By Dayo Johnson, Akure
COME 2020, another governorship election will hold in Ondo State. The All Progressives Congress, APC, administration in the state has been in the saddle for over two and a half years. In this interview, the Publicity Secretary of the state chapter of the APC, Alex Kalejaye, speaks on the chances of the party in the 2020 election, the infighting within the party and the administration led by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu among other issues. Excerpts:
The APC government has been in the saddle in Ondo for over two and a half years. What would you consider as the achievements?
The achievements are enormous. We came out with our electoral promises in 2016 and I can tell you confidently that we have fulfilled to a large extent our electoral promises in less than three years. This government has put in place road projects in the three senatorial districts of the state. As of today, the APC government can boast of over 78kilometres of completed roads with asphalt overlay. In Owo, we have completed more than 15kilometres. In Ifon, since the town was founded, no road had been tarred, but we have constructed about 6km of roads in that town. The traditional ruler of the town attested to this recently. In Akoko axis, the dualization of Ikare-Akoko Road is ongoing. The Oke Alabojuto in Ikare has been levelled to reduce carnage on that road because the spot used to be a disaster zone. In Ondo Central, Akure, the state capital specifically, more than 28km has been tarred. In Idanre, 4.2km road has been constructed. Idanre to Akure, through Ijoka Road, about 18km is on-going. In Ilara Mokin, Oke Ogba, the roads there have been completed. In Ondo South, the flyover in Ore will be completed in December. The road network in the State University in Okitipupa, OSUSTECH, has been completed and another 5.2km completed in Ile Oluji/Okeigbo while Ese-Odo is not left out. The governor has been nicknamed as ‘Road maker’ by the people because they never witnessed such in the history of the state. Aside road infrastructure, we have the chain of industries in Ore. There are three factories taking-off simultaneously at the Ore Industrial Park: A textile industry, cassava to ethanol and a plywood industry. These will create more employment opportunities for our teeming youths and boost the economy of the state. We are committed to the deep sea port in Ilaje while government has encouraged investors to commence bitumen exploration as all the equipment needed have been imported. On education, so many schools have been built, renovated or reconstructed in the 18 local government areas to make public schools more attractive. On agriculture, the Akeredolu government has made farming more attractive, we have imported new varieties of seedlings, and I can tell you that, very soon, Ondo will return as the number producer of cocoa in the country. We have imported cashew seedlings and, in a couple of years, the state will be a leading producer of cashew. There is also the zeal for regular payment of salaries and pensions. Out of the seven months’ salary arrears we inherited, six have been paid.
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What is the health status of the party in the state as of today?
Ondo APC is very healthy, vibrant, and focused. It is arguably the party to beat in any election, and our confidence is borne out the fact that we have justified the confidence reposed in us by the electorate. The claims I made are verifiable. Now, shortly after the 2016 election, the State Working Committee (SWC), under the chairmanship of Ade Adetimehin, commenced reconciliatory meetings with party members across the state. We met with leaders that were not happy with some decisions. Politics is all about crisis and resolution. We identified those who were aggrieved and we are getting the desired results. As I speak, most of the aggrieved members are back in APC, working for the development of the party. Apart from this, the SWC gave out money for party meetings at the local government and ward levels and the result is encouraging. Meanwhile, notable leaders of PDP and other parties have expressed interest in joining APC. So it is not true as being insinuated by some people that APC does not hold meetings at the ward and local government levels.
The party understands the importance of meetings and cannot afford to take members for granted. Our Chairman understands this because he is a grassroots person. We have been doing this to ensure that the APC retains this state at the next governorship election.
Some aggrieved leaders of the party are of the opinion that the party may lose the 2020 governorship election going by the way the state is administered.
APC in Ondo remains the party to beat in any election. I know what is happening. Those achievements I pointed to earlier are among our strategies to have a walk over during the next governorship election. Unfortunately, some of the party leaders who are not in the state, and are not getting proper briefings, could be tempted to think that we will have problems during the election. There is the need to allay their fears.
During our meetings at the ward and local government levels, we encourage members to rub minds, iron out our differences and appeal to aggrieved members. Many of them have resolved to give priority to the interest of the party rather than bowing to selfish interests. They are rooting for the success of the party.
So if election is held tomorrow, the chances of the party are bright.
