I Left PDP for APC Because I Can’t Stand On The Rostrum to Campaign for Fayose as My Candidate
*PDP has reached maturity, its now in decline
From Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State capital, the reporter travelled the 15 to 20 minutes drive to Ifaki-Ekiti, Chief Segun Oni’s hometown, for this interview. Locating his house was as easy as putting butter on bread, as virtually everybody we inquired from on the way- from the Civil Defence officer to a roadside corn-seller to the Okada rider- knows his abode. When we eventually got his modest bungalow painted white in the heart of an expansive compound, he was busy holding court with some market women and men who had visited him. At the background were some elderly men and women sitting in small groups. There was also a group of three young men and a lady who, I was later told, had just returned from Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Marine Transport in Egypt, having undergone studies in Marine Engineering and Marine Navigation. All of them had graduated with distinctions and one of them had emerged President of Nigerian Students in the school. They were some of the beneficiaries of the scholarship scheme instituted by his government in Ekiti before the Appeal Court voided his election in October 2010. Former Ekiti State Governor Segun Oni is a politician in a class of his own. An engineer who had made name in the corporate world before he entered politics, Oni is widely perceived as a man with loads of integrity. He demonstrated this recently when he dumped the Peoples Democratic Party, under which platform he was elected National Vice-Chairman, South-west a couple of months ago, for the All Progressives Congress, and endorsed Governor Kayode Fayemi who had mounted the court challenge that ousted him as governor. At the official presentation of the party’ flag to Governor Fayemi last Wednesday in Ado-Ekiti, Oni delivered the speech that emerged as the highpoint of the well-attended rally. This speech and the loud applause that greeted it provided the take-off point for this interview conducted by TUNDE RAHMAN…
At the rally to present the All Progressives Party’s governorship flag to Governor Fayemi in Ado-Ekiti, you spoke from the heart, with so much conviction on the choice you have made, I mean dumping the Peoples Democratic Party for APC. It would appear you spoke with so much venom against PDP, what really is your problem with the PDP?
Let me first clarify one point. I didn’t speak with venom towards the PDP or towards anyone. The political elites must be very careful not to continue to parade people who in the estimation of the average man on the street is much less than worthy, it will lower the integrity of every office and it may be the beginning of the people’s revolt. I am seeing this ahead of time because by the time you create four or five governorships that people believe are manned by men who the average man on the street cannot see as role models and by the time it becomes the loud voice of the man on the street that politicians are all rubbished people, we would have shot the political institution on the foot. What am trying to do is to strike at the conscience of the average political elite. So it’s not venom against the PDP. I believe the PDP made a mistake and I am trying to strike at the root of that thinking. Not just for now because that party has made its own mistake and it’s left for us to follow or reject it and we want to reject it so that in the future, the political elites, even in the APC, will not make that make that kind of mistake. There has to be self-evaluation. Why it was not like this in the days of the Awolowos of this world was because they had a process of political ascendancy. But now, anybody can just come and contest for any elective position even if the person is of a questionable character.
You did not indicate any interest in running for the governorship on the platform of PDP this time round and Fayose is PDP’s choice, are you saying the PDP made a wrong decision to have given the ticket to Fayose?
Yes, because he did not win the primaries. It was not free and fair. It was an arranged primary. I know this terrain well enough to be able to say that if the people want him, then we should allow the people to have their choice but he did not win the primaries. Those who gave him the ticket believed that he would be the sure way for them to capture power. I don’t know why we have to do things out of desperation.
You said at the rally that Fayose is not a role model for youths, so how do you see frame him in this election?
He cannot be a role model. You can ask people on the street to confirm this because we all know one another. It doesn’t matter if you make somebody Governor or anything, people know one another. In the olden days, Ekiti would say if a man does not feed you, why should he hold you down but nowadays, even if you are feeding them they are also going to ask questions why you should hold them down. That is why I want a governor who will not destroy our image and the outlook of the average Ekiti person because the outlook of the average Ekiti person will also be a function of the kind of leadership displayed. We don’t want a situation where everybody will be judging the average Ekiti person by the image of the governor that they know. It will destroy the opportunities that quite a lot of people should have. And people would ask us-what were you looking at? Why did you have to get a governor like that? That was how they were asking me then and that was the motivation for me to go and contest for governorship. This time round people will not ask us. They will say we are all rubbish for choosing such a person of questionable character. If this was a decision of PDP high command, it was wrong, any human system can be wrong. They should just take it as one wrong decision and take a lesson from it and don’t allow it to happen anywhere in Nigeria again. All of us should collectively safeguard the integrity of these laudable offices that good people should be aspiring to occupy. So it is not venom. It is an advice for self-preservation for the political elite because if we are not careful, if the public sees us as a pack of crooks and opportunists who are just using politics to fend for themselves and not thinking of the interest of the larger society, one day there will be a revolt on the street.
I want you to put it in the perspective, why precisely did you leave PDP for APC?
