Prince Ayoade Adewopo, a legal practitioner, is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant in Osun State. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on his aspiration and plans for Osun State
Why are you running for Osun State governorship in 2019?
Through my sojourn outside of the country in other democratic climes, I am privileged to see that Nigeria as a whole and Osun State in particular have not been opportuned to experience the benefit of productive governance. It is disheartening to see what governance in Osun State has become. Being entrusted with a position of authority should not be used to simply benefit oneself or clique but for uplifting the welfare of the people.
People oriented leadership is what I want to bring to the system and polity in the state. I believe I am the best candidate among all the governorship aspirants because I am the best prepared by default of my experience in working out solutions to our current experience in Osun State. I have had cause to assist many foreign nations and corporate entities with similar conditions in the past. By the grace of God, I have been part of the teams that brought their economies back on track.
So, why not use what I have got to assist my homeland as well? As we speak, I have gathered so many egg heads together and we have come up with a sound workable blueprint for our state. I believe I am the best prepared for this onerous task of rejuvenation we have on our hands in Osun State.
How do you intend to defeat other political gladiators who may likely contest on the same platform with you to get your party governorship ticket?
Yes, I will be up against some political titans in the party, but to correct you a bit, our thoughts are not about defeating these giants, but rather, we aim to work together for the good of the people. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be putting its best candidate forward to deliver purposeful leadership in the state. The politics of unbridled mediocrity through hierarchical selection must stop.
We need someone who can handle the deteriorating economic logjam the present All Progressives Congress (APC) government has bestowed on us. My team and I are working assiduously to get the party to buy into this new thinking. I am optimistic that we will prevail at the polls by the grace of God for the good of our people.
How would you access the incumbent Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led APC government in Osun State?
The governor has tried his best as we have seen, but obviously his best has not been the best the state deserve. Any government that experiments with the welfare of his subjects cannot be termed the best. America, as we all know, can go to war with any nation that gets an American citizen molested in any way. That is a mirror of what welfare of citizenry means to them there.
Here in Osun, we can fairly conclude that the government that was elected to protect and promote citizens welfare is the one molesting them with hunger occasioned by non-payment of entitlements to workers and aged retirees, intimidation in various forms and inexplicable indebtedness. That is not the best way to go.
Do you think you have what it takes to govern Osun State and what are your plans for the state if you become governor?
I believe that I do have what it takes to lead the state. With the support of my party and the good people of Osun, I believe, together we can turn things around in no time such that our people can begin to smile again as they deserve. My plans are my people. I cannot withstand the present burden of poverty being forced down the throats of our people in the state. First and foremost, food must return to the table of all families in the state. Working husbands will begin to feed their families again.
Our mothers will begin to appreciate the fact that governance is about the people and people first. In any case, I have encapsulated my programmes and plans in the word HEART. This bothers on Health, Education, Agriculture, Restoration and Tourism. The HEART agenda has been prepared in such a way as to address the sufferings of my people holistically without leaving anyone behind. Without letting much cat out of the bag, there are sufficient plans in the kitty for the good people of Osun State, all centered on their welfare.
What is your view on zoning in considering in the choice of the next governor of Osun State?
Zoning agitation as far as I am concerned is a beautiful political scheming devised by some people to suit their political postulations. This is 2018, we clamour for a new nation and we should all declare that zoning is anti-democratic and a manifestation of mediocrity. What Osun State urgently requires is not zoning but the best hand for the job. The argument that the position of the governor of Osun State should go to a particular zone in the state is lazy politics and there is no point in it.
I have a peculiar situation; my parents come from two senatorial districts in the state. My mother is from Ede in Osun West, while my father is from Ife, Osun East. Ife zone, where my father is from has never produced a governor since the creation of Osun State. The zoning sentiment if used should favour me. Notwithstanding, I believe that I am the most qualified to be the next governor of Osun State not relying on the issue of zoning.
Natural Resources Fund: Reps decry diversion by FG, states
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has stirred up another controversy following his allegations that the federal and state governments have illegally made withdrawals from the Natural Resources Fund. PHILIP NYAM reports
It is generally agreed that corruption is a canker worm that has eaten deep into the nation’s body polit. And since President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in May 2015, there have been sordid revelations of how government funds were misappropriated and stolen in the past.
