Dr. Olusegun Osinkolu was the Chairman, Buhari/ Osinbajo Campaign Council in Ekiti State during the 2019 presidential poll. In this interview with ADEWUMI ADEMIJU, he speaks on the 2022 governorship election in the state, the controversy over zoning and the chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues. Excerpts:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced June 18, 2022 as the date for the Ekiti governorship election. What is your advice to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state?
As a committed party man and someone who has laboured hard to keep the APC moving even in most trying times, it has always been my wish and prayers that the APC rules Ekiti beyond 2022. So, I pray that we win the election. My advice would be that the party should maintain unity among all members. The leadership of our party must start preparing now because it is just a year away and various activities will be undertaken between now and that time. There will be party primary election in the state. There will be ward, local government and state congresses as well as the national convention. Don’t forget that congresses always generate a lot of crises, so our party must brace up to be able to nip any crisis that emanates from those political activities in the bud for our party to stand united. I am saying this because of experiences of the past. In 2014, the party was seriously divided and rather than doing something to quickly mend fences among contending forces, the then State Working Committee was just looking. They did nothing and the worst mistake a party can make in any election is to underrate people. That was what we did in 2014 and we lost that election. It wasn’t because Governor Kayode Fayemi didn’t do well that made us lost that election, it was because of division and we need to guard against that this time around. We must be united at all cost because the PDP is parading high calibre politicians in the race and we need to do something that will checkmate their popularity and which can make them gain advantage over us.
How do you foresee the chances of your party in the governorship battle considering the hard economic situation Nigerians are currently experiencing?
I foresee a landslide victory for my party in Ekiti because we have been able to demonstrate that we have the capacity to deliver. I quite understand the fact that the economy is not doing well as expected, but in Ekiti, Governor Fayemi has tried his best for the people in terms of human capital development and infrastructure. There is one clear issue here; Ekiti is majorly a civil service state, our economy rests on the civil service and we are happy that Governor Fayemi’s administration has been paying salaries and pension unlike between 2014 and 2018, when they were haphazardly paid.
Before Governor Fayemi came on board, civil servants was owed four months arrears of salaries, the local government and primary school teachers were owed seven months, pensioners were owed eight months and several months of subventions were not released to some higher institutions, which nearly turned our civil servants to beggars. But the governor has changed the bad history to a good one by paying up-to-date. The civil servants are like ambassadors of every home in Ekiti and no government will owe them salary and expect victory. This accounted for why Governor Ayodele Fayose’s succession battle failed in 2018. The civil servants constitute a major bloc of our electoral system that you can’t joke with. But above all, our party must do the right thing and part of which must be that it should ensure cohesion, unity and oneness among all interested parties and the primary must be free, fair and credible. The credibility of the 2018 primary that produced Governor Fayemi helped us in the July 14, 2018 governorship election and I know that our party acknowledged this.
What of the recent suspension of some members in Oye and Ado local government areas over their membership of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju Bola (SWAGA), a group pushing for the emergence of the former governor of Lagos State as APC’s presidential candidate for the 2023 election?
Don’t you foresee any danger in that action? Well, as much as I believe that the party is supreme and we must obey its orders, the party shouldn’t also overreach itself. It should respect the rights of all citizens to float any political organisation as long as it doesn’t negate the belief and ideals of the party. To the best of my knowledge, SWAGA is a political group founded by those canvassing support for the rumoured presidential ambition of the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is one of the founding fathers of APC. So, I appeal to our leaders to tread softly on this SWAGA issue. The person they are working for is a member of APC, not PDP. That is the angle I want them to look at it. Again, if truly that Governor Fayemi is interested in the presidential race, some of us will still support him. Don’t also forget that there would be some people that will support Governor Fayemi in Lagos State. So, how are we going to feel in Ekiti if those people are being suspended? The issue of presidency is a national thing, it is not something one can sit in Ekiti or Lagos or Kaduna and achieve. You have to expand your network across all the 36 states, so there is no way we can prevent Tinubu not to have those that will support him in Ekiti just like Governor Fayemi too will have in Lagos. These are things you have no control over as a party. I advise that we handle the issue with care, it is a needless crisis.
