Ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) convention in February, the senator representing Ondo South in the National Assembly, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo asserts the crisis rocking the PDP in the South -West would soon be a thing of the past. In this interview with ADEWALE MOMOH, he also examines why Barrister Eyitayo Jegede lost the last governorship election in Ondo State and how effective utilisation of security vote lead lead to transformation of the country
In the last few months, you’ve not Moghalu been active in the Senate. What’s the problem?
I became a senator on the 12th of June, 2019. Three months later I had an accident. The accident was a very bad one. Before the accident, about five committees were setup in the Senate and I was a member of the four committees. I was much on ground and very committed. But the accident threw me back.
Five of us were in the vehicle. The person who sat beside me died. It was a very bad one. And since that time, I’ve not been able to walk on my feet. I’m still on crutches. For one year, I was inactive, but I was trying to go to the Senate. When I go to the Senate, I’ll not talk.
I’ll just be looking at everybody, but with time, my health improved and I started participating in activities. Now, I’m back to myself because the accident affected my brain and my right leg.
My brain is 100 per cent okay now and the left is 70 per cent better. So, I’m getting there gradually. But in the last six months, I have been very active.
During your period of inactivity, didn’t you miss certain things?
For instance, during that period I was not made a member of any committee because I was not active. I belong to some House Committees, about seven House Committees, but I could not attend any committee meeting. I’m a member of the House Committee on Niger Delta.
For about six, seven months, I could not attend their meeting as well as the meeting of the House Committee on Sustainable Development Goals while I’m also a member. But in the last six months, I’ve been attending all the committee meetings. So, I’m back to normal now.
In recent times, your party, the PDP has been engulfed in crisis here and there, with factions in some states within the South-West. Some are for Governor Seyi Makinde while others are for former governor Ayodele Fayose. Where do you belong?
I don’t belong to anywhere. I belong to PDP. But the issue is this. South -West wants to hold an election. And in Ondo State where I come from, some people are showing interest in the National Vice-Chairmanship position. The candidate in my state is Dr. Eddy Olafeso who is not only from my senatorial district, but an ebullient and cerebral former holder of that office. So I’m supporting him for that office. And if election is taking place, definitely we’ll galvanise people to vote for him. And Fayose is supporting Dr. Olafeso too. That is why you see some people associating with Fayose. I led a team of some leaders to thank him for supporting a candidate from my senatorial district. It doesn’t mean that I belong to any faction. I don’t belong to any faction, and I don’t see any faction at all. We are just working towards an election. And when election is taking place, there will be groups. People will be jumping from group A to B, as well as aligning. In as much as Dr. Olafeso is contesting and he’s from my senatorial district and Fayose is giving him support, definitely Fayose is supporting me. So, it is left for us to work together. And I believe at a point in time, Fayose and Makinde will sit down together and allow everybody to go for a free and fair election. After the free and fair election, all of us will move on together because we are Yorubas, so we cannot afford to fight one another.
Why are you supporting Dr. Olafeso for the position against the party Exco in the state?
Let me tell you one thing, that election we did in PDP had split the party. The party executives are for the governorship candidate of the party, Barr. Jegede.
And Jegede and Eddy Olafeso contested the primaries and the grudges are still there. I’ve to hold on to my own side which is Ondo South. I’m supporting Eddy Olafeso because he is from Ondo South.
If Olafeso is from the north, I’ll not support him. I’m the number one PDP public office holder from Ond South and I’m putting everything in it to ensure that Olafeso wins in February.
Don’t you think that if the rivalry between Makinde and Fayose continues, the party will be affected?
There is no political rivalry between the two. When Fayose clocked 60 years, Makinke really celebrated him. All that is going on is just politics. After the coming convention in February, you’ll see that they will embrace each other.
So, who is the leader of the party in the South -West?
It’s Makinde because he is the sitting governor.
Nobody is fighting over that. So why don’t allow him to have is way?
Makinde cannot have his way unilaterally. I’m a senator. We have five senators from the party in the South- West. He should have called us to a roundtable. We’re human beings. I’m even older than him. I’m 61. I’ve been to four universities in my life time.
He has not studied the way I studied. After the election, that type of thing will stop because there will be a sitting chairman in charge of the six states, so he’ll be able to manage it well. When Eddy Olafeso was the National Vice Chairman, there was no crisis in any of the states. It was very smooth.
