The governorship candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in Ogun State, Adekunle Akinlade has said that he remains the candidate to beat in next month’s governorship election.
You contested the primaries of the APC and later went to your new party, APM under controversial circumstances; what were really the undercurrents that led to your decision?
Most people in politics must have seen what the challenges were prior to my leaving the APC. Where I come from in Ogun, we had about 10 of us showing interest in the ticket. But the party decided about three years ago that because of the way Ogun is structured, that Ogun Central and Ogun East have produced the governors of this state and that it would be fair for someone from Ogun West to be given the opportunity. Twenty five elders came together to work on that so that the zone would put one foot forward rather than allow the whole 10 of us to go into the primaries in APC. It was only one person from Ogun East, Ashiru who was then aspiring for the ticket. The Dapo Abiodun story had not even come to the picture. At that time, the Ogun leaders then sat down and it was within that period of six or seven months that I emerged as the consensus candidate of Ogun West. Prior to that time, I met the National chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole in his private residence in Abuja; my colleague took me to him and having succeeded in a smooth transition in Edo State, I felt he was in a better position to speak to my boss, Governor Amosun. Felix Shuaibu who is the current deputy governor of Edo State was actually my colleague. That is just a background to show you that I did not just wake up one morning and was imposed on the people. It was a process. So, I eventually emerged and was presented to the party, APC and I think Oshiomhole started asking, this boy, are they sure he can win and Amosun told him that if you want a yes person, do not choose Akinlade but if you want somebody that has the capacity to do the job, this guy is the person. He told him I think this guy has what it takes to do it. I think that is why he started considering me.
Oshiomhole came out openly then to announce to the party that I was the one and that the Ogun West people had picked me and I was to run. The Remo people kicked against it, they said they would not agree on consensus and that they wanted direct primary. Then we went out for the primaries and worked and remember I was Amosun’s Senior Special Assistant on Tax and Revenue between 2011 and 2015; I was in the House of Representatives too. I served in OGRS and was familiar with various unions and organisations in the state –artisans and everybody. I was dealing on tax, revenue and all that. So, we went round Ogun State; then it was an APC thing and it was easy for us to go round. It reflected in the votes which I won on October 2. A day after that, they said it was the state executive that announced my victory and that they were not going to accept it. The issues started and for two months, we thought it was a joke and we went to the president and everywhere. At a point in time, we realised that they were not going to shift their position and we decided to come back to our people. We realised that Dapo Abiodun does not have what it takes to deliver but what they told him was that Amosun has his mandate and that he cannot leave the party because of his relationship with the president. They also said that Kunle cannot go out to campaign because nobody knows Kunle but that is where they got it wrong. But what happened was that I realised very early that Amosun has goodwill across the state. But I pleaded with the governor that he should not campaign yet. I told him to give me two, three weeks to start first and get some traction before he comes out to campaign. I don’t have the money to compete with you and that if the APC starts today, APM may not see the light of day and I think that was what did the magic. They did not start the campaign untill after three weeks and they were saying there is a new product, APM in Ogun State. We chose cassava as our symbol and it resonated with our people because our people are farmers. It is easy to talk to any local person about cassava. We are the party to beat in Ogun State.
But how do you feel that two candidates even though of different parties from the same state, you and Abiodun were presented to President Muhammadu Buhari. Again, don’t you think that there may be a bandwagon effect in favour of the APC in the event that President Buhari wins a second term since his election comes first?
There would not be any confusion with regards to the election. Mr Dapo Abiodun going to see Mr. President with Chief Segun Osoba, I don’t see any problem with that because he is a member of their party. For me I do not recognise Abiodun as the APC candidate in Ogun State considering the way he emerged. The confusion should be with them and not with us. As a party, we adopted Mr. President, his policies and programmes and we have absolute confidence in him as a leader. What I went to do was to wish him a happy New Year and we assure Mr. President that he does not need the APC candidate, Dapo Abiodun to win his presidential election in Ogun State. We will deliver Ogun State to Mr. President. We need to reassure him and there is no ambiguity in the readiness of our party, APM to deliver Ogun State. The president does not need Dapo Abiodun to deliver him because he cannot deliver. Abiodun will lose. I am from Yewa and even in any culture, when you see a grown up man and an adult that needs a man to take him by the hand and walk in a market place, people will know that something is wrong. Sanwa-Olu is there in Lagos as the APC candidate, for Oyo State it is also APC, how many of them did old men of about 80 take to the president to raise their hands before they can actually come and start campaigning. That will tell you that there is something terribly wrong with him. So, his mandate in quote, there is something terribly wrong with it. Even as we speak, it took the number 2 citizen of the country to come to Ogun State to take him to Awujale and around the state. For us, we are on ground and we have always been with the people and they know us. What we are just asking is for a peaceful election and we will win. We have told our people to remain calm. Just recently, they were cutting people with cutlasses and shooting people with the support of police from Lagos but we have told our people to be calm. For us in Ogun State, we cannot be intimidated; I have gone to the hospitals to meet with those injured. We have told our people to remain resolute; this election, we will vote and our votes will count. We will not be involved in violence and we will not encourage it. Buhari is the president of the country and our party has adopted him and I think I reserve the right to meet him and reassure him that we believe in him. I must thank him for the railways that have come to Ogun State and in terms of industry and young people that it would attract to Ogun State to work. It makes more sense to me to grab any opportunity to make more people to come and work in Ogun State than in Lagos. A man who is doing that, I should be able to say thank you to him. That is what I went to Mr. President to do. For Abiodun, he went to Mr. President for them to raise his hands; I did not go there for that. All I want is another four years for him to complete the rail project and other infrastructure in the state.
Do you have any plans to go back to the APC if you win this governorship election?
Let me tell you; I never knew prior to this challenge we had how important the people are in politics. You see these people following us to run around and shout; I use to think that once you are able to mobilise them, they come and you are okay. It was after my mandate was stolen and I saw how people stood by us, took a position including market women that I knew the importance of people in politics; many were using their money to do aprons, T-shirts and all that in solidarity. When people use what they call the federal might or political might, they will not return to Ogun People. This is their election. What do I have; I do not have anything but it is their election. If you enjoy such goodwill, it is good to make them to understand that they have the power to decide what the future will be. I have realised that as a candidate, you actually have no powers when you actually realise how powerful the people are.
With how the APC treated you as you claimed, is it not the best to distance yourself from the party rather than still going back to Mr. President who is the leader of the party?
There is nothing wrong with the APC as a party; I believe in the party. It is the leaders of that party that are the problems. If it were something that happened to Ogun State alone, I would have been concerned. I am a member of the House of Representatives. More than 80 of our members went through the same experience in their various states. If not, I would have thought maybe it was a personal vendetta against me. That means that something is wrong with the leadership of our party. APC has wonderful policies under the chairmanship of Mr. President. It is the people who are running the party that I feel has the problems.