By NBF News

No court can fault NASS -Odanye
By Olusola Balogun
Sunday, March 07, 2010


Akinrogun Tunde Odanye was a flag bearer of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2007 and stuck with the party until recently when he decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he plans to contest again for Osun governorship seat in 2011.

He believes that the brouhaha over President Umaru Yar'Adua's illness would have been avoided had those managing the lingering health crisis done the right thing. In this interview with Sunday Sun, he bares his mind on a wide range of issues.

How do you react to the constitutional controversy over the illness of President Umaru Yar'Adua?

Due to the mishandling of the situation, they have brought out the worst in Nigerians, which does not augur well for us as a democratic nation and a country. I know that there is no Nigerian, irrespective of party affiliation, that will wish Yar'Adua dead.

The whole argument that has endured over the months is because of the manner some people handled the whole issue. If the President had known he would be staying out of the country for this long, he would have written a letter. My guess is he did not know he would be staying this long. The other alternative could have also be that he was in no health position to transmit the letter, but the Yar'Adua we all know with his rule of law mantra is not one person that will be happy with what has happened in his absence due to his ill-health.

If the people that mishandled this issue had simply allowed the Vice President to step in and act as President immediately the President was away, we won't have all the problems and the tension. Nobody will even know that the President is not around even for one year. What we will be doing will be praying for his speedy recovery and safe return home. The issue is straightforward, immediately the President returns he takes over power.

Now that circumstances beyond his control did not allow him to transmit the letter, I think what should have been done is to allow the Vice President to act for him. The fact that the vice President is acting did not mean that he has been deposed as President. Immediately he lands at the airport, the work of the Vice President as acting President stops, it is not that he needs any further documentation to assume his office. It is a simple thing that was mishandled to the level that some people are asking for the impeachment of the president. I think it is upsetting, and it sounds inhumane for Nigerians to be asking for impeachment of a person that is away due to ill health. But the truth is that some people allowed that to happen by not doing the right thing immediately.

Some people said the way the NASS handled the issue of making Jonathan acting president is not proper; as a lawyer, do you believe that?

Those who are saying that are just unduly nit picking. The National Assembly and the governor's forum should be congratulated for the good job they did in saving the situation. They saved us from what could have been a grave crisis, which started from nothing but was blown out of proportion because someone did not do the right thing.

Whether people like it or not, the truth is the tension in the land subsided, and those asking for the head of the President stopped. I think the National Assembly did the right thing and we need to commend them. Again, you will see that although we fail to appreciate what they did, foreign Heads of States are congratulating them for doing it.

Will the move stand the scrutiny of the court?
In my training as a lawyer, I was taught during jurisprudence that we have two schools, the realist's school and the idealist's school. The idealists are those that will insist on the letterings of the law and the realists who understand that things might be impossible but that is how it should be. In the UK we have Lord Denims, who was a master of the rules who, apart from being a judge is also an activist.

His many radical judgments helped in shaping the law. What we have I don't see how it would be faulted because it was desirable and not done outside the law. Yes, may be we did not follow the letter of the law but we followed the spirit of the law. I want to say that for every action, we need to go for the intention of the lawmakers. I think what the law was trying to achieve by section 144 and 145 of the 1999 constitution was the same thing the National Assembly and the governors did.

It is believed that the crisis went to this extent because the PDP as a party was unorganized and they don't have a united house. Do you disagree with that?

The man that went to court to challenge Jonathan's acting Presidency is from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). The National Assembly that passed the resolution are predominantly PDP, the governors are predominantly PDP and we know the position they took. Obasanjo is also PDP Board of Trustees chairman, we all know what he said; those eminent Nigerians, many of them are PDP sympathizers, and we know the position they took. So I think whoever said that the PDP is not organized that was why the issue happened got it wrong. It is simply a matter of some individuals interpreting it wrongly. In any party, you will always have the hawks and the doves, it is usually when the centre can't hold that they usually split and some people will go and form their own party.

In the UK, when some people said the democrats are not doing it correctly they went to form the liberal democrats.

In Nigeria here, when the center can't hold in the Alliance for Democracy, the Action Congress (AC) and the Democratic Peoples Alliance emerged out of it. In the PDP, when the two tendencies can't hold, you have the sitting vice President pulling out with his own people to go and form a new party that became the AC. What we forget is that the fact that we are in the same party did not make us robots or people who cannot think.

