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Buhari too weak to rule, says Alao-Akala



Oyo State Labour Party candidate in next month’s governorship elections, Chief Christopher Alao-Akala in this interview with MUYIWA ADEYEMI, says President Goodluck Jonathan will win this month’s presidential election. In his view, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) is not a better alternative to Jonathan.

YOUR party does not have a presidential candidate, considering the way you were treated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would you still support Jonathan’s presidential ambition?

  Mr. President is still my very good friend and he has not done anything to me to deny him my support. About two weeks ago, we were together in Lagos for hours and were to visit the Soun (Oba) of Ogbomoso together but I urged him to go alone so I will not be seen as stealing the show.  So I still have a very good relationship with the president.

  General Muhammadu Buhari is prominent in this presidential race, and we cannot rule out the fact that he is the main contender. With due respect to Buhari, who I know to be a very nice man, he is not the person to take over from Jonathan. People are getting it wrong. Firstly, Buhari cannot rule this country because he is too weak. Forget the fact that he was once a soldier. Age is not on his side to do that. Secondly, it is a conglomerate of interests that have brought him up to be the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was not his wish to be the candidate.

  I will compare what is happening to him now to what happened to him in 1983 when he became the Head of State. He did not participate in the coup; he was not meant to be the Head of State. He was brought in as a reluctant Head of State. The man who ought to be the Head of State was killed in that coup in Abuja and Buhari was next to that person. And that was why it took a while before anyone could address the nation as Head of State. The coup happened on December 30, 1983 and the country did not have a Head of State until the evening of the 31st of December 1983. So when he was made Head of State, late Tunde Idiagbon was made his Second-in-Command, as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. But Buhari was not in charge; Idiagbon was in charge. That is why you hear of Obasanjo regime, Babangida regime, Abacha regime but no one will ever talk of Buhari regime; they say Buhari/Idiagbon regime. Buhari was spineless without Idiagbon. Have you ever heard of any one address a military head of state’s regime by the name of his second-in-command? If Buhari was in charge, he would not have been toppled when Idiagbon was away from country. The government was toppled when Idiagbon was away to Mecca; that was when Babangida toppled him. He is a weakling.

So, the message to your supporters is that they should vote for Jonathan?

  Of course, we will vote for Jonathan. I am not in PDP but I support Jonathan. My supporters know this and they will vote for Jonathan and I am convinced he will win this election because people have seen through the lies of the APC.

Do you think Labour Party (LP) in Oyo State has a structure to make any impact in the forthcoming elections?

  From the outset, the Labour Party structure has been very solid, because we laid a very good foundation. Don’t forget that the party is a merger of two parties; the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A majority of people in the PDP came together and teamed up with the foot soldiers in the APC; and together we laid a good foundation for the party.  We have a very good structure and we have also fielded good candidates for all elections. So, in all wards and local councils, our presence is well felt and we are solidly on ground in all the wards of the 33 local councils in state.

You and former Governor Rashidi Ladoja and the sitting governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, are in the race for the governorship seat. The three of you are not new to the people, why do you think you stand out?

  Without mincing words, among the three of us that have served as governor, I am the most experienced candidate.

Are you are more experienced than, Senator Ladoja?

  I am not saying that he is not my boss, he is still my boss and he will forever be my boss, because I served under him as deputy governor. But what I am telling you is that I am the most experienced candidate in this contest, if you try to distinguish between seniority and experience. What I am saying is that nobody has the kind of political antecedents and the kind of political experience that I have. That is what makes me excel over and above them and it is going to tell when the election is held on April 11, this year.

What kind of experience are you talking about?

  When you talk about politics, experience is very important and I will give an example. My boss, Ladoja never won any election without me. I was there as his deputy when he won in 2003 and my running mate today, Alhaji Sarafadeen Ali, was also there when he won election; he became Secretary to the State Government when I was deputy governor. After that, Senator Ladoja has never won any election. But without him, I have won elections. As a grassroots politician, I was once a local government chairman and by the special grace of God, we started the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and I was its vice chairman in Oyo State. I also became a deputy governor. Today, I am the only deputy governor in Oyo State that has ever become a governor; these make me to be over and above other contestants in this election. I remain the only person since the state was created, who has two photographs in the Secretariat Building; as a deputy governor and later as a governor.

When you contested election in 2011, you had a good showing electorally in other zones of the state except Ibadan, which controls 55 per cent of the votes. What do you think will go differently for you this time around?

