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All voices are pointing in Southwest direction for 2023 presidency, says Oluwajana 

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Oluwajana

Pastor Bankole Oluwajana is the National Vice Chairman (Southwest) of All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke on the crises in the party and also expresses hope that all voices are pointing to the region to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023. The former governorship candidate in Ondo State also said the aim of APC is to retain power in Ondo in the coming 2020 gubernatorial election. SEYE OLUMIDE reports.

As a chieftain of APC, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has rejected the reconciliation committee set up to resolve the face-off between him and Oshiomhole. What is the next step to addressing the crisis?
The rejection will also be resolved because it is part of the crisis. Let me explain this. At the NEC meeting, the president was mandated to set up a committee and it was announced. I would have expected Obaseki to see the president if he had issues with it to express his fears. But again for Obaseki to have expressed displeasure is itself an issue to be resolved because that is not the end of the matter. Efforts are still going to be made so that APC speaks with one voice before the election.

Some sections of the north are saying it is the time for APC and Nigeria to drop zoning as a condition for Buhari’s successor in 2023?
Those saying so are in the minority. I am happy though that voices are pointing to the Southwest and I will not shy away from the call to duty to my region. If they talk about competence we have many in the region. All we are saying is that zoning limits a lot of rancour. You know as much as I do that the region is never lagging behind in terms of competent hands capable of taking Nigeria further. We don’t lack people of solid merit in the region and we also recognise that other parts of Nigeria have competent people. 

Looking at the series of crises in APC, would you say that it would still be intact if it were not ruling at the centre? Would it not have since collapsed?

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Let me ask you a question. Is PDP different? Are the governors in PDP not at each other’s throat? Are some not clamouring over the misunderstanding between Governors Nyesome Wike and Henry Dickson? Are the governors of PDP in the Southeast not being accused of being pro-APC? These things are normal in politics and they will be resolved. It is only in a party that is set up by one man you won’t hear all these kinds of misgivings and, even at that, immediately such a party starts raising money there will be dissenting voices. That is party politics, as far I am concerned, and it is part of democracy.

From 1999 the country has had presidents from the Southwest, South-South, and the Northwest. What about the Southeast?
Don’t forget that you are talking to APC national vice chairman and not that of PDP. Where does APC have its greatest numbers of members? We are talking of fairness, but this is not a military regime that will just sit down and take decisions. It is a situation whereby we talk about the strength of the party. We have some party members that come from the Southeast; they occupy very good positions in government. But in all sincerity, APC today is very strong in the north and Southwest and we hope our brothers in the Southeast will join us in the same strength, and when they do, I will be one of those who will spearhead moves for them to produce the president of this country. Let the Southeast also understand that as Nigerians and progressives, they must demonstrate enough unity and not put unnecessary ethnic colouration to parties. Nobody is ever going to beg them with the presidential ticket when they themselves have not volunteered politically and collectively to support the ruling party. There are states in the Southeast where we didn’t get up to 50,000 votes in the last election. They must begin to understand that they cannot be an island inside the nation called Nigeria.

How can APC avert another rancorous governorship primaries in Ondo State in view of what happened in 2016 in view of the ongoing wrangling in the Ondo chapter? 
One thing is very clear: what people refer to as rancour is a normal human behaviour in a particular situation. We are talking of democracy where people aspire; they have ambition and things they plan to do. If someone decides to express that it does not mean there is any form of disunity. You must also be mindful that it is in a dictatorial environment that we don’t have people speaking out on situations. There is no government anywhere that does not have people with comments and agitations or voices of disagreements. But that does not mean there is any serious rancour. I want to say that the leadership of APC as it relates to Ondo is that the ruling party must retain power in the coming gubernatorial election this year. Whatever is happening by way of argument now is a normal development in an election year and you may probably see more. It happened everywhere except where there is no vibrant party. I am happy that you said the way it was in 2016 when we still had an election and our party still won.

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I must also accept the fact that we have a governor in Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, who appears to focus essentially on the infrastructural development. He sees the state as one belonging to the citizens, where we have a population of about over three million. If you are specifically close to Akeredolu, his ultimate goal is that whatever he wants to do must be available to all the people. 
 
I heard a story sometimes ago that some civil servants went to him and they were talking about their outstanding salaries. At about that time, he had offset some salary areas left behind by his immediate predecessor, Segun Mimiko. The outstanding salaries remain just about one or two months to pay after having consistently paid. But at that time the civil servants felt that he should pay everything at once but he said, ‘look, you (civil servants) are not the only ones that own the state; this is what I can afford going by the resources available.’ One of the workers wanted to blackmail him with the coming election but he was unshaken and told them he was there to work and there is no free money to throw around. Everybody knows that Akeredolu is the most difficult governor to get free money from. We all know that is his nature and the leadership of APC doesn’t quarrel with that. I especially see nothing wrong in that gesture.
 
