WHY I WANT TO BE EKITI SENATOR
For eight years, Dele Alake, worked with the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu as Head of Information and Strategy. The man who was a kitchen cabinet member of Tinubu's administration now has his eyes on the Senate. In the next general election, he wants to represent Ekiti Central Senatorial district on the platform of the Action Congress (AC).
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he explains why he is joining the political fray in Ekiti among other issues.
It was reported that you would be contesting for the Ekiti Central seat in the next Senatorial election. Having lived all your life in Lagos, how much of the Ekiti politics do you know?
I know the politics of Ekiti like the back of my hands. I am very conversant with the dynamics of Ekiti people; the terrain, the topography, the weather, the geography of the place; and the material resources of the place, the huge human capital that it contains and the politics of it. So, I am a true and full-blooded Ekiti citizen.
Being conversant with the politics of Ekiti, are you happy with the turn of events in the polity there?
If I were happy with what is going on there, I will not want to venture into it because I will just be satisfied with what obtains presently. I am not happy with the politics of the place and that is why I'm throwing my hat in the ring, so as to make my contribution and to enhance the quality of lives of my people.
I am going into Ekiti politics to bring to bear my experience, exposure, my intellect, my expertise, my professionalism in public office; and the vision that I have, the knowledge that I possess and the political will to make things happen that I have amply demonstrated over the years in whatever assignment I was saddled with. So, I believe that I have a lot to contribute to the development of Ekiti State.
The politics of Ekiti State for now is not the best.
But you will agree with me that Ekiti is not more volatile than Lagos. Lagos is the most sophisticated state in Nigeria; it is the most volatile and most heterogeneous. This is because you have a conglomeration of people from all works of life, from every nooks and cranny of Nigeria in Lagos. You have the concentration of all ethnic groups in the West African coast represented in Lagos.
I have been able to serve in Lagos and to acquit myself very well going by the opinion of observers of Lagos politics and the critical stakeholders and the general public in Lagos. I am therefore inclined to accept that verdict that I have acquited myself very well in Lagos. The experience gained therefrom is not something you could buy with money.
Secondly, I also want to contribute to the enhancement of the quality of debate of lawmaking for Nigeria as a whole. That is why I am using the Ekiti Central Senatorial District as a platform, and the AC, which is my party, to launch myself into national focus. But don't you think your opponents may see you as an outsider and an attempt by Tinubu to impose one of his boys on the people of Ekiti State.
It is a wrong conclusion. I have been asked this question before and I answered it the same way. Now, it is complimentary and salutary to the image and profile of Bola Tinubu if his associate, his aides, his friends and those who worked with him or around him, all have various ambitions in their various states.
It means then that Bola Tinubu is a leader of leaders, because you are not a leader until you are able to nurture other leaders. It then means that Bola Tinubu has succeeded in nurturing other leaders or potential leaders. That should not be a crime.
The issue in this is the allegation that he has expansionist tendency; he is now pushing his boys all over the place. It is not true and I will say that it is a price of leadership that he has to pay. I know as an insider in the Tinubu caucus that there has never been a time that he said, 'You should come here and you should go there, you should do this or you should do that. No'.
I think a lot of people have been unfair to Bola Tinubu in the sense that when you look at his first cabinet of 1999 to 2003, that was the first time in the history of this country that you will have a concentration of technocrats in government. Not only putting round pegs in round holes, he also managed them properly to transform Lagos.
Now, ever since that, nobody has been able to gather such high profile, high net worth and high intellectual composition of people in government at the same time. What it then means is that Bola Tinubu is not a pushover. Because if you have the presence of mind, the intellect, the mental capacity to bring in technocrats, professionals and experts from all walks of life, put them together in a cabinet, lead them and manage them successfully, then you are a good leader.
So what is your relationship with Fashola?
He is my friend; he is my brother. He is a younger brother to me. Not too long ago, he called me for a chat and we had a can of Heineken beer together. Your Newspapers gave him an award; I was there on the high table with him. We had pictures together. The last time we saw was the day of Asiwaju's birthday. As he was leaving with Asiwaju, he said that they were off to Bourdillon and I should meet them there. I met them there. Himself, myself and Asiwaju were together on the table; we had lunch together on the same table.
That is why I say, all of these things are grossly exaggerated by people, whose imagination are running riot, and making me a scapegoat in the promotion of that problem.
As an insider in Tinubu's caucus, will Fashola get a second term?
