Evangelist Bamidele Olomilua, former Governor of the old Ondo State and a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, in this interview spoke extensively on many topical and controversial issues including the formation of the APC and its presidential election victory, President Mummadu Buhari’s approach to governance, rule of law, anti-corruption crusade, the economy and the attitude of Governor Ayo Fayose.
By Rotimi Ojomoyela
Do you think Gov. Ayodele Fayose’s consistent criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari is right?
On the contrary, we respect elders in Yorubaland. It is in other places that some people think that all animals are equal, whereas in actual fact, not all animals are equal. In politics a young man can stand up to raise an issue, but I personally think that it is not right to abuse the President or to insult him.
You are insulting the whole nation, when you are insulting the president, or when you are abusing him, you are abusing the whole range of people who believe in him and put him there. I don’t think it is right for any governor or anybody at all to abuse the country and abuse the president.
You can make suggestion to him as to what you think should be done in certain areas, but nobody, either culturally and whichever consideration you put it, should abuse the President.
But we must respect those in higher authority, even if it is your opponent, you must try to respect and accommodate them. I don’t think it is right to abuse or make negative remarks about a well know leader. I don’t think it is proper.
What is your take on the criticisms against the manner President Buhari is waging the anti-corruption war?
There is nobody who would start something that the President is doing that would be praised, because among the people he relied on, they found fault.
At a point the treasury was empty, what happened to it? So, people were wondering why would anybody be bold enough to run the affairs of this country, because there was nothing left in the treasury.
There were allegations of squandermania, people just do what they like, engaging people with huge sums of money, hundreds and hundreds of million of naira were distributed to individuals.
Those who collected the money confessed that it was meant to help President Goodluck Jonathan get back to power.
Some of them confessed that their party had no presidential candidate and they were ready to support anybody who could give them money.
The issue there goes to the root of the matter that people wanted power by all means, buy it, steal it, rig it, by whatever means you can get to power, get power by all means and by any means. That is what happened here. But one great lesson we should all learn in this matter, that people have the last word. It has been demonstrated that the people’s voice matters. Even the ordinary man on the street says he doesn’t want this man, because it was such an overwhelming victory that they gave Buhari.
Remember, here was a man who had already thrown in the towel, due to serial electoral defeats, but suddenly, there was a switch and people were saying “Sai Buhari”, people were already celebrating him, even before the election was concluded.
I always said to my people that this party, APC did something right, which persuaded the people that they are honest and full of integrity. They conducted open primaries, the whole nation was watching and when they completed the thing, even the competitors were shaking each other’s hands with a pledge to support each other. That is one lesson we should learn.
The fact that imposition at any level is not welcome and that is the lesson I have been trying to give to the younger men that if you want to win an election, win the heart of the people at the primary level.
And ensure that whatever you are doing, you are doing it with honest and good intention in the open and don’t ever take for granted the grace of God in the lives of the people, they have a right to choose who their leader is, because that is the very meaning of democracy, government of the people, by the people and for the people. If you are doing it secretly and you are doing some tricks, some people may not like it.
Do you approve of President Buhari’s method in reining in Niger Delta militants, as against the pacifist method of former President Jonathan?
Self discipline is what can take a man to where he wants to go. Self denial and self discipline are very important in the life of individuals, and a nation should have discipline, we can’t continue like this. If PDP had continued for another five years to 10 years, we would have been in trouble, there may have been no country anymore. So there comes a time when people must stand up and say, who are mine, where am I and how far am I going? Buhari is a man who is well known for his disciplinarian pattern of life and he wants to apply it to governance.
He has the boldness and self discipline to say let us discipline this nation. So, must we be so afraid of those who break pipes, so that there can be stability? Do you bring stability by breaking all those things that the nation spent so much money on? I don’t think so. Discipline is necessary in the life everybody.
Chief Awolowo said two things affected his life, the grace of God and self discipline, if you don’t discipline yourself and your government, you would be afraid.
Look at the way we bring our children up, some children are pampered, they can’t face life or their own reality. It is better we face the situation squarely and it will reach a point where people would accept the fact that some people are in charge.
I think that even the bible, says spare the rod and spoil the child, we need discipline. We are only praying that God should spare and keep the life of Buhari so that these saboteurs who feel so important that they can defile the laws and do what they like.
Members of the PDP describe the anti-graft fight as selective and an attempt to muzzle the opposition. Do you agree?
You know politicians have a way of saying things, but I don’t think that Buhari is oppressive in anyway, I don’t think so. Discipline is discipline.
Even when the PDP is complaining that the President is going after their chieftains and defying court orders to keep them behind bars?
But the PDP chieftain put their hands into the cooky jars of the nation. We would all become wretched if we distribute it just as we like. $2.1 billion was distributed to people when Boko Haram was having a field day slaughtering our people.
The situation was so bad, no discipline, no purposeful pursuit of goals, everybody got what he wanted, they were all struggling to get the bigger pie and Boko Haram was making mince meat of our soldiers, just because the money meant for the purchase of weapons disappeared into some peoples pocket.
