Aregbesola’s government lacks affinity with the people
‘If I Can Use the House of Reps. to Achieve So Much, I Will Do Better as Governor’
Honourable Wole Oke was in the House of Representatives for two terms of eight years during which time he held the chairmanship of the Defence Committee. Oke is at present in the race for the governorship of Osun State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. In this interview with TUNDE RAHMAN in Abuja, Oke from Esa-Oke speaks on a wide range of issues, which included his chances in the PDP race, assessment of the Governor Rauf Aregbesola regime and what he would do differently if he emerged governor…
You have left the House of Representatives for quite some time now, so how has it been without you being in the Green Chamber?
It’s been very rewarding and eventful. It was a very good experience. When I flashed black about my sojourn in the House of Representatives, my heart is gladdened that I had a very rare opportunity and privilege to serve my people and my achievements are what I can refer to as my strong points that serve as a kind of encouragement for me to want to further serve my people. One of the major achievements a lawmaker would want to point to- is how many bills did one sponsor. How many of the bills receive the assent of Mr. President? Neither time nor circumstance can obliterate that singular achievement in the history of our dear country and democracy. One of the bills that I regularly refer to is the PENCOM Amendment Bill 2010. It was a bill based on the complaints from the armed forces. Military institutions that are in other democracies, the armed forces, the paramilitaries, security institutions are exempted from such contribution and I took it up. I sponsored that bill; I was able to convince 360 House members and the Senators and it sailed through and it got the assent of Mr. President. It is a very big achievement for me. While in the House of Reps, I served as chairman of the House Committee on Defence for eight solid years (two terms). In the course of that, I facilitated four institutions in Osun State. I collaborated with the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin, who incidentally comes from my constituency, to bring Air Force Base to my constituency (Ipetu-Ijesa). I also through the help of General Azazi of blessed memory brought Armed Forces Games Village to my hometown in Esa Oke. I also brought Armed Forces Physical Training Institute to Itegun in Ijebu-Jesa. On one of the several occasions we had in Esa Oke, the Oni of Ife came to rejoice with us and he saw the big sign post of the Armed Forces Games Village going on in Ijesaland, I mean Esa Oke, and he questioned me thus: ‘my son, do you think the House of Representatives will be the last thing you will do in this state? Why are you bringing all the projects to your area alone and ignoring Ife, the source?’ I felt challenged and I also worked on Naval Communication School to be located at Ile- Ife. Of course, Senator Iyiola Omisore also supported me in the area of appropriation. So when I look at these achievements; okay let me add that I also made sure that we got our quota in the enlistment of our younger ones in the armed forces namely Army, Air force Navy, Customs, Immigration, EFCC, FRSC, NDLEA, DIA and the rest. I made sure that my younger ones were recruited. So when I think back about these, I feel very satisfied in myself. I am satisfied and happy that my people gave me their mandate to represent them in the House of Representatives. I am very proud of these achievements.
Were you doing all these because you knew a day would come when you would want to run for governorship?
Not at all. As a matter of fact, it has never crossed my heart to aspire or to think of running for the House or governorship position in Osun State, but one thing led to it.
What led you to it?
Like I have said abinitio, if I can use the slot of the House of Reps. seat to achieve the whole lot I achieved. Then I begin to ask myself, supposing I have the privilege of managing the affairs and resources of Osun people for Osun State, that I would do a lot better for the people of Osun State with my background as an economist. I am a developmental economist, a financial person, an accountant and a tax lawyer who understands that the basis of public finance is taxation. Also, one who understands source
resources and apply them to achieve results. When I also think about my being a member of the Organised Private Sector vis a vis what I have been able to do for myself: creation of wealth and ventures and managing same. Talk about generation of employment, I have close to 1000 workers that God used me to put food on their tables every month. So when I look at all these, coming from a modest background of parents who are teachers; my mother was a school head teacher, my father who was also a teacher as well. Also coming from a rural based economy and to where God has put me, then I believe that yes if I have the chance of managing the resources, the life and the mandate of Osun people, I would add value.
