Dr. Nureni Aderemi Adeniran is the Publicity Secretary of Accord in Oyo State. A legal practitioner and former Commissioner for Education, the Accord chieftain spoke with ADEOLA OLADELE on the chances of his party at the ongoing Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Oyo State Government inability to pay workers’ salaries, President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption and many other issues. Excerpts:
Senator Ladoja recently alleged that Gov Ajimobi spent N5bn on his re-election, it’s like your party is envious of the fact that Ajimobi got a second term which had eluded other former governors, including Senator Ladoja.
This is not the matter of being envious of his second term victory. It’s an open fact that the present government used the state’s resources to prosecute his re-election bid. It’s so annoying that while the state’s civil servants are languishing in pain of being owed their salaries, the current administration is busy using the public fund for election.
At that time, everybody knew the number of election vehicles they bought for campaign. If it’s true the government did not use public fund for this process, they should have come out to tell the whole world where they got the fund for the purchase of those vehicles for election.
During the campaign period, there were series of allegations that while the staffs of local governments were languishing over the non-payment of salaries, the government was using the instrumentality of the state to spend public money to fund its campaign and election. In local governments for instance, there were lots of information that millions of naira were coughed out by the local government to support the re-election in favour of the APC.
Nobody is complaining that part of public fund should not be used to fund election, but not at the detriment of some other things. It’s out of point, especially for APC, clamouring for change, saying there are fighting corruption here and there to be found wanting in kind of a thing.
I think if anybody has an allegation against them, they should come up with facts and figures to debunk what have been said. A lot of information was going around. We had it reliably that a large chunk of local government money was coughed out to finance election before, during and after the last general election.
The APC government led by Ajimobi should tell the world where they got the money spent during the election. The money they used to purchase campaign vehicles here and there. And they should explain the money they were raking from local governments what they spent it on.
Even during the swearing ceremony, we also had information that the Office of the Governor was compelling all the local governments to purchase the ‘Aso Ebi’ they used for the swearing in ceremony. It’s not wrong for them to do it, but it must not be from the public fund. That’s what we are saying. If they were alleged of financial misconduct, I think they should be upright enough to come out and debunk what have been said.
It goes beyond saying the allegation is not true on pages of newspapers. We are talking of public funds. They should come out with facts and figures. And Nigerians at present know the meaning of fighting corruption, because that is the pedestal upon which APC at the national level stood to win their election. And President Muhammadu Buhari is presenting himself as an anti-corruption crusader and I’m happy with what he said recently that he is not going to spare anybody found to be corrupt among the APC members. So this is what we are saying. We just want things to be normal. Oyo State funds belong to all of us. If the civil servants could be suffering, it is unethical for such funds to be used on frivolities.
Some APC stalwarts have said that Senator Rashidi Ladoja does not really have a case and that he’s just trying give false hope to his supporters, how do you react to this?
I won’t react to it, because I’m a lawyer. And I know that it will be contempt of the court to comment on a case before a court of competent jurisdiction. But those who are saying that are displaying their ignorance and lack knowledge.
What are the chances of your party at the tribunal?
Our chances are very bright. We have a very good case. And we have the hope that the Judiciary will dispense appropriate judgement.
Apart from the case at the election tribunal, what other things has Accord been doing since the last general elections were concluded?
The case at the tribunal is it not enough for us to be busy with? Because we worked and toiled day and night for the election and we believe people came out to vote for us and we believe we were manipulated out. We are not violent. We have peace-loving people in our party. That was the reason we resulted to legal process and we believe in the Judiciary and through them we believe we will get the right judgement.
Your party currently has 8 members in the Oyo State House of Assembly, while Labour Party has 6 yet, Accord lost the Minority Leader’s position to Labour It’s like Accord is a weak party
I totally and strongly disagree with that notion. Accord is even stronger than Labour. What would you have expected to happen? The truism is that the whole exercise was premeditated.
The APC manipulated it in favour of Labour Party because Accord dragged them to court over the last governorship poll in the state. Where have you heard it that a party with the least members has the minority leadership position? Don’t use that as criteria to conclude that Accord is a weak party. It’s a planned and calculated attempt by the APC to rubbish our party. We are not going to relent. Accord has a wider spread in the state. So the issue of being a weak party does not come in at all.
During the first 4 years of Governor Ajimobi, and after the collapse of the Alliance between Accord and defunct ACN, Accord lawmakers could not summon the courage to challenge some of the activities that went on in the House, will the current lawmakers on the platform of your party continue with siddon look approach or this time it will be different?
Well, we don’t pray for that. The principle of democracy is that the majority will have their way while the minority will also have their say. And that is individualistic. Because individual person, his character will come into bear wherever he finds himself. It does not mean I have to win all the time, but when a decision is about to be taken, if I feel so strong about a particular decision whether it has the support of the majority or not, I should be able to say it. And that is the kind of training we have given to our people, but it’s left to them when they get there to do what is right.
I want to say that we are giving the present crop of lawmakers on the platform of Accord benefit of the doubt that they will be on side of the people. Because being on the side of the people is when you see government trying to via off the track, by doing things that are not in tandem with the yearnings and aspirations of the people that you stood your ground and tell the government what it should do, regardless you have the majority or not, it will be on record this person has said this. By doing so, people will know who their friends are. I believe Accord, being a party of the masses, the representatives of Accord should behave as expected of them. As I said earlier, we are giving them the benefit of the doubt that they will stand on the side of the people. Whatever we are doing in politics, we are just writing history. People know there friends and they will never forget them.
Most States in the country cannot pay salaries. In Oyo State, the story is the same, do you think the Ajimobi-led administration could have done better in the situation it found itself?
You see governance is about anticipation. A good manager would have anticipated that what if this situation occurs, what is the way out? This situation is not peculiar to Oyo State, but the worst part of it is that the present government in the state does not have interest in workers’ welfare.
The government believes since the situation is the same in other states, it does not need to look for any way out. To be candid with you, the governor does not have the idea of what governance is.
President Buhari is trying to bail out the states that cannot pay salaries, what is the position of Accord on this issue?
Personally, it’s laudable. I salute the courage of the President on the development. But the president should ensure the money is spent on what it was intended for, not on frivolities.
How do you rate President Buhari’s performance in office so far?
It’s too early to start evaluating his performance now. Let’s give him more time. It’s not how far, but how well. If truly he wants to fight corruption, he must start from within.
Do you think he has what it takes to take the country out of the woods?
Well, he has presented himself as an anti-corruption crusader. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see if he will live up to expectation. He has a lot to do in respect of tackling corruption. All eyes are on him to deliver the good.