I do not know, how can I tell? Fashola himself cannot tell that. Tinubu cannot tell that. It is only the party that can say. And I am not the party. You people ascribe so much imaginary powers to individuals, and these things do not work out that way. Even where the individual has huge influence in directing the course of events, he is still an individual. It is like a governor who is in office; that governor assumes responsibility for all actions and inactions of that administration.
But often times, we hear politicians say there is no vacancy in a State House and that the incumbent should be allowed to finish his services. That may be a political talk. Some politicians will say that. I have heard that in various parties, at various levels. I think its already becoming a clichÃ©. That does not mean anything as far as realities are concerned. Some may want to play to the gallery; some may want to become sycophantic, some may be looking for job, and then they want to say what they think he wants to hear.
You've been close to Tinubu for over 10 years or more; what is the bond?
Ten years? It's over 20 years. What is the bond? Friendship. We share the same ideas and ideals. And all my life, I can never work with someone I cannot argue with. Bola Tinubu is a leader who is very tolerant, extremely very tolerant of opposing views.
Do you know why I didn't join the military when I left school? Because, I cannot work in an environment in which I cannot argue. I argue a lot because I believe that it is only through debate and argument on salient issues that you can make logical deductions that can lead to the progress and development of a community or a society. I don't like the idea of just somebody handing down orders, whether the order is right or wrong, expedient or inexpedient for me to swallow it hook, line and sinker. That is why I didn't join the police force or the military because their structure is totally different. Command and obey.
But here in my own environment, in journalism, when you are in the newsroom, you argue with your news editor, when you are in editorial conference, you argue with your editor. All of you will put head together and arrive at the best option. This is why I am able to strike the chord with Tinubu because he is a tolerant leader.
Before him, I worked with MKO Abiola for 13 years. I argued and argued, especially during the Organisation of Islamic Countries saga in 1986. If you recall, people perceived Concord newspapers and MKO as supporting Nigeria joining the OIC. People were no longer buying the paper and we were having stacks of unsold copies.
I felt compelled to confront MKO on the issue. Segun Babatope and I went to meet him. You can verify from him. We went to him in the middle of the night and we argued with him for five hours, why it was not in his interest to be perceived as goading the then President Babangida into taking Nigeria into OIC. That he as an entrepreneur has no business being seen behind that move because it was largely unpopular, particularly in our own area. We argued all night and at the end, he asked if there is any personal problem that we have that we needed him to solve, we said, no. He was then surprised that we came to talk to him for five hours just because of his own image.
The same trait I discovered in Bola Tinubu. I have been friendly with Bola Tinubu ever before. Politically, we also share lots of ideas and ideals. I admire his courage. I admire his tenacity of purpose, I admire his political acumen, and he is a manager of men and resources. And he is very magnanimous. These are traits and attributes that I admire in any human being.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has just left AC and returned to PDP, how will that decision affect AC? People are of the view that his departure will shrink AC's influence in the northern part of the coiuntry, and may eventually turn it into a regional party. Do you agree?
It will not affect AC in any way. But I know that Atiku is not a novice in politics. He is not also a young man not to know what he wants, and he is also free, in my own estimation, to choose those he wants to associate with; or the political party he wants to associate with. I wish him luck. His decision to quit will not, and cannot affect the party, except you are saying that the northern people were in AC because of Atiku.
Don't forget that they have been in AC before Atiku came. Atiku's entry or sojourn in AC is not more than four years old. We had AC members across the northern states even when Atiku was a sitting Vice President. Even in the first term when we were AD (Alliance for Democracy), we had support in the north. So, people had been in the north before Atiku came, people will still be in the north after his exit.
Will his exit not make AC a regional party?
If AC wasn't a regional party before he came in, how can it now become a regional party? You cannot not be a regional party as long as you have members spread across the whole country. You may succeed in holding the levers of power in certain states, and coincidentally they may be in one particular region of the country. That does not make you a regional party. I do not see that, but I believe that this is a free country. And Atiku is free to go anywhere he wishes.
During the visit of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to the U.S, President Barrack Obama told him to fix electoral problem and corruption. Do you think Jonathan can actually handle these problems?
He is at it. Let us watch and see, but with the kind of steps he has taken so far, he seems to be on the right track. Having the will to see it through is what I can't conjecture. Because I am not him, I am not in his party; I have not been close to him. I cannot assess him from a distance. But from the steps he has taken, he seems to be on the right track. If he has the will and the consciousness and setting his eyes on history, then I believe he probably will do the right thing.
Some people say his party, PDP, will not allow for a holistic electoral reform because they will run into bigger problems if that is done?