There have been agitations by some politicians that power should shift to Ekiti South in 2022. What is your take on that?
Let me tell you this, any society that would grow and develop must be built on justice, equality and equity. There can never be peace and progress in a place where injustice thrives. So, if we want to ensure justice, the people of the Ekiti South shouldn’t be sidelined. Don’t forget that the highly cosmopolitan Lagos, Kano, Ondo, Anambra and others believe in zoning and they are practicing it. In my humble opinion, zoning might not be written in our constitution, but it has been written in the minds of the people. And let me say this, the people are the most important in any democracy. So, those who are making such agitations are free to do so because it is the right of the people from the south to also be governor.
How do you think zoning can be achieved in Ekiti APC?
Politics is a game of number; you will have your way going by the number of constituencies you can cover on any issue. Let the politicians from that zone intensify their lobbies to other zones. They can’t get it by way of bullying the party and other politicians from other zones, but if they can reach out to their colleagues from other districts, they will get it. Don’t forget that the party will be abridging the rights of politicians if they prevent politicians from the Central and North from contesting the primary. Those who felt aggrieved can go to court and render the process a nullity. But there is nothing a political solution can’t solve. If the leaders of that zone and other stakeholders can lobby very well, I think this can also help in a way. In 1999, you saw how the leaders from the South lobbied the politicians, emirs, professionals and critical stakeholders from the North to allow the South produce the President to make up for the death of Chief MKO Abiola, who died while fighting over the annulled June 12, 1993 election and the northerners gleefully conceded and that brought about the principle of rotation now being applied at the federal level. Some states have even adopted it to ensure stability in the system. So, I believe lobbying would be a potent weapon that can help in achieving power shift in 2022 in Ekiti as in politics, nothing is impossible.
Recently, the Governor slashed the salaries of political appointees by 25 per cent. How do you assess this move?
It was a good one and I really appreciate the political office holders for this sacrifice. Don’t forget that politics and governance are about the people. They are for the service of humanity and nothing more. I consider it a right step in the right direction if it will help Governor Fayemi to pay salaries, pensions and other allowances as well as complete all the roads, water and other projects that can add value to our people and give them sense of belonging.
What do you think is the way out of rising insecurity in the country?
There are no two ways to it. We must adopt state police; that is the only way we can wriggle out of this orgy of killings. I am confounded by the kind of federalism we are operating. How can a governor that is recognised as the Chief Security Officer of a state find it difficult to control the police? This to me is absurd and forms part of the lopsidedness in Nigeria’s federation. If you see the way the police have been handling the farmers/herders’ clashes across the nation, you will feel sorry for this country. You will see barefaced nepotism in the way they are handling it. This can’t be allowed to continue. A state policing system will have the power to carry arms, spread around and ensure prosecution of offenders. When I say prosecution, I mean diligent prosecution of offenders. Most of the criminal herders that have been apprehended across the country have been released by some unscrupulous elements in the police. But a state police won’t have the opportunity of doing this because they will be monitored effectively by the governors. As we are today, how many police activities can a president or Inspector General of Police monitor? I am not a prophet of doom, but the insecurity may continue as long as we maintain the present structure. So, the police structure has to be decentralised.
Agitation for secession is gaining grounds in South-West and South-East. What does this portend for the country?
It is a serious danger that we have to confront headlong. We must not toy with anything that threatens the sovereignty of this nation. I am one of those who share that unwavering belief that we stand to gain more when we are united. Our population, economic prowess and name have earned every Nigerian respect all over the world and these justify the reason why we are called the giant of Africa. But if we disintegrate, that would erode that respect and whatever gains inherent in it. I will advise the Federal Government to open line of communication with agitators like Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. Whether we like it or not, some of their people are either backing them covertly or overtly. Let the Federal Government open talks with them and articulate whatever grievances they have. All these issues must be resolved, because we can’t continue to allow discordant tunes with the level of insecurity in the land, it will compound our problems.