• Vows his party will take over Ondo in 2024, end Akeredolu’s ‘misrule’
Mr Stephen Adewale, the Chairman of Social Democratic Party in Ondo State, is a former Director of Africa Dialogue Mission (ADM). Adewale is also a former student union leader at Obafemi Awolowo University where he studied history. He serves as the Head of Station of KAFTAN TV which broadcasts news to more than 6 million homes in 20 countries.
In this interview, the SDP leader speaks on the challenges facing the country and his party’s prospects in the 2023 general elections, vote-buying, and selling among other issues of national interest.
By Dayo Johnson, Akure
With the unending insecurity across the country, is 2023 election still feasible?
It is quite unfortunate that the country has been going through serious and unimaginable security crisis. As the 2023 general election is fast approaching, so also is worsening insecurity in the country. The incessant killings in the country have raised serious questions as to whether the ruling party has ever stopped to ponder and accessed the threat posed by insecurity for the 2023 general elections. The security situation in the North has already reached an alarming stage and the recent attacks on Abuja-Kaduna train and the attack on the Catholic Church in Owo by suspected members of the terrorist group has indicated Boko Haram expansionism.
In the South East, the security situation is not in any way different from the North. The region has been battling IPOB. The secessionist group has held some states to ransom. The group which assumed state role has since declared Monday as work-free day and directed law abiding citizens to remain indoors. Public institutions, banks and markets have to obey the draconian order for their own safety. It has become imperative to say, nowhere is safe in the country. Our roads, airports and rail stations have been targeted and attacked by the terrorists. Our rural communities which serve as the food basket of the country have become ghost of their former selves. The primary function of government is to protect lives and properties.
However, government is no longer performing these constitutional duties. Clearly, these are challenging times but we cannot shut down the country because of insecurity. While we continue to hope that government of the day will do the right thing and take the right step that help nip the country’s insecurity crisis in the bud, we must be determined as the country that the election must hold in 2023. As for us in SDP, we are aware of the security challenges and their impact on the electoral process. We will continue to engage intensely with the government and the security agencies to ensure the safety of every Nigerian before, during and after the voting processes.
What is the way out of unending insecurity situation across the country?
The major way out of the present insecurity logjam is to address the high level of poverty and unemployment in the land. In the midst of all this, the statistics of unemployed youths and graduates in the nation has been rising to an alarming rate, the basic development infrastructures like electricity to enhance the industrialization of the nation in order to create employment opportunities has been lacking, thereby crippling other efforts to drive the economic resurgence of the 7th most populous nation in the world.
It’s a fact that the issue of insecurity in the nation has invincible social sponsors like poverty and unemployment; these contributes to frustration and anger that can result to one taking to armed robbery, kidnapping or pitching tent with agitators calling for dissolution of the nation under the guise of revolutionaries thereby creating more panic in the society. The Nigerian government has to understand that insecurity in the nation requires a proactive economic plan, accompanied by a wealth of opportunities to help engage its people in productive activities that can help them to dream of a better tomorrow. Insecurity will not end until the entire political leadership of Nigeria accelerate the steps towards industrialization, and create not just opportunities but an enabling environment to help our people dream differently.
How would you describe the last seven years of APC government, would you say it brought prosperity or famine to the country?
The government of APC in the last six years has inflicted a lot of hardship in the lives of Nigerians. People are finding it difficult to live decent lives in this country, because everything has skyrocketed in terms of food prices, basic needs of people. And then, when it comes to the issue of security, the country is almost in a collapse.
The government has obviously been overwhelmed with incessant killings and life is becoming meaningless in Nigeria. Meaningless and worthless people have taken the laws into their hands and we see these people kidnapping, killing and beheading other people in almost all parts of the country on a daily basis.If Nigeria was on the scale of one to 10, Nigeria was at a scale of six in 2015 and in the last seven years, APC has taken us down further the scale, and it is our hope that when our great party, SDP takes over from APC in 2023, the leadership of the country will shift away from what it is now.
Nigerians seem tired of the main political parties, is the SDP a viable alternative and what should Nigerians expect from SDP in the 2023 general elections?
APC and PDP are Siamese twins who have been causing problems for Nigerians because of the manner in which they have practiced their politics overtime. They have always been playing the politics of ‘it’s my turn, it’s my turn.’ And when you play the politics of ‘it’s my turn,’ then you have problems in turns. So, under SDP, power will shift to the Nigerian people. SDP will present a presidency that represents the Nigerian people; that gives the underprivileged people an opportunity to have a say in government, to upset the professional class, the educated class who have not been allowed to exercise their functions in any principled capacity.
We believe that Nigeria has talents everywhere and primordial analyses don’t work in SDP. What matters is that those who have been shut out of government for a long time, that is: patriots, professionals, the underclass, the underprivileged, will be represented in SDP-led government. Ours will not be a government of lobbyists; it will not be a government of money bags, and not a government of cronies.
