DR. Isaac Owolabi was the Commissioner for Health during the tenure of Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala in Oyo State during which time he was generally regarded as the chief strategist of that regime.
Owolabi is now in competition with his erstwhile boss, Alao-Akala for the 2015 gubernatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, he asserts that the gubernatorial race should be open to all sections of the state, rubbishes the efforts of the incumbent administration and affirms that the APC government is on its way out. Excerpts:
BY Ola Ajayi
Since you left office as the Commissioner for Health, you have not been visible. Why?
That is very relative. I am one of those who believes that the greatest work is that done in silence. At some point, some of us were convinced that the former State Governor, Rashidi Ladoja should return to the house he assisted to build in the PDP.
If you come across Ladoja, he will possibly tell you we have demonstrated our commitment to ensuring that he is co-opted and reintegrated into the larger PDP fold and that I think is still an ongoing process.
A very meticulous person, he itemised one by one some of the frustrations that accounted for his refusal as it was then but as at today, I can tell you without mincing words that negotiation and renegotiation is still ongoing at the highest level of the party. I am very persuaded that, in due course, we will have him back.
Given the lack of unity, it is said that it would be very difficult for the PDP to oust the APC from power in the state?
I wish to remind you that one of the foremost lawyers in the country, Chief Richard Akinjide one the PDP’s loss of Oyo State in 2011 said the PDP lost the election but ACN did not win. How do we tolerate and accommodate the differentials?
And this I think is also the beauty of democratic experiment everywhere in the world and I am very confident that this time, we will plan to get it right because even the market women, the followers, the peasant farmers, the artisans everywhere from Ogbomoso to Oyo, Ibadan to Oke Ogun, Ibarapa, they want the leaders to come together and start to think about delivering the state again to the PDP.
How is it like slugging it out for the PDP governorship ticket with your former boss, Chief Alao-Akala?
Chief Alao-Akala remains my boss. I have also been committed to him but I now see it as the issue of misconstruction and I can also lay some blame of that tenure on some people and other politicians who laid cards for him to interpret as they wished and the bulk stopped on his table. Also at several points, you will see that nativity politics started to define the trend of our experience.
Some still believe that you, Seyi Makinde, Prof. Soji Adejumo and Femi Babalola, being the former aides of Chief Alao-Akala, are being used by the former governor.
This is very far from the truth. Engineer Femi Babalola is a friend of long standing. I know he has been driven by his own conviction to contribute to furthering an agenda that he feels and wishes for our people. Seyi Makinde too, is entitled and we need not hold these people in contempt. For me, it is the wish of my constituency and people all over the state that I come out and contest the governorship election.
There has never been any conversation on the table or below the table to front for the past governor. I think it is beautiful that people, who have demonstrated capabilities, can come up irrespective of where you come from.
I will love to see, in my life time, someone from Tede become governor of Oyo State. I will like to see, in my life time, a person from Ibarapa North, Igangan for instance.
I will like to see someone from anywhere once they have demonstrated the capability and acceptability to do so. Then, let us come to the people to decide. First decision will come from the party and the final decision will come from the people.
You have had the experience as Commissioner and now you are eyeing the number one seat, what do you think the present government is not doing right?
You are pushing me to the corner of audit. I have said it before, if you want to audit this present administration, here, move to Dugbe, talk to the people, artisans, the market women, the merchants along Lebanon Street. Move to Gate, to my brothers and sisters who make a living there, wake up around 5.00 am, sell and sell to put their kids in school.
Go to Oje Market to those women we call ‘Alajapa’, may be you can move towards Oyo, ask the people how they have fared under this administration and let us have the comparison.
Go to Tanke in Ogbomoso, talk to the people. You can come to Ibarapa and ask similar questions. I am sure you will come down with an unambiguous conclusion that the present administration has failed and if you describe Ajimobi as a failure, you are really kind to him. If it is in any sense, it is indeed a disaster.
Both the peasants and the larger society in Oyo State have decided that one million Baba Ijeshas coming under the bridge in Iwo Road with intense propaganda will not give him a victory in 2015 election.
The social contract has been abused and I think Ajimobi could simply juxtapose his inaugural speech at the beginning of his administration and start to prepare his handing over note.
One of the issues the APC has raised against PDP is that the party is peopled by those who appear to be illiterate, lacking in knowledge to drive a sophisticated state like Oyo. What is your reaction to this?
They who have been formally educated and being products of Harvard or Cambridge, what have they been able to do? I think that it is very cheap politicking to say that these people are not educated.
Very cheap politicking
Whoever says that, you should ask him the level of his education and what he has achieved with that level of education. That is most idiotic because ‘I have basket full of certificates’ does not make me a good leader.
Whether you like it or not, Akala’s government has performed better than this administration because I can sense the dummy they are trying to sell. But nonetheless people like us are wise and we are in PDP and so it is with several other PhD holders and professors.
Is it not the same people who cannot define who a progressive is? It is not a debate but cheap talk to gain cheap popularity and it has significantly backfired to the extent that when some of them take a microphone at every public function, all attention must be drawn to them alone. The present administration is largely driven by self.