‘Life has taught me never to rely on another human being’
Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele clocked 80 recently. In this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, the former deputy governor of Lagos State (May 1999 to November 2003) speaks on the issues that led to her ouster from the office. A member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), she says she has no intention of returning to Tinubu’s political camp like some of her allies. Still very articulate and looking glamorous at 80, Bucknor-Akerele says she has no regret in life but notes that life has taught her never to rely on another human being.
At 80, you are very articulate and still look glamorous. What’s the secret?
The grace of God!
So, you don’t do anything to keep fit and maintain a healthy outlook?
Well, I exercise everyday. I try to eat the right sort of food. I don’t over-indulge myself in any way. And as I said, I rely on the grace of God.
What are the unforgettable moments of your life?
Yes, moments that keep coming into your mind even after many years?
I think the best thing that happened to me in my life was when I had my first child. This is because it is a wonderful thing to be able to bring another human being into this world.
And where is the child now?
Well, I don’t know. He is around somewhere.
None of your children have taken to activism or politics like you. Why?
It’s up to them; it’s their choice. May be they have better things to do with their lives.
But are you satisfied with what they are doing so far?
I am happy with them. And I think they should pursue whatever goals they want in life. I don’t think parents should try and dictate to their children or force their children into a certain path. I believe one should let one’s children fulfill their own goals in life.
Do you have any regrets in life?
None whatsoever! I can only thank God for my life.
But life must have taught you one or two lessons?
O yes! Of course life is a school where you learn all sorts of lessons. But that doesn’t mean to say you must regret being alive and having the gift of life. You should rejoice and be glad and thank God that He has allowed you to have the gift of life.
Would you like to share any of the lessons life has taught you?
Well, there are so many lessons. One of them is not to rely on another human being.
How does that relate to your experience as the deputy governor with Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor?
There was a link! But what happened was that the governor then was asking me to be disloyal to those who supported us to be governor and deputy governor. And I don’t think it would have been right for me to be disloyal and to try and hijack the party from the hands of the people who formed the party. After all, the governor was not around when we formed the party.
Who were actually the people Tinubu wanted you to be disloyal to?
Well, we are talking about people like the late Senator Abraham Adesanya, the late Pa Onosanya and of course, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who is very much alive today. These were the people who pioneered, who were NADECO, who fought the fight here in Nigeria, who did not run away and who formed the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The governor wanted us to, in fact, take over the party from them and I refused. That was the main point of our disagreement.
Were those ones trying to dictate to the governor, because something must have informed his resolve to take-over the structure of the party?
He said he wanted to become vice president and he felt that they would not support him. And of course, I too felt that we had just been elected and that we should face governance and leave the running of the party to the party chieftains.
But AD was not the ruling party at the federal level by the time the controversy was raging. So, did he want to be vice president under AD or which party?
Well, that was the question I asked him and he said I should wait and see how it would happen. And it didn’t eventually happen. But I became his enemy because I didn’t support what he wanted.
Was that the only reason for the disagreement between you and the governor?
That was the reason for the disagreement. Otherwise there was no other reason for us to disagree.
There are still instances of governors falling out with their deputies today, what do you think is always responsible for this and how can it be tamed?
Well, it all depends. My own case was clear. A deputy governor has to be as qualified as the governor. And I think a lot of the governors, may be they have a complex or they are afraid that their deputy might want to oust them and take over. This is what leads to the friction whereas the governors should treat their deputies as partners so that they could work together for the benefit of the state.
Would you support the call to assign constitutional roles to deputy governors?
Yes, I believe deputy governors should be assigned constitutional roles because, that way, they would have their own portfolio and their roles would be clearly defined. What is happening is that because the role of the deputy governor is not clearly defined, a lot of governors may be because they have a complex of some sort don’t want their deputies to outshine them. They think that if their deputy has a role, they might be able to perform better than them. Therefore, they try and put them down.
Many of those who left Tinubu’s political camp are returning. For instance, the likes of Femi Pedro and Musiliu Obanikoro have been integrated back into the fold. Do you intend to team up with him again?
I have no reason whatsoever to want to go back. They have their own reasons for wanting to go back. Koro is a friend, so is Femi Pedro and I had spoken to them and they had let me know why they went back. It’s good luck to them but I don’t need to go back to where I left.
But the PDP where you are has not been making impact in the politics of the state. So, what is the essence of remaining there?
The party has made impact. But unfortunately, each time we made impact, our mandate was stolen just like the mandate of Atiku Abubakar has been stolen at the national level.
But the election petitions tribunal has never really upturned any electoral victory by the other camp. So, doesn’t that show the PDP has simply been losing to a more popular party?
Why should the tribunal upturn?
If you prove your case the tribunal will upturn the result of the election and hand you victory…
There had been cases. For instance, Rita Orji, representative of Ajeromi/Ifelodun federal constituency and the candidate in this year’s election, I think the tribunal has upturned the result of that election. We had several cases in the last election not this 2019 election which one could hardly call an election. The whole thing was a sham; the whole thing was rigged from the beginning to the end. Votes were openly bought. But before then, we had people in the House of Assembly; we had people in the House of Representatives. So, you can’t say that we haven’t made any impact. We have made an impact. But you have to look at INEC and you also have to look at the situation in our country where money rules the roost.
The PDP has been enmeshed in internal crisis in the state for a long time now. Don’t you think this has been the bane of the party in the state?
For instance, one of the top shots in the party, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, recently said he would quit the party in the coming days citing the inability of the party to put its house in order and forge a common front. Isn’t that a signal that all is not well with the party?
Well, I don’t know. I have it on my WhatsApp where he is denying that he is leaving. So, I don’t know whom to believe; whether it’s just some people saying so or it is he who actually wants to leave. But it’s there on my WhatsApp where he has denied that he has left PDP. He said his son has left but he hasn’t left.
As at May 3, he said his son had left and expects him to join him there and that he would defect in the next 30 days?
Well, he now says that it’s not true. So, until we see it play out we will know what happens. And if he leaves, he must have reasons for leaving. Remember, your sins are always forgiven, according to Adams Oshiomhole, if you join the APC.
Are you insinuating that something might be pursuing him such that he wants protection from the APC?
What is your status now in the league of former deputy governors of the state? Are you now receiving your entitlements as a former deputy governor?
I’m not receiving all my other dues but at least I’m receiving my pension. And I have received some of my dues but I have not received all my dues completely. But there are efforts to ensure that I get all my dues.
Meaning that you are fully recognised as a former deputy governor of the state?
Oh yes, I am! In fact, on my birthday, the state government sent a delegation. So, I must be recognised.
The percentage of women representation in Nigerian politics is still very poor. Why has it been so and what solutions do you proffer?
I think there are two reasons why it has been so. One is that we are playing money politics in Nigeria and most women do not have the kind of money that it takes to run for office. The second one is that most women are afraid of the violence that is entailed in the politics of today. Just look at what happened in the last election where thugs came and smashed ballot boxes, assaulted people, set fire to ballot papers and things like that. Most women are not inclined to be involved in such acts.
So, what do you think should be done to encourage them to venture into politics?
I think we have to change the political climate in this country. First of all, our people have to realise that electing drug pushers, 419ers and dubious people because they give you money is not what is going to help them or make the country progress. So, we need to educate our people to put the right sort of people into politics. Once you have got people in politics who are ready to serve and not there to line their pockets, then you find more women going into politics.
Having been there, what advice do you have for younger women who might want to go into politics?
Well, I think they should not be discouraged. They should try and pursue whatever political goals they have. And of course, they should go there ready to serve and not going there thinking that they are going to make money.