Former deputy governor of Ekiti State and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Chief Abiodun Aluko, tells ABIODUN NEJO his thoughts on governance in the state and his take on the 2023 presidential election
Years ago, you were a deputy governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, why did you leave the party for APC?
My concept of party politics and democracy is lacking in the PDP. Politics is all about decision-making, conflict resolution and inclusive participation. When you are in politics, you are supposed to find a means of making the society better and create conducive environment under which people can thrive, express themselves, do their business and accomplish their aims, but when you are in a party where only one man’s view is heard, such is not good enough for the system. I left the PDP for APC because I discovered that PDP at that time was being run on a one-man basis and that did not give room for anybody who had ideas to be able to contribute. I cannot be in a place where I’m being shut out of the system and have to keep quiet without finding a means of expressing myself. So, I left the PDP in 2016 because I could not cope with its style.
Who was the one man running the party?
Generally, PDP is built around one man, particularly in states controlled by the party. If you are not a bootlicker, you would be sidelined. Everybody is supposed to come and praise the governor and if you act differently, you are seen as an antagonist and opponent even when you decide to keep quiet.
Today, there are divisions in both the PDP and APC in Ekiti State, is that the nature of politics in the state?
Not only in Ekiti, that is the character of politics all over the world. Even in a family of husband, wife and children, all of them cannot agree on issues at all times. As human beings, God has given us the brain to think differently and express ourselves differently. We see things from different angles, but the ability of the leader to be able to bring everybody together, reconcile differences and arrive at the way forward makes the difference. That is where the difference lies between political parties where you have one man saying it is either you do this or get out and another where the leader would say let us sit, dialogue and arrive at a consensus. It is not only in politics; that is what happens where you have a gathering of more than two or three persons. So, it is not limited to APC and PDP, it is only because the minority parties don’t have anything to fight for.
Your former principal, former governor Ayo Fayose, is leading a faction of PDP in the state, do you see any difference between the Fayose that you worked with and the Fayose of today?
One thing I know is that it becomes very difficult for a person to change his character particularly when he has attained the age of maturity or adulthood. Ayo Fayose has always been the domineering type. That was how he started. When you are the governor, the chief executive, the emperor because you have everything to yourself – patronage, political power, money and everything – everybody runs around you to secure your favour, some people want political appointments, some want contracts, etc and even when the governor is not doing well, nobody will be bold to tell him so that they don’t incur his wrath. That was what happened when Fayose was governor. Everybody respected him as the governor, not because he was doing well, not because his leadership style was acceptable to the people, but because they didn’t have a choice. Now they have a choice, he is no more the governor, so they can look at him in the face and tell him we can’t accept this. That is what is happening in the PDP now. When Fayose was the governor, he was like a lion and people could not question him. But now that he has been stripped of his political power, he has no such patronage anymore. Now people are beginning to let him know that there is a difference between being a governor and when you are no longer one.
You have always harped on unity in Ekiti APC, do you have any fears for the party in the state?
I don’t really have any. But I would believe that it is better for us to have 99.9 per cent unity than to have some people outside the orbit of the party or party members in government throwing stones into the system. I believe if all of us work together to ensure that APC continues as a ruling party in Ekiti State, everybody at one time or the other would have their benefits. However, when there is infighting, it could lead to some unexpected situations where the party loses control of the state and that would not be in our interest. When your party is controlling the state, there is nothing wrong if you speak up if you feel you are being excluded. If you feel you are being short-changed or you are being cheated one way or the other, there is nothing wrong in coming out to say ‘I am not happy about this situation.’ It then behooves the leadership of the party to invite everyone involved and examine the differences.
With the 2022 governorship election in the state approaching gradually, what do you think your party should be preoccupied with?
I believe the governor, who is the leader of the party, is doing his best to ensure Ekiti people enjoy dividends of democracy through his five pillars of restoration agenda which he brought in his second term. These are good governance, agriculture and rural development, social investment, knowledge economy and industrial development. The governor, as a good manager of men, money and materials, is doing his best to justify his second term and to take Ekiti State to the next level. I believe the governor is doing his best to ensure that come 2022, Ekiti State electorate will still prefer that APC remains in power.
What do you think should be the criteria for the choice of governor in 2022?
It should be meritocracy. Get the best person that you believe can do the job. Though, in a way, the drafters of the Nigerian constitution had inclusiveness, equal opportunities and equal participation in governance in mind when they ensured each state has three senatorial districts. So, in Ekiti, each senatorial district should be given an opportunity to produce a governor. But up till now, Ekiti South has not had that opportunity, but I believe meritocracy should not be sacrificed on the altar of rotation. Both should go pari passu. You would know that at the beginning of this current democracy, there were agitations that apart from the short periods when Generals Aguiyi Ironsi and Olusegun Obasanjo were heads of state, the North had ruled Nigeria from 1960 to 1999 either through military or elected presidents and the whole of Nigeria decided to give the South-West an opportunity. At that time, Alliance for Democracy and All People’s Party worked together to present Chief Olu Falae while PDP picked former President Obasanjo, who became the president, so that there would be peace in the polity. There won’t be peace within the system when one section of the country continues to lord it over the others and you expect them to keep quiet without agitation. The same thing has been happening in Ekiti State with only North and Central have been producing governors. Ekiti South deserves the opportunity, but in giving the southern senatorial district an opportunity, we have to go for the best person for the job. The first criterion is meritocracy, the other one is equal opportunity to all the three senatorial districts because all of us have been around. Since 1999, you discover that most of the governors Ekiti State has produced did not emerge on their own merit.
How do you mean?
There were impositions from outside; external factors from Abuja at the party level.
Do you think Ekiti South has been prepared for the governorship all along?
