By OLA AJAYI, IBADAN
Senator Lekan Balogun is a golden fish in the politics ofÂ Oyo. He is at loggerheads with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state over what he calls selection in the choice of political office holders in the state. He has consistently insisted that there must be election before theÂ party selects its representatives.
The alleged undemocratic way the state executive members were hand-picked by late Chief Lamidi Adedibu made him part ways with the late politician.
After the death of the politician, he, alongÂ with other chieftains ofÂ the party insisted that the state executive of the party must be dissolved. He also speaks on the 2011 governorship election in the state. Excerpt:
You are a notable politician in this state. Can you tell us how you started as a politician?
Well,Â I started my political career in 1979, immediately I resigned my appointment from Shell. I was an administrator in Shell.
It was a very promising career, and I was not tooÂ Â involved in politics. But, I couldnâ€™t resist the urge to fight for the interest of a common man. I couldnâ€™t resist the urge to resist the oppression the people were facing.
How did you leaveÂ Shell to become a politician.
The day I resigned from Shell, I didnâ€™t consult my wife neither did I tell anybody. After the resignation letter had been written and signed, I gave my wife a copy of the letter. All she said was â€˜Alleluyahâ€™. But, I told her you are not sure of what we would eat tomorrow. She said, no, but you are not happy with the oppression of the masses. She said she felt relieved.
When I joined the Peoples Redemption Party(PRP) at the inception, I became its Deputy National Secretary. All the while, I was still trying to hide my identity. But, the chairman of the party had to do a programme on NTA, Ibadan called â€œFace the Pressâ€, and he couldnâ€™t go. He knew I could do justice to the programme because of my orientation in Shell.
After the programme, the top management of my company then, the ADM also watched the programme. HeÂ called me to the 16th floor where heÂ lived and said, Lekan, I saw your programme on NTA, and it was very beautiful. He said, the sky is the limit for you in Shell. Are you conscious of what you are doing? I said, yes. So, that was how I leftÂ Shell and became a member ofÂ PRP.
Then crisis erupted in PRPÂ Â with the governors and the nine progressive clubs and so on and I was part of that process. It was then I became the Deputy Secretary of the party and Abubakar Rimi was the national secretary.
Meanwhile, Rimi and I had been friends in UK . We metÂ Â there and we became friends. At that time, he was the governor ofÂ Kano State . Then, I became the de -facto President of the party.
When the PRP crisis came as a result of the National Party of Nigeria agenda of dismembering the PRP, other things happened. so, it went on.
Why Did you leaveÂ Â AD?
In 1999, I joined the Alliance for Democracy(AD), and I became a senator on the partyâ€™s platform. AD/APP were together in 1999. And because I had that ideological desire to see Nigeria a progressive nation, and because I saw the AD leaders at least in my state behaving as if there was no ideology binding us together.
They pocketed the party and I knew they would destroy the party. I left the party and I joinedÂ the PDP.
You may now ask how did a progressive become aÂ member of the PDP? Iâ€™m ideological in my orientation. The party in Nigeria now is illogical and a conservative party might give you an idea that would make your ideological orientation moreÂ Â meaningful.
I wanted to see the AD become a progressive national party but they were so parochial. For example, when I won the election in 1999, I said, let me go and thank my senatorial districtÂ that voted for me. But, the governor at the time said no.
That was the issue. I didnâ€™t go when most of my colleagues left the party. I left much later.
Given your tortuous political journey, would you say you regret leavingÂ Shell?
No, I donâ€™t regret at all. Like my wife said that â€˜I know that you are happy nowâ€™, I never regret at all. Everything I did in my life, if I had opportunity, I would do them again. That is the good thing about me. Anything I do, I have a reason for doing it. Everything I do is based on principle.
What is the state of the PDP in Oyo State now?
PDP in Oyo is comatose right now. It is lying down almost unconscious waiting for the surgeon to come. The surgeon is Ike Nwachukwu and his committee. If they perform well, they may resuscitate the party in the state. And if they fail, the history will tell and they would have destroyedÂ the PDP in Oyo State .
Oyo State like most South West states, hasÂ this history of progressive ideological politicking and if you go too conservative for them, you just find spontaneously that they would follow the man who is at the side of progressive.
Look at what Mimiko did in Ondo. What he did was not spectacular.Â It can be done elsewhere as well. Just consider a man who is upright, he would beat all those who are neophytes. That is politics.
Do you think the PDP will survive in Oyo State?
Iâ€™m afraid, unless Ike Nwachukwu committee lives up to its responsibility, PDP will be lost in the South West completely and may collapse across the country because it will have a spillover effect.
Do you think leadership is ideologically bankrupt in Oyo State?
In Oyo State , we have the leadership of the PDP that is not conscious, ideologically bankrupt, that doesnâ€™t know what politics is all about, that pursues selfish interest at the expense of global interest of the people. People are aware that if it wasnâ€™t for us, it would have collapsed completely. I have been telling people let us be patient.
