Barrister Akin Ogunlola is a lawyer both in the United States of America and Nigeria. He was one of the three lawyers that successfully represented the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Chief Anthony Enahoro against the past Nigerian military dictatorship in USA. He is also the current National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), USA-Chapter.
As a member of PDP in Oyo State, what are the realistic chances of PDP in winning the governorship election in 2015 in view of the lack of unity within the party?
The assertion or presumption of lack of unity within Oyo State PDP is false. The party is much more united today than in the year 2011, especially having watched with dismay and disbelief the poor performance and gross marginalization of our people by the APC government led by the present governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. What you refer to as lack of unity was probably true prior to the 2011 election, when irreconcilable differences, manifest indiscipline and personal ambitions of certain party leaders led to the emergence of the present unpopular and elitist government of Senator Ajimobi. It must always be remembered that ACN or APC did not win the 2011 governorship election in the first place. The PDP itself gave the state away through immaturity on the part of its leaders at the time.
The time and circumstances are different today and I can assure you that PDP in Oyo State has never been more united or stronger. All the leaders and members of the party throughout the state are now united in their determination to help the people of Oyo State get rid of Governor Ajimobi and APC. More importantly is the fact that the people of this state from Ibadan to Oke-Ogun, Ibarapa to Ogbomoso and Oyo town agree that the APC administration of Governor Ajimobi has been a colossal failure and disaster. The people of Oyo State are united in their clamor for the return of PDP government in the state to the extent that our chances of winning the 2015 governorship and other elections are very high and unprecedentedly bright.
Presently, you are rumored to have about ten aspirants within PDP trying to become the next governor of the state. Don’t you think that this may further tear the party apart if one candidate eventually emerges as winner?
I don’t think so. Of course, the large number of possible contestants within the party is a positive sign and a further testimony to the fact that the people of Oyo State are already fed up with the current APC administration to the extent that each aspiring PDP member is convinced that defeating Ajimobi at the general election in 2015 will be so easy. The favorable atmosphere and the sensing of ultimate victory against APC throughout the state are some of the factors responsible for the large number of PDP aspirants. It should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness or disunity. Above all, the freedom of every member to aspire, vote and be voted for without imposition or hindrance is our hallmark as a democratic party. It is a welcome development that will ultimately strengthen and further boost our chances of reclaiming the state from APC. I’m sure that every member will quickly come together and support the eventual winner after the primaries in order to rescue Oyo State from Ajimobi and APC. Once we nominate a good flagbearer for the party, the days of APC government in Oyo State are numbered. This is because APC lacks the experience, lacks the people’s support and, or the ground political structure to defeat PDP at any state-wide election in Oyo State.
Which of the current PDP gubernatorial aspirants will you consider the most qualified or most likely to defeat Governor Ajimobi in 2015?
I must state quite unequivocally from the outset that all of the current PDP aspirants are men of vision with clear understanding of the collective aspirations of our people and the ways to actualize them.
However, when we talk about the most qualified and most formidable of the potential PDP aspirants with best chances of easily defeating Governor Ajimobi and APC at the polls, that person is the former governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Alao Akala. Chief Akala stands out, not only because of his experience, but also because he is a true and passionate leader of our people with an exemplary ability to mobilize the people at the grassroots.
In addition, he is genuinely loved and admired by the people of Oyo State due to his committed belief in empowering the people, most especially the masses and the less privileged in the state through his personal actions and policies as a leader. Furthermore, going round the state today, you’ll discover that no other candidate can match the political structure and support of the masses enjoyed by former governor Akala. Neither is there another person, in my opinion, that can elicit the type of excitement being generated among the masses, which his candidacy brings to the table. In short, Chief Alao Akala represents, not only the most formidable and intimidating opponent for Governor Ajimobi, but also represents a kind of political nightmare that is justifiably feared by the APC in Oyo State. In my opinion, he is the best candidate that can easily cruise to victory and ensure that PDP returns to power in Oyo State.
But what about the pending EFCC case against the ex-governor or do you consider it reasonable for the party to nominate someone with ongoing court case?
