- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
PDP Is Not Perfect, But Without The Party, There’s No Democracy – Olusola Oke
Chief Olusola Oke, immediate past National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in the October 2012 election in Ondo State, says he stands a better chance than the incumbent governor, Dr Segun Mimiko, in this interview with BANKOLE MAKINDE. Excerpts:
What influenced your career choice and what did your parents tell you while you were growing up that has really shaped your life today?
I think by my nature, the chemistry of my body, I am given to defending the cause of the down-trodden. When I was younger, most of the occasions I had to quarrel or fight with anybody was where somebody was trying to cheat the other and I felt he should not do so. So, naturally, I am given to defending the interest of the under-privileged and I think that influenced my choice of legal profession. There is something I got from my father, which I say from time to time. My father said that when a man lied, the man would either be a coward, a hungry man or a treacherous man. That guides me in my life because each time I look at myself and I remember that I am not a coward, that I am not a hungry person and I remember that I am not treacherous, I run away from falsehood and I stand by the truth. To run away from the truth, I must show that I am a coward or that I am treacherous or that I am hungry, but God has not allowed any of these evils to afflict me. It was the major lesson I got from my father. I grew up from a religious home and so, the ethics, morality, relationship, good neighbourliness and all that are part of the consideration.
Apart from being a politician, who is Olusola Oke?
Olusola Oke is a legal practitioner, politician, an indigene of a riverine community and somebody who spent 10 years of his life in active commercial fishing. That was what I was doing between 1963 and 1973. I was also a teacher and I am a Christian who is happily married with good children.
What credentials do you possess that could make you oust hardworking Governor Olusegun Mimiko from office in the coming poll?
The first credential I have is God. The second are the people of the state. These two combined are strong enough to make me record victory at this election. Besides, the Nigerian democracy has advanced and the electorate now look at individuals involved in contests, rather than their political parties. Given my antecedents in the areas I have had the opportunity of serving the people of the state, I think they (antecedents) would go a long way in recommending me to the people of the state.
As the representative of the state on the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), I engendered massive sustainable development in my mandate area by ensuring that projects that would translate to improved welfare for the people of my mandate area were undertaken. Roads were constructed and the canal, which was the only means of transportation in the riverine area, became silted more than a decade before my appointment to NDDC. I was able to use the instrumentality of that appointment to get it redressed at a cost of N4.3 billion which was the biggest project in the NDDC then, despite the fact that Ondo State is regarded as a minor in the comity of the oil producing states. Concrete-landing jetties, computer training, health centres, school buildings and various projects that brought meaning to the lives of the people, especially at that time when we were just coming back from the ethnic conflict, which led to massive destruction in the area, were undertaken. The existing water scheme in that environment was the projects I initiated and completed and more has been added since then.
Electrification projects were introduced in several communities both on land and on water. We supplied mass transit buses to the people apart from training large numbers of people in computer capacity. Many graduates were employed and 95 percent of the projects were handled by indigenous contractors thereby domesticating capital to the people of my mandate area. When I was in OSOPADEC as the chairman, the projects I initiated and executed in the area remain the main landmark projects there today. The Igbokoda/Iyakoto/Olokola Road contract was awarded during my tenure and the Ajagbakoja reclamation work which provides the only land that you can find in the core oil producing area today was undertaken by me and you can keep on listing the projects that are of fundamental importance to the people that were undertaken by me. Despite the fact that my mandate was limited to the oil producing area, I also extended projects to all the local government areas of the state where you find electrification projects, school buildings, supply of computers and science equipment and a host of other things and the buses were extended to non-oil producing areas of the state. So, my background as a developer and as somebody who believes in the development of the environment and the people, will recommend me to the electorate in the state, who are yearning for improved welfare. The economy of the state is nose-diving due to poor management. The people want a change. They want a government that will initiate sustainable and not cosmetic projects, and this is where I come in. So, I believe that I am suited for the job and that the people will appreciate me and vote for me.
But if you take a cursory look at development in the state under the present administration, you will agree with most people that Governor Mimiko truly deserves a second term at least on the execution of projects that directly affect the lives of the ordinary citizens.
For goodness sake, can you name two roads that are beautiful that were undertaken by this government? So, I disagree with you on that. I can see water fountains and I can see some other cosmetics, flowers here and there but I can’t see any landmark sustainable development. Those projects that were conceived, initiated and executed by the Agagu administration have been abandoned. Look at the new Akure Stadium, it has been abandoned and we now go to Ijebu-ode for our sportsmen to train and we pay huge money to the Ogun State government. Before the exit of the Agagu administration, an ultra-modern stadium was already initiated in Akure and 50 percent mobilisation paid. Go to Olokola. That is a project that is made to complete and reconfigure the economy of this state and make the state industrialized which is what we need to take the state to another level.