What’s your take on how delegates were highly induced across parties during the primaries? Is this not a dangerous trend in the polity?
In what may go down in the nation’s political history as the most monetized presidential primaries, both the ruling party, APC, and the main opposition party, PDP, conducted primaries which produced their presidential flag bearers. Even some other smaller parties among others are not exempted from this show of shame. The way and manner money were used during the recently concluded primaries has become very worrisome.
It is a grim danger to our democracy as people with questionable characters and little substance used money to buy their ways into various elective positions. It is very sad that the party delegates mortgaged their rights and the future of their children because of peanuts. The delegates are encouraging these people who brandish or throw money at them to take advantage of their gullibility to further impoverish Nigerians. Fortunately, as it is today, the SDP is the best party. Ours is a party of ideas and substance. In all the primary elections that had taken place from the state level to the presidential primaries, our delegates voting decisions were not influenced monetarily.
Would the crisis within your party in some states and at the national level not work against it?
SDP is a very big family, and every big family inevitably has some conflicts. We have ours in SDP, and we’re attempting to resolve it amicably. We are lucky to have leaders with vision in the National Secretariat who are putting forth great effort to unite everyone. We are fortunate to have a strong presidential candidate who has been working hard to invite all groups with grievances to the negotiation table. We shall emerge from this stronger and more together in the end.
What gives you the impression that the SDP candidates have what it takes to lead the state and the country?
In other political parties, Nigerians who want to serve the country have been denied the opportunity owing to their financial strength as a result of increased monetization of the polity. However, reverse is the case in SDP. From our candidates at the State House of Assemblies to presidency, we never sold those positions out to the highest bidders. In fact, it is on record that SDP today has more young Nigerians who emerge from the primaries without having to break the banks. Our delegates voted for people who are acquainted with the problems of the country. We voted people who live among the citizenry and know where the shoes pinch the Nigerian masses and they voted for those who know how the average Nigerian feels.
Ekiti election has gone and the Osun election is around the corner. Do you see your party, SDP, making an impact in Osun?
In Ekiti governorship election, we fought a good fight but the majority of the people decided to sell their votes to the corrupt politicians who have held us to ransom for years. To show that the conspiracy was from the top, even President Muhammadu Buhari celebrated the outcome of the shameful election.
The appropriate course of action was adopted by our party leaders in rejecting the abhorrent election and appealing the results in court. This is a crucial step because if vote-buying were permitted to continue, politicians would stop campaigning and instead plunder the government’s coffers to purchase votes in elections. Nigeria’s democracy is under threat and every well-meaning Nigerian must come to her rescue.
As for the fast-approaching governorship elections in Osun, we have already presented a qualified candidate in Oyegoke Omigbodun. He is an incorruptible man who is going to make sure that the resources of Osun are used for the development of the state. We can only appeal to our good people in Osun to shun vote-buying and vote for the man who has what it takes to propel Osun into prosperity, growth and development.
That brings us to the issue of vote buying and selling during elections. What are the consequences for our democracy?
Unfortunately, the amended electoral law of 2022 is not strong enough to tackle the corruption going on in our electoral system. Therefore, there is the need for the National Assembly to come up with stringent laws that will reduce the current huge amount of money that a politician must spend to win elective position.
The same law must monitor the bank details and spending of political parties and their Aspirants/Candidates. The menace of vote buying clearly signifies that the anti-corruption agencies are not doing enough.
If the anti-corruption agencies are doing enough, people with money bags would have been scared to use money to entice or induce voters for their gains. If we must get it right, we must embrace our value system which has been eroded because we exchange our rights for a one-day stipend and suffer in penury for the four or eight years the candidate will spend in office.
It is really sad that money politics has taken its toll on the entire electioneering processes in Nigeria. If nothing drastic is done about this disturbing trend, only those with the cash to throw around will buy their way through fraudulently into electoral offices in the 2023 general elections.
What are your chances in the coming State and National Assembly elections in Ondo State? Any hope to field a governorship candidate in 2024?
When our leadership came on board in April, there was a significant disconnect between the party leadership in the state and the party members at the grassroots, leaving the party disenchanted. Between then and now, we have succeeded in bringing our people together. Even if there are still some individuals outside, we are making every attempt to bring them inside.
The good news is that we have been successful in positioning the party as the third force in the Sunshine State up to this point. After the ruling APC and PDP, SDP is the only party that held primary elections in every constituency across the State. This is a notable accomplishment in less than three months. It is clear that our people are fed up with the current ruling party and its deceit, and the SDP is the most practical alternative.
They are also not unfamiliar with the PDP’s hypocrisy. As the Third major alternative in the State, SDP is here to stay. In addition to winning many seats in the State and National Assembly in the 2023 general elections, the SDP is here to take over the affairs of the State and rescue the good people of Ondo State from the abysmal rule of APC in the 2024 election for governor of Ondo State.