What pending case? Although I don’t know the facts or details of the case against the former governor, I can categorically say that the EFCC case is nothing, but a mere allegation at this point. I’m sure that the EFCC is doing a good job, but a crime is not committed simply because the EFCC says so. Furthermore, a fundamental principle of justice worldwide is that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. You cannot put a man’s life and career on hold or in limbo indefinitely by merely alleging or accusing him of a wrongdoing. The former governor has neither been convicted nor found guilty of any crime up till now and just like any other Nigerian citizen; he is free and must be allowed to pursue his life goals and ambitions. A pending case without conviction can only be used as an issue by those that are afraid of his candidature. Is it not almost four years ago that the man left office as a governor? I think that’s more than enough time to have him tried and convicted for any offense he may have truly committed.
But how will you rate the record of PDP in Oyo State under Chief Akala as governor?
I remain very proud of the achievements of PDP in the state under former governor Akala. As a society, we need to start learning to judge political office holders on their actual and practical record, not on mere propaganda by political opponents. When you look at the totality of his record as governor, Oyo State under Chief Akala, witnessed enormous infrastructural development and fair allocation of state resources.
For example, he constructed and rehabilitated over 1000 kilometers of roads, built hospitals in each of the state’s local government areas, and built a teaching hospital equipped with modern medical facilities. He also distributed amenities to the component parts of the state very fairly in addition to empowering the people and other notable capital projects within the state.
Unlike the present APC Governor, Akala never imposed punitive and destructive taxes on the struggling masses and okada (motorcycle) riders in the state. Governor Akala never destroyed people’s homes or demolished family houses of the poor under any guise without adequately compensating the victims of such demolition as Ajimobi is doing throughout the state. I’m sure that the clamor by the people for Akala’s return is not unconnected with the realization on the part of the Oyo State people that Chief Akala and his PDP administration has certainly performed much better than the present APC administration of Ajimobi. Yes, PDP administration under former governor Akala performed much better than the present APC administration and I’m very sure that the next PDP administration will certainly perform much better than the previous one.
Any particular example of Ajimobi’s bad policy that makes you think that he cannot win again in 2015?
Examples of his bad policies with their disastrous consequences on the good people of Oyo State are too many and unacceptable as evident in his low approval rating throughout the state. Seriously, we cannot fully itemize the mistakes, bad policies and demonstrated incompetence of the Ajimobi-led APC administration in Oyo State in this short interview. But quickly, look at his “YES O” policy which further increased youth unemployment throughout the state when the Governor refused to pay those, who participated in the program. Look at the unprecedented demolition of houses without adequate or reasonable compensation for which the Governor became known. Look at his initial imposition of arbitrary penalties and high taxes of three hundred naira (#300.00) on the struggling ‘okada’ riders in the state without any meaningful reciprocal benefit. Look at the totality of the major state contracts that are awarded by his administration and see who the major beneficiaries of those contracts are. Many in the state believe that Governor Ajimobi has benefited individuals and organisations outside Oyo State much more than those from Oyo State.
For example, how do you justify the taking away of the school’s programming duties from the IT Department of Ladoke Aknitola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in Ogbomoso and then contracting same to a Lagos corporation, neither the school’s Computer Science Department, Computer Engineering Department, or IT Department is capable of handling its own programming? If the job must be out-sourced, is there no competent company in the whole of Oyo State that is capable of doing the job? Okay, let’s look at the issue of unascertainable monthly salaries of state workers in the state by which the civil servant is not even sure of the exact monthly salary to expect. I was told that if a worker insists on knowing why he or she is short in salary in any month, he is simply directed to contact Lagos State for explanation.
You see, I personally respect Governor Ajimobi because he appears to me to be a very nice person. But as a Governor, he has demonstrated gross incompetence, lack of adequate knowledge of the state politics as well as an unprecedented high level contempt for the poor and needy, who are the vast majority of the electorate in Oyo State throughout his tenure.
APC, in Oyo State administration, ought to have known that every politics is local and no idea, policy or practice, no matter how attractive is of universal applicability. You cannot uproot an idea or copy a project wholesale from Lagos and simply impose that on the people of Oyo State because each state is different and has its peculiar challenges. A thorough understanding of these challenges and dynamics are essential to good performance and success in office. The administration of Governor Ajimobi appears to be ignorant of this simple fact or politics and the time has come for a true government of the Oyo State people, by the Oyo State people and for the people of Oyo State as represented by the PDP to return to power in 2015.
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