By Leke Adeseri, South West Regional Editor
…says PDP will regain S/West
Erstwhile Governor of Ekiti State, Engr. Segun Oni was recently elected as the National Vice-Chairman (Southwest) of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Following his election last February, Oni initiated moves to reunite the various tendencies of the party in the Southwest where acrimony was generally accounted as one of the major drawbacks to the party during the last round of elections. While admitting that his job is well cut out for him, Oni in this interview discusses the course and challenges ahead of him and his experience thus far. Experts:
SUMMARY of your tour of S-West state chapters of PDP
I have seen a party with a lot of enthusiastic follower-ship, people who are determined to succeed; that I think is very encouraging. I admit that there are rifts in a number of state chapters but I will say that such rifts are not too severe. We discovered that in spite of many occasions of conflicts most members have opted to remain with the PDP come rain or shine.
Though every group seek to have one advantage over the others but all the caucuses in the various state chapters irrespective of their grievances all want the party to do well. This I find very complimentary. Generally, I will say, yes, we have a party that has very good follower-ship in terms of numbers but in terms of quality of enthusiasm we are very positive as well that the party we have is good enough to take us to the Promised Land.
Oyo State is volatile. We learnt a faction actually threatened your life. What are your findings?
Yes! The crisis in Oyo State chapter has pitched one faction against the other over the control of the soul of the PDP. However, since we came on board we have been making people realise that it would be very difficult for people, groups or individuals to pocket the party for their selfish agenda. We have stated that we are going to be fair to everybody. This is going to be an all-inclusive party not the one that excludes people. We are not going to play ourselves into a situation where one or two people would pocket the party.
We want to open up so that as many people or groups who desire can come in and run the party together. What is playing out in Oyo boils down to power play between two factions but what we are going to see later would be a situation where we have more than the two existing factions coming together because a whole party would join them to make for a tripod that would come together to form the new PDP that everybody will be proud of.
Are you talking about the Ladoja factor?
How will that play out?
It will play out well because the people in the Accord Party are also members of the PDP. The leaders of Accord Party are also PDP leaders. What we are trying to do is to resolve the differences that exist so that everybody will come together as members of the same family again.
How far have the reconciliation efforts gone in Oyo State ?
I will say that it is going on very well.
To what extent has indiscipline undermined the party in the region?
Indiscipline has always been the bane of any society where there are no ground rules for people to operate. We will put our feet down to ensure that the party’s constitution is obeyed to the letter. We are going to put in place principles on interpersonal relationships and how government business is going to be conducted.
We cannot say that the case of indiscipline here is greater than what we have somewhere else but I make bold to say that we can do better. We are going to tackle indiscipline no matter whose ox is gored. It is better for us to be a smaller force that is disciplined than to have a big loose amorphous entity that is loaded with indiscipline.
Apart from indiscipline; what other issues are you going to address during your tenure?
This party is going to be a very focused one, when we say focus, what we mean is that everybody will clearly understand the goals, their various roles in attaining the goal would be clear to everybody. We are going to work more on interpersonal relationships amongst members.
We want to take it to the level where we can say that it is cordial all the way. In achieving this, we will watch out for breaches and address such breaches. We will do things deliberately to foster good interpersonal relationships. We are also going to work on our processes, so that as a party we will continue to improve in our activities.
In all, we are going to have a proper understanding of where we are going in every state and what every member must do to support it. After that, a proper mechanism would be put in place to ensure that the set goals are not marred by the party members themselves. Those who fail to meet up with the plan to foster a new form of orientation and thinking would be left behind because this must be a party that welcomes people.
In what way do you think the resignation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the party’s Board of Trustees would affect the party?
To us in the South West PDP, we believe Baba (Obasanjo) has blazed another trail that you don’t wait to outlive your peak before relinquishing your position which is one of the problems of African leadership. The lesson for any leader is that when you are in position of authority and responsibility, always put in place the right mechanism that would ensure smooth succession plan, which Baba had done. In the end, the party would be better for it.
How would his departure affect the fortunes of the party in the region?
The zone has produced the National Secretary of the party, powerful office after that of the Chairman and the Deputy National Chairman. I don’t think the exit will leave the party in bad shape.
The former leader said he opted out because he wanted to limit his involvement in politics but he tendered his resignation a day after he visited former Governor Rashidi Ladoja. What did he tell you prompted this?
When you have the opportunity of interacting with a man like Baba (Obasanjo), there is a great deal of lesson to be learnt from his wealth of experience. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to tell you what we discussed, but I must tell you that he has a platform from which one can draw inspiration.
From your interaction with him (Obasanjo), would you say that there is any disagreement between him and President Goodluck Jonathan?
No! My answer is emphatic no.
What is the situation in Ekiti, your home state? Some even say you have a faction?
I don’t have any faction, neither do I need one, notwithstanding, I have followers who like and identify with me and they are loyal to the party any day.
New wave of leadership
If there are minor breaches now, it is because some people are feeling jittery because a new wave of leadership would want to entrench some fundamentals like truth and discipline. And no matter how loud people cry on the rooftop, we will enforce truth and discipline.
Was there a congress in Ekiti?
There was indeed a congress but the process of accreditation was not right and the people who were affected approached the electoral panel which in turn came out with a recommendation. We are now trying to see what we can do with the recommendation of the panel. The position is that if the process of accreditation is wrong the outcome can never be right.
My position is that let us have the election for the state chairman and the rest of the positions would be shared amongst the various factions. I will not have a situation in which a group that wins the chairmanship will go ahead to win other posts even if it has the wherewithal to do so. If at the end, the chairmanship goes to a group, other positions would be shared. Judging by the outcome of the congress it seems the two dominant factions are evenly matched so the posts should rightly be shared as a way of building an all inclusive party.