Talking about managing the affairs and resources of the state, there is a government in place in Osun, how do you assess that government in terms of managing the affairs and resources of the state?
Thank you very much, the incumbent government in Osun State is under the leadership of my brother Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola. He happened to be a member of my Alma Mata, the Polytechnic Ibadan. And I remember those days; we were coming in when he was leaving. He belonged to some socialist movements particularly the Black Nationalist Movement and I remember what they used to preach. They preached welfarism. So when you look at Aregbesola as a person, he is a man of very strong character. He has ideas, he is not somebody that should be underestimated but in terms of governing Osun State he lacks two things: the first one is, he lacks affinity with the needs and aspirations of Osun people. He starts programmes and he does not end them because he does not really understand what the needs of Osun people are. It is a basic prerequisite requirement that before you can aspire to lead people, you must be well grounded in the history of those people. Aregbesola does not know Osun people, he does not understand their needs; he is only trying to come up with his own ideas, those ideas of socialist movement, which have been abandoned even in the Eastern world such as Russia and Germany. And he does not really align himself with the realities on the ground.
What is your take on the giant steps he has taken in the education sector?
When you look at our constitution, the issue of education is on the Concurrent List, in other words both the federal and state governments have a stake in education. We have various regulatory bodies such as NUC, NBTE and UBEC. The federal government formulates the policy on education in Nigeria, and if Osun decides to do something else one might look at it as an innovation. You want to bring an American education system into a country that has domesticated British education system, well you could say it is an innovation but how far can you go. Let me start with what he has been able to do in terms of school buildings that previous governments have appropriated funds to build, to put in place, he came and he started pulling them down.
He wants to put up new structures but I have had the privilege of studying abroad, I schooled at the University of London, you see very old buildings that are being maintained regularly. If you are looking at those buildings from outside you might think it is not worthwhile to be inside these buildings but what is important is what you bring out of it. I mean the products. So rather than demolishing schools in Osun State, one would ordinarily have expected my brother, the incumbent governor, to manage these
schools, retain and retrain the personnel that impact knowledge to the students, modernize the resources available, use projectors to aid learning in these classrooms.
He embarked on Opon Imo, but the issue is how many of the teachers have been trained in the use of ICT to teach. How many schools in Osun State have access to Opon Imo? How many schools has he built in the last almost four years now? Look at the issue of O YES, which he talked so much about as one of his core achievements. We all know that labourers desire his or her wages. When you have a situation when you have graduates who earn less than N100, 000 per month, it’s quite unfair and these same people are used to render services that the constitution expects the state to render particularly under Ecological Fund; you get young graduates to go and clear the road and bushes, you give them cutlasses, whereas this same function can be performed by getting a modernised equipment than cutting the bushes and using chemicals to spray them. My brother, what can a fresh graduate do with N10, 000 in the present Osun State? It is not even enough for his transportation. Also look at O ELDERS, which is akin to social security system. You will go to a particular local government and you will select 1,000 members who are APC members and you give them N10,000 per month by saying that they are O ELDERS.
In totality, if you look at these programmes, they are highly discriminatory in execution because it is not all elders that have access to such facilities. It is not every youth that have access to O YES programme that they are doing. It is highly discriminating in nature. You know it’s just that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expects a governor to emerge through a political party system. Once you emerge, you are governor of all. So when you look at it, you will see that the gentleman has failed in articulating the views and opinions, the needs and the desires of Osun people. In the case of education again, he demolished Fakunle Comprehensive High School, Osogbo, one of the oldest private schools, which government took over those days. The owner of that school hails from my village Esa Oke. Papa toiled and laboured to build that school to immortalise his name but all of a sudden because my brother the Governor did not know the origin of the school, he decided to demolish the school and now he wants to build Shoprite there, how would Baba Fakunle feel in his grave. How would his children and grandchildren feel? You try to obliterate the name of their father from history. It is all because my egbon does not really know Osun people. He doesn’t know what had happened in Osun State. Before you project into the future, it is important to appraise, you go back to what happened in the past, basically the problem I have with Aregbesola is all about planning and execution.
So essentially if you get PDP’s ticket and emerge governor, what will you do and how will you do things differently?