Today, we have an army of unemployed youths in the state because the government cannot be the sole employer of labour and you expect labourers to be sufficiently and adequately employed. When Oluwa Glass was there and when Okitipupa Oil mill was there, these were large employers of labour, but they are all dead today. So, the point we are making is that the project, which was designed to open up the economy of the state, empower our people and generate employment has been abandoned. Go to many roads awarded, the University of Technology in Okitipupa, the factory at Ikare and the Tourist centre being constructed at Idanre, all of them have been abandoned. What I see in their places are cosmetic projects which are incapable of generating welfare and which are incapable of bringing out any sustainable development. What do you do with water fountains on our roads? Apart from being in violation of traffic rules, it does not also add value to the life of anybody. People can’t have water in their homes. The Owena Dam which was intended to service six local governments was abandoned. That project was completed and it only remained reticulation which was the state content, but it is now abandoned. In fact, payment was made to contractors before the exit of the last administration but that money was diverted to something we cannot see. So, the point we are making is that part of the reasons the people of the state have rejected this government is because of its non-performance. It cannot account for over half a trillion naira that has come to this state within the three years and few months of it existence. If you see any project, you will realise that things that are within the realm and responsibility, of local governments, are being undertaken by the state. What does the state has to do with constructing markets everywhere? It is the responsibility of local governments and when you construct markets and you do not empower the people, you don’t give them the capacity; the markets would be patronised by goats and madmen. You talk of building mega schools which is a violation of the United Nations policy on primary school education. Primary school education is meant to be a neighborhood thing and that means there is a limit to the distance you will cover before you can access primary education. What the state government has done now is to centralise primary schools. You have one in a local government and you expect everybody within that place to go to the mega school. Meanwhile, you are building mega primary schools and there are no mega secondary schools and mega universities. So, for an average state indigene to access primary school education, he has to spend a lot of money and take a lot of risks to get to that place. In any event, none of these schools has been completed and even the one commissioned is not fully completed.
Why the choice of Saka Lawal as your running mate?
When I was searching for a deputy, I informed the party which has the authority and the prerogative to choose a deputy, just as it has chosen me. But, I set criteria that I want a God-fearing person. I told them that I want somebody with a vision and whose vision can be married with my own vision. I told the party that I needed a man who believes in the welfare of the people, who believes in the prosperity and security of this state; somebody who can align his own vision with my own idea of development because for you to have an all round development, you must develop the people and develop the environment. The party then put down these criteria and we were able to locate all of them in one man and that is Saka Lawal. Of course, you know the circumstance of the understanding between PDP and ACN which limits the search for a deputy to ACN and invariably, we found all those qualities in Saka Lawal and so, that is the reason for Saka Lawal.
With the unimaginable crisis rocking the PDP at the national level today, do you think Nigerians could still entrust the party with their destiny?
The PDP will still win any national election any day. Though PDP is not a perfect party, it remains the only national party in the country and it is the only party that is uniting the country today. That is why we feel that if there is no PDP, there will be no democracy in Nigeria and I say this with all seriousness. All other parties are formed around names, around individuals and they are cleavages. They are regional, zonal or personality-based political parties and those ones cannot pull Nigeria. Wherever PDP is not in power in the country, PDP is the strongest opposition and for that reason alone, don’t bother about the conspiracy of parties merging and all manner of things. They said it over the years, but it has not worked out because the conspiracy that brought them together will be the conspiracy that would destroy them. So, I want to assure you that PDP will continue to win elections and remain the dominant party in Nigeria’s politics.
PDP is a party not known to abandon its members in times of trouble. Why is the party now distancing itself from its national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, over the issue of his son?
You see, you have not even established the fact that Bamanga Tukur’s son is a member of PDP and it is ironical that Nigerians, including educated ones, cannot draw a line between a father and a son, between a businessman and a politician. Bamanga Tukur’s son is an adult, who harbours his own reasoning faculty, who sees through his own eyes, breathes through his own nose, talks through his own mouth and hears through his own ears. He has a company that has a legal personality in law that can sue and be sued, and that can be prosecuted. So, it is unfair for people to seek to make Bamanga Tukur answerable for whatever wrong his son could have committed. I cannot see the correlation between the two at all and it is very wrong to hold Bamanga Tukur responsible for the perceived sins of his son.
Talking about abandoning of members, PDP is also known to have condemned anything that bothers on criminality even by its own members. When Ogbulafor was charged to court on that basis, PDP dropped him as national chairman because of image problem and many more people like that. So, it cannot also be right to say that PDP doesn’t abandon people but we only do such when it has to do with law and when it comes to that, we allow the law to take its course. So, even if this were to be Bamanga Tukur himself, the law will still take its course because PDP will not stand to defend it. But the issue here is that Bamanga Tukur is not involved and so, it is either out of mischief or ignorance that people will say that Bamanga Tukur should be accountable or answerable for whatever sins his son was alleged to have committed.
A governor should reasonably be the leader of his party in the state, but with this new policy of party supremacy, Bamanga Tukur is presently propagating. Don’t you think it would bring friction into the party?
By our constitution, the chairman of the party in the state is the leader of the party, but by convention, the governor, who is regarded as the father-figure, is also treated as the leader and it depends on the issues involved. But the power to give final authority on party matters lies with the chairman. However, the power to give the final advice or directive on a matter lies with the governor or the president. Bamanga Tukur is merely restating the position of the constitution. The most senior member of PDP is the national chairman because he is the number one citizen of the party. So, when it involves issues concerning the party, Bamanga Tukur is the leader but when it involves national issues that deal with Nigerians, the president, who is also a member of PDP, takes precedence. So, I cannot see any conflict between his position and that of the president.
What do you think is wrong with the country?
What is wrong with this country will depend on the issue we are talking about. If we are talking about what is wrong with leadership, it will vary from one state to the other. In Nigeria generally, the inability of successive governments to sustain what has been introduced by earlier governments is a major problem. For example, I have just given you a long list of abandoned projects in Ondo State which, if had been completed, would have put the state at another level. We also have bad followership because it takes evil to triumph, when good people keep quiet. When a leader is doing something wrong, if all of us come out to challenge such leader, he will amend his ways. But a situation where people venerate evil because of money will go a long way to encourage such leader to continue to ride on, on their evil ways. So, for us to get it right in this country, we need the right leadership and we also need the right followership.