From Wole Balogun and Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Otunba Adeyinka Akerele, was chairman of Ekiti Transport Management Agency (EKTMA) when Segun Oni was governor of Ekiti State.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in Ekiti, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) about a year ago.
Akerele, who hails from Ayede-Ekiti in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, told Sunday Sun in this exclusive interview at his residence in Ado-Ekiti, that those thinking the APC will impose any aspirant during the primaries of the party for the forthcoming gubernatorial poll in the state should forget it as the party thrives on internal democracy.
Akerele also spoke about his relationship with Segun Oni, another contestant in the race and current APC Deputy National Chairman, South, and speculation that PDP has aspirants planted in APC to scuttle the party’s chance in the 2018 governorship race among others. Excerpts:
You and Segun Oni share same political antecedents as you defected from PDP to APC. You are facing each other in what would be like a clash of the titans in APC primaries.How do you see this?
If that is the way you would like to put, it’s okay with me. Segun Oni is like a brother to me and someone I respect.
When we were both in PDP, we contested for the party’s candidacy at the primaries with others and I won. Like you have observed, we are back on another platform for the same purpose. But to me, it’s just going to be another way of asking the people to choose between us. We have done it before when we were in PDP and I was the preferred candidate. That is now history and so many things have happened thereafter. He was governor and I worked under him as the Chairman of Ekiti State Transport Management Agency. We had a frosty relationship but that never stopped me in still maintaining my relationship with him, especially after he left office and we needed to rebuild our party executive. We both came together and supported a common chairmanship aspirant,Akin Omole then.
He moved to APC quite earlier than I did. Today, like I said, we will leave it to the people to choose between us. It is just going to bring back the old memories about what happened in PDP.
I addressed the ward chairmen recently and the purpose of that was to sell myself to the structure of the party. There is one thing that is very clear. There is no way one would present my political antecedents, where I am now and where I am going without reference to Segun Oni. It’s just a natural thing, because our interest clashed and so many bad things happened and he featured prominently in that sad event that happened to me.
We are vying for same position again and the clash again will have to intellectually and emotionally draw left and right. It however must not be misconstrued as an attack on personalities.
A younger aspirant on your party platform has said elders like you shouldn’t be part of this race. What’s your take on this?
I would not understand the position of someone who said that. What age group is he referring to. What’s his definition of the elderly. When I contested for this position 11 years ago, I was 41. pparently, I am not one of those they are referring to as I am in my very early 50s. May be he is referring to those in their 60s.This is the time we at this age can serve. When we become 60, we can start thinking of playing the godfather role. I am oblivious of that statement because I was here when a chariot of those behind us were in their 40s. This is definitely our last attempt as there are agitations now that the age gap should be pegged in favour of younger Nigerians.
A section of the state is agitating for Southern agenda for governor, what do you think?
It’s quite unfortunate that this is happening. But I would not want us to look at it as if it is a deliberate act not to involve them in the governance of a state they belong to. I need to quickly add that because of the nature of Ekiti State this is the only state in this country with just a single language which binds us all together. We are a homogenous people.
So, the thing is actually in the ability of individuals. I am therefore not an apostle of zoning, even though I believe in fairness. I believe everybody should have opportunity to govern the state as long as they have the ambition and they are from Ekiti.This issue of zoning dates back to 2004 and 2005 in this state. Governor Fayose was in power then and some of us just felt we were displeased with some of the things he was doing then and we held a meeting in Ibadan and tried to use the zoning matter to prevent him from re-contesting.
But there has never been a time , that any aspirant from any of the zones was deprived of the opportunity to contest for the governorship. It has always been open to everybody. The Nigerian constitution is not even in support of this zoning. Even the PDP that allowed that subtlety are still conscious of the amended 1999 Nigerian constitution that allows for every one who is qualified and meets the set down criteria to contest irrespective of their demographics.
When Obasanjo came on board, it was generally agreed within the PDP that it should compensate for the loss of MKO. That however, did not stop Alex Ekwueme and others from other regions from also contesting the position.In the time of Yar’Adua, when it was turn of the north , it didn’t also stop others from other regions from contesting also.
Recently, Atiku still contested alongside immediate past president Goodluck Jonathan. So, those agitating for zoning the governorship to the Southern Ekiti are going about it the wrong way. We have a subtle unwritten zoning system and that is left for the voters to decide. If our party were in government, it would have been easier for the governor to decide on that as we have very competent hands from the south to be our governor.
However, the euphoria, the noise they are making about it is almost making them lazy aspirants. It seems as if they don’t really want to go to the field and compete with others, they seem to want it on a platter of gold.
Recently, the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act and the constitution to the effect that parties cannot even come up with clauses now regarding qualifications for elections. Parties can now only follow those conditions written in the amended constitution that address the qualifications of aspirants for positions. The Nigerian constitution gives equal rights to all with no special bias for any zone.
What’s your manifesto as an aspirant in the race?
Basically, our priority in Ekiti is to change our economic outlook; that is to reduce our total dependence on what comes from Abuja. For us to do that, we have to industrialize the state. I know we are beautifully endowed. We have vast mineral resources that need to be tapped. We have our good son, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi as Minister of Solid minerals. We believe he would use his office to develop our mineral resources.