In spite of the President’s commitment to tame the monster, corruption is said to be very much around within the system. Of course, the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, which has the resolve to expose corruption as one of its cardinal policies under the legislative agenda, has spent more than 50 per cent of its time investigating allegations of corruption against other arms of government.
But it is fast becoming a norm that these investigations are carried out, while their reports are either not presented or endorsed by the parliament and no action taken by the executive to implement their recommendations. Many analysts are of the view that until the executive starts acting promptly on the reports from these investigations, those who have sworn never to refrain from corruption would never have a rethink.
The number of reports pending before the House is uncountable, just are the quantum of reports and recommendations submitted to the executive for necessary action are left covered with dust and eaten by termites.
It was in the light of this that the House instituted an ad hoc committee led by Hon. Adamu Kamale (APC, Adamawa) to investigate the utilisation of N350 billion Natural Resources Fund and federal government investments, proceeds and leakages in solid minerals. However, when the investigation got underway last week, Speaker Yakubu Dogara made a startling allegations against the federal and state governments over diversion of the fund in question.
The Natural Resources Fund was created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo through an Executive Order, in 2002 for the purpose of developing the country’s natural resources especially solid minerals. Unfortunately, 16 years after its creation, not much is said to have been achieved in that respect, whereas the money seems to have been gone down the drain.
Sixteen years is quite a long period of time spanning four administrations: Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and presently, Muhammadu Buhari. Dogara could not however give details as to which of the administrations allegedly mismanaged the fund. Perhaps, the diversion of the huge sums could not have been carried out in a day and therefore, it is possible that it has been a slush fund for some unscrupulous politicians and public servants over the years.
It is also possible that the speaker could not have made such a weighty allegation without verifiable facts, meaning that as the presiding officer of the House, he had impeccable information to back up his claims. The speaker consequently warned that the House under his leadership would not condone any corrupt practice and promised that those found culpable would be referred to relevant anti-corruption agencies for possible for prosecution and punishment.
The speaker who was represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, had alleged that the federal government, states and private firms resorted to borrowing from the fund for other reasons, thereby defeating the aim of creating it.
Dogara told the session that these withdrawals from the fund were made without appropriation by the National Assembly. This is one of the biggest problem the National Assembly has been contending with over the years; a situation whereby the executive either the presidency or ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS) deep their hands into the national till without the required constitutional appropriation from the parliament.
He said: “I understand that most of the invitees seated here today are directly or indirectly involved in the utilisation of the Natural Resources Fund. Available records show that over N320 billion of the Natural Resources Fund was utilised as loans to the federal government, states, ministries, departments and agencies and in some cases, private firms, most times for matters unrelated to natural resources.
“This practice is unacceptable and must be corrected. I charge this ad hoc committee to use all available legislative powers to recover the funds that are utilised illegally. In addition, the committee, in line with the resolution of the House, should come up with recommendations to safeguard further misappropriation of the Natural Resources Fund, and also recommend an appropriate legal framework.”
Speaking further on the matter, he explained that it was part of the effort of the House of Representatives to boost revenue generation in the sector that it passed a bill to halt the concession of Ajaokuta Steel Complex and to facilitate the completion of the project, adding that the 8th Assembly is determined to deal decisively with impediments to the growth of the solid minerals and steel sector.
He added that the objective of the fund, which was dedicated to the development of natural resources to promote economic diversification, enhance employment and income generation, and improve the socio-economic living conditions of Nigerians for sustainable national development.
According to him, the drastic decline in the revenue from solid minerals and steel sector as a result of corruption, illegal mining, institutional failure, diversion of funds meant to develop solid minerals and steel, connivance of public/ political office holders with private developers, non-remittance of taxes, fees and royalties by the operators, must be brought to an end.
“It is a common impression of the citizens of Nigeria that solid minerals alone can solve the problems of unemployment in Nigeria. Countries less endowed with solid minerals such as South Africa have successfully sustained their economies through proceeds from the sector. Nigeria therefore cannot afford to continue the neglect in the sector.
“Although there is a weak legislative frame work on the administration of the Natural Resources Fund, the Executive Order which is the bed rock of the Natural Resources Fund composed by Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission for the establishment of Natural Resources Fund centered on the diversification of the economy by developing sources of revenue other than oil and gas.
“The account, called the Development of Natural Resources Account, was set up through an executive order in 2002 to develop alternative mineral resources to lessen the nation’s dependence on petroleum. The then-President Obasanjo issued an executive order to make the revenue sharing formula conform with the Supreme Court ruling of 2002.
