* Says S/West people are not happy with APC
* ’ Why Ajimobi will not get second term’
By Bilesanmi Olalekan
Otunba Christopher Alao- Akala was governor of Oyo State between 2007 and 2011 when he vacated office for the present governor, Chief Abiola Ajimobi shortly after that year gubernatorial election. Penultimate Thursday, Akala formally declared his interest to run for the office of the governor of his state.
In this interview, shortly before the declaration, Akala said his entrance into the gubernatorial race is in the interest of the people whom he claimed have been clamoring for his return, because, according to him,” it is one thing to scratch somebody’s back,it is another thing to scratch the body where it is itching him”.
It has been close to four years you left office. How has it been since then?
I have been there, enjoying my privacy and resting. You know the office of the governor calls for mental alertness and, when you are mentally alert, then you know that you hardly can sleep. It is a 24- hour job. Since then, I have been enjoying my primacy, freedom and, most importantly, resting.
The PDP, shortly after it won the Ekiti election, said it was going to claim another victory in Osun. Having lost the Osun election now, what is the post mortem?
I hope you know we are already in court, contesting the election, so I would not want to talk much about it. However, what is certain is that the opposition party is more pronounced on the pages of newspapers than doing the real work of governance. The APC governs on the front pages of newspapers. They are propagandists.
They like propaganda. They talk more than they work and people have realized that now. You know we people in Oyo State are quite exposed, because we are highly educated and so, because of that, it is now even more difficult, unlike before, to throw any garbage at them and they accept it. The people are wiser now. They won’t vote for just anybody again and it is obvious now that if it was PDP, the party would have made a lot of difference in their lives.
Are you saying that in the last three years, the APC government has not done anything for the people?
Well, you have not got enough time to compare, because if you know our environment very well, then you know what I am saying. I am not saying the man has not done anything but, compared to what people like us have done, he has not done anything. There wont be room for comparison if anything had not been left undone.
It is because certain things have been left undone or have been done wrongly, that is why the clamour for me to return to office. Again, it is one thing to scratch somebody’s body, it is another thing to scratch the body where it is itching him. If you scratch it where it is itching, of course, the fellow will enjoy it more. That is what we are going to do when we return to office. You need to study your people and know what they went, how they want it and you give it to them, not what you think is good for them.
But people are still clamouring for the same APC government to return for second term.
You don’t live here. So you don’t have knowledge of what is happening here.
But we read all these in the media.
That is what I was saying earlier. They are propagandists. You have just confirmed that now that they govern on the pages of newspapers. But we know what is happening here in the state, not what they feed the public through the media.
You just declared to run for governor for the second time. The question that follows that declaration would be; what did Akala forget in the office that he wants to return there to pick?
I did not forget anything. It is the people that have been clamouring for me to return to office. I have been receiving calls here and there. And because of that, when a king is installed, and he is not performing to the expectation of the people, they would remember the last king that was doing good to them, that is exactly what has happened. If the last king that was good to them is still alive and still can return to rule, they will gladly prefer him.
That is exactly what is happening. If a new king is not performing as expected, his actions would make the people to remember the last king, that is why they would remove the king and bring back the old so that they can continue to enjoy what they are used to.
Are you saying the people prefer Akala to this administration?
I will say yes. But wait till then, you will see that they prefer me to this government.
In your party (PDP) particularly here in the South West, there is not unity there.
I beg your pardon. I beg to disagree. Just recently, I attended the elders forum meeting. There will be interests here and there. If all of us are pursuing a particular interest, that does not mean there is no unity in the party. In any political group, there would always be interests, that is why they say you continue to have permanent interests, not permanent enemies. So, it is that permanent interest everybody is pursuing in the party.
The party is big, that is why you think we are fighting. We all have only one big party and we like our Chairman. I repeat there is no crisis in the party. What you have is interest. The Constitution allows it for everybody to pursue its interest, so in pursuing that interest by everybody, you won’t now see that as crisis in the party.
You said the people of the South-West are tired of the APC. But in Lagos, Osun, Ogun, the party is presumed to be doing well.
Doing well is relative. It depends on what you are comparing it with. I don’t know the yardstick with which you are measuring it. And you want to tell me that anybody is doing well? I have told you that my definition of doing well is when the people you are governing are happy with you.
If they are happy with you, then you don’t have any problem. I live here in the South West.
Are you saying the people are not happy with Ajimobi
I don’t want to dwell on personality. They are not happy with the government of the day.
What is this clandestine endorsement rally for the candidature of the president for the 2015 election all about when there are more serious issues in the land?
There is insecurity all over the world. Insecurity is not peculiar to Nigeria. Does that mean because there is insecurity, the country should be stand-still? The country must move on, while we are working to get solution to the problems. We should do what we are supposed to do, which is to govern, to make people happy.