How relevant is former governor Ayo Fayose in Ekiti politics?
Fayose is relevant to the extent that he has supporters who are fanatical about him. It depends on what you think or how you want to describe being relevant or a factor.
Is he really a member of the PDP?
Right now; technically no, that is the position now.
Are you bringing him back?
There are processes that would have to be followed before he has to be accepted back into the party. The situation is such that if a man has been removed from office by the authority at a certain level, he will have to be re_absorbed by the same authority at that level. If you are ex-communicated from the Catholic church by the pronouncement of the Pope, you will need another pronouncement of the pope to come back.
What is the position in Ogun?
We have not yet had a congress in Ogun as directed by the National Working Committee. However some people have been sending text messages to me calling me names. But, do I care? I have been called more names than anybody in this terrain. They said I was an election rigging monster, and so on. What I am standing on is absolute truth and nothing but the truth.
It does not matter if anyone wants to impugn my integrity, on the long run I will be vindicated. We have not yet had a congress in Ogun State because, the party said don’t do it. However, I want to appeal to all our members there, we are trying to put together a congress and there will be a congress, free and fair. Even then, we will beg them to allow compromise so that one side does not win everything. Ogun should not be jittery, at the end of this exercise, there will be progress and that is where I am standing.
Are there factions in Osun too?
Osun, I will say is about the most stable as far as PDP is concerned in the South West. There may be small concerns by some elders about some aspects of what happened during the congress but we are also getting them to come together and forge ahead.
What are your misgiving against Aregbesola?
I cant have misgivings about Aregbesola or against any governor. No, that’s not me. If there are issues its about his posture about things. He says security reports about him is not right, well that is between him and security agencies. However, I will advise him, if there are things that he does that lead to suspicion, he should look at them again.
The other time he said it was semantics to refer to Osun State as State of Osun. But we hear of the State of Palestine or State of Israel. If what he wants to do is to help the people without hidden agenda, why must he follow that course. My advise to him is; young man serve your people if you have the ability because in the end what people will judge you about is your service to them.
A faction in Ondo is talking about the possibility of expelling former governor Olusegun Agagu.
My position is that we don’t want people coming on pages of newspapers to embarrass one another any longer. We are going to see it as an act of aggression against the party and we will treat it that way. We also warned the members from going to courts against the party or against one another.
We will also treat that as anti-party activity. If there are issues, bring them to us. We are fair-minded. Luckily nobody has my price in his pocket as you cannot say you will take money to Segun Oni. Also, I will do everything to see that this party is bigger, better and more successful.
Can you describe your initial reaction to the judgment that threw you out of office?
My reaction was that I didn’t feel any burden because I knew I didn’t do any wrong. I never rigged any election and I did my best for the people. It was the people who rigged election but who did not rig enough that are shouting that I rigged election.
Rigging of election
I gave my best to the service of my people, my conscience was light that was why I went to church immediately the judgment was pronounced to thank God for giving me such a slate.
I have been vindicated much later that is why I always ask people from the media to go on the street and ask the people to compare my achievements with those of the incumbent. If I am to be publicly executed for being Governor of Ekiti, I will feel that is the price to pay for such attainment. I did not rig any election. It was those who did not rig enough to win that said I rigged election. There are observer reports from reputable organizations that attested to the way my election went.
Why did you seek judicial review of the case?
I am not seeking judicial review for the judgment because I know that from the ambient of law there is no room for it. In electoral matters, there is always the opportunity of appeal up to the Court of Appeal where it terminates but what we are now looking at now is very fundamental that is should a judge preside over a matter in which somebody that is so close to him has direct or indirect interest to such an extent that there could be bias or likelihood of bias or that people can input that there is likelihood of bias that is what we are saying.
The temple of justice must be conducted in a fundamentally untainted and upright manner. It must not leave room to doubt that is the reason why I approached the Court of Appeal. By my inclination and training I am not desperate to be in the system but I am passionate about making the country better. And at the Appeal Court two things became clear; First, that the Court of Appeal never reverses itself and that I should have known that such relationship existed which I did not know. I can do anything for my love for Nigeria
But some people argue that your decision was based on malice…
No! My decision was altruistic and was aimed at curbing the slide in the nation’s judiciary. To me once a slide has been noticed in any department, it is better we treat it before it consumes us.
Role of MTN: I don’t want to talk about MTN here because I am still going court over that.
However, all corporate entities should know that when they feed on the people’s patronage, they have the responsibility to treat the people with respect. If MTN felt it could only access three months call data because I am involved, they have to prove it at the court.
If this is about a Segun Oni governorship it will have an end but because it is not so, but about the truth, it is not going to be time barred. They have brought home ant-ridden faggots, they should expect the visit of lizards.
Relationship with incumbent, Kayode Fayemi
Kayode is like a junior brother. But I will say I did not rig any election, he rigged but did not have the enough clout to garner more votes than me despite his rigging.
They have continued to tell lies against me like I was the one that advised the Federal Government not to pay retirees inthe state, again at a poit they said I was not a COREN registered engineer. I have also been accused of siphoning state funds. However I consider them as idle talks .
For example if you are sure anyone has stolen a kobo from the state, you don’t even need EFCC, just get the person arrested and prosecuted which they have not been able to do to me. Minus telling lies against me which most of the time get me unhappy, there is no love lost between me and the present administration in Ekiti state.
Are you ready to dislodge ACN from S-West in 2015?
Tournaments consist of two legs, if you concede three goals in the first leg nothing stops you, with hard work, from scoring three or even four goals in the second leg. Again, you should remember that PDP was dislodged judicially from most parts of S-West.