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Elegbeleye: ‘It is a delusion to cling to sectional agenda to win election’

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Elegbeleye

Chief Gbenga Elegbeleye, a former House of Representatives member, former Ondo State governorship aspirant and former Chairman, National Sports Commission, was one of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s “field commanders” in the just concluded governorship election in the state. He spoke with OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE in Akure on the takeaways from the election.

You said the election was a reflection of the wishes of the people, but some have said it was a reflection of vote-buying and that the result went to the highest bidder.
IF they say the reflection of that election suggested vote-buying and the result went to the highest bidder, one can conveniently conclude that the losers also engaged in vote-buying. How can you condemn what you are doing? I did not buy a vote in my local government. I live in Abuja but I decided to relocate to my town, Ikare in August to embark on a massive campaign for almost three months. 

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You mean me and the rest of us who had relocated to our council areas to mobilize our people needed to buy a vote for our candidate? We don’t need any buying of votes. We do not need any financial inducement. All we needed was to talk to the people. Do we need to buy votes from Ikare people in order to vote for Akeredolu for dualising our roads? That is a lie that is rubbish.  

Let me tell you something, you see the new bridge Akeredolu built-in Ore, serves five local government areas in the Southern Senatorial Districts in Ondo State.  You needed to see the number of deaths recorded on that road before Governor Akeredolu came to our aid.  Are you saying the people needed to be paid before they can appreciate what he has done for them?

Before the election, there were fears and speculations that Akeredolu may not be able to win especially with the exit of his deputy who had deflected to another party to contest against him.
First of all, let me tell you something when you see people boasting that Akeredolu will not win the election; those people are mainly on-line politicians, they are not a politician on the ground. They don’t even have polling booths, they don’t even vote, they cannot even command their families to go and vote. So, they only occupy cyberspace. 

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And to talk seriously, there is no polling booth on-line, no polling booth in the space, is there any polling booth on Facebook? No polling booths on Facebook, there are no polling booths on Twitter and there are no polling booths on WhatsApp. 

For us, all we needed to do was to sit down in all our localities and campaign and convince our people and showcase what the government has done or will do and let them see and become convinced to vote. These are physical things to see. All eyes can see them.

Apart from his achievement, what other things contributed to Akeredolu’s victory?
Let me tell you, this is the very first time in the history of Ondo State that you would see all opponents of a particular winner of a primary election collapsing their structures, pulled down their campaign offices to support the winner. Akeredolu, apart from his achievements, has the total backing of the entire All Progressives Congress (APC) apparatus and the aspirants who ran against him. 

This is the first time it would happen. In 2016, Chief Sola Oke went to pick the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy when he lost the primary to Akeredolu. But this time around, you see the support of people like Chief Kekemeke, Olusola Oke, Segun Abraham, Sola Iji, and Bukola Adetula, all of them coming out to support Akeredolu. 

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So, how do you expect such a man not to win an election. I am sure you know that Sola Oke is not a push-over in the politics of Ondo State. So, if all these people came out to support a candidate, who else has such capacity and backing? So the boast that Akeredolu will not win was just a ranting from the opposition, who were talking just to be noticed.

When was this sudden spirit of unity and cohesion developed going by the rancour that preceded the primary?
Let me tell you since the result of the primary became known, it was obvious that Akeredolu won overwhelmingly, even his opponents knew that he won convincingly. These are very reasonable politicians. They knew they lost and needed to rally round the winner to emerge victorious in the governorship election. 
They felt that there was no reason to worry or complain since Akeredolu has the support of the party. Some of them did not even protest at all and some stepped down, knowing fully well that, oh, that the government is enjoying the support of all party members.

Will you say Akeredolu has also gained more experience and political maturity in politics than before, which made him go back to everybody to ask for their supports?
I would not call it political maturity, I will call it maturity generally. Maturity “simplicita” very mature character. Someone said Akeredolu is not a politician. But the man has not been behaving like a politician, he has been playing leadership, not politics. Those who are playing politics know how to tell you lies, make a promise that would not be fulfilled. But Akeredolu will not promise what he would not do. He will not promise just to give you hope or to get your vote. The point I am making is that the man is playing maturity in leadership.