I left the PDP for the APC because I cannot stand on the rostrum to campaign for the candidate of the PDP in my state. I’m sure something is wrong with the system. If the PDP as a party does not even see that there should be ways that it can stand by its own. That is why I said let me enjoy this guber race now as an active spectator because the marginal utility of being governor to me after being governor once has come down drastically and that is what it would be for any human being. So there was no need for me to want to be governor at all cost but I was ready to support a good candidate.
If you had remained the National Vice Chairman of the PDP in the South-west would you have been experiencing this?
No, they would not have picked such a candidate. They would not have had such Kangaroo primaries. The people who got me out were preparing for this scenario because they know I cannot be compromised with money. The only person who contributed a dime throughout my tenure to PDP in the South-west was former Osun Deputy Governor Erelu Olusola Obada. She ensured that all the Ministers from the South-west contributed five million naira each to the party to run the party, otherwise I used my money to run the party.
In the light of your defection from PDP, some of the leaders of the party particularly Chief Ishola Filani said that your leaving would not affect the party and former Governor Fayose also said that you were a soldier without troop, what is your reaction?
Ishola Filani has never won his polling unit in any election in his lifetime. Go and check. I’m not sure he can convince ten people in the whole of Ikole to do whatever he wants them to do. And talking about troops, who are the troops? The troops are the masses of this state and they are solidly behind me. Let me give you an insight into my politics. I believe in mass appeal, I don’t go through agents. I didn’t go to any leader when I was coming to contest for governorship. I established the Change Club for young people. I established Ekiti Development Agenda for older people from there they graduated to Irewolede Movement, I was doing micro credit. I made up my mind that instead of giving money to one leader who will believe that it is his entitlement to take money I went for mass appeal and when the movement started they were unstoppable. I always say that I went through the masses to upturn whatever table was there and that we can also go through the masses now.
Are you now in APC or you are out of PDP just to support Governor Fayemi?
I’m in APC and I see an opportunity in APC to contribute to the making of a new Nigeria because the existing political order is due for change, every product has a life cycle. The PDP appears to have been in maturity by the time people like us were governors. We were about 27 then but today the figure has come down to 18, which shows a decline. If you are a political strategist you will see that this is the time for a new political order to begin to emerge.
How do you access the chances of Gov. Fayemi in the June 21st election?
Right, like I have told you we must work very hard but the chances are very bright because it is not premised on falsehood and that is the difference between him and his closest rival.
What did you see in Governor Fayemi that is not in Fayose?
That is what I’ve been saying, Fayemi’s platform is not on falsehood, I didn’t say he did not offend anybody and he said it himself that it is not about perfection. Of course if I did not adopt the Mandela’s spirit, I will still be talking about what was done to me because when I watched Mandela’s funeral, I knew that anybody who conquered ego to such an extent that you can forgive your greatest adversaries, then you have created a platform of immense joy for yourself.
But he went to court to challenge your election following which your election was voided as if you were never elected.
As far as I am concerned I have allowed that to be by-gone. If God didn’t want me to leave, no one could have taken me out and maybe God wanted me to leave because God wants to lay some other foundation. Why did Mandela have to spend 27 years in jail to come back and lay a foundation for a new South Africa? It is the hand of God.
In moving into APC and in endorsing Gov. Fayemi for the forthcoming election, was there any deal between you and him?
None whatsoever. I am not a deal man and I want to say I didn’t do any deal to get to this level and I won’t do any deal to move further. I am a very contented person and it is because I am contented that I am confident, not because I am confident that I am contented and that is me. I may not be holding political office but there will always be something good. Even the project at hand now, trying to get Ekiti people to vote the right governor is something good that I’m applying myself to and for me it is good business. So it is not about deals at all.
How does Chief Segun Oni see himself today, a former governor of the state or not because some are of the view that your governorship was annulled and you were never a governor in the state abinitio?
First let me refer you to a judgment of the Supreme Court that talked about tenure where tenure elongation for some governors, four of them or so, was quashed. You recall what the Supreme Court said in that judgment that the period they spent in office before their election was quashed and before they won rerun election must count in calculating the time they had spent in office. Again, in practical terms, can you say someone who signed budgets, who was authorising the appropriation of state funds was not a governor, then every other things could have been illegal including the convening of an assembly that did the budget. When I became governor, I was the one who put the photograph of a one-day governor, the late Rt. Hon. Friday Aderemi, in the Governor’s office. So somebody who was on and then off after three and a half years could not have been said not to be there. I believe politics in this state would be played differently from now on because people will now see that we are all one, we would always meet. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m not bitter and I can’t be bitter against anybody. I have forgiven those who offended me and I hope, wish, pray and also beg that those that I offend would also forgive me.
In the build up to this June 21 election, there has been so much drumbeat of war and violence, what is your message to the people of Ekiti as they go into the forthcoming election?
My message is that the people of Ekiti State should avoid violence because election is not about violence it is about choice.