“The essence of this ad-hoc committee therefore is to ensure the utilisation of Natural Resources Funds strictly in accordance with the declared objective. The House of Representatives will not condone diversion or abuse in whatever guise of the Natural Resources Funds to areas those are outside its core mandate.
“In addition, the committee in line with the resolution of the House should come up with recommendations to safe guard further misappropriation of Natural Resources Funds and also recommend an appropriate legal framework,” the Speaker charged.
It is now the responsibility of the House especially its standing Committee on Legislative Compliance to be up and doing and update the public with the state of resolutions. The N350 billion natural resources fund is such a humongous amount that should not be allowed to be cornered by thieving public servants who have betrayed the confidence reposed in them by the Nigerian people and government.
Parallel congresses, dangerous trend for APC – Baraje
Baraje: We’re desirous that Buhari comes back, but…
Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje is a leader in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, he speaks on the crisis in the party, the warning letter by members of the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) and the feud between the Senate and the Inspector-General of Police, among others. BIODUN OYELEYE reports
Recently, the nPDP issued an ultimatum to the APC. What is the next line of action as the ultimatum has elapsed?
When you look at the letter, there was nowhere we mentioned ultimatum. We only advised in the letter, but when the press said ultimatum, we kept quiet because the media has the liberty to use their language. So, the advice we gave to the party was that within seven days, because of the time to the congresses that were imminent, we were warning that we had no time for the party to be able to win and plan towards the forthcoming elections. We advised the party to let us sit down at a roundtable, so that we can resolve issues. Having said that, the party invited us last week Thursday, that was the exact day the seven days would have been completed. Since I was speaking for a group, who are leaders from various states all over the country, the party wanted us to meet that last Thursday, but I told them it is not possible because leaders had to travel from their various destinations. We couldn’t meet the party that day, we gave Monday, and hopefully, we are going to continue from there.
Some members of nPDP have dissociated themselves from your group. They claimed they were not consulted before you went on air on the ultimatum given to the APC. What is your reaction to that?
Incidentally, somebody reacted to this almost immediately, and that was the former Youth Leader of the then nPDP, Timi Frank. He has responded to it adequately, even if he had not responded, we would not have responded for so many obvious reasons. The nPDP was borne out of some people, who were not satisfied the way governance was being delivered to the people when we were in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and they happened to be leaders, who cut across Nigeria. They included seven governors at the initial stage and finally it was brought down to five governors and about 20 senators serving then and non-serving, many members serving and non-serving of the House of Representatives. It was a group that left due to poor governance, lack of respect for the rule of law, impunity of the highest order. If you look at the address we presented that day at Yar’adua Centre in Abuja, those were the things we protested against.
So, we went into alliance with other political parties to form the APC. Even if somebody had not responded the way Timi Frank had responded, nobody would have bothered because that was a large group of people and when you are coming among large group of people, you don’t expect not to have one or two black legs. And when a black leg resurfaces, you don’t mind; even in front of God, there are black legs. So, why do we have to be bothered? As far as we are concerned, the defunct nPDP is a group that will continue to live for a long time because it consists of leaders. Not only that, these leaders are now bringing up vanguards, because what the group stands for is good governance generally; it stands for delivery of dividends of democracy to the common man. Today, we have a long way to go in the APC and we discovered there are some of those things, if not all, that made us to complain while we were in PDP that are even worse than now. If we are leaders that worth our salt, we should not be ashamed to shout out that what we cried against is now repeating itself. It is like history repeating itself and the time is so short to call it history, just three years ago. May be that is how short human memory is.
In the letter, you talked about marginalisation of your group in the sharing of public offices…
Like I said earlier, I said we stand for good governance and once good governance is absent, many things are absent. When we were in PDP, we complained about lack of respect for rule of law and marginalisation of the southern part of the country. We complained against impunity of government. If you look at the preamble and first paragraph of that letter, all the things we complained against that time are the things repeating themselves.
Now that former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who co-signed the letter with you, has left APC for African Democratic Congress (ADC), would you say that members of the nPDP are on their way out of the APC as well?
