I’m aware of the activities going on in Ore. I just spoke about the ethanol. I’m aware of the efforts of the governor to ensure that we have sea port, in that area. I’m aware of the drive to make the issue of bitumen, a reality. I’m also aware of the road that the man is building. Those are the things that bother me. When the election time comes, we’ll make all these things known as a party leader.  I also want to warn, and I hope the party members will understand this, that anybody that runs down the party, because you want to be governor can never get there. They should tell us what they can do to improve on what the man there is doing, not about telling me that the man there is not working, because I know he’s working. So, if you, as a party member, because you want to become governor decided to run down the governor there, I will frown at such attempt.


A section of the party in that state is calling for the dissolution of Ade Adetimehin’s Executive Committee (EXCO) as the basis for reconciliation?

Maybe, they told you that. I don’t have such letter before me. And again, let me say this that we will always have agitations. And we are doing all we can to reconcile everybody. On Ade Adetimehin’s EXCO, you know the president said something, and we should hold on to that. Anything you want to do must be constitutional, this is not a dictatorial regime whereby you just wake up and do a fiat. And if it’s going to be constitutional, that means the agitation will be made by the party. Having said that, I know that there is nobody that will be there, and there will be no issue to be raised. That’s also not to say that the executive does not have a lot to do by way of reconciliation. There must be reconciliation, and we are working strenuously towards that. But you don’t throw the baby away with the bath water.


But there is a friction between the state deputy governor and his principal, Rotimi Akeredolu.

Who told you there is friction?


It’s in the public domain?

But the man denied it. So, how did people come about the friction thing they are talking about? Who said so? If you say there is friction and the man says that there is no friction and that he’s okay with his boss, and the boss has not even told me there is friction, then where is the friction?  If there is argument between them, that is part of politics. Is there any vibrant democracy where you don’t have such at times? I will want to take the deputy governor for what he has said. If the man had a complaint, I would have probably been one of those he would have come to. And I’m not aware that he has gone to any of our national leaders. If he had gone to Asiwaju Tinubu or Baba Akande, they would have called the governor and tried to mediate between them. You see when the press does that, I can understand, because that is your job. In politics, I can have issues with you, I can argue, then somebody will say Oluwajana is fighting this person, simply because we are arguing over an issue. In any human gathering, there will be argument, there will be discussions, there will be issues to be resolved, but it’s normal. My job as a party administrator is to resolve crisis where there is one, and it’s only in the grave that we don’t have arguments.


But the duo are no longer seen together.

You don’t see them together, but the fact remains that they are working together in the same office, and I’m aware that at some functions, both the governor and the deputy governor can’t be there, just like the president and the vice-president.


After your National executive Committee (NEC) meeting recently, some groups within the party called for the removal of the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomole. Some governors are also calling for his removal, what step is the party taking to resolve this?

Recently, the president set up a reconciliation committee. Before now, now and in the future, you will always hear voices. The only party where you don’t have issues to be resolved is a party that is just existing. But in a party as big as the APC, you will always hear voices. However, you’ll also discover that somehow, the voices before the elections had a higher tone than what we are having now, when (Bukola) Saraki and co were going. Before the last convention, people thought that the party was going to scatter, but some of us knew that those were not the voices that could scatter us; we knew that the situation would sort itself out. If after the elections, we are hearing this type of noise, I believe this would be resolved. The noise this time may not be party executive noise, it can be party leadership noise. Infact, greater noise is coming when we start talking of 2023. It’s always part of party activities.


Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has rejected the committee set up by the party to resolve the crisis in that state. What is the next thing, as a party chieftain?

The rejection will also be resolved. I would have expected the governor to see the president to express his fears, if he had issues with the committee. To me for him to have expressed that means that it is an issue to be resolved.


Some sections in the northern part of the country have said it was time the party dropped zoning for merit?

They are in the minority. If they talk about competence, we have competent people in the South West. In every part of Nigeria, we have competent people. But zoning limits a lot rancour. So, what we are saying is that if we all have competent people, let’s zone it.


Some people believe that the crisis is not that pronounced in the APC because it is the ruling party, and that the APC might collapse if it should at the election. What do you have to say to that?

Let me ask you a question: is the PDP different? Are the governors in the PDP not at each other’s throat? Is a governor in the South-East not being accused of being pro-APC? These things are normal in politics. I say they are voices. Some of them could be real, but they are normal in politics and willbe resolved. It’s only in a one-party state that everybody falls in line. Even, in a totalitarian state, some people get executed for speaking against the system. Families argue, but that does not mean such families would fall apart.


Does it mean there is nothing like fair play in politics if everybody is talking about the presidency going to the South-West again, when a major region in Nigeria, the South East, is yet to have a shot at it?

In all sincerity, don’t forget that you are talking to the APC national vice chairman, not the PDP national vice chairman. When you talk about membership of our party, where do they come from? You are talking about fairness; this is not a military regime. This is a regime whereby you also talk about the strength of the party. We have some party members that come from the East, and they have very good postings in government. But in all sincerity as it were today, don’t forget when you talk about zoning, don’t forget the APC is very strong in the North, very strong in the South-West and we are hoping quite honestly that our brothers in the South-East will join us with the same strength. When they do, I’ll be one of those that will spearhead that it is their turn to be the president of this country. Let them also know that as Nigerians, as progressives, we must demonstrate enough unity. We must relegate ethnic sentiments to the background. They must begin to understand that they cannot be an island in this nation called Nigeria. We must all work together.

Some residents and even civil servants in Ondo State don’t share your sentiments of high performance, concerning the incumbent. They believe that, besides a few places such as Ore and perhaps Akure, the government has not done much in terms of infrastructure development.

You don’t need to go far.  I’m not Ondo State government’s spokesperson, but whatever I tell you is what I’m able to pick here and there. I can tell you that since this man got there, I can differentiate between the immediate past government and this one. What are the roads that former Governor Olusegun Mimiko did? There was the main town, the late Dr Segun Agagu did 80 per cent of the job, but Mimiko finished it, that is, from Ilesa Garage to Ilesa– Owo Road. Mimiko finished Fiwasaye, it was Agagu that started it. Mimiko did the road that leads to the International Airport. Agagu started that Fiwasaye- Owo Junction, but Mimiko finished it, and Mimiko  started the road construction in the main town of Ondo, which he tried  to finish before he left, but  couldn’t. Now, Akeredolu has been there for two and a half years, he has done all the roads in Owo, far more than double what Mimiko did in Ondo. There is a road that links Igbaraoke with this town, can’t remember the name now, this man has done it. This man has done so many roads within Akure there, including the one he’s working on, the Hospital Road Junction where you have the court. He has finished half of it; the rest is progressing. This man has done the one that successive governments had never touched, including my mentor, Adefarati that is the road that goes to Oka, that hill that vehicle always recedes, while climbing.  Let’s be honest, Ondo State people are always critical of every government. When Baba Adefarati was there, we were told he didn’t do anything. When Agagu took over, in spite of the great things that the man did, by the time Mimiko got there, they said Agagu had done nothing. I don’t want to comment about Mimiko’s government, because I was highly critical of his government when he was there. But the fact is that this man, Akeredolu is working.


Ondo 2020: Our plan against erring aspirants —APC National vice-chairman
Tribune Online

source https://tribuneonlineng.com/ondo-2020-our-plan-against-erring-aspirants-apc-national-vice-chairman/

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