  Don’t get it wrong. I had good showing across the state, including Ibadan. In fact, what I polled in Ibadan in 2011, I did not poll up to that in 2007. Go and look at the records. Also, I want you to forget about what you called controlling 55 per cent of the votes in Oyo State, because I know where you are going. You are going to say that the 55 per cent votes belong to Ibadan indigenes. The 55 percent you refer to does not belong to Ibadan alone. When people say that, they try to bring up what they refer to as Ibadan indigenes and I can tell you that many people who live in Ibadan are not Ibadan indigenes, this is a cosmopolitan city. 

Going by your campaigns so far across Ibadan, do you think the people of the city, either residents or indigenes, will vote for your party?

  This time around, it is not only about the party; the election will not be about the Labour Party. Yes, I am in Labour Party but it will be about individuals who are tested and trusted; the people are going to vote for individuals, they will not vote for parties. If the election were to be about parties, then we will be making a lot of mistakes. A lot of people will not vote for parties; if it were to be about parties, I will not be where I am today and I will not tell you that I am on top of the situation in Ibadan and the state. If it is about parties, anybody can just come up and he will win. If you want to know, our democracy has grown to the point that people want to know the person they are voting for; they want to know his pedigree, his antecedents and so on. They want to know if he is someone that is going to give them problem or someone that will listen to them; people want to vote for character. They want to vote for integrity and not political parties. But you just have to use a platform and from what we have seen so far, Labour Party has been able to gather men and women of integrity; people that have been tested and trusted. Look at it from the example of my running mate and myself. You are aware that he was once a local government chairman and once a Secretary to the State Government. So, we know what it takes to govern Oyo State; we know Oyo State quite well and it is when you know a house well that you can move around in it and know where to go and where not to go. We know this state and that is what we are putting before the electorate to let them know that we have been tested and trusted. Let them look at our records and we are very proud to let them know that we have such records.

You have been going around with the message of amazing restoration. Is this to suggest that the incumbent governor, Ajimobi’s claimed achievements in the areas of roads, peace and security are ruse? 

  I have a lot of things to restore. You may talk of what Ajimobi has done; I will not tell you that he has not done anything. There is no governor that will come and will not do something. But let me tell you something, if you come to meet me as a doctor and you do not tell me what is wrong with you, if I administer a drug, ‘am I helping you? I should know your ailment; know what is wrong with you before I prescribe a medicine. If you say that Ajimobi has been touting his achievements, the question is, has he taken his time to know what the people want? Is he giving the people what they want or he is just dishing out what he thinks they want or what he thinks they should have? That is one of the things we will restore. I will feel the pulse of the people; I have always done that. I know what they want. If your back is itching and someone is scratching your leg, is he helping you? That is the amazing restoration I will bring back.

As a governor, you don’t just have to do things that will make people know that there is a government; you cannot just carry out what I will call window-dressing or propaganda. 

But you lost election in 2011 and have you taken care of the factors that made you lose?

  I think I have done that. A Yoruba proverb says that if a small child falls down, he would look forward but if an adult falls, he would look behind him. So, I have done that and what I have discovered, as I usually tell people, is that Ajimobi did not win the 2011 election, he only out-smarted me. Incidentally, out-smarting is also part of the game.

Are you sure he will not out-smart you again?

  We are prepared for him and we have all it takes. Unfortunately for Ajimobi, those people he used that time are now in my camp. Are you aware that those people he used in 2011 are now with me? At least, 75 per cent of those people are now with me.

There seems to be strong four opposition parties in Oyo State, namely, PDP, LP, Accord Party and the Social Democratic Party. Is it not possible for these parties to team up and defeat Ajimobi instead of all of you working separately? 

  What you don’t know about this state is this, with due respect to Ajimobi, he is gone already. How will you form an alliance against somebody that is weak already? Do we have to use sledge-hammer to kill an ant? We don’t need to use hammer to kill an ant; it is when you feel that someone is stronger than you that you have to form an alliance. Ajimobi is gone already. I can tell you that as I am talking to you; he is no more living in the Government House. He has not been living in the Government House since September 2014.

But you cannot say it is as a result of fear of losing the election? 

  Oh, Okay. It is because his house is better than the Government House.

What are those things you will do differently if given the chance to govern the state again?

  I told you that there were things that I did wrong and I have taken my time to consider and take stock of what is happening to our people now. I have been going to different communities, seeking to know what the people feel and promising to do these for them. I have catalogued all the complaints and demands of the people while going round; I told them that I need their votes what do need from me?’ And they have been telling me that they would give me their votes if I would do this and that.

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