Oyinlola was the Secretary of the then defunct nPDP. His leaving the party (APC) for another political party, I think, is to send a signal to everybody that the group has been so discontented for a long time. We have been probably trying to bear and persevere, that was how we got to this point. From his (Oyinlola) own end, may be his followers back home could no longer bear it. Those of us who are leaders in our own small way, we are being directed by our followers and it is where their interest lies that we will go to. So, probably, the signal that Oyinlola’s resignation from the party should send is that those of us who are still remaining here, still have the interest of APC at heart and we have been trying to tell our followers that they should still be patient. May be that is the signal he should send. But, you all know that patience has its limit of elasticity.
There have been reports of parallel congresses in some state chapters of the party. As a member of Board of Trustees of APC, don’t you think this portends danger for the party?
I have counted about 21 states where we had parallel congresses. My number may not be sacrosanct, but I counted 21 states.
And I asked myself: How many states does APC control? You can imagine that. I have had the opportunity of chairing the PDP and the impression people have is that the party lacked internal democracy. As bad as people thought it was then, we never had 21 states where we had parallel congresses. As a matter of fact, there are three traditional parallel congresses or election areas when we were in PDP and we were always prepared for them. So, for the party in government that controls 24 states to have 21 states where we have parallel congress, even in the states where we don’t control, there were parallel congresses. In Enugu State, we had parallel congress there and it was even violent. That takes me back to the warning I sounded in 2016. In Rivers State, we don’t control government there; you see the violence that is going on about parallel congresses. It is left to the party to decide what to do. But if you asked me as an individual, it is a dangerous trend and I think the earlier the party gets its act together, the better for APC.
I tried also to look at who are the people holding these parallel congresses and I discovered that they have one thing or the other to do with government. If you don’t have ministers organising parallel congress, it is an official of government. What does that mean? They want to crash the roof of their own house on their heads. Then coming to Kwara State, which I can tell you I know most. I tried to get information about some people who went and gathered themselves to say that they were holding a parallel congress or something, and I discovered that they are brothers who felt they are aggrieved, and they thought the only way to lay their complaints is to do what they did. We are looking forward to what will happen. Like I said, it is history repeating itself. We have had this kind of thing several years ago, but when the night comes, the bird shall go home to roost. When we were about leaving the congress site on Saturday, some people came up with a song which we all know. That is ‘if I am the one who is heavy or you are the one who is heavier on ground, let’s meet at the voting arena.’
We crossed our legs and we are looking on the day of the elections. Because we believe that you cannot be a member of the family where you have benefited so much, where your foundation or what you say you are today was built and you want to destroy that place. It is like the traditional biting the finger that fed you. It doesn’t pay; it is a law of Karma. What goes around will come around. We are watching. As far as we are concerned, it is left to the party to take a decision. That they have taken a decision with us is very satisfactory. Because the team that came to supervise the election and even the INEC team were at the right place. And the right place is where we were, where my leader was, where I was and where the majority of Kwarans were. For us, we are not aware of any parallel congress.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his interest for 2019 and your group has resurrected again. What would be the implication for him?
Those of us in APC are desirous that he comes back, hence that letter we wrote. If you look at the content of the letter, what we are saying is that for us to win big, we must sit down, so that we review and revisit all the agreements that we reached with ourselves before we formed the APC. We were only reminding the party. So, those of us in the APC are desirous that Buhari comes back, are desirous that our party wins the presidential election and the only way to do it is to ensure that everybody is carried along. And those of us who felt aggrieved, this is the right time for us to complain, so that we do not carry it to election period. It is not as if we are rebelling. But let me warn that every politician has aspiration and every politician will go to where his aspiration will be fulfilled. That is the warning. If APC is desirous of meeting aspirations of every group that comes to APC, all well and good. If not, people will find where their aspiration will be fulfilled. This is the time to talk to each other, politicians across the country indifferent of political lineage, we are talking to ourselves. We can only wish APC good luck.
Looking at your experience as a former chairman of PDP and nPDP, what do you think is the fault of the APC that caused the division in the party?
If I am chairman of APC, I will listen to my followers. If I am the chairman of APC, I will carry everybody along. If I am the chairman of APC, I will rule by the constitution of the party. If I am the chairman of APC, I will say the fact and damn the consequences, no matter whose ox is gored. If I am the chairman of APC and applied a rule and people are not pleased with it, I will resign. But, if it is the minority that is not pleased with what I’m doing, then I’m doing something good and I will continue. I will make sure that the rule of law takes its stand.
