Following the governorship primaries of the two leading political parties in Ekiti State and the undercurrents, all eyes are now on Osun State for a similar exercise.
In this interview, one of the notable elders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, looked at the several options available to the party to prune down the array of its aspirants to a manageable size.
With the right choice of a candidate, he said that the PDP would coast home to victory in the September 2018 governorship election in the state.
Osun State is up for grabs as another governorship election is around the corner. Is your party now ready to go into this contest with a united front?
PDP is ready to salvage the people of Osun State from the fang of hunger. Let me give you the evidence to show that we are really set. We fought a war of attrition among ourselves. That war has ended well and we have been able to gather ourselves together with a very strong chairman and very strong team in his executive. We have also settled and aligned ourselves with the centre at the National Secretariat. Secondly, when you consider the number of aspirants for the governorship race, you will see that it wouldn’t have been so large in the field where there is no hope. The viability of the exercise for PDP is enormous. The third aspect is the fact that the APC has not been able to gather itself together to resist us. We have a very strong formidable front now. And we have realized all the tactics and strategies of APC by way of using the social media to attack and slaughter the opposition. We are all well groomed in the game now. That gives us confidence that it is going to be tooth for tooth, eye for eye. And we will survive it by the grace of God.
With the array of contestants in your party, there is no doubt that you elders have a vital role to play in ensuring that the right candidate emerges from your primaries. What are you doing to achieve a rancor-free primary that will sustain the needed unity and cohesion within your party?
There are two ways to it. One is to ensure that the umpires are very sincere and honest to ensure that fairness comes to play. The second thing is to ensure the application of the principles and practice of internal democracy. In order words, everybody must be given a fair chance. If it were under the old system, elders will meet and say, ‘look, let us save ourselves the problem of going into primaries and settle for somebody who will be our flag bearer using certain parameters.’ Another way of doing it is application of zoning arrangement to decide which area the slot should go to. All these are being put into consideration. And in due course, we will make concrete statement. I recall that before our last rally, we had 23 aspirants. When we gave certain conditions, seven aspirants tactically reversed after the rally. Some other six are also becoming hesitant. We believe with time, the number will come down. There is also the possibility of giving a sort of normal levy that will be applicable to all the aspirants in line with the constitution of the PDP as well as the electoral law. By the time we apply all this, naturally some people will surrender. We have made people to realise that we have only one position, and, therefore, they should not be desperate. There is also the possibility of some of them coming into alliances. This will normally reduce the number. We also offer pray forum where we prayed for God’s guidance for the party and individual aspirants. What we stand for now is to ensure fair play.
If you have to adopt the option of imposing level to reduce the number of aspirants, the possibility is that an aspirant with deep pocket may eventually pick the ticket with or without requisite experience. Will that not amount to selling the ticket to the highest bidder?
All these aspirants were not invited; they are contesting on their own volition. So, each aspirant should have been able to assess himself before throwing in the towel. If you have the quality, do you also have the means to be in a good stead? No level will be outrageous; no level will be outside the constitution of the party. So, it won’t be arbitrary. We are not imposing level to cut short some people.
Already, there is heightened fear that some moneybags who have joined the race are determined to do everything possible to secure the ticket. How do you handle this?
What you are telling me now is that if I don’t have money at all and because I am educated, I should just go into it without having anything to take off. You are telling me that in a class of students, the brightest child should be held down for the dullard so that he can be promoted together. Is that done in educational system? Will that be in the interest of the brightest student? Instead of holding him down, what you do is to give him double promotion, while others remain where they are best fitted. I am not saying that money is going to be the only criterion we are going to use. We want the best for Osun. Osun is such in a mess that only the wise man can rule and take us out of the doldrums. Like Plato said in his theory of Philosopher king: “the best man should rule.” How do you decide the best man? Is it in terms of the number of his certificates or his exposure? You have to look into what connection does this man have to bring industries to Osun, what type of networking can he adopt to help the people of Osun. That is what is important, not the number of certificates anybody holds. If you have money and you cannot network enough to help Osun, you are not good for it. If you don’t have money, but you have people who can assist you to win election, yes, it is okay. But don’t forget, we are fighting an incumbent government. Are we going to use stones? There are several yardsticks to decide who flies the ticket, but money is also part of it including character analysis. We have some people who have the means, but are already pulling out because they are deficient in other areas. This is a kind of self pruning, which I am trying to emphasis. We are not going to impose candidate on anybody. At the same time we cannot retard the progress of anybody because he has money.
You obviously have a herculean task here. Do you know that?
I have been in this game for quite a while at all levels. We have witnessed situations that are so complex that you don’t even know what to do. In this case, we have adopted some means. One is fasting and prayers. Two, we have set up a committee to consult with critical stakeholders in Osun State: religious leaders, opinion moulders, university teachers, market women, Okada riders and all those who will naturally bear the consequences of our decision. I believe that by the time we collate all these and get an aggregate opinion, God will direct us. How are you even sure that a governorship candidate will emerge within those who have shown up? There was a time the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke came last to join the governorship race in the Fourth Republic and was picked eventually. He came around and bamboozled everybody, which was what earned him the appellation of Serubawon. Was it money he used then? It wasn’t money. It was his tactical approach. What he did was that he came into the town one night with about 30 Daewoo vehicles all blaring siren and everything, and everybody was saying who is this? Eleyi ti serubawon, meaning: this one has sent jittery into their minds. That was how the name came up. Similarly, we had about 17 aspirants in 2003, but none of them was picked. It was Oyinlola we went out to fish from somewhere after some had campaigned for almost two years. Let God choose for us. And certainly, God will choose for us whether from among these people or through our consultation people will point out someone who has not even indicated his intention. But I pray very seriously that our candidate will come from those who have been labouring.
The PDP has governed this state and the people already have your track records. What are you bringing on board that is going to be fresher and newer than what they already knew?
First of all, we will serve them what they used to enjoy during our regime which they are being deprived of now. They used to have regular salaries, we will resume that. They used to have food on their tables, we will resume that. They used to have peace of mind, they will have it again. Our hospitals used to work well, our educational system was working well. Now, all have been distorted, we will resuscitate them. The most critical we will embark upon immediately we get there is to ensure that Osun State is industrialized. We don’t want to remain a civil service state alone any longer. Our progammes will be different from all the agricultural policies that are being orchestrated by the APC. Yes, we committed some errors either by commission or omission, this time around; we are going to serve our people better. We don’t believe in propaganda. It was a very formidable propaganda that APC used against us. We will improve on our political awareness and our relationship with the public.
You did mention that the crisis bedeviling your party has been resolved. Why then did Omisore decide to step out of the party?
Has he announced that?
It is an open secret. It is already in the public domain that he has called it a day with your party. You want to debunk it?
Note it from today, keep watching and see whether he has actually opted out or not. I won’t say more than that. Omisore is a formidable politician, he can calculate well. I believe he will not miscalculate. He is a strategist and wise too. It is a family quarrel. What do you say of a wife that leaves you and does not marry another man and is living in the husband’s family house? Is that a complete divorce? That is a temporary separation. Watch out and see what will happen.
Is your party working to get the aggrieved nPDP members in the APC back into the fold?
I remember when I was in standard four in 1949, I was taught a poem about environment influences. A parrot was snatched from an Iroko tree and put in a cage in the owner’s house. The parrot used to sing: ‘Oh my home, when shall I see my home.’ He was tired of being tied in the cage. That is the situation of the nPDP members. They are coming back to their natural habitat either directly or indirectly.
Before this election that is already here?
By the grace of God!