In Lagos there are different tendencies and you can see the friction. It is wrong to say that the PDP is disunited because I read the interview of the speaker of Osun State House of Assembly, Hon Adejare Bello, and I saw a lot of candour in it. He was even commended by some people who said that they did not know that such quality is in PDP. The truth is there are so many people like him in PDP but because the opposition will always want to use the example of a few in PDP to slam the party. I can reel out the names of many very good people in PDP. I know several PDP governors that are performing in their states too.

Do you see this development helping in speeding up the constitutional amendment?

No law is ever complete until it is tested and improved upon. Law is made for the man and not man for the law. The law is not the problem but the implementors. In the UK, there is no written constitution; they are bound by norms and practices, yet their democracy is very solid. People know when they have stepped out of line. What we have here is that people always try to interpret the law upside down and manipulate it.

We saw five people sitting to impeach a governor and they will justify it by saying they are the two-third of the quorum. We all know that five cannot be the quorum, but they have manipulated the process. Our interpretation is always the problem. Constitutional amendment is desirable but because it is not an overnight thing, we need to make up our minds to ensure that we give the very best interpretation to all laws.

You are so eloquent in you defence of the PDP, will you also defend the party against allegations that the PDP has not been nurturing ou democracy well in the last 10 years?

There is this Yoruba proverb that says a woman won't appreciate her husband until she divorces him and try another one. When we had the Action Group, the National Council of Nigerians and the Cameroon's (NCNC) and the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), we thought they are democrats, later we have the military and we started praising the civilians that were sacked. We started praising the Obafemi Awolowo's, the Nnamdi Azikiwe's and others. When we had the interregnum, we thought Yakubu Gowon was bad, then some people took over and then we realised that under Gowon, life was good.

Then came Shehu Shagari, we said his was a bad government and then suddenly we heard that they did not even have one house in their village and then we have the Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon regime and we say they are not smiling, then another one came that was smiling and then came another person. We are not even seeing his eyes.

The point I want to make is that in this country, every new government suddenly becomes worse than the last one. If people say PDP is the devil incarnate, I can assure you that in few years down the line, we will be singing the praise of the same PDP. We talk of ten years of democracy, but we need to ask, are we in democracy or not? Can you fight for your right? If you thought you are protected before, the richer you are, the most likely you are a target of kidnappers. If you escape it, what happens to your siblings? I don't think anyone in Nigeria can say he is totally safe. Do you now think those in PDP whose family members are also not safe say they don't want an improvement?

What we have is government by propaganda. People say a lot of things they cant prove. We are not sincere. Some political parties are worse than the PDP even in the way they do things.

My honest assessment is no party has arrived at the point it wants to be, and I'm sure if you ask the PDP chairman he will agree with that, I know chief Bisi Akande of AC too will agree with that. The ANPP chairman too will tell you it is work in progress.

The other question remains: are Nigerians where they should be? No, we can still improve on the condition of living of the people. We don't appreciate the little we have; why should anyone say a governor that is in office for four years did nothing? That assessment certainly is not correct; you might say he did not do enough but he must have done something.

Some critics say that Oyinlola, the governor of Osun has done little in terms of infrastructural development of the state while in office. They claim he is more on the moral side, what do you think?

I think we the people of Osun are grateful to God for giving us a humble person, a humane person, a lover of people, a person that galvanizes people to work and an intelligent person as governor. The governor combines many of all these. If you look across all the PDP governed states, you will see that Osun is the only state where there is one faction or parallel secretariat. It is only in Osun in the entire South West that you have a well cohesive house. It is because of Oyinlola's humility and organizational ability. I know what I am saying. He has this uncanny way of bringing everyone together that is uncommon.

If you talk to the party chairman in Osun and then talk to the governor, you will see that they say the same thing. That shows that the individuals in the state are working together not the party structure. His style of governance has brought a lot of peace and I think on that alone, he has scored 50 per cent of the entire mark.

We tend to take the issue of peace for granted but I am aware that without peace, there can't be progress and without progress there can't be development. A person that allows peace to reign has scored 50 percent of the whole mark. There was no peace in Somalia and Sudan and there was no progress and development. There was no peace in Niger Delta and we all saw what happened. Peace is what you work for, you don't assume it.