I will be mindful of our constitution and you know if you study the history of constitutions and laws, you cannot completely take away culture and ways of life of the people from history. They remain the sources of our laws and constitution. If I become the Governor of Osun State by the special grace of God, I will be mindful of the provisions of our constitution. Somebody suddenly woke up and decided to change the name of Osun State. If you check the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly the 36 six states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that are listed in the constitution, where do you have State of Osun.
But that is just a case of semantics; fact is there is no difference between Osun State and State of Osun.
You are only being grammatic, but in law they are two different things. In grammar, what you are saying is correct but in terms of law it is not. Okay, let Aregbesola apply to INEC to contest next election and file his application in the name of the State of Osun, that would tell you that, that step is unlawful and illegal. So I would not embark on any form of illegality if I become the Governor of Osun State and that is the bedrock of any responsible government. And I would also ensure prudence and efficient management of the resources of Osun people. I would carry them along and render accounts of Osun State stock on a monthly basis. People will know what is happening to their money. And coming from a very strong organised private sector, I know what happens. I can tell you what happens in my companies in terms of income and their usage. I render returns to the appropriate authorities; I render accounts to FIRS. I file my returns to the Corporate Affairs Commission. I am already used to an orderly system. The Osun people will have a say in the government. The traditional rulers will play their roles, have their meetings as and when due and they would get what is due to them as our royal fathers. There will be portable drinking water. As I speak to you, go and find out if there is any tap running in the whole length and breadth of Osun State. Why? We have a dam in Esa Odo; we have a dam in Ede. The federal government is helping the state to provide dams in Ilesha and Ile –Ife. What has happened to all these? In Osun State, now everybody is looking after himself or herself; everybody provides water for themselves. They provide electricity and security for themselves. Transportation of goods and services is a problem in Osun State because everything is in a shamble. You can only give what you have.
In a nutshell, I’m not blaming Governor Aregbesola because he is only doing his best. He is only giving what he can offer; and what he can offer is based on his capacity, his knowledge, which is limited.
Talking about your governorship aspiration, you are stalked against two formidable aspirants in your party PDP: the former minister (Olasunkanmi Akinlabi) on the one hand and former senator (Iyiola Omisore) on the other hand, are you not intimidated by these gentlemen and their profiles?
I am not, because I have knowledge; because I know what I know. I have a sound background in education. I have exposure; you know once you have knowledge, you have freedom. I contested elections and I won. I know what I did with my life; I know what I have done for my people. As a member of the House of Representatives; I know what I did for my people. So I have freedom of mind. I can think, I can reason; I am not in any way intimidated at all rather it is these two gentlemen who are my elder brothers that should see reasons why they should allow me, their younger brother, to pick the ticket. I have appealed to them in public and in private that they should just give me the ticket and they should go to bed with their two eyes closed because I know once they give me the ticket, Aregbesola will start packing his load.
It is said in Osun State that if the PDP primary were to be held tomorrow, Senator Omisore would pick the ticket because of his strong connection with the leadership of the party in the state.
Being strong in the leadership does not guarantee electoral success. We are talking about elections. I am one of the drafters of Electoral Act 2010. And the provisions of the Electoral Act is well articulated in the constitution of our party vis a vis the guidelines for primary elections. It is one thing to be appealable to the electorate even to the general members of the party. I recall vividly in 2010 during our convention, ward congress, a leading light in our party was defeated by a transporter, a chief driver, of former governor Oyinlola.
What is going to be your strongest factor in this race?
It is the electorate, our party members; I mean the delegates provided it is free and fair, provided there is provision of adequate security devoid of intimidation. I am very optimistic that I would win that primary election.
There is a speculation that Abuja is trying to persuade former governor of the state, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, to also join the race in the search for a credible candidate. Are you aware of that and are you bothered about that?
