“I don’t think the lingering crisis can affect our chances at the poll. Crisis and partisanship are part of politics…”
Ajibayo Adeyeye was a two-term member of the Lagos State House of Assembly where he served as Majority Leader. He soon became the Special Adviser to the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, until he recently resigned to contest the Ondo East and West Federal Constituency ticket, which he won.
READ ALSO: Akeredolu’s aides resign, join PDP
The medical doctor turned politician speaks on the intrigues that surround his emergence at the party’s primaries and his determination to win the election.
Having spent eight years in the Lagos State House of Assembly where you became the Majority Leader, at what point did you transit to Ondo?
I had lived in Ondo up to the age 16 when I gained admission to study medicine in the University of Lagos and graduated in 1991. I joined politics in 1998 to contest as Chairman of Kosofe Local Government. I didn’t win that election and also contested in 1999 for the Lagos State House of Assembly. I also didn’t win until 2007 when I was elected and re-elected in 2011. While in the Lagos State House of Assembly, I was the Majority Leader. From 2012, when Governor Rotimi Akeredolu came and wanted to be governor of Ondo, I was interested in who becomes the governor and I found him suitable. I worked with him assiduously but he didn’t win. He came back and won the election and appointed me as his Special Adviser on Health. I held the office until August 2018 when I resigned to contest for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives to represent Ondo East and West. That was how I left Lagos politics.
Having spent eight years in Lagos State politics, does it occur to you that you are alien to Ondo politics, having not really mingled with the people?
Not at all! I think I must correct one impression. I was born and raised in Ondo town and I speak fluent Ondo language. I know the kingdom inside out. I only went to Lagos when I was 16. Even while working in Lagos, hardly was there a weekend I wasn’t in town. I am a permanent member of Ondo Development Committee. I am not at all alien to the politics here. I have the requisite experience and knowledge. I doubt my other contestants have all of these.
Your party, the APC, is in serious crisis and there are indications that this may affect your chances at the poll. What do you have to say to that?
I don’t think the lingering crisis can affect our chances at the poll. Crisis and partisanship are part of politics that’s why the people that coined the word ‘politics’ also coined the phrase ‘partisan politics.’ We don’t all have to agree. We don’t necessarily have to queue behind the same candidate. As a good politician, we must always surrender to the will of the party and work for the larger interest of the party. Whatever we have seen are just dusts raised during the primaries. We should put that behind us now and work for a common good.
You are one of the candidates allegedly on the wish-list of the governor. Would you rather admit that yout are his stooge, as some still reserve the belief that you were forced on the people. Which one?
I don’t understand what anybody means by being a stooge. In Ondo East and West Federal Constituency, we had open and direct primaries. People queued behind their candidates and I won fair and square. I don’t know what transpired elsewhere.
So, what do you make of the view of some aggrieved ones that were in the race with you to get the party’s ticket?
In my own case, I have a video tape of what happened in every ward. It is not true that we didn’t have a primary. We had a primary and I, the more popular candidate, won the election. It was a keenly contested election and I have the video tapes. People must understand it is one ticket and if one person gets it, we must move on as an indivisible unit.
The present occupier of the seat is of the PDP and seeking re-election. Don’t you sense that your aspiration may soon hit the rocks?
I have no reason to worry. Politics is about moulding the opinion of people towards a direction and selling yourself to the electorate. I will only worry if I don’t have something to offer. In this case, I have a lot to offer. I have the requisite parliamentary experience. I was the Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Two, I have the academic requirements. I have been a medical doctor for 27 years. Three, age is on my side. I am only 50 years old. The incumbent is over 73 or 74. Again, our people want to be associated with the government at the centre.
But then, the immediate past governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko, hails from here and you should see him as a threat to your ambition, having floated a new party, Zenith Labour Party. What do you think?
That’s the more reason our people want to move from whichever Zenith Party. Mimiko was in the Labour Party and there was no reason for him leaving. He only told our people he wanted to align with the centre so he could attract development to the state. Now, he has again moved from the PDP to join a lone party. The party only exists in Ondo Kingdom. Our people know it can only be a self-serving agenda, not one that will serve the community. You cannot be one out of 360 in the House of Representatives or one out of 106 in the Senate and make impact for your people. It is unlikely you get the chance to speak because you will be a minority among the minority.
A vast majority of the electorate already take politicians for people who come to “sweet-talk” during elections. Can the electorate trust your words?
When you say ‘sweet-talk’, it means you are saying things that are not feasible and that are exaggerated. It is sweet-talk to tell you that I will tar all the roads in my tenure. That’s not feasible because you are not even the one that would tar the roads. You are not the executive. It is a statement of fact if I tell you I am more experienced and competent of all those contesting. It is also a statement of fact to say that I am more competent than a 74-year old man. I am more experienced. I led the most vibrant House in Nigeria. That’s the Lagos State House of Assembly. While I led that House, I sponsored two bills that eventually became laws in Lagos State. One, the Health Insurance Scheme Law and the Special People Law of Lagos State, 2011. Again, my people don’t want to be in the opposition. We can only develop the state by aligning with the government at the centre.
What core issues are of paramount importance to you?
The first issue I would like to tackle is the issue of roads. The last administration of Labour Party and the PDP ignored this. Forget about the window-dressing you see around. The places you see are only about 20 percent of the whole place. There are places you will have to spend two hours to travel to within this local government due to the bad roads. They are places like Tologo, Ilu Nla, Tokunbo, Igbindo, Ajebanbo. The roads there are impassable. Mind you, the distance from Tologo to Fagun is probably 50 km. It is not everything that the state government can do. There is no how we shouldn’t do ring roads to cover these areas. Mind you, these places are producers of the cocoa we export in this country, especially when cocoa was the cash cow. The cocoa trees are still there and the farmers only need motorable roads to transport their cocoa to the cities. I intend to get the government to do a ring road to link all these villages and permanently solve the problem. Nobody has ever thought of addressing the issue.
What are the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari in the coming presidential election?
To start with, I don’t know what Atiku Abubakar forgot in Aso Rock that he is going to pick. Like Obasanjo said, he didn’t forget anything in Aso Rock when they were luring him to come and be president in 1999. Now, how is Atiku an alternative to Buhari? What achievement should fetch him the position? What pedigree has he got to parade to Nigerians? To my mind, I say he lacks the integrity and know-how to be our president and I do know nothing can stop President Buhari in 2019. He might appear slow but by the time this government started, Nigerians had almost lost hope. Today, the president has brought hope to everybody in the North East then ravaged by Boko Haram. Those that voted him for that are still alive. The Nigerians that witnessed when people dug soakaways and stashed it with dollars, haven’t forgotten. How about the fellow in Kaduna who built a house and stashed it with dollars, keeping the air-conditioners working 24/7 so the hard currency can remain fresh? Nigerians were aware when monies were appropriated to buy arms and ammunition to fight insurgency in the North-East and some people diverted it for elections. They are all still standing trials today. I have no doubt that Buhari will win the election fair and square.
What’s the level of confidence you have in the INEC?
INEC is as good as Nigerians themselves because it is from the citizenry the officials were picked. So far, INEC has performed creditably well. I believe INEC will be what the citizens want it to be. It is Nigerians who engage in vote buying, not INEC. On a final note, I want to appeal to all citizens to allow INEC do its job so that people that will serve us well will emerge.