Why PDP will win presidential, Kogi guber poll, by Bolufemi
Dr Olanrewaju Olarotimi Bolufemi, a member of Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Council’s Grassroots Mobilisation Committee, and governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this interview with RALPH OMOLOLU AGBANA, offers insight into chances of PDP reclaiming power after eight years in opposition. He also explains his race to occupy Lugard House Kogi State, in the governorship primaries scheduled for March/April 2023 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As a member of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, what is the mainstay and focus of your campaign?
Our campaign is based on issues. We will simply remind APC that in 2015, how much was a bag of rice? May be N7, 000, may be N8, 000. Now, after your seven or eight years, how much is a bag of rice, I think it is N50, 000. How much were we buying petrol per litre and how much is it now, even with the billions you have invested in subsidy? Then how much was a Dollar to Naira when you said you would make One Naira to be at par with One Dollar in exchange? As of today, it is already N800 to one Dollar. The issue is, we really don’t need too much arguments about it. It is very simple. Is it the students that have been kept at home for eight months and when they were asked to resume they are being made to pay fresh school fees. Is it the fault of the students? Is it the fault of the parents? Is it the fault of the lecturers or the fault of APC government? Our principal, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has said he will decentralise power and give it back to the states.
How would you rate your chances in the 2023 Kogi State governorship race, knowing that you are from Kogi West, an axis known to be at a disadvantage in terms of population?
For development to take place, our dreams must be greater than our fears. Our mission should be how to achieve an industrialised Kogi State, where our youths are gainfully employed. To get Kogi developed, we must move away from politics of ethnic numbers.
During one of my consultations after making up my mind to contest for the governorship, I met with former governor Ibrahim Idris and other political juggernauts from Kogi State in Abuja. Then a group made up of Igala politicians called me to come and address them. When I got there, as I began to address them, one of them asked me if I am an Igala or from Igala speaking part of Kogi State. Normally I should have just answered him ‘yes or no.’
But knowing why he asked that question, I now used that same question to tell him the reason I wanted to be the next governor of the state. In my answer, I asked him and the rest; I said ‘what tribe is development?’, ‘What language does development speak?’. Nobody could answer. When they couldn’t answer the question, I now said the answer to your question is very simple; I am a developer and that’s what we need in Kogi State, not tribal politics. For 18 to 19 years, one tribe, the Igala, by God’s own magnanimous ways, ruled Kogi State. Late Prince Abubakar Audu did six years; Alhaji Ibrahim Idris did nine years; Capt Idris Wada, four years. Can you point to one skyscraper, beautiful expressway or good and well-equipped hospital; conducive learning environment for primary education; well-packaged and regular payment of salaries for local government civil servants that you have in Igalaland in your 19 years rule? They said no. I now said that means development has no respect for tribe. I then asked them the second question; I said for the past 31 years that Kogi State was created, the office of the governor has been masculine gender based, not even a woman deputy governor. I said does that translate to the development of the state? They said no. So, I said that means the development that we’re talking about has no respect for gender. That aside, I said for the 31 years of the existence of Kogi State, all the governors belong to a particular religion-Islam. Does that translate to development? They said no. That is to say development has no respect for religion. Then I said for seven years now, the youngest governor in Nigeria has been at the helm of affairs of our dear state. And I asked; how is that youthfulness commensurate with or translate to the development we crave, they said they don’t know. That means that development has no respect for age. I now said what then is the development that we are talking about. You see, development is when you can translate your age, your education, your tribe, your religion, everything about you to a commodity and the commodity is called development and we are seeing it physical, not abstract, and one that the people are benefitting from it. These are what I want shuffled and translated to development in my quest to become the governor of Kogi State, to change the narrative of poor development.
What motivated me to aspire for the governorship is the naked and poor development around us. And I believe I am well equipped with my exposure to know what Kogi needs to develop, through my deep understanding of the terrain.
I have traversed the 21 local governments in Kogi State to do needs assessment. From Yagba West, the border of Kogi and Kwara State in Kogi West to Idah in Kogi East, to Ogirimagongo in Kogi Central, either at the LGA headquarters or in one of the villages, I have slept at least one day in each of the local governments. As I stand here, I know what needs to be done to change the environments of those places for the better. That of Ijumu where I come from, I know it, that of Olamaboro, I know it. I have been in Kogi State now for 17 years, over the years, I built my house here, I raised my children here, my business hub is here, I employ people from here. What we need to develop Kogi State is to elect a governor who is in tune with the local content. We don’t need a diaspora governor. So, to answer your question, the major reason I have come into the race is not because it is the turn of Kogi West. Our fear in Kogi West has been that we don’t have the numbers and that’s why I keep saying that numbers cannot make development to happen. If we keep voting based on ethnic numbers, what has numbers achieved in terms of development in the 19 years that the governors from a particular tribe ruled the state?