When it comes to development, Oyinlola cannot be said to have performed below par. Chief Bisi Akande when he was in office tried his best at least to the best of the financial resources at his disposal. He did his best and we can at least see the secretariat.

But Oyinlola has not only built on what he met on the ground, he has also surpassed whatever he did. As far as I am concerned and I can see in Osun state, Oyinlola has worked. I go around campaigning and I see the development. In my local government, Ilesa east for instance, the joke is which road remains to be tarred. The government tarred roads even those that lead to hamlets and far-flung villages. Another good thing about the roads is that the roads they are tarring are made to last.

You can go and see for yourself. It is uncharitable for anyone to say that the governor has not done anything. The governor is not a noisemaker; he does not believe in propaganda. Governor Oyinlola likes doing things quietly and rather allowing the work to speak for itself. Our governor is not like some others who will do very little but go to the rooftop to blow their trumpet.

You want to govern Osun state, how well do you know the state?

I know the state well. Assuming that I was born and bred there does not count, the fact that I have been aspiring to govern the state will ensure that I know the state.

I asked the question because you are counted as one of the 'Osun abroad' aspirants.

Your opponent will certainly come up with something to discredit you. It shows that some people are very desperate and they still don't play it according to the rules.

I have been crisscrossing that state since 2000 campaigning that I want to govern the state and I am abreast of the situation of each community and village. Even if a baby has been going around asking for support for nine years, they should give it to him that he will know what each community wants. I can tell you that between 2000 and 2003, I had been chairman of so many community days and I was confronted with the problems of the town and I assisted in the areas I could. In 2007 that I ran as the AD candidate, I again crisscrossed the state and I was again given the needs of the people. There is no town or village that I did not visit asking for votes. I have started again and I know what the people are asking for and I know the plans I put in place to tackle the problems. I think people should give me some credit. I don't qualify as an 'Osun abroad' aspirant.

Are you then saying you are ready for the task?
I am more than ready. Sometimes when I listen to what some of my co-competitors want to do, I smile and say within myself that this is just an upstart in Osun politics. I realised that in 2010 they are where I was in 2002. They are still in the arithmetic of the thing while I am already operating in the algebra of Osun politics. I know all the communities and their problems and I have the solutions to the problem and I am going to deploy creative approach to solve these problems. I will use the exposure I have and the foreign contact I have made to solve some of these problems.

How will you navigate your way out of the PDP to be able to emerge as the candidate of your party?

I am lucky that the governor and that chairman have decided to ensure a level playing field for all aspirants. They are also ensuring that we make our campaign more of issue based than making it a personal issue. Our leaders ensure that we did not carry the campaign as if we are enemies, we see ourselves as political opponents. We relate very well and we don't have to go around chasing ourselves with Dane guns and cutlasses. Most of us running under the PDP are peace-loving people and the leadership of the party also encourages that we cohabit peacefully.

The issue really will be the post primary campaign because we will have to face the AC with their tendency for violence. The AC introduced violence into Osun politics. Between 1999 and 2003, there was no violence; when the PDP took over in 2005, there was no violence. It was in the run up to the 2007 election that AC came into being that violence was introduced into Osun politics. All these new waves of imports came in with violence

By and large, I am not a new man in Osun politics and I know what and who to meet to get the votes at the primaries. I will make myself the best brand that the PDP can put forward and I can assure you that I will spring some major surprises. Just watch out.

Are you surprised that Lagos AC is presently embroiled in crisis with the governor facing fire from his members in the house?

Ordinarily, I should say it is none of my business, but because I live in Lagos and the governor in question happens to be a person I once worked with in a committee, I think it is a needless battle that was being fought. The people involved are my friends and I think we should avoid attempting to rubbish good people, I hope common sense will prevail for their mutual benefit.

I know Fashola and I remember we served in a panel and I know he is a radical and he is some one that is motivated by what he believes in. I think we should give credit to who credit is due. Even some PDP chieftains have all said that he is doing well to show that we appreciate good things. You don't need a magnifying glass to see what he has done and it is a matter of a prophet has no honour except in his own house.