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Contesting governorship is a struggle to liberate Ekiti people, says Oni

By Seye Olumide
22 May 2022   |   2:44 am
Chief Segun Oni is the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the scheduled June 18, 2022, gubernatorial election in Ekiti state. He spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE

Segun Oni

Chief Segun Oni is the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the scheduled June 18, 2022, gubernatorial election in Ekiti state. He spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief) and AYODELE AFOLABI on his conviction that the poll would be free, fair and credible and the good disposition of the Ekiti State electorate to his party.

Are you convinced that the electoral commission, various security agencies and other necessary stakeholders would ensure a free, fair and credible governorship poll in Ekiti on June 18, 2022?
YOU can’t do anything on earth without a reasonable level of risk and you have to place your risk where necessary or unavoidable. It is the work of the police and other security agencies to secure the process. We must believe they will do it; if we don’t believe that they will do it, then we have no business contesting. The people will also believe that they can and they will do it. The rest is left to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies. However, I am somebody who believes that INEC and the police will do well. Until it comes to the open that they cannot or will not do it, I will continue to believe that they will ensure the election is free and fair.

You will be contesting against three forces. The first is the APC candidate, and the second is Governor Kayode Fayemi, who still has incumbent power and possibly Federal might. Do you think you have what it takes to contend with these factors?
On one side of the equation are all that you have said. The other side of the equation is the force of the people and you better don’t underrate the people. If there is a clash between the forces you have mentioned and the people, surely the people will prevail. I always tell them when they talk about federal might that once upon a time, there was 1982, Ekiti state was still part of the old Ondo State and we saw how federal might ended up taking a bow for the people might. If there is a clash between the federal and the people any day, the people might prevail.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) is lucky to be on the side of the people. Therefore, we are the ones on the right side of history. Let me tell you if they pressure the people and it boils up, they will see the wrath of the people.

Former Governor Ayo Fayose introduced a stomach infrastructure strategy in the electoral process in Ekiti but the APC seems to have now elevated this. Do you have the financial muscle to finance this strategy knowing that the people can be easily bought over?
I feel very sad that you are asking this question because if human beings can easily be bought that cheaply, it means they are less than deserving of democracy. The people who started it are still lurking around; you have even named them. Fayose started it and Governor Kayode Fayemi perfected it. In those days, we looked at Fayose as one who signified a misunderstanding of a system, but when Fayemi now made it an official policy, you then realized that you cannot judge a book by its cover. We are not trading money with anybody. Ekiti people will decide what they want to do in this election. They will decide how they want to do it. Fortunately, the laws had already prohibited vote-buying or see and buy. Let’s see how security agencies will react to this. But evil is evil and illegality is illegality. We will wait and see.

Two candidates are attempting to beak a jinx in this election. The candidate of the APC is trying to break a jinx of making his party win back-to-back, while you will be breaking another if you win as a third force, how prepared are you for this task?
Let me say that as somebody who lives in Ekiti, you know that out of every 10 opinions you get on the street, at least seven are in our favour and that is genuine. There was a poll conducted recently by one of the most respected and competent opinion polls in the country, they said that it is a two-horse race and not a three-horse race. This means that the election is going to be between APC and SDP; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not in it. 

We are moving at a high speed. We have already overtaken the PDP and outpaced APC, which shows that we have the brightest of chances. We are just starting and I know that the APC will lose a lot of steam because so many people are still defecting from the party to SDP. Some are waiting there to be compensated for what they believe they have done and are not recognized for. Some are there to teach the party a lesson for maltreating them. They have all those obstacles. You are not likely to have people leaving us, but you can only have people decamping to join us. If a reputable opinion poll says that we are neck to neck, that is a euphemism for saying that it is the SDP’s game. So, we are very confident that it is our game, it is our chance.

In just about four weeks to the election and violence seems to be creeping into the electioneering process. Are you not worried about this?
I am worried. But I am not also worried. Check out the violence so far, they have been perpetrated by the APC. Even the one in Efon where they wanted to assassinate me, we have investigated it and found out that it was orchestrated by the APC. Why I am worried is that I hope they won’t lead the state into chaos. Why I am not worried is because we have been having chains of rascality, but rascality has never fought back. Maybe for once, rascality should fight so that they will know that there is no monopoly of it. Nobody is immune to the consequences. Maybe in the future, they will realise why they fail. If your advice a small child not to play with fire, it is because the fire will burn him. All the violence so far are initiated by APC. In fact, today in Ado Ekiti, I understand that the monarch called all politicians in Ado and warned them.

In view of that, because some people may be smarting for revenge, I said they should quote me that vengeance (esan) has gone on leave because our traditional ruler has spoken. If vengeance will return from leave, it is the APC that will invite it. If they defy the king, they will receive the punishment they deserve. But I have told my people not to take vengeance. We are trying to behave like decent people, even though there is a limit to what the most decent behaviour can tolerate.