Ekiti South has always had competent, credible men who had shown interest in being the governor of Ekiti State from the beginning. In 1999, Mr Bode Olowoporoku showed interest and he had all it takes to be governor. But this is politics, he lost the election, not because he was not good enough, but for some other exigencies of the time. Thereafter, the like of Senator Gbenga Aluko, Dayo Adeyeye, Dare Bejide, myself and some others who by every standard cannot be pushed aside have shown interest in being the governor of Ekiti State, but for political exigencies beyond our control, like I said, intervention from Abuja, and not because they cannot win primaries if the process is free, fair and without imposition. What I am saying is that we all need to recognise that a father cannot have three sons and two of them are getting all the benefits, while one is left unattended to. But one thing I know is that power belongs to God and he gives to whoever he wants. I believe the time had not come then. Look at the President, Muhammadu Buhari, he contested and lost against Obasanjo, lost to Umaru Yar’Adua, lost to Goodluck Jonathan and said on national television that he would not contest again and that Nigeria did not need him. But when his time came, God raised divine helpers. Today, he is in his second term as the President.
How prepared is Ekiti South for 2022?
2022 is still some 18 months away, but one thing I know is that there are not less than five competent Ekiti South indigenes that I know have governorship ambitions, but it is not yet time because it would be unfair to the present governor for his own party members to start heating up the polity even when he is just starting the third year out of a four-year term. The mere fact that you have not been seeing our people displaying posters like the PDP is not because we don’t have men who are interested, it is because we want our government to be focused and deliver on its promises to the majority of the people. For now, it is not yet time for anybody to come out. I know Governor Kayode Fayemi knows the importance of producing a successor, so at the appropriate time, he will make sure the party is not divided, there is no infighting, the process is transparent and clear and he will ensure that nobody can accuse him of having a favourite or imposing anybody. Ekiti South is prepared and Governor Fayemi will ensure APC continues in Ekiti State beyond 2022.
What is your take on the gentleman’s agreement that power should shift to the South after Buhari’s tenure?
In politics or any human endeavour, there are valid agreements either written or unwritten at the point of taking a decision and there are usually some factors that would necessitate such agreements. In 2014 when APC was about to choose its presidential candidate, APC knew that without the support of the South-West, Buhari might not have made it, not only in terms of votes, but also in terms of material resources, intellectual contributions and all the rest. I was not an APC member at that time, but they said some considerations came up and they had a gentleman’s agreement. The South-West supported Buhari to become president and that Buhari will hand over power to the South-West in 2023 after eight years. Nobody has come out to say it was not so. All they are saying is that there was no written agreement and that it was not incorporated in the APC constitution. If that was so, I believe it would be fair to stick to that agreement if it is going to ensure the continuity of APC in the governance of Nigeria. We can see that the South-West has continued to support the APC. Today, out of the six states in the South-West, five are being controlled by the APC and in the whole of southern Nigeria, it is only the South-West that you can call the home of APC. Whatever might have happened under PDP was PDP affair, this is APC affair. South-West could not have given all its resources and everything to APC and when the ticket is to come to the South, it will now be given to a zone that is 100 per cent PDP or another zone that has one or two APC states. It would be a disservice to the South-West for the ticket to be given to any other zone in the South other than South-West where we have almost 90 per cent control.
It is glaring that the purported presidential ambitions of Governor Fayemi and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu have divided the APC in Ekiti State, why are the party members in the state not on the same page on this issue?
To the best of my knowledge, neither Tinubu nor Governor Fayemi has declared that they have a presidential ambition. The whole thing is still based on this so-called gentleman’s agreement that if the ticket is to come to the South-West, those followers who believe that their leaders have what it takes to be president of Nigeria are the people that have come together on their own to promote their principals. Even the South-West agenda being headed by Senator Dayo Adeyeye came out to say Tinubu did not ask them to campaign for him, but that as his followers and people who believe in his capabilities, they are doing it on their own with their resources. The same for Fayemi’s supporters. He has not said he wants to be president and he has not, to the best of my knowledge, set up any committee to be campaigning for him. But he also has admirers, followers, people who believe in his capacity and ability to be the president of Nigeria. In many parts of the world, in the advanced economies, when you want to choose a leader, what are the things you look at?
What’s your preference?
For you to say this man is worthy of being a president, personally I believe in Fayemi that he has all it takes to be the president of this country. I am not against Asiwaju Tinubu, but I am not close to him, I am closer to Fayemi and I know his capability. Look at his track record, being in his second term as a governor and having served as the minister of Solid Mineral Resources. Before he became minister, people hardly heard of the ministry making any input into the economy; it was Fayemi as the minister who laid the foundation and today, it makes a significant contribution to the economy. In Ekiti State, everybody knows what Fayemi is doing and when you talk of intellectual depth, he is very intelligent. Wherever he went, his integrity or character has never been called to question. I’m not saying Tinubu does not have his own qualities to become president; he has been two-term governor of Lagos State, he was able to bring the economy of the state out of the doldrums and the gross domestic product of Lagos State is even higher than the GDP of some West African countries. Tinubu did well when he was the governor of Lagos State and he was once a senator. Both of them are eminently qualified, but Dr Fayemi has age advantage, courage and international linkages.
But some people out there believe Tinubu is the most conspicuous figure in the South West.
No doubt about that, he came into politics before Fayemi and he has been one of the advocates of democracy, same for Fayemi. They were together in the NADECO struggle. Tinubu would be a good president if he gets the ticket, but I believe Dr Fayemi is equally good if not better.
Do you think Nigeria is helpless on the state of insecurity?
We should continue to give our support to the government particularly in the fight against insecurity. Right now, insecurity is the number one challenge we have in this country. In an environment that is not secured, there cannot be development and the economy cannot move forward.
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