Chief Mrs. Titilayo Ajanaku was the Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and currently, she is aspiring for the executive seat of governor in her native Ogun State on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In the encounter, she answers questions on the current zoning debate saying that what Nigeria deserves is the best irrespective of tribe or religion. She also talks about her gubernatorial aspirations.
What do you think of PDPâ€™s zoning formula?
I think the best thing is for the aspirants to contest primaries within the political party so that the best candidate will emerge because the party can only have one candidate. I also think that anybody who is interested in contesting primaries should be allowed to do so irrespective of whether he is from the North, the South or the East.
Everybody should be given the opportunity to seek the partyâ€™s mandate. What Nigeria needs is the best candidate who will take Nigeria to the next level and safe-guard lives and property. I believe in a level playing field where the best will emerge as a candidate and then, the rest will rally round that person to campaign for him.
In other words, you are not interested in zoning?
No. Iâ€™m for the best to emerge as candidate.
You are a member of the PDP and have worked closely with former President Obasanjo. Was there any agreement on zoning within the PDP?
Honestly, all these talks are heating up the polity. This is not the first time we are contesting elections in this country. I have made my position very clear. Let each party sit down and find solution to its problems.
It is the concern ofÂ the party to ensure that the candidate that emerges should be the one that can win the general election. It is not about zoning. It is about winning the general election and that should be the concern of the party. It is not the entire party that is going to pick a candidate.
Each party should be left to handle its own situation. Zoning or no zoning is the business of the PDP but as it is now, non-PDP members and the entire Nigeria is debating this issue.
But it is the duty of PDP to decide whether it wants to win the next election or not and that will largely depend on who the party decides on as its candidate.
But honestly, I think there are a lot of thingsÂ we need to tackle, a lot of things we need to ask for. For some months now, nothing else is being discussed in the country except zoning or no zoning. We should keep busy with serious national issues that need attention.
And the funny thing is that as the debate on whether Jonathan should contest or not is going on, the President has not said anything. As this thing is going, many are crying more than the bereaved. Many are feeling holier than the Pope.
We should let those in government do their work so that we should reap the dividends of democracy. A lot can still be done with what is left of this tenure.
An issue is being made for de-registration of weak parties and some people are making a case for two party system. Do you subscribe to that?
If you have ever had the opportunity of going to the ballot booth, you will discover that with so many parties in the ballot paper, a lot of errors are committed.
If you donâ€™t shine your eyes very well, you will end up voting for the party you didnâ€™tÂ Â want to vote for. Sometimes, the symbols of parties are so alike and even so confusing and that gives room to a lot of fraud, to a lot of mistakes and if you make mistakes in the course of voting, that vote will be cancelled.
I have always believed that the best for us is either two or maximum of three political parties, coupled with the independent candidature. That will make things clearer and you know which party you are voting for.
So, a two or three party system will give you the opportunity to knowÂ which party you are voting for. But now, when you look at the multitude of political parties, you may end up voting for the wrong party or making a mistake which will lead to the cancellation of that vote.
So, Iâ€™m in support of two or three political parties. And if all these weak parties should be de-registered, it should be done democratically.
If you remember, in 1999, every party was given a proviso that if you win so many local government areas, you are likely to be registered. That brought a lot of sanity. But now, everybody can just get up and register â€˜my family and Iâ€™ and they made a nonsense of the whole issue.
There is a belief that these parties enjoy a lot of funds from the federal government.
I donâ€™t know ifÂ they get anything from government.
Would you say the women are having enough representation in government?
We thank God for the improvement the women enjoyed in politics from 1999 but I believe we can do better.
That is why the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan is urging the women to come together with otherÂ women stakeholders to say that enough is enough because women are about 50 per cent of the population and womenÂ need to participate actively in politics. From 1999 to the end of tenure of former President Obasanjo in 2007, the womenâ€™sÂ representation in government was about 30 per cent and we think we can still do better.
More women need to go into politics and more women should be considered for appointive political positions. And I am using this opportunity to call on Nigerian women to stand up and contest elective offices. If we donâ€™t get up to the 50 per cent representation that we need, we should at least get about 30 per cent in elective and appointive positions in politics and government.
Do you agree that more women served under Obasanjo regime than any other regime?
I agree that women had greater responsibility in Obasanjoâ€™s regime than now. I was there too.
Since your exit as Special Adviser to Obasanjo on Women Affairs, you have not been active. Have you called it quits with politics?
I am gearing up for an elective position. I want toÂ contestÂ for the governor of my state, Ogun State on the platform ofÂ PDP. I have set aside August 3 as a day for me to declare my intentions publiclyÂ at Abeokuta Cultural Centre.
No, I am not keeping quiet. From history, it is a proof that women who have served this country under any category performed absolutely well and I think the time has come for more women to join the fray. We the women are about 50 per cent of Nigeriaâ€™s population and we should occupy 50 per cent of elective and appointive positions in government.
I am preparing for my declaration and Iâ€™m confident hat I will get the peoplesâ€™ support to be able to emerge as the guber candidate ofÂ PDP in Ogun State in 2011 general elections. So, Iâ€™m working.
Ogun State politics is really hot. I hope you have the where-withal to withstand all the â€˜bulletsâ€™?
(Laughs). Well, I believe that there is no problem that doesÂ not have a solution. I am confident that God will take control of everything.
The elections are drawing close but little is being heard about the aspirants. Apart from former President Babangida, people are not declaring their intentions. Even President Jonathan has said nothing concerning his perceived ambition.
They will come out. There is no way candidates of political parties will not emerge. They will. Elections are next year. They have time to declare their ambitions.
When you look at INECâ€™s position, do you think INEC is ready? We talked about electoral reforms but that seems to be dying. There are still voters register to be updated and other thingsÂ to be done before the election. What do you think?
Lets wait and see. Besides INEC, the guideline for the primaries has not been released by the parties. It is true that time is not really on our side but we hope that those in charge of things are aware that so much still needs to be done before the elections. We expect that thingsÂ will work out fine.
When you look ahead towards the elections, what do you see? What advice to you have for Nigerians on how to vote?
One thing I believe is that the next election will be quite different from the elections of the past. I also believe that INEC will ensure that the peoples vote will count this time around. I believe that the new people at the helm of affairs in INEC are competent and they have the fear of God and would do their job with the fear of God and that the peoples choice emerge winners of the elections. And that means we will have a better democracy in the country.
There have been allegations that former President Obasanjo is interfering too much in Jonathanâ€™s regime. Do you think so?
Really, Iâ€™m, not in the position to answer that question. Only President Jonathan should be able to tell if Obasanjo is doing that or not. And the President is not a baby.Â He is an adult and very educated and should know that whatever happens, Nigerians should demand answers from him and not from Obasanjo. The bulk stops on his table. He should be wise enough to know that whatever he does shall become history tomorrow. What legacy does he want to leave behind? So, he has to act on his own and has to know the limits of people who are influencingÂ him.
I hope you have godfathers backing your gubernatorial aspirations?
Well, we know about godfathers. When they give you something from the right, they take it from the left. To me, I ask for a free and fair election from God who is the Father. I trust in God, not in man or godfathers.