If you are talking about the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, rally, that is a personal rally. I was at the rally because I believe in their cause. Let me remind you of something. What is happening(the rally) is not a party matter. It has nothing to do with PDP. Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Ogun State governor, is no more in PDP, he attended the rally. The rally is about Jonathan.
It is not about party, but interest. Did you see the Chairman of the PDP at the rally? None of the executives of the PDP was there; it is we, ordinary people of Nigeria, that gathered and said we want Jonathan, and so be it.
Is that not the propaganda you accused the APC of?
That is not propaganda, because we are telling them about what is happening. Is it propaganda that I want Jonathan to continue in office and I signed off my name?
And you are saying you have 1.8m signatures in the South-West who want Jonathan back and you say that is not propaganda?
Yes. It is not. Let me tell you how we arrived at the figure. Nigeria is divided into states, Oyo State is one. In Oyo State, we have 13 Local government areas, we send the register to the local government areas where we have 351 wards, we send it to the wards so that whoever is interested in Jonathan’s return to office would put down his/her name, phone number with signature and where there is no phone number or could not sign, we make you thumb-print against your name. That is very simple. Nothing more than that. So, tell me what is the propaganda in all of this?
Objectively, do you think the president has done well to merit a second term given the various problems we have?
I have always been objective. What are the problems? You want to talk about power? That has been there for years, even before the president came to office. So it cannot be solved over night. You cannot just have it in one day. It takes time to get this thing done.
They have privatized the power sector which is the first step in getting things straightened up. How do you expect him to get there today and finish in the same day? That is one of the reasons we are asking for continuity, so that somebody else would not just come and destroy the foundation that is already laid.
Are saying we cannot get a better person than the president?
I am not saying that we cannot have a better person, but, presently Jonathan is the best. It is only in this country, may be because the man’s wife is Patience, the man is too patient with all of us. It is only in this country you abuse your president any how.
This is a democratic country where free speech is guaranteed.
You are right but that does not mean you should insult your president. Don’t you see how people in more civilized countries talk about their presidents? The only thing they will do there if they don’t want you is rally round to see that you are voted out in the next election, but they don’t insult their presidents.
This man is from a very humble background, so he knows what it takes to make people happy and that is what he has been pursuing because we have never had it so good. Let us face the facts. You came all the way from Lagos to Ibadan, that Ibadan express road has been in that state for a very long time. People are now living in Oyo and coming to work in Ibadan.
In my own town, Ogbomosho, I always say we have airport in Ogbomosho because the Ilorin airport is between Ogbomoso and Ilorin,and now we have an express road from Ilorin to Ogbomosho. And i will say that if you leave Abuja airport and you are going to a place like Maitama, I will get to Ogbomosho before you, if I leave the Ilorin airport, because the roads good and beautiful. There is another one between Ogbomosho and Oyo to join Oyo and Ilorin.
I am localizing his achievements in the area where I live, I don’t want to talk about other states, but where I live and feeling the impact of what the man is doing.
By the time the Lagos/Ibadan expressway is completed, you wont believe it and that is what I am saying about fixing things. It is not something you just fix within one year. That is why I think the man deserves second term.
If there would be third term in the Constitution, I will wholeheartedly support him. Jonathan is the best thing to happen to this country. I am not flattering him. He is not the first person to rule this country, if it were another person; we know what would have happened now.
What is your relationship with your former boss, Chief Rasheed Ladoja?
How cordial, because both of you are in different parties?
Were we born into the same parties? Our relationship is very cordial. Politically, yes we belong to different parties but that does not mean we don’t relate. I was recently in his house to commiserate with him on the death of his mother. This politics is not about do-or-die. We all want to serve.
One thing about me is that maybe because of my background as a police officer, once my boss is always my boss. No matter how big I am, once your boss is always your boss.
There is a particular impression people have about you each time your name and Ladoja’s are mentioned and that is the perceived betrayal on your path to your former boss when he was impeached.
I don’t know their own definition of betrayal, that is their own cup of tea.
The man has not complained that I betrayed him,why are they trying to create issue where there is none? That is a by-gone issue.
The just concluded National Conference has been dubbed by some people as a jamboree.
No, I don’t think so, because the good thing about the conference is that the president did not restrict them, there were no go-areas apart from the unity of Nigeria.
They discussed everything under the sun. The only thing I would want done on the resolutions of the conference is that those things that require executive fiat should have legal backing.
I am of the opinion that the resolutions should be taken to the National Assembly so that a constituted authority will legalize them. So I think the National Assembly should be carried along, because if we say we should subject the resolutions to referendum, at the end of it, we will still have to carry it to the National Assembly for legal backing and the process is quite expensive, so why not just take it straight to the National Assembly to legalize the resolutions.
If there is anything that would require the inputs of all Nigerians, we have representatives at the National Assembly, let them go to their constituents and discuss with their people. So that conference is not a Jamboree.