One, I don’t own this party. The leader of this party is my President, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He is our father, if he calls all of us to a meeting today and based on information at his disposal and says this is what he wants. I would oblige. But specifically coming to the issue you raised, Senator Isiaka Adeleke is my leader. I wouldn’t say he is my godfather but I strongly defer to him. Before I started to run, he was the first person I got his blessing. I met him in Nigeria and abroad. I love him. I respect him. He respects fellow human beings. He is very peaceful. People love him. As a matter of fact I asked him to come and run, he said he was not running. But he said I should go ahead and he blessed me. He also promised to stand by me.
Let’s go back to your party, PDP, you were in government in the state from 2003 to 2010 or thereabouts but you later found yourself in a situation whereby the same people who were leaders of your party, who had won elections before could no longer win elections again. Are you saying things have now changed that you can now contest and win elections in Osun?
You see in the affairs of man; you cannot wish the hands of God away. Sometimes you prepare a horse for war but it is God that determines the victory. One major reason that has been a recurring decimal in the affairs of Osun State is the ability of political parties to manage their successes. What is going to happen on August 9 in the governorship election has happened before. In 2003, Baba Akande was the governor of Osun State. He really worked and performed but because of one problem or the other, he failed to manage the civil servants. He made mistakes about managing the traditional institutions. He abandoned the youth. Those are the three reasons why Baba Akande lost that election to PDP. In the case of PDP under Governor Oyinlola, he had a very successful first tenure; the second term was terminated through court judgment, and one of the major problems he had was transition. He is a very credible, humble and truthful person, well respected. But he had a problem of transition. The SSG Alhaji Fatai Akinbale, Chief of State Elder Peter Babalola and my brother Senator Iyiola Omisore all wanted to become governor and some other aspirants also came out. Our inability to have a succession plan in place, that was what really caused the problem. Before the court judgment came, the succession problem had crept in and you have a situation where some PDP members were working against the party because they felt their chosen aspirant was not supported. There was a mutual suspicion. They felt if it is not me, then it cannot be you.
You talked about the former SSG in the state, Alhaji Akinbade, who still wants to run for the governorship. How do you see his defection to Labour Party?
It is a big minus for him.
Because no one has defected from PDP to labour party except him and the former Commissioner for Justice. I can tell you in my own local government, even with the emergence of Aregbesola, nobody has defected from PDP to APC.
You have a problem at the national level with respect to the office of the national secretary. I read in the newspaper a few days ago where Oyinlola was insisting he was still the substantive secretary of the party and you have a man occupying the place who also comes from your Ife/ Ijesa zone, how do we resolve the problem of PDP national secretaryship, more so when the main contenders happen to come from Osun State?
The truth is this; the matter is before the Supreme Court. It is highly prejudice to start talking about it. I am a like a son to Oyinlola and also a younger brother to Professor Wale Ladipo. So it is not an issue I would like to dabble into. It is not giving me any headache because it is a family affair. Talking about my aspiration again, I have commissioned a group to x-ray Osun State and see if we can defeat the incumbent government and the body came up with a positive result that we can defeat Aregbesola. What needs to be done is the unity of the party. The party must be united; the party must get a candidate from where the governor comes from. We have six local governments in Ijesaland with a voting strength of 240,000. The former Minister of Defence, my aunt Olusola Obada was removed from that position; Chief Ebenezer Babatope wanted to be secretary of the party but he was not allowed. Now, how do you want this homogenous six local government people to go and vote? You think that they will abandon the incumbent and vote for somebody else. No.
But this report is pointing in your direction as the candidate that should be picked, is that no self–serving?
It is not. It is about our party wining election. A reasonable party thinks about how to win elections. If there are proofs or facts to show that if another candidate is picked he would win the general election, I wouldn’t wait to give him all the necessary support. I am a very objective person. I am a foundation member of the PDP. I have never joined any other party since the advent of democracy in 1998. Others that have defected came back to join us. On my part, I want my party to retain power.
Have you presented this report to the party leadership? If so, how was it received?
Yes, they know the truth; they know the reality. It was the same scenario we had in 2003. Governor Oyinlola never planned to be governor. He wanted to be a senator but the same scenario the leaders met and said look if we must win this election, we must not allow Akande to have the kind of freedom he enjoys in Ikirun zone and they went there and picked Oyinlola, so why would they now abandon the same magic that worked then in this case.