S'WEST VOTED JONATHAN AGAINST ACN'S WISH - ADEBAYO
Otunba Niyi Adebayo was a former governor of Ekiti State. The national leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in this interview, dismisses the lamentation that the South West has pulled out of national politics. He challenged advocates of national politics to point at any developmental project attracted into the region when it was at the centre. The easy-going lawyer also insisted that the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan between now and 2015 will determine if he would have a second term or not. Excerpts…
Your party, ACN, is back in control of Ekiti. How do you feel about that?
I am very elated and I believe that finally, we have the true reflection of the wish of the people of Ekiti State. Finally, they've been allowed to choose the people to represent them. Before now, they always imposed people on them during elections.
How did you manage to clear all the seats despite opposition from the PDP and former Governor Ayodele Fayose?
For many years we have been saying Ekiti is a state that supports the progressives, which is what ACN represents. PDP and Fayose had always tried to grandstand, and it is clear to everybody that Ekiti is an ACN state, the people like the politics of ACN; it is a politics of development.
We went to the people and sold our programmes to them and the people supported us. Before this election, the last credible election we had was that of 1999 that brought us to office; the 2003 and 2007 elections supervised by INEC under the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo was a sham. It was a huge fraud; they were just allocating seats to their cronies.
Former governor Fayose alleged that your party had an agreement with him to support Fayemi for governor and the ACN would support him for the Senate, why was that agreement not honoured?
I can state categorically that there was no agreement. At the time we were doing the re-run for Kayode Fayemi, Fayose was trying to latch on to the popularity of the AC, as we were known them, and he thought he could benefit from it. He has spent all the goodwill he had in Ekiti because he was no longer in PDP and he tried to latch on to us and use it as a basis to get a senatorial ticket, which we rebuffed. There was no time we sat together to agree that we would give him a senatorial ticket.
Why did he not join ACN?
Because we didn't want him.
He tried to join and you rejected him?
If he had tried, it would have been difficult for him to come in.
You don't want him in ACN?
He has outstanding issues he needs to settle with the people of Ekiti and he needs to settle those first.
Are you saying you select people that join your party and those that can't?
For you to be in a party, a party is a group of people with like-minds, beliefs and thoughts, and I don't think myself and Fayose can be in the same party. We are from different political divide.
You are both of the progressive bent…
(cuts in) Fayose is not a progressive, I'm sorry to say that. Fayose is a businessman politician and he proved that while in office and that was why he still has a case with the EFCC.
How did you dislodge PDP from Ekiti State after the 2003 capture of the South West?
I laughed when people said before the election that it would be tough for ACN to win back in Ekiti State because of the caliber of people in PDP. I laughed because we know ourselves, and our performances speak for us. I always tell them that for as long as we have a free and fair election in Nigeria, the people of the South West would always vote for ACN and that was put to the test during the last elections.
They know we are the people that have their interest at heart, they go back and look at our records and compare with the performance of PDP. They look at what our governor is doing in Lagos and see a similarity in what we did while we were there and what PDP did for the eight years they were on the seat illegally. What do we have to show for the eight years the PDP spent on the seat of power in the South West? Nothing. Everything broke down. Our education went backwards; they introduced thuggery and assassination.
There is a biblical saying that when the righteous reigns the people rejoice, that is what is happening with ACN, the people got the opportunity to determine their own fate and they took it with both hands.
Now, we are back to 1999 when the whole of Yorubaland was in the hands of Awolowo's political family, except for Ondo…
(Cuts in) The man in Ondo is also from the Awolowo political stable and I believe that at a point the Labour Party government there will come back into the mainstream of the Awolowo family, because Dr. Olusegun Mimiko is also a product of the family.
He said he was under pressure to join the CAN, is it true?
He is a product of the Awolowo political family and I believe that being part of the Awolowo political family he would have to join his kinsmen sooner or later.
The Yoruba are back in the progressive fold, but some people say we are back in opposition politics again and that we have left the centre and we would pay dearly for it. Do you share that sentiment?
We were in the centre under ex-President Obasanjo in 2003 and 2007 and till the last elections, but what particular thing can the South West point to that they benefited from the centre? Nothing. There is nothing we can point at and those saying we have left the centre should show us one or two things we benefited from.
What we had was that certain individuals made money for themselves and that did not in anyway benefit anyone in the South West. So, it is rubbish for anyone to say we would lose anything by going into opposition. What do we have to show for going to the centre in the first instance?
The federal roads in the South West are in bad shape, our people still don't have water, we don't have electricity; health facilities in the South West are still very poor, our education is in shambles; what do we show for the centre they took us to? Nothing. And I challenge anyone to come out and show us if we benefited anything.
What the people did in April was like, 'well, you have taken us to the centre for eight years and we benefited nothing rather we went back to poor quality of life, let us determine what is good for us henceforth, since we have the opportunity'. They decided to vote for the people that would better their lot, and I can assure you that all our governors would perform to the expectation of the people that voted for them.
Are you sure?
I am 100 per cent sure they will perform. An ACN governor would always perform better than a PDP governor. I have always said that a man elected is different from the person that is not elected, but was imposed by some people somewhere. Those imposed are under no pressure to do anything for the people because they have no reason to satisfy the people, except the person that installed them. But the man elected knows he got his mandate from the people and has to account to them, so he is on his toes to perform.
Another school of thought says we went back to opposition politics because Obasanjo did nothing in Yorubaland. What do you think?
The people decided to follow the party they know would give them dividends of democracy. During the presidential election, the people, against our choice, voted for PDP's candidate. The people know what they want.
