Niyi Salako is the Chairman, Contact, Mobilisation and Harmonisation Committee of African Democratic Congress (ADC) in Ogun State. A Special Adviser in the administration of former Governor Gbenga Daniel’s administration, he unfolds the party’s plans to win the governorship election in Ogun next year.
READ ALSO: In Ogun, election can go any way
ADC seems to be gathering momentum politically all over the country, particularly in Ogun State, what is the secret?
I think very clearly when you consider the situation of the country and look at the abject poverty, the lack of hope, the security challenges and all those socio-economic problems we are faced with, you would see that the country is in dire need of rescue; rescue from the hands of those who are perpetrating this hardship on the people of this country and particularly in my own state, Ogun State. ADC seems to be a vehicle to rescue the country from the throes of people who have plunged us into this dire situation that we find ourselves. The main political parties have proved that they are no longer fit for purpose in terms of what the aspirations of Nigerians are. An ADC, with its values of empowering the youths, empowering the women, good governance and accountability, seems to be a very attractive option for a lot of people and that’s why you see lot of people joining us. We are indeed the credible third force. We are not just the third force; we are the credible and real third force.
You claimed ADC is the credible alter- native but why is the party trying to go into alliance with some other opposition parties?
I think to resolve the problems of Nigeria; we need a broad-based approach to it. I don’t think there is any political party or indeed any ideology on its own that can take us to the Promised Land. We’ve been talking about a government of national unity for a very long time but in real terms, we’ve never really had it. I think what this coalition is proposing is bringing people of different ideologies together and people of different values together and looking at how indeed we can tackle the problems of the country. If you’ve had the opportunity to see the MoU that was signed, one of the key points of that MoU was restructuring and we’ve been talking about restructuring the country for a very long time. We need to go back to the drawing board and that’s one of the cardinal principles on which the coalition sits and we believe in ADC that the Nigerian formula, if you like, needs to be reviewed in some sense. Yes, we believe that we are strong but I think it would be shortsighted and unreal to say that we are strong enough to do it on our own. I don’t think that anyone is strong enough to do it. And don’t forget you are dealing with a government in power which has the might and power of the state behind them. To unseat a government in power, you need a coalition of forces. That’s what happened when the APC coalesced to unseat the PDP government and that’s perhaps what is going to be required for this coalition to unseat the APC from power.
Former President, Obasanjo recently expressed his preference for ADC. What effect do you think this could have on the fortunes of the party?
I think the first thing to state here is that former President, Obasanjo is not a member of ADC. He is not a card-carrying member of ADC. He might be giving a preference for ADC because of the values of the party and because of some of the people who are in the party. You see, what you need to understand is that, like I said, ADC stands for the values of youth empowerment, women empowerment and really there is a school of thought which says that if things are going to change for the better in this country, it would come from the youth and it would come from the women. Maybe he also sees in ADC the mistakes of the past that maybe he and other leaders have made and saw that ADC is a good vehicle that could correct those mistakes. But it’s important to stress that Chief Obasanjo is not a member of the party and as such, people who call it Obasanjo’s party are not strictly correct. Because how can it be his party when he himself is not a member of the party?
On correcting mistakes, what specifically do you think the APC has done to warrant unseating it?
I think you just need to look at the various sectors of the economy to see the downturn; you look at the power sector, it’s worse than it was four years ago. You look at the economy; it’s doing worse than it was seen four years ago. You look at the parameters, the economic indices, and the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. Look at the rate of crime, the security issues. This government will wake up and tell us that Boko Haram and these insurgents have been demobilised and every day, there are killings in the Middle Belt, there are killings in the North and there are killings all over country. That is in itself the abject failure of governance. You think that the first and major responsibility of any government is to protect the lives and security and property of its citizens and this government has not done that. You and I know that you cannot go to sleep and be sure you are going to wake up not being a victim of one of these social challenges that we are having. Yes, it’s not as if there are no social challenges in other parts of the world but ours seem to be on a downward slope and clearly it’s not good enough to continue to blame previous governments for this. This government has had over three years to, at least, if not change it, to change the direction. We need to see an improvement within those three years and if they have not done so, I don’t see what they would do. There are so many quotations from members of this government; you have the quotation of some of the ministers who in their days as governors would say any serious government will resolve the power problem in six months. It’s three years now, it’s worse! We’ve got to a situation where the change has to be changed. We voted for change but what we did not really clarify in our minds was whether it was positive change or negative change. And it seems that we voted for negative change rather than positive change.
One of the focal areas of the Buhari government is fight against corruption. Don’t you think the government has taken Nigerian to a new level with its anti-graft war?
Well, that is open to debate because when you talk about dealing with graft in a new level, what has happened to the (former) Secretary to the Government of the Federation who gave contract to himself? Nothing has happened to him? What has happened to our Minister of Finance who (allegedly) used a forged NYSC certificate? That’s all part of graft! And there is some sense in the fact that you deal with the problem within yourself first before you start dealing with other problems. The fight against graft has been very selective; there is no doubt about that. What I need to ask people who say the government has done well in terms of graft is that show me the successes in real terms. We’ve talked about money coming in; the money that is being talked about as successes are monies that this government did not even initiate. Abacha loot, for example, is not an initiative of this government. It’s an initiative of previous governments. It’s just taking time for those monies to come in. But even for that money to come in and for someone to suggest that it’s going to be divided among poor Nigerians, is a shame on this government because who determines who a poor Nigerian is? What is the parameter of determining it? Of course, as we know, it would be a list of members of their families that would be getting this money. Because who has sat down to set the parameters and definition of who a poor Nigerian is? So, the war against graft, at best, is being fought on the pages of newspapers and in the media. Apart from the two (former) governors who were recently convicted, show me the convictions for graft. Where are the convictions? Even monies that have been found; yes, it’s good to get money back but what has happened, what is success around finding the sources of these money? There isn’t any success. So, it’s war against graft that is being fought on the pages of newspaper and in the media and is very selective and I imagine that it would be more selective as we go into elections.
Are you confident of your party producing the next political leaders in Ogun State in 2019?
There is no doubt that ADC is on a mission to reclaim Ogun State. We are on a mission to rescue the people of Ogun State from poor governance; governance that is egocentric, that is led by projects that
are ego-boosting; projects that have no economic values and returns. Ogun State is a state that is in deep shit as a result of some of the programmes of this current government. The debt profile of this state as a result of these projects that have no economic value to the state is only best imagined. It’s a problem for us and generations to come. More and more of the people of Ogun State are understanding and realising this; that is why they are coming to us in the ADC. In addition, the two main parties in Ogun State have shown that internal democracy is not a value that they take seriously or appreciate within their ranks. The politics of myself, my family and my people first is what sits as the foundation of the principles of governance in Ogun State and that has to change. Ogun State is filled with people of high intelligence, people who have good entrepreneurial spirit, people who have good political maturity and understanding and they can see that any further continuation of this government of the APC would be a complete catastrophe for the state and that is why they are flocking to the ADC, where they see the young and the democratic elements working together to rescue us, working together to change things for the better.