There is only one political party that is visible and viable in Ondo today; and that is APC. We are viable, stable, healthy and organised. We won’t lose sleep over any election. I am confident to tell you this because Ondo APC has proved to the people that it is here to serve them. We have so many things to showcase in virtually every sector, and this has endeared us to the people. Civil servants, for instance, have been receiving their salaries promptly. Those plying good roads will want to ensure the APC is further encouraged to sustain the good works. I concede that it is not possible to solve all the problems in four years, but I affirm that the APC government has done pretty well for the state within a short period.
lt is alleged in some quarters that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu does not consult the party before taking decisions. How do you react?
That is a hollow thought; a misapprehension of the true picture of things. Put unambiguously, it is not true. The governor consults and meets regularly with party executives and leaders to fashion out decisions. The State Working Committee has met with Mr. Governor severally to debate issues. There is no political appointment made without the consent of the State Secretariat of the party. Governor Akeredolu consults very regularly with the party even on such matter as siting of projects. There is continuous rapport between the party and government.
lf all you have said is true, why is a former governor of the state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, is saying that the governor is not accessible and is running a one man’s show.
l am particularly surprised that the former deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, could make some of the statements attributed to him. Personally I want to believe he must have been quoted out of context. Having said that, he confessed in an interview that if there’s anything he wants from the governor today, he will get it. That means there is a level of closeness between them; it shows that the governor is accessible to leaders like Olanusi and has his ears at all times. My candid opinion is that the governor does not run a one-man show. However, I have a feeling that Alhaji Olanusi has personal grouse against the governor. This is not unconnected with the carryover of his emoluments from the previous government. Ordinarily, one would expect that the governor gets kudos rather than knocks for approving the release of almost N150million to the former deputy governor. He approached the court and Mr. Governor acted promptly on the judgement of the court by approving the payment. No sooner was this done than Baba came up with fresh claims that were turned down. The governor advised him to go back to court and get a judgement to that effect. I think that is the crux of the disagreement between the governor and Alhaji Olanusi.
What effort is the party making to bring back into the fold aggrieved party members who are still sitting on the fence ahead of next year election?
We believe a real party man who is aggrieved will always fight within and not from outside the party. It is always good to work within the system, good party members should stay within to table their grievances but I want to tell you that virtually all APC members in the state are together now; there is no more faction within the chapter. But the few that are aggrieved, we are seriously going round to appeal to them to come back and join hands with us to develop the party. We are one big family in Ondo APC and you will agree that reconciliation is a continuous thing. The most important thing is that we have started and the SWC under the leadership of Engr. Adetimehin has commenced genuine reconciliation, we are not joking with this.
There’s this thinking in some quarters that Akeredolu may not get the ticket of the APC for re-election in 2020.
APC is guided by constitution and believes in the collective interest of members. Our duty is to build a virile and focused party that can win election any day. Although Governor Akeredolu has not come to the party to discuss second term, we believe he is a bonafide member of the party, and constitutionally entitled to it. I think he has performed creditably well to deserve it.
What happens if other members of the APC show interest in the governorship race?
That is the beauty of democracy and we believe in internal democracy in APC; the more the merrier. They are welcome and I want to believe that some members have been showing and expressing interest in the seat. We will show the world that we are impartial and provide a level-playing ground for all aspirants. Our duty as a party is to ensure that whosoever emerges as the party’s candidate wins the governorship election.
The former deputy governor also alleged that the governor is planning to dump the party for another party to contest. Supposing that happens, what will be the party’s position?
l don’t know about that, what I know is that the governor has been so close to the party, and has done well for the party. Some few weeks ago, he donated buses to party chairmen in all the local government areas of the state. He has not given any indication that he has grouse with the party or expressed the intention to dump the party.
He has acquired a large expanse of land for the party in a good location to build its permanent state secretariat, this is the first of its kind in the state. So how can someone who is building the party dump or relocate from the house he built together with others
What’s relationship of the APC in the state and the national leadership?
Cordial. You will recall that when the election campaign for Kogi governorship election was being set up, the national secretariat appointed the Ondo Chairman as a member. This shows the level of confidence the national secretariat has in him; and the level of relationship between the national secretariat and Ondo State. So we are together, working together to ensure the prosperity, stability of the party.