When I was the PDP chairman after my transition from the position of secretary, I knew the work we have been doing as secretary to instill internal democracy and discipline into the party, and the discipline was at the peak by the time I left the chairmanship. The record is there. And it is unfortunate that immediately my team left, the PDP failed to find its feet. It is because I was applying those virtues I just enumerated. I was listening to the people; I was taking advice from the right quarters. I was not looking at the basis to say you are the leader or even the president, because the constitution gives me the mandate to manage the party. And if the president thinks that he is more than the party, I will call his bluff because the party is the one that made him the President. Without that platform, he can’t get there.
May be, those are the things the leadership of APC could not do and that is why they found themselves where we find ourselves today. Whatever you are doing, you must be honest to yourself and to the people that you are interacting with. I always tell you, the moment I’m appointed into any position; that is the day I will start preparing the day I will leave. So, I do not fear anybody whether you will remove me or not. Like I said in 2016, the courage, honest of purpose, direction and rule of law were the things that were not properly observed.
What if they are unable to meet your aspiration?
I don’t pre-empt people, and seeing the party is one of among other strategies that we have. If the party does not satisfy us, we will go to other people to tell them to appeal to the party. If those other people cannot help us, we still have other people to go to. You remember I said, history is repeating itself. We went round in the then PDP before we finally got out of it. We spent almost four months going from leaders to leaders, appealing to them, we don’t want to this party. We still have other strategies but I’m not obliged to tell you those strategies.
The Senate and Inspector General of Police have been in the news in recent times over snubbing of summons and the latest is on the suspected cultists, who were transfer to from Ilorin to Abuja. What is your reaction to this development?
It is part of what we have been discussing. It is lack of respect for due process, rule of law, absolute disdain for peace and order and flagrant disobedience to highest authority in Nigeria. What do I mean by that? If people can disobey the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, what other authority is there in the constitution, I don’t know. To me, invitation to Inspector General of Police by the Senate is in order. It is contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I’m happy that senior members of bar are not keeping quiet at all. They said the invitation is in accordance with the law. So, why does somebody who is supposed to ensure that the laws of the land are carried out is now the number one person disobeying the law and the executive feels okay with that.
Something that got some us of worried sometimes ago even before now was the audacity of the IGP to disobey the person that appointed him. The President was in Benue to empathise with the people and he openly told all of us that IGP flagrantly disobeyed him. As if that was a thing of pride even for the President, we all laughed. It was the most serious thing that I have ever witnessed. To me, that is arrant disobedience to the rule of law, and if things had degenerated to that level, that is anarchy and today, we believe that we cannot get out of the country and say we are Nigerians.
With this action that is being demonstrated, it is not Senator Bukola Saraki that is being rubbished, it is the system that is being denigrated. Once the system is weakened, then why are we saying we are fighting corruption? This is the highest point of corruption. When you run a government without respect for rule of law, it is highest point of corruption. As a matter of fact, it is an unspeakable action coming from the quarters that is not expected. And I appeal to government to correct itself with immediate effect, otherwise anarchy has already entered our corridor and it is knocking at our door. May God forbid it.
35 parties participating in guber poll – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that 35 political parties have filed papers to contest the July 14 Ekiti State governorship election.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this yesterday when he played host to a delegation of the ECOWAS Female Parliament Association (ECOFEPA).
According to him, although the time for the submission of names of candidates has elapsed, participating political parties still have time for substitution if they wish.
He also used the opportunity to deny the insinuation that accredited observer groups that will monitor the election were sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said: “As far as Ekiti election is concerned, we have not accredited observers for the Ekiti election. There is a procedure and it is known. It is even on our website, the guidelines for elections observation.
“We have received quite a number of applications, even yesterday the applications kept coming in, but we have not accredited any group for election observation in Ekiti and Osun. Very soon we will do this and as usual we will make it known to public.”
He added that permanent voter’s cards (PVCs) for people who registered in 2017 and since January this year are ready for collection by registrants in Ekiti and Osun states. “We are mopping up for those who registered at ward level during the devolved CVR,” he said.
The 1st Vice President of the ECOWAS Female Parliament Association (ECOFEPA), Hon. Aissata Daffe, decried the low level of women participation in politics, especially in the sub-region.
She noted that women constitute over 52 per cent of the Nigeria’s population, but regretted that only six per cent were in decision making levels, whereas Senegal has 42 per cent representation.
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