Our concern is, what exactly is Akeredolu doing and how far is he addressing the issue of infrastructure in his state? I would rather encourage that instead of giving out free money; he should focus on developing Ondo. I am emphasising it that people should learn the act of creating activities for themselves within the concept of government and not to think that it is the government that will give you free money in whatever you are doing. I can easily point to certain things that happened in form of development under the current administration.
 
Now we have different flights going to Ondo unlike before. I’m aware of the activities going on in Ore. I am aware of the efforts of the governor to ensure that we have Oloka Ports in Ondo. I am aware of the tremendous work he is doing. I am aware of the drive to make the bitumen issue a reality and I am aware of the road the governor is constructing. These are what concern me as far as election time is concerned. 
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As a party leader, every member aspiring to be governor is free to showcase his plan, but I want to issue this warning: that anybody that runs down the party because he wants to be governor will never get there. You should rather tell us what you can do to improve on what the incumbent is doing and not to tell us that the governor is not working because by so doing our party is not favoured. It is understandable if a PDP aspirant is using that to the campaign, but for any of our members, it is not acceptable and I personally will frown at such an attempt. 

A section of the party is calling for the dissolution of the Ade Adetimehin-led state executive as the basis for reconciliation of the Ondo chapter. How do you regard this?
Maybe someone told you so, but I don’t have such an issue before me, and again, let me say that we always have agitations and we are doing all we can to reconcile everybody. President Muhammadu Buhari said something, which I want us to hold onto when he said whatever is to be done must be constitutional. This is not a directorial regime, where we use military fiat. When you want to follow the constitution then the decision would have to be made by the people at the party. I am not going to block such and it is not for me to also promote them. Having said that, I know there is nobody that will be in the office and issues will not be raised. That is not to say that the incumbent executive does not have a lot of jobs to do. Adetimehin’s executive has a lot to do by way of reconciliation and we are working towards that. But you don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater. 

How about the friction between the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi and his principal?
Who told you that? The man has denied it and said there is no friction. How did people come about the friction and who said so? If you say there is friction and the deputy said he is in good terms with his boss, what else are the people looking for? Akeredolu himself has not told me there is friction. If there is an argument between them it is part of politics. Is there any vibrant democracy where at times you don’t have a little bit of misunderstanding? I would want to take the deputy governor for what he has said, that there is no friction. If the man has complaints, I am probably one of the persons he would have approached and I am not aware that he has gone to meet any of our national leaders to lodge a complaint of any issues with the governor. If he had gone to see Asiwaju Bola Tinubu or Chief Bisi Akande, I know they would have meditated between them. You must understand that many Nigerians, who are not journalists, are all over the place publishing all manner of fake stories. You know as well as I do that they once said Tinubu and Akeredolu were at each other’s throat, but it was mere fiction. I can tell you here that that is pure fiction. 

After the recent National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, some group called for the removal of the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. What step is the party taking towards resolving it?
Recently, the president set up reconciliation committee to address some of these issues, but let me say this: that before now and in the future you will always hear voices in any dynamic party. There will always be dissenting voices; the only gathering you won’t see that is where the party is just existing in the name. In a party as large as APC there will always be voices. You will also discover that somehow the voices before the elections had a higher tone than what we are hearing now. Before our last national convention, people thought that APC would collapse, but many of us knew that it wasn’t an issue that could disperse us, but it was resolved. This is another noise and I can assure you it will be resolved but that will not mean that that is the end of the noise. In fact, greater noises are coming when we start moving towards the 2023 election. That is always part of party activities.

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Do you think Akeredolu has performed well enough to get the second term based on the disposition of the civil servants?
I will first mention some of the achievements of Akeredolu since he assumed office in 2016 despite the fact that I am not his spokesman. These are what I see and can also defend. I can differentiate between former governor Mimiko’s performance and that of Akeredolu. Most of the road projects Mimiko finished during his eight years tenure were projects that the late governor Segun Agagu started but couldn’t complete before he left office. Akeredolu has done all the roads in Owo and I cannot blame him for that. The incumbent has done far more than what Mimiko did in the last three years. Ondo people are likely very critical of every government from time to time. The reality is that Akeredolu is working and if you must have complaints against him it should be about something else and not in the area of performance. 
 
The civil servants that are complaining, saying the governor has done nothing, is it their eight months salary areas that the man has been able to pay? So, what else are they looking for? I also understand that the governor has been able to tighten some loose ends where people made free money in the government system and some might not be happy. 
APC lost two senatorial seats in the last election…
 
(Cuts in) You know that it happened because of the crisis then, but we have gone beyond that. We didn’t loose because of our party’s unpopularity but for the crisis.

How is the party intervening in the crisis between Governor Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State?
I will repeat what I said earlier, that in every situation there will always be some noises and onlookers will misjudge it as war. When you ask the duo if there is a crisis between them they will say no. And you know as much as I do that people fight one another on the streets when those they are fighting for are drinking wine and eating food together. I was in Osun recently to see former Governor Bisi Akinde and I couldn’t find anybody fighting on the streets because of Aregbesola and Oyetola. There is no petition at the national headquarters that they are fighting. Maybe it is speculative fighting.

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