Are you saying there was no manipulation by ACN leaders to favour President Jonathan?
No. Did you see or hear any of us in the ACN tell anyone they should vote for Jonathan?
But you could have done it underground?
How do you do it underground, especially in a free and fair election supervised by Attahiru Jega and not Maurice Iwu?
Did Obasanjo actually cause the Yoruba to go back into their shell?
The Yoruba knows their own people, they know that their wishes were never reflected in the past elections. And now that they allowed that to happen, you can see what happened. Those Obasanjo and Iwu installed never felt comfortable because their guilty conscience is always pricking them.
But Gbenga Daniel ruled under PDP and he was formerly in the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Gbenga Daniel was never really an AD person. People go into parties because they feel they could win election. At a time the AD was the popular party in the South West because the belief was that if you are in AD you will win election. You will see there is a lot of movement; this is because people believe that if you get the ticket, you are already made.
Is ACN a party with ideology?
People misunderstand ideology with the process of picking candidates for election. It is the problem we have in picking our candidates during the last primaries that made people to doubt our ideology.
Yes, we had problem during that time because of the constraint we had with time; the time was so short and you must also remember that at the time we were to have primaries, we just transformed into a new party. So, we had to improvise so as to get our candidates to INEC on time. However, we have started working on it so we won't have the same problem in 2015.
Why did the proposed alliance with CPC fail?
It failed because the two parties could not agree on the way forward.
You didn't agree on the way forward?
Yes, because we could not sit down to finally agree on how to progress, and by the time we were to put it together, we ran out of time.
But Tunde Bakare of CPC said ACN was asking him to commit perjury, is this true?
We didn't ask him to commit perjury.
You wanted him to sign a post-dated resignation letter and lie under oath?
That is for him and his party to sort out. His party made ACN an offer and we asked for evidence that the offer was genuine and they won't renege later.
But some people believe that was a bad demand coming from CAN, don't you think so?
If you sit down with somebody and an agreement where you said I would have the Presidency and you will have the Vice Presidency and the man had already picked a running mate, won't you ask for something to show there was an agreement and he won't renege later? I don't think that is asking too much.
Is it then a case of once bitten twice shy; especially with the 2003 experience?
Well, you can say that. Would you go into an agreement when you are not sure he would fulfill the bargain?
There is speculation that Ribadu is about to quit ACN because he felt he was used. Is that true?
That is not true. He is not going anywhere.
Are you speaking for him?
I cannot say how he is feeling, but I was at a meeting where he categorically said he wouldn't leave the party.
Would you advocate for Jonathan to run in 2015?
I can't answer for him; it is the President himself that will answer that question.
Under the law, he is about to start his first term.
It's him that would determine that, nobody could determine that for him.
Which one is good for Nigeria, for him to run or not to run?
For all you know, the next four years could be the best for Nigeria, and if that happens it would be automatic for him. It is like Fashola, if at the point of election he said he was not contesting, people would have compelled him to contest. The result of the last election shows that people wanted Jonathan and if he performs in the next four years, people could ask him to continue.
The most important thing is that he has secured the mandate and if he performs the people might say he should continue in office. He has an opportunity to make a mark and if he is able to move the country forward, he would get another shot.
I asked that question because of the agitation coming from the North that the Presidency should return to them.
For me, the presidency should not be about where the president comes from. We are getting to the point that if anybody can rule well, Nigerians would tell him to continue. We all want the same thing - good life and secured environment - and anybody that is able to do that would have our vote. We all want a country we can be proud of; we want electricity, we want to open the tap and good water runs out, we want good roads, we want to get to the fuel station and get fuel, and we all want security. We want our education system to function well. If we get these, the issue of where a man comes from, and which religion he practices, becomes secondary.
Is ACN planning to re-strategize to avert a recurrence of the crisis that happened before the elections?
If in the midst of the crisis we added two more states, does it not show we know how to manage the crisis?
That was surprising.
It is not surprising; it shows there is a method to our madness, because it produced success. So, if we have crisis like that again it shows we would win more states (laughter). But I can assure you we are already putting in place measures to ensure there won't be a recurrence of what happened before the elections.
How are you going to ensure that those who joined your party remain and not win and go back to where they came from?
The beautiful thing about it is that more people are coming into the party now than ever, because they are seeing that ACN is not a regional party as they thought. They saw the manner we were desirous of ensuring that Nigeria moves forward and many were impressed.
ACN is a mass movement and it is a dynamic organization. It is not static; we will always improve.
Would you say changing of the party's name from AC to ACN rubbed off on the performance of the party in the April election?
There are so many groups that came in, but I am not in a position to know what happened that made some of the groups not to deliver for the party. I was in Ekiti tending my business.
Some people believe that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is ACN and ACN is Bola Tinubu, is that correct?
People say a lot of things many of which are not correct. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a hard-working politician and he is a national leader in ACN, but there are many national leaders in the party. Asiwaju Tinubu is a politician you can be proud of any day. He is a strong leader in ACN, but there are different methods of operation.
But they said he exerts a lot of influence in CAN, do you agree?
People say what they don't understand. People operate differently; some people like to be at the background, some like to be at the forefront. Asiwaju Tinubu is a hardworking member of the party. He is an esteemed member of the party and we are all proud to be in the same party with him.
Is there still plan to merge with the CPC?
Our party is still growing and we won't foreclose the possibility of merging with parties of similar ideas that wish to merge with us.
You were talking along that line before the elections caught up with you.
That is why I said we won't foreclose discussion with any party or group that desires to work with us. ACN is a growing party and we would welcome everyone and every party that wants to come in. We want to expand to be able to compete at the national level.