Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Steve Otaloro is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State and the party’s Director of Media and Publicity. He spoke about the recent news of suspension of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and the factors responsible for the dismal performance of the party in the state in the last presidential and National Assembly elections.
The APC leader also spoke on the peace move by the leadership of the party in the state and efforts being made to make the party formidable before the next governorship election in the state.
The performance of your party, the APC in Ondo State in the last presidential and National Assembly elections was below expectation, what do you think were the factors responsible for this?
It looked like we underrated the enemies within and without the rank. Precise instructions were not carried out by certain key persons we hold in trust. It was quiet unexpected, we must admit.
Some members of the party are still aggrieved due to the outcome of the governorship primary election that produced Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. What efforts is the leadership of the party making for genuine reconciliation?
What you referred to here has been addressed by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at the time, and after the general election that saw Governor Akeredolu into office, he extended a hand of fellowship to everyone in the party. This type of exercise can take time, going by the nature of man. It is still in process. But, what perhaps, should bring us the greatest pleasure is the good works of the Reconciliation Committee put in place by our party to resolve the post primary election issues and other contending issues within our party. Survey showed that 90 percent of the contending issues have been resolved. Many of our members have expressed a high level of satisfaction with the reconciliatory move and a great percentage of our members in Ondo State felt satisfied and are willing to work for the common interest of the party in the coming governorship election because contentious issues are being resolved. I can assure you of that.
Will you therefore say that peace has returned to the Ondo State chapter of the APC with all the internal wrangling within the party settled?
There has been peace in Ondo APC and we shall sustain the peace. There always shall be peace. The APC is a Nigerian party which is subject to Nigerian factors not different from what other political parties in Nigeria are subjected to, except you want to make reference to any issue in particular?
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC recently suspended Governor Akeredolu. Will this not affect the fortunes of the party in the state?
It will interest you to hear that it is an online thing; the news is being spread by enemies of our party and those jealous of the unprecedented achievements of Governor Akeredolu just within two years in office. And if anyone is trying to use the fake news as a test to carry out a ploy they better stop it, because it will definitely boomerang on the party because this governor is really working for the masses. Massive roads constructions are being built across the 18 local government areas in the state, new school classrooms are being built and renovated, hospitals and rural health delivery services are being improved upon daily. Schools are being energised to bring in more quality education, infrastructure development everywhere, LCDAs are to be created throughout the state soon, and IGR are on the increase without necessarily increasing tax. Everyone in the state is now embracing agriculture because of government incentive and grants extended to the sector. There are unprecedented improvements in the state’s tourism and agriculture sectors that will see Ondo State into historic heights in employment and revenue generation, as well as several number of multibillion naira projects, community engagements, trade-group empowerments and human and resources development visible across the state.
There are also good investments in many industrial sectors to provide employment and empowerment. In addition, many notable private sector developments and partnership drive took place in the state, which led to the restoration of electricity to the Southern senatorial district of the state, starting with all the houses in Ebute-Ipare and Aboto towns in Ilaje Local Government Area and majority of houses in Igbobini in Ese-odo Local Government Area which were powered using solar technology as well as Ode-Aye which was recently reenergised by BEDC (Benin Electricity Distribution Company), after several years of being cut-off from the national grid.
The state government and its private sector partners are presently at an advanced stage of introduction of Independent Power Plants (IPP) in strategic parts of the state, which will ensure constant power supply in Ondo State. These are what Ondo State people need now, and that is what Arakunrin is committed to. Or, are you by any way saying that the Ondo State people will leave certainty for uncertainty? That is laughable. As I said, tomorrow shall take care of itself.
Don’t you think the suspension of Governor Akeredolu from the APC will affect his performance in office, going forward?
The APC is a party concerned with factual issues. Our bit is to improve the lot of the Nigerian people by our resolve and actions every day so long as we remain in government. That is our position regardless of whatever internal or personal differences that may crop up.
Are you not threatened by the opposition political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that now has two senators out of the three meant for the state, considering the internal wrangling within the APC?
Internal wrangling? Well, whatever you mean by that is not comprehensive to me. However, if you are talking about opposition parties and the governorship election that is ahead, we are working on it. We have reassessed our positions, our strong points viz-a-viz our weak points. We are confident of victory. Yes, we are. And as I said earlier, we were able to correct our mistakes during the presidential election with landslide victory at the state Assembly election, which in itself is a strong signal for anyone to know that the masses of Ondo State are solidly behind us.
What is the position of the APC in Ondo State on the suspension of Governor Akeredolu from the party?
The APC in Ondo State is in indivisible. It is unbreakable, as well. We have a sure structure not susceptible to any ‘divide and rule’ tactics. Here in Ondo State, the concern of all party members is one and that is the fact that Ondo State must grow in geometrical progression, barring all odds.
Some members of the APC in the state defected to the Action Alliance before the last general election, have they returned to the party? If not, what efforts are you making to bring them back to the party?
Some of these things cannot be discussed openly. It is bad for tactics. But, we won 23 out of 26 seats in the recent House of Assembly election. We have regrouped. We have realigned. We are consolidating on that. When Governor Akeredolu became the governor he extended olive branch to members who left and worked for the Alliance for Democracy (AD) then. The governorship candidate of the AD in the 2016 governorship election, Olusola Oke, returned with several other members. The same process has not closed for any member that intends to return.
Will you say the APC in Ondo State is strong as it was before the last governorship election?
We are even stronger. We had learnt our lessons and eliminated ‘enemies within’ which makes us even better as a political party. The tremendous work of Governor Akeredolu is one other great factor that makes us a political force and the party to beat in the state. The governor’s inexorable desire to bring development to Ondo State is undeniable. The chairman of the opposition party even gave credence to Akeredolu’s good work and sincerity of purpose in delivering dividends of democracy to the people. One can only wonder where he’s getting the money for all these humongous projects scattered across the state from, as he turned the entire state into one big octopus construction site.
How would you rate the administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in the last two years?
Superb! I am not saying this because I’m a member of the ruling party. But that is a trumpet you should take to the good people of Ondo State to blow. You would be surprised what kind of sonorous tunes you would come back with.