More importantly, we are coming in to re-establish our natural endowment in that area, we will make huge money from both cash crops and food crops too. We will have industries that would not only be agro-allied but those that would completely rely on our rural raw materials/products. With the new amendment which would allow for devolution of powers now, states could now generate their own power themselves.
Power is very important to those whose daily needs are dependent on electricity. The artisans and private business owners as well as others.
There are allegations that Segun Oni may be imposed on other aspirants. If that becomes clearer soon, what would you do?
I have told you that because of my experience, I can see through so many lies, being peddled by people in politics. But I do not see Segun Oni partaking in all that. I don’t know him to be such a person. We know ourselves. I know Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Kayode Fayemi, Opeyemi Bamidele and others such as Gbenga Aluko and Bamisile. So, we know ourselves, we know those of us I describe as veterans. We know the semi-veterans and we know the freshers . As time goes on, you would see that only the veterans would remain to survive it and others would align. I don’t hold a doctorate degree in politics but as far as this politics is concerned you can describe me as one and we know ourselves. It’s purely a rumour that the party would impose any aspirant on others. Such imposition had happened in PDP and it became the albatross of the beneficiary and the party itself. I believe everyone would have leant a lesson there. That is why the beneficiary is now trying to correct that. If an aspirant is also saying that he is the one Abuja would impose on others, that is all lies that only exist in his imagination. I just want to advise all aspirants to come on the field. If you are so sure of your chances, resign and come home to join the race.
When I wanted to contest the other time and I was in FERMA, I resigned in April 2006 when the election was actually December because I wanted to be in the field. Imposing any aspirant now would take us backwards and not forward and we cannot afford that now.
Explain what you mean by Ajinde Ekiti in your campaign slogan?
That slogan is just to signal a reawakening to the poor state of things at present. We need to revive Ekiti and we are calling on all our people to join us in giving the state a rebirth. We cannot continue like this; our people are hungry. We need to change things;our youths are unemployed, many of them are riding Okada to survive. A lot of people cannot feed themselves. I am not happy with these and we have to do something new to address these problems.
How do you react to the allegations from some APC aspirants that some aspirants from PDP have been planted in APC to destabilize the party and that Ekiti people don’t want former governors again but prefer fresh aspirants?
When races are out in this manner, people get not only serious but also mischievous in their thoughts. Why would PDP plant some people in APC as aspirants to destabilise the party’s chances, for what purpose? I am out to just contest, I have done this before in PDP and I found the platform no longer suitable for me to still fulfil my ambition and I moved to where I had left before. The beauty of democracy is the ability for you to be dynamic and based on different variables.
If you look at it, APC is a new party. Are you saying that the present Speaker and Senate President who came from PDP were planted there to destabilise APC? Or that our number one citizen who came from CPC to APC was also planted in the party? Those saying that are just lazy and mischievous politicians. I am out for real to contest for governor within the ambit of the law. I don’t like thuggery and have never used it before to achieve anything. I believe in the simple approach that addresses the voters and convinces them on why you are better and let them decide.
The voters know what they want. If they say based on our experience we want a fresh person then so be it and if they decide otherwise, so be it.
How would you react to some comparing Fayemi and Fayose’s administration with some submitting that Fayemi lost last election because he was not close to the grassroot as Fayose is?
Every government comes with peculiar approach to problems based on its exposure, background, integrity among others.Most important is the fact that for every government, there are bound to be mistakes and of course costly decisions meaning that no one is perfect. If I become a governor tomorrow, I will also be criticised. Fayemi’s and Fayose’s governments have their good, ,bad and ugly sides. It now depends on who is looking at them. If it’s from APC point of view, you would condemn Fayose and if from PDP point of view, you would also blame Fayemi.
Having said that, consider the moral approach to governance and if you juxtapose that against the background of our culture as Ekiti, you would know that there is a marked difference in their style of governance. This is of great concern to Ekiti people. The perception of a government in power is very important to a typical Ekiti man. It’s also what affects the investors that would come to the state. That is why I say integrity matters most.My personal take is that Fayemi came and did his best. Fayose is there now but because he is going, I am not interested in him and what he is doing, but more interested in who is coming in.
I like a lot of Fayemi’s policies and achievements but that doesn’t mean he was perfect. So, I believe some of what Fayemi has done need continuity. Fayose has his hold on his own people. He has his own programmes like stomach infrastructure which I don’t believe in. I believe in teaching the people to fish and not giving them fish. But that is Fayose’s style with which he achieves results. To some in Ekiti, Fayose is their Messiah and he remains a strong factor in the coming election and we can’t just ignore him. I personally know that he is politically talented and has a party to drive his ambition and his own crowd. However, when the time comes, we need to let our people know the difference between the good, bad and ugly in government.
How have you been preparing towards the primaries?
My meeting with party leaders in all the wards of the state was to kick-start my campaign ahead of the primaries. I believe I have sold myself to them and talked to them and that’s the purpose of going for primaries. We need to convince the voters. It’s more organised here than it is in the PDP. In PDP, you don’t even know who your delegates are until few days to the primaries. So, you need to work across the wards, but here you know them. I am going to meet with all the executives at the grassroots, women leaders, vice chairmen, treasurers and everyone. It’s a big task but I will meet all of them.