I respect our pact with the people. Ordinarily, we love the party but the leadership is very bankrupt. People who define politics the fewer the better, they know. You have been to Labour… ANPP and AC, donâ€™t control us. Is that democracy?
Politics is a game of number. Where there are seven mad men against six professors, mad men would have won the election. When somebody is saying you have gone before, you canâ€™t control us, is that democracy. In democracy, the more the merrier including the â€˜mad menâ€™. While a professor has only one vote, the mad man too has only one vote.
But they donâ€™t know what politics is all about, that is why they are doing politics of exclusion.
Most of them working with Governor Akala now were not partyÂ Â to making himÂ the governor. They were not part of the impeachment process. I didnâ€™t know them.
He became the governor and they haveÂ hijacked him. They are now the pilots who tell him turn right, turn left, go forward, reverse… .And he obeys them. How can the party progress in the light of that development?
Yekini Adeojo, ChiefÂ Richard Akinjide, Ladoja and Wole Oyelese. I consider we may have our shortcomings, but those are the people that would talk and people would listen to them.
You say all those can go to hell. You now assemble three of four neophytes that they should control your life. How can he have the party along that line? Those who are like walking corpses, they are the ones now telling him what to do and what not to do.
What they do is that they abuse us. One person recently, Gbade Ishola, insulted Ekerin Olubadan, Rashidi Ladoja. If not for politics, look at the gap. Ladoja is three of four steps to Olubadan and this man insulted him in the name of playing politics.
At the traditional level, it is unacceptable, it is wrong. Let us put politics aside now. That is just to tell you the kind of politics the governor is playing and the kind of mess the neophytes are putting him into. Look at that boy that I sent to school. Just because he is representing Akala, he is talking to me. Those are the people insulting us.
You would never hear Kolapo Ishola and Raji Rasaki abuse anybody. These are two experienced people on the governorâ€™s side. But all those who insult us and say the fewer the better so that they can have a larger portion of the soup they are sharing, the soup we cooked. They partake in the eating of the soup and they insult those who cooked the soup.
They would pay dearly to God for it not to human beings.
Even my brother in Akalaâ€™s cabinet insulted me
Take my brotherâ€™s case for example, I am his father; Iâ€™m not his brother. Heâ€™s my fatherâ€™s and motherâ€™s last child. He is my kid. So, heâ€™s not my brother except biologically. And I nominated him for the post of a commissioner following impeachment.
And because of todayâ€™s soup, my brother said there is sibling rivalry between him and me.
Ike Nwachukwu committee will be coming this month, what are the things you want the committee to address to pacify your group?
I donâ€™t want to prejudge the committee. The group is full of highly reputable and intelligent people who have past records and because of their records, I know they would do justice to the reconciliatoryÂ process.
What we want is simple. We want them to recognize we donâ€™t have a state exco. There isÂ an injunction against the said exco and the primaries they conducted. You know this politics of money, money mischief making was worse in Oyo.
Oyo has been the worst in the whole of 36 states of the federation. Papa(Adedibu) just went ahead and handpicked chairman, secretary and so on. Even when they knew there was a court injunction. So, Nwachukwu committee would have no option than to recognize that fact. It is a fact in law and a fact in truth.
Two, I have always insisted on the party having an eldersâ€™ forum in this state, and I know by the grace of God, it will become a reality.Â The eldersâ€™ forum will take the form of checking the excesses of those in government and members of the party to be in tandem with the global party interest.
We need that badly because if we had that, most of the things the government is doing now would not have happened. If we are lucky, they will be inaugurated on that day and that forum would take control of the reconciliatory process. I donâ€™t know what they will do but those are the two facts that are yawning for attention.
In the past, there wereÂ many reconciliatory moves which did not lead to resolution of the crisis. At some times, the national secretariat of the party turned deaf ears to your complaints. What happens if this Nwachukwu committee toes the path of the deafening nature of the past leadership of the party at the national level?
2011 election is fast approaching. And you are complaining about how the party is being run in the state. Do you see Governor Alao-Akala coming for the second term?
I am not the party. People would decide. But with what I see now, I donâ€™t see that happening. He wonâ€™t win if the party nominates him.
Do you think what worked for him in 2006 toÂ became the governor will again work for his success to undermine me for another four years? In 2007, he called me and begged me, I still worked for him but what have I gained? Iâ€™m not opting for personal gain. But just to guide him on how the state should be governed.
If he tries it, he would fail. The way we feel is what people feel that we backed for the first eleven months, second four years and now another four years which will be the third term actually? It is will be unconstitutionalÂ . That wonâ€™t happen.
He still has that to battle with. And the national leadership of the party isÂ mindful of the partyâ€™s interest. They would not field Akala again. If it happens, it is a disaster.
In many elections, candidates forced themselves on the people, what if that happens in the next election?
The party will lose Oyo State and nothing would happen. The party would do the right thing. But, if they chose to do it so blatantly, imposing on the people, this time around, we will resist them democratically and they wonâ€™t win. If they rig him in the primaries, he wonâ€™t win the general election. Money can buy the primaries but it wonâ€™t buy the election.