You will be 70 in 2014. Don’t you think you should have retired and engage yourself more in traditional duties as a High Chief of Ibadanland?
As long as Nigeria still has many problems to solve, I will not be tired of looking for ways of helping the nation. God has given me the strength to serve His people and I will not stop doing so. Age offers experience useful in helping others. I am 69 years and I think I am wiser than how I was last year. I am also a traditional leader and king-in-waiting in Ibadanland but I have no problem combining traditional duties with politicking. I consider political role a bigger call than being the Olubadan, which I might not achieve because only God knows how long a man will live.
You were a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party. Why didn’t you stay in the party to fight the forces that were against you instead of joining Accord Party?
In some cases, it is futile to try to fight evil forces when you have other choices. Some of the people in politics look after themselves and look after what they will get from the political parties they belong to. PDP has been in government since 1999 so they knew where they were going. I do not believe in the politics of deceit because I am a realist. When the party does something wrong, people will say that it is all about politics. But that is not a good assessment.
We tried as much as possible to stay in the party. I attended the Alex Ekwueme Commission in 2007 and many commissions set up by the party to reconcile members. I was invited to Abuja many times also, but the party did not ratify any of the communiqués reached. I cannot wait to be rubbished by people who came after we formed the party, so I decided to put my popularity to the test.
After the election in 2007, elders of the party came back to me and tried to talk me into returning to the party. I was open to discussion but the problem was that some people wanted to use me to achieve their own objectives and not to help the masses. There were congresses held but someone paid N30 million to ensure that the results of the congresses were changed. So when Bamanga Tukur came in as the chairman, he met doctored reports and could not help solve many problems, including the one we had in Oyo State. I was then convinced that there are more bad people in the party than good people. Tukur is a good man but there are many bad people around him. It was my impeachment as Oyo State governor and that of Ayodele Fayose in Ekiti that destroyed PDP in the South-West.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi is no longer governing Rivers State because what he is doing now is to fight for political survival. His own party has waged war against him. I am happy that I left the party before now.
With the spate of defection rocking the PDP, coupled with the internal wrangling in the ruling party, do you see the All Progressives Congress of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari, with many other prominent leaders, as capable of saving Nigeria from her multi-various poblems?
Only time will tell if they are capable. APC is equivalent to Action Congress of Nigeria in the South-West. In Borno and Yobe, APC to the people there is equivalent to All Nigeria People Party. In Nasarawa, it is equivalent to Congress for Progressive Change. Rochas Okorocha could not bring All Progressives Grand Alliance into the amalgamation and that is where the problem is. Will the leaders of the parties be able to convince their people to move? If a leader is joining another party, will all his followers move with him? So, people may opt out but time will answer all these technical questions.
In 1999, Alliance for Democracy and All Peoples Party formed alliance to fight PDP in the general election but they lost. I call it a gang-up and not necessarily a coalition of like minds. Any alliance that is not holy will fail. The only reason they are coming together now is to win election. What we should also consider is that if I voted for ACN in the last election, I may not vote for APC in the next election even though they are presumed the same. If ACN got 30 per cent in 2011 and ANPP got 30 per cent too, it is not a straight mathematics that the two parties will get 60 per cent when they form alliance. Politicians take people for granted in Nigeria because they don’t respect their conscience.
Look at what is happening in the party already in the South-West. The kind of government we have in Oyo State is different from what they have in Ogun, Lagos and Ekiti states. The only thing that binds them together is the name of the party and the fact that they have common masters. If not so, we will not have wide range gap in the prices of contracts executed by the state governments under the same party. Why are they not doing things in uniformity? The other question to ask is: Can Tinubu and Buhari work together? Let us pray that the people will have the benefit of governance in those states.
Identifying the gatekeepers in any community is a key to peaceful control of the people. With Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State appointing children of prominent persons and monarchs as commissioners and special advisers, don’t you think this is a magic wand to winning the 2015 elections in a landslide manner?
Everyone has a vote, no matter which section of the society they belong to. Accord is not a party of elite, but for everybody. If Ajimobi decides to run the government of the elite for the elite and by the elite, so be it. The elite do not need government so that their children can attend public schools. They send their children abroad anyway. But that is not the target of our own party. Our target are the people, who need government to survive, including the rich, who have something to contribute.
We are not sure if the monarchs and other prominent people were contacted before offering their children those positions in Ajimobi’s government. Moreover, those children are adults and they could be party members. If they are able to deliver, I will be happy. But that will not affect the chances of another party to win the next election. The monarchs do not belong to any political party and Aare Arisekola Alao does not belong to a political party also because he is a respected religious leader.
You want your party, Accord, to win the next election in Oyo State. Does your party wish to realise that alone or there is plan to form alliance with another party soon or later?
We are winning not only in Oyo but in many other states also. We are not forming an alliance with any other party at least for now. We are not in talk with anyone. What we are doing right now is to assemble people of like minds to form a formidable party in the South-West and Nigeria as a whole.
How do you feel about the government of your cousin, Ajimobi, in Oyo State?
I do not like commenting on how a governor is running a state; rather, my role is to be objective and help any administration deliver good governance to the people. Ajimobi is my cousin and he is working to the best of his ability. My criticism does not matter but that of the electorate. People whose stalls were demolished will be in a better position to judge the governor. Those who have children in the public schools can tell how good or bad they are. He has executed some policies but those who are directly affected will have a clearer view of Ajimobi’s government. But in our own camp, we are concerned with how we can assist the people to live quality life and enjoy good governance.
Are you still contesting the governorship in 2015 on the platform of Accord or planning to support a younger candidate?
We have taken a decision in our party that everyone should keep his or her position until sometime in 2014. It will be wrong to violate that decision. When the time comes, the party will blow the whistle and those who want to contest will be asked to come out. But if the party decides that I should come forward and contest a position, I will have to decide on what I want for myself. But as a member of the party, it will be hard to go against the decision of our people.
You were governor in Oyo State between 2003 and 2007 in spite of the hiccups of the impeachment on you. What were your achievements during your tenure?
Any good education policy will have direct impact on the people in the short and long term. We tried our best to tackle education and were rewarded. The state was rated second in Nigeria and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology was rated the best state university in Nigeria in 2004/2005. We succeeded in all the priorities we set at the time and that is what is expected of Accord. So, that area of education is just one of the sectors where we impacted very positively on the lives of Oyo State people.