By DAPO AKINREFUN
Mr. Tayo Alafe-Aluko, a lawyer and PDP candidate for the Ilesha East State Constituency (Gov. Rauf Aregbesola’s political base) says merit and not party should be the key factor in next month’s elections.
With the ouster of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinola as Osun State Governor, your party seems to be facing an uphill task in the April elections in the state?
Well, my understanding of the situation is that the nullification of the election is an unfortunate development. As far as how the party is taking it, you will be aware that the party has actually sent a petition to the National Judicial Council; allegation has been made as regards certain calls that transpired between lawyers, judges and certain individuals. The party’s position as far as I understand it is that it’s an injustice that has been perpetuated against the PDP.
However, since the matter has been referred to the NJC, I think the less I say on it for now, so as not to prejudice whatsoever investigations that is ongoing. But the party’s position on it is that it’s injustice and they are fighting the injustice and they are hoping that very soon, they will have a form of remedy and recourse to justice.
With the elections just less than a month and with the situation on ground, do you see your party, the PDP, emerging victorious at the polls despite the power of incumbency?
The Action Congress of Nigeria is filled with incumbents that have lost. The mere fact that ACN is in power, to me, is not a blank cheque. Yes, it makes the job more difficult, because people talk of the power of incumbency, but the ACN in Osun State has actually surpassed a 100 days, and there is nothing tangible that you can actually lay your hands on, to say this is what has been achieved, within the last 100 days.
I am of the belief that, at this current stage in Nigeria, particularly in Osun state, especially in Ijesha land, the people are matured and educated enough to be able to see individuals rather that party logos and labels.
I believe that PDP has actually gone through primaries and credible candidates have actually emerged. They were not selected, they were not imposed; so, that is going to be a plus for the party. While obviously, no party can win 100% the PDP is going to perform very well and we are going to surpass the expectation of people and actually come out well in this election.
The governor hails from Ijesha land and he is expected to have a firm grip on his hometown. Are you not worried over by this?
It is a factor in everything I do; it is a consideration in everything I do, but I’m sure you are aware of the fact that, in the last election, the then Vice President (Atiku), when he was contesting on the AC platform, lost his home state (Adamawa). In the current dispensation, when he was contesting for the presidential primaries, he equally lost his state. So, to me, it is not an impossible task.
Yes, it makes my job more difficult, it means I have to work harder. I will not use the word concerned, but I will say it is a factor in everything I do. Having said that, I am sure people will see beyond the governor (Aregbesola) because I am not contesting for governorship, I am contesting for the House of Assembly.
If you look at the person that has been presented by the ACN, while I appreciate the fact that he is also the incumbent, people will want somebody that is competent, somebody that is educated, somebody that is enlightened to represent them.
I believe that is where my strength lies.
I have had years of practice as a solicitor in England and Wales; I qualified from Nigeria, I read Political Science before going to study law. I have had years of experience of legal practice. I believe that these are issues that people are going to look at. It goes beyond the party.
I, for instance, do appreciate the job that the governor of Lagos State is doing, just as I appreciate the job that the immediate past governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola did; I have gone beyond party affiliation. I do look at individuals first, then the party after. So, I think people will look at me in that particular way and a surprise is in the offing because people will see the quality of what I am bringing in and they will be able to decide on who to vote for on that basis.
What difference will you be making to what the current incumbent lawmaker is doing?
I have actually taken the pain to come out with a manifesto. I have set out my vision and the programmes I want to execute. I have asked the electorate to judge me on this programme. I have dealt with healthcare, I have dealt with education, infrastructure, but people may start thinking that as a legislature how can you achieve all these things because they are in the realm of the executive.
These are things I have considered. Because of my international exposure, I have a number of friends working with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.
I have spoken to them and they are willing to come down to Ijeshaland at their own time and conduct simple things like conduct blood sugar test to find out if people are diabetic. Simple things like cataract operation, simple things like teaching the people about healthy life style.
Let me emphasis here that I am not by any means competing with the executive, but rather, I am complementing with the things that the executive are doing, trying to impact meaningfully on the lives of the people of Ilesha East. There are other things I also have in mind. But the good thing about my manifesto which I am not aware any other aspirant, at any other level is doing is that I have set out the things I want to achieve and how I want to achieve them. These are things that are in black and white.
As far as I know, for the past four years that the incumbent has been there in Ilesha East, I am not aware of what he has done that has actually impacted meaningfully on the lives of the people of Ilesha East. I’m asking that the people should judge me based on those things I am bringing in.
What in your opinion will guarantee free and fair elections in Nigeria with the elections just less than a month?
First of all, enlightenment of the electorate to let them know that the days of blind loyalty is long gone. Secondly, not to sell their votes and thirdly, to resist any form of thuggery. But having said that, there is a more fundamental problem: the level of poverty is endemic, we need to tackle it. The more enlightened, the more comfortable people are, the more you can provide them with their basic needs of life, the more they will be in a position to resist people offering them money for their votes. But it is not going to be done in one day.
Having said that, there is still the problem of thuggery which I have witnessed first hand. We are all Nigerians, we are all for the same goal; we may differ in our approach, that is why we have different parties, but I want to know that ultimately, the desire and the intention is to make the lives of the people better.