You became governor on the platform of PDP, left to join APC and attained a higher position, now you are aspiring to lead Ekiti on the platform of SDP. Is it that you are a political harlot or these movements are motivated by the desire to serve your people?

I am never motivated by anything other than the good of the land. If I wanted anything for myself I will get it. When I was in APC, I was given a very sensitive job. I didn’t leave the APC until I was asked to leave. I was suspended indefinitely in my ward by the powers-that-be. Former Deputy National Chairman suspended in his ward? I left and I went back to the PDP because of the normal belief that there are two dominant political parties. I left PDP also because of injustice. When I was there I was made the Deputy National Chairman South. I was doing everything even without money. I was doing everything from my pocket. I was using my goodwill to fund the party. The money being given to me by friends to enjoy my life, I was spending it on the party because I believed that the party is more important than my welfare. I was paying rent, and staff salaries and I was responsible for the overhead. Not one kobo came from anywhere and this is a party that was in power. I did not begrudge the people in Abuja who were also in power but did not think that the southwest deserved a better deal. I was doing all that until a suit that we later traced to late Buruji Kashamu could, in every context, be qualified to be called an undefended cause. The case was filed against the PDP. The case was not known to PDP because as the Vice Chairman, I was not aware of it. Whereas, a suit that is coming from my zone, I should be the first to know. There was a judgment that said I should vacate the office. The day the judgment was given, I laughed because I didn’t know. If I had known, I would have sent a lawyer there to caution the court not to entertain it.

The first thing I did was take a bow. I went to the National Chairman and told him there was a judgment. He said he was not aware and I also said I was not aware but the judgment says I should vacate office, I will vacate. But you as the Chairman, if you want to go on appeal, you can do so and if you need me even as a witness, just call me. The party didn’t call me that it was going on appeal and so on. I later understood what Kashamu did. I can’t speak ill of the dead, even the living I don’t speak ill of them, but that was what happened. So, that was what happened to me before I left the PDP.

When I went back to PDP this time, I know that a lot of people still had nostalgia that I served the party and the country well and was not afraid of what will befall me. We had a primary and all of you saw how delegates were voting and showing the lord of the manor who sat somewhere and was relishing, where they voted in what is supposed to be a secret ballot. Any party that calls itself a political party should reject that brand of secret ballot. It went viral and so nobody can say he didn’t see it. It didn’t even warrant my reporting it, but we reported it. I think Nigerians will be blind to vote such a party to power again in this country because it means they will compromise any crime on paddy arrangement. So, I don’t have to have any tolerance for such a situation. It is a tolerance for evil. I am proud to say I did not wait to compromise with evil and I left. I had two options, to live politics and say that I am not doing it again or to go to another party.
So, I joined another party because I want everybody to know that when Kayode Fayemi succeeded me, it was through the pronouncement of the court. Before I was Ayo Fayose. When Fayose was about to go, he contested for a second time. Ekiti people had the PDP to contend with as an option against APC. So, it is either you vote against the APC or vote for the PDP. You know how much he debased governance and I am not afraid to say it, he debased the office of the governor in Ekiti. A governor who passed under the barbed wire at the airport because he was in a hurry, a governor who turned governance to stomach infrastructure? Anytime people talk about it and smile funnily, you know they are not in approval of it. But they had no option. They didn’t have the option because they didn’t want to re-elect Fayemi.

When it was time for him to go, the people said that we would not give it to your party again because it would amount to approving your conduct. We take the available option and the only available option is APC. It is not as if Fayemi is more attractive because he has not done anything to his background. What people are saying now is that Fayemi is worse off than the first term, but they had no option at that time. So, the two smart boys (Fayose/Fayemi) have compromised and said why are we fighting ourselves, they must pick somebody among those they presented. There is nothing to fight about, whatever comes we will share. That was why the gubernatorial primary of the PDP was done inside the government house of the APC with the governors of APC and PDP in attendance and that will tell you that they have settled their differences and that they know who they don’t want. They don’t want somebody that will upset the applecart. So, it is either I decide not to do anything and allow posterity to judge me harshly or challenge them. I was in Abuja trying to join the SDP and they started making frantic calls to the national chairman and secretary of the party. They refused to pick up their call. I am sure that if the people in SDP were like them, they will ask them to go and bring N100 billion and play ball.
So, the people of Ekiti have applauded me for taking this decision. This decision is for them. Otherwise, it would have been said that once upon a time, we lost Ekiti to the machination of two smart boys who cornered the patrimony of the Ekiti people and appropriated it for themselves and their families. All you need to allow evil is for good people to pretend that they are not seeing it and keep quiet. I am not ready to keep quiet. This struggle is not about me or SDP, it is about the struggle to liberate the Ekiti people.

What is your message to all stakeholders in the election?
All the stakeholders’ should consider Nigeria. We don’t want the country to burn because we are not the only people that have a stake in it. The political parties in power should not allow the country to boil over.