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What role did APC’s recent loss of Edo State governorship election play in Ondo’s victory?
Let me tell you that APC remains the most popular party in Edo State, Alright, in the Edo election, APC lost to APC, not to the PDP. We lost in Edo State due to high handedness, pure and simple.

Are you saying APC in Ondo State was not challenged by its defeat in the Edo election?
Ondo State APC from day one knew that Governor Akeredolu would win the election except for those who were deceiving themselves. Edo’s issue had nothing to do with Ondo State. The way and manner APC lost in Edo was a different kettle of fish. It had nothing to do with the election in Edo. Governor Obaseki is not from Ondo State, his deputy and opponents are not from Ondo State.

Some people have also said one other thing that won the election for Akeredolu was what they called the common agenda of all the stakeholders in APC. Those from Ondo North want a second term, those from Ondo South want to be governor in 2024 and do not want Ondo Central to come into the picture through the PDP.
Yes, you are very correct, I will not deny that because Ondo State people are reasonable people. You know somebody was governor from the Southern Senatorial District in the person of Dr. Olusegun Agagu of blessed memory. He won his election for the first four years and also won the second term but he lost through the judiciary after two years. Another person from the centre, Dr Olusegun Mimiko came in and spent eight years. 
Suddenly, somebody just developed a brain wave to say that somebody from Akure must be governor after Mimiko from the centre, and you think Ondo State people are not smart enough to read between the lines? That is why they voted for Governor Akeredolu and after serving out his second term, do you think the centre will have it, it is capital no. Those who pushed Jegede to contest for the election should have advised him that it is not yet time for the centre.

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After Akeredolu’s second term now, the Southern Senatorial District can decide to look for a credible candidate to contest that election. If anybody from Akure or from anywhere decide to contest with him, that person will crash. It is in the mind of everybody that there is a gentleman agreement of rotation among us.

As a stakeholder in Ondo State, and not as Akeredolu supporter, what were the things that Governor Akeredolu did in his first term that you think he should not do in his second term?
What I can say as far as his first term in office is concerned in reference to complaints from some quarters, is that some politicians did not get empowerment from his government, but the general public says they have seen public projects despite the lean purse. In those days, the Ondo State government used to get up to N11 billion per month but nowadays they get something like N3 billion per month and are still able to do all those projects, pay salaries, pay pensions, do roads and industrial parks. 

So, the public see what he is doing. It is only some politicians who complained about empowerment.

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What about complaints that Akeredolu runs a family government and favours his town in appointments?
Let me say something here, every local government has a commissioner in Akeredolu’s cabinet, the position of Chief of Staff to the Governor naturally goes to the person the governor believes is very close to him. The Secretary to the State Government is from Akure, not from Owo. For those crying wolf when there is none, are they saying when somebody becomes the governor of a state, he should abandon his wife? 
His wife should not live with him? He should chase his children away and that they should not come near him? I do not see you now becoming a governor or vice-chancellor of a university and your son cannot come and stay with you in the VC’s lodge. Is any of Governor Akeredolu’s sons holding a political position? None of them is a commissioner, none of them is chairman of any parastatals. 

And the wife had been running an NGO prior to her husband becoming governor and is not the only governor’s wife doing that. Wives of all the governors in the country run pet projects for the less-privileged. So, are they saying that since Akeredolu became governor, his wife should stay in Ibadan so that he can marry another wife in Akure? Or are you saying Babajide, one of his children should not come to Akure to see his father? There is a need for caution on the part of everybody so that we don’t put our governor in the chain.

As Akeredolu earns another four years, what will be your advice to him and which areas should he focus attention on?
One of the focuses should be on more projects, more infrastructure should be developed. He should continue to play leadership. He has not been playing politics.  After him, we should be able to have a system in Ondo State where things should continue to work, where the right people will be in a position with the interests of the people in their heart, not where people will come to the government for personal or sectional interests.

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