Until now, people thought you are a member of APC and a friend to Yahaya Bello’s government. Why are you contesting on the platform of the PDP?
You are very correct. Someone even wrote online somewhere that I am a mole in the PDP and I should not be trusted. I am a businessman to the core and as a businessman there is no way you can avoid government in power and want to thrive. The people we are dealing with are government officials; the beneficiaries of the items I supply are civil servants under a government. I cannot avoid government and want to thrive as a businessman. So, my relationship with the government of Yahaya Bello was purely on business basis.
The deputy governor Edward Onoja was my accounting officer when he was in the bank and today we are still friends. We still talked yesterday, does that make me an APC member? This has nothing to do with party. I have never carried APC membership card. From my electoral ward, they can check. We did our business perfectly and everybody went his/her own way peacefully. While I was doing business with them, I still don’t forget I have my own party, which is PDP.
In 2007 I contested the chairmanship of Ijumu Local Government Area on the platform of the PDP alongside late Owotogbe. And of course I would have won that election but the leadership then called me and begged me to step down. In 2019, in the entire Kogi West Senatorial District I supported PDP candidates financially. Even though I did not publicise it then, the people I gave the money to, they are alive. In 2019 also I did a lot of things to support Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign and we all know that he won that election.
How prepared are you as an aspirant and how prepared is PDP to reclaim power from the APC after eight years in the opposition?
By the grace of God, consultations are ongoing, we decided to slow down a bit to concentrate on the federal elections in February next year. I am a member of the PDP presidential campaign council by extention in the state and by extention, mobilisation in the grassroots. I get myself prepared; my preparation is what has taken me round in consultation with leaders and groups across party lines, not just members of the PDP alone, from Okun, from Ebira and from Igala. We are also talking to the delegates but this aspect is limited to members of the PDP only. I have been talking to people of like-mind who share the view that inducement of delegates and vote buying should be discouraged. You cannot expect an aspirant to borrow three billion, four billion, to spend on delegates and expect good governance and development. It cannot work. You should know that somebody who brought in four billion must have borrowed from the banks with interest, which he needs to pay back. In another way, if you’re taking two billion from a godfather to spend on delegates, it will come with conditions.
Don’t you think chances of the PDP winning the 2023 governorship in Kogi will depend more on victory for the PDP in the presidential election?
With the way Nigeria’s electoral system is structured, victory for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the presidential election no doubt will serve as a booster to PDP’s chances to reclaim Kogi State in 2023. Let me tell you, I am not boasting, by the grace of God, Atiku will win the next presidential election. If that happens, you will see everybody in APC moving to the PDP, immediately. The bandwagon effect is that with an Atiku presidency, PDP is most likely going to win in more states, including Kogi. That’s the bad precedence we follow in Nigeria. Unfortunately it has come to live with us. It was Buhari’s emergence as President in 2015 that forced Yahaya Bello on Kogi people. Bello couldn’t have won the governorship election in a free and fair contest. He was drafted to the supplementary election after Audu died. And talking about the 2019 election, was that an election? That’s no election; it was an election prosecuted through intimidation, guns, including roasting a woman alive, but because the APC was the ruling party, despite the irregularities, that unprecedented violence, the process was declared free and fair. What was fair in the election that police helicopter was used to fire bullets at voters from the skies, when we were not in a war situation! I am glad to say that even in APC, many of the actors involved in the perpetration of that electoral violence and robbery have been made to come to their comeuppance because the house of APC in Kogi is not in order since that 2019 electoral robbery.
Leaving that aside, they know that 2019 cannot be reenacted, if INEC gets its acts right. Come with your guns, it is immaterial. Try multiple voting, if the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) does not capture you, you cannot vote. The electronic transmission of results is perfect. I just pray that INEC will be able to sustain it and not dance to their tune, because they are looking for every means they can use to rig the 2023 elections. When votes count, that is when there is an election. We are confident that come February 2023, PDP will win the presidential election.