There is so much revealed and disgraceful, now we cannot abuse anybody who says order must be restored. I think this is what Buhari is doing to restore order.
Even at the expense of rule of law?
Rule of law is good, but the law is what you interpret it to be. If you say stealing is part of the rule of law, then we run the country in dis-orderliness and disgrace and we get the consequences, rule of law makes people take $2.1 billion and nobody is able to account for it concerning the purpose for which it was meant. How did the money get to their pocket, they need to explain a lot to do Nigerians.
Let’s be frank and factual about this, get out the names of those who are stealing money, they must have been put in charge, they must have abused their position.
Somebody raised the issue of putting handcuffs on Olisa Metuh and somebody is talking of abuse of his fundamental human right, the money they stole, when you add it together, it’s enough to sustain this nation through the year.
So, fundamental human rights? Yes, I always love to see that people are not harassed, embarrassed or become victims of abuse of power. The probe can’t be described as oppression or abuse of human right. If we have a thief around the house and we always find out that even our chicken are not safe, if they didn’t find feathers of chicken around his house, nobody will accuse him. They can’t come and take innocent people now, is it possible?
I have been in government before, when they say they wanted to investigate me, I said good by all means, they should go ahead. I said maybe they would discover some of my entitlements and return it to me. I didn’t take them because I felt they would be too much on our economy.
Governor Fayose has been raising alarm for some time now that President Buhari is planning to use the outcome of the Military probe into the alleged partisanship of its officers in Ekiti 2014 governorship election to unseat him, do you think this fear has basis?
I learnt that the military disciplined their men as regard some misdemeanour, which means they must have got certain facts.
The only thing I feel is that if the Federal Government feels that the election had been wrongly interpreted to bring the wrong man here, they would start with the Independent National Electoral Commission, if INEC now admit that they use terrorism or oppression of somebody to declare the wrong candidate.
Or if they found a fault in the process, intimidation, oppression, can that be used as a basis for removing the Governor, would that be sufficient reason for removing him. Because he says they are threatening to remove him. How are they going to remove him? Who will make pronouncement for his removal? Is it the court, the Federal Government or INEC? The fear of the Governor, would definitely create an atmosphere of fear for all the members of his Government. I think his fear is unfounded.
There is an atmosphere of confusion in the country today, which was fuelled by the belief that your party was not prepared for governance, did your party come to power unprepared?
The formation of APC is a landmark in the political development of this nation, the party was made up of all Nigerians from every part of the country. In those days, principally in the West, we were Action Group, we couldn’t get votes from certain states in the north.
Things are changing, you may not know it. They are changing so fast here, they are going to reduce the number of beggars in the streets in the north, so that every child would have opportunity, that is progress. They all have the opportunity now, to be who God wants them to be, when they are exposed to education and they have a right to it.
Progressiveness means people moving forward to a higher ground to have a better view of situation. That is a progressive movement.
But when you say conservative, we are here, my grandfather was the Emir of this village, only my children can have access to land, only my children can do things here. Some of my classmates I met at the University of Ibadan were either sons of emirs or prominent persons.
When you go to England, you would find them in the same situation. So they didn’t want a change but now the progressives have come together. It is a landmark achievement, the people are able to come together, you may say that they are not as fast as they ought to be in taking decisions.
We thank God that he has made these progressive to come together so that this nation can move forward.
APC is populated by former PDP members and they were integral part of the change movement, do you see this having any effect on the eventual life of the party as time goes on?Five days is a long time in politics, the way you think yesterday is not the way you will be thinking today and tomorrow is another new day, that is all about politics. But people are now becoming aware of the fact that if your neighbour made progress, he would consider the others.
As an economist, do you agree with a section of the foreign media that the Federal Government N6.1 trillion budget is defective?
There are two types of people, the optimists and pessimists. There are people who are praying that God would help us, given all the money they stole in this country. More than N9 trillion., and this man is fighting that, that would stop and it will stop by the grace of God.
If it stops we will all be more comfortable than we are. Even the value of our naira would increase. There was a time the Naira was twice as strong as the dollar.
What has changed so much here, bad administration, careless act, just using money without any concern for consequences. Why did we have one account now? Nothing will go amiss anymore, those who have resources would have to pay for the progress of the society.
Of course the potentials of this country is enormous. Hillary Clinton once queried, why is this country so wealthy and yet so poor. So much wealth here and so much poverty, because the money does not reach the hand of the ordinary man on the street.
A lot of things are being corrected by President Buhari and at the end of this, you would see changes. We are not going to borrow as much as they think. Now we are turning our eyes to things we have and have not been using.
It was Obasanjo who said they must stop flaring our gas, from that decision we got $1.2 billion recently. Until Buhari came, I never heard that gas was fetching , $1.2 billion. We have what it takes, it is only for our eyes to see and anchor God’s given gift to the progress of the society. We are destined to get better.