Well, occasionally in the life of a nation, someone comes and will be ready to commit class suicide. And that marks a watershed in the history of such a nation. If he is going to be the person to commit class suicide, it means that he will be implementing those policies like electoral reforms, tackling corruption that will adversely affect his party. That is why I said if he has set his eyes on history, he would and should do that. But whether he has set his eyes on history is what I cannot conjecture.
Many believe that INEC Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu is not the problem of our electoral system, but the political class that employs thuggery and all manner of antics to win elections. Do you agree?
I believe that the head of an agency is very pivotal in whatever that agency does or does not do. So, to tell me that individuals do not matter is hoopla. I don't buy that. An individual can make a difference, particularly at the helm of affairs. We all have our different styles of doing things. If I were an INEC chairman, I will not condone any act of rigging whatsoever because I have a name to protect. I will put certain institutional checks in place.
Secondly, I will sufficiently school my associates and my officers on what I expect from them. And I will make examples of those who breach the regulations. If you don't make examples of those who rig, it means inadvertently you are condoning rigging.
To say Iwu is not the problem is bullshit. I don't buy that. An individual can make a difference and make history. It's the individual that is acting. He can use the position rightly or wrongly.
Iwu alleged that there is a cabal that specializes in rigging elections in Lagos and you have been around for more than eight years in the politics of Lagos. Are you aware of that cabal?
I think Iwu was just talking through his hat, because what he said flies in the face of logic. Any body that is conversant with the dynamics of the politics of this country and the political equation of this country knows that Lagos has always been the hotbed of progressive politics. I am shocked that as a professor of political science, he did not know that. Lagos has always been the hub and the nexus of political progressivism in this country. Lagos has always been under progressive forces. And the people of Lagos are sophisticated enough to know those who are their leaders, those who stand up for their courses; So, if Iwu is not aware of the dynamics, then he wasn't even qualified to be the INEC chairman in the first instance. It means he cannot even at a glance understand the political equation of every part of Nigeria.
To say that there is a cabal that is rigging elections in Lagos is a figment of his imagination. Has the conservative forces ever succeeded in winning elections in Lagos? No. It has always been the progressive that has been winning elections in Lagos.
Will that trend continue in 2011?
It will continue forever because Lagos, by its composition, by its sophistication, by its education, by its enlightenment, will always go the way of the progressives. This is because the progressives also understand the nature of their electorate, and they strive at all times to satisfy their aspirations and yearning. Once you do that to a people, it is also very natural for them to reciprocate by giving you their votes. That is why it confounds ignorant people like Iwu who have fixations on Lagos because it has been impossible for them to wrest Lagos from the progressives' grip. Why do we have the grip? Simple. Because we have always been satisfying the yearnings of the people.
But Iwu and his cohorts don't believe in people, they believe in raw naked power for the sake of protecting their own pecuniary interest and materialism. That is all. That is why people will always vote against them. And they will always seek to rig to force themselves on the people.
Babangida wants to run for president. You were very much around during the 1993 elections; do you recommend him?
I don't have to recommend him; I don't have to vote for him. He may not even need my vote. Did Obasanjo need my vote in 1999 and 2003?
Is his coming good for Nigeria since he has confirmed his ambition?
It depends on Nigerians. The people get the type of leaders they deserve. If Nigerians believe that he is good for them, so be it. If they believe he is not good for them, they know what to do. It is left for the people to determine. Let us not take that power away from the people; the power to determine their leaders. That is what the Iwus of this world have been doing, taking away power from the people, the power to determine who would rule them.
What is your advice to these groups: True Face of Lagos and New face of Lagos?
I want to give my advice to the Ekiti people because I am not contesting in Lagos. I want my message to go to Ekiti people. And my message to Ekiti people is that they have the best material for the emancipation of Ekiti in particular and Nigeria in general. Because the national platform that I am seeking, I am going there to enhance the quality of lawmaking. Because without exhaustive debate, you can't make logical deductions, without logical deductions you can't make workable laws, laws that would ensure the welfare of our people.
For too long Ekiti has been in the political wilderness. They have lacked infrastructural development.
You are gunning for a seat that is presently occupied by an AC person who is barely nine months in office. Are you not wary of rocking the boat?
Not at all, because this is a free world, it is a free country and we are practicing democracy. The man who is there right now is of my party. Fine, I also aspire, there is no crime to that, because I believe I have attributes that will stand Ekiti in good stead in the Senate; using the platform of the Senate to attract infrastructural development, to even correct the wrongs that have been committed against Ekiti politically in the national political equation.
The fact that an AC man is there does not mean anything; we will have a healthy contest. It will be a healthy competition. As for the PDP, confronting, I am not scared of them.