With a divided house, don’t you think Ondo State will lose that Vice Chairmanship seat?
Many people are playing to the gallery. Eighty per cent of people will give Eddy Olafeso the votes. We have six states and anybody that can win four states has won. All the votes in Ondo South and Ondo North are for Eddy. Eddy invited all the 18 Chairmen, 16 came. What else do you want? The election will say it all.
But the PDP in Ondo State viewed your visit to Fayose as anti-party and some members of the party who went to Lagos with you were suspended by the party…
Yes, the suspension has been lifted. Those people that are saying that are illiterates. They are political illiterates because Fayose is a member of PDP. He is not a member of APC. So, if PDP members moved from their homes to thank a fellow PDP member how did that constitute an anti-party activity? When they were suspending others, why didn’t they suspend me because I led the team to Fayose?
They should have taken that courage and suspend me. They would have seen the implication of suspending a senator. They can’t. They are crazy. And the suspension of the people has been quashed because they knew that it doesn’t make sense. And the unfortunate thing is this, we had an opportunity to have a very good election in this state and we threw it away.
We threw it to the dustbin. The person who won our primaries did not embrace everybody. He embraced only his group that won him the primaries. The governor of Edo State, when he won his primaries, embraced the two senators in his party. Jegede did not embrace us, the two senators in his state.
He saw us as nothing and it cost him his election. If I’m defending 82,000 votes and you just won your primaries, you should be able to hold on to me so that you can dwell on that 82,000 but if you believe that, that 82,000 votes has no meaning, then the consequence is for you to lose.
Are you saying that factor alone was responsible for the loss of PDP in that election?
We lost that election because our candidate did not embrace everybody. If he had embraced everybody, all of us would have worked together as a team. We would have gotten a strategy of how to win an election. Look at APC.
The party raised money and they gave money out during the election. If we had worked together, we would have looked for money too. When you fold your arms and you don’t spend money, you’ll lose the election. Even ordinary primary election, you see aspirants running up and down, begging people for money. That is the politics of Nigeria.
Should that be the case?
It is wrong. The fault is the fault of the electorate. The electorate want money and it will continue until the electorate would come back to their senses to say no more politics in Nigeria. Right now there is high level of poverty in Nigeria. When you bring out N5, people will be jumping because of the little money. But if the electorate can shun money and say ‘look we don’t want money, go and prove yourself and what do you have to offer,’ things will get better. But with the present Nigeria, I don’t think we have gotten to that stage.
How do we orientate Nigerians to do the normal thing?
The way forward is this, let’s first of all sort out our internal security. We don’t have police in Nigeria. I can say it loud and clear that we don’t have police. When the internal security is properly arranged, when an average person sees Nigeria Police as functioning, it will bring sanity to the body and the system.
When you know that police will arrest you if you buy votes, you won’t do it, it will deter you from such election crime.
It is the responsibility of the police to bring sanity to our system. Look at this EndSARS, it sent a signal to Nigerians that where is our police. In Lagos State, 26 police stations were burnt. How many military barracks were burnt? None. Not a single military barracks was burnt.
But 26 police formations were burnt in Lagos. Some officers were killed. It’s because our policies system is bad. It needs total reorganisation. That is the first thing that can move Nigeria forward. Not until we sort out Nigeria police, we are just wasting our time.
Do you think the police system can be sanitised without sanitising the politicians because the politicians have said to be using the police to their advantage?
The police should wake up and should not allow politicians to use them. Look at the British Police in England, they are independent and they are doing their job. If a politician is found culpable in any act, they’ll arrest the politician and take him to court. That is the angle we should be looking at things. Police should get themselves together and rise above politicians. Don’t see yourself as political tool and it’s achievable. It’s achievable this way. If we are having election in 2023, many people will contest.
If Nigerians can open their eyes and look for a good presidential candidate that has what it takes to move Nigeria forward. It is an insult that Muhammadu Buhari has become our president and had been a governor in the 70s that had been a minister more than 40 years ago is now managing Nigeria. It shows that we have not developed. When there is crisis, Buhari doesn’t do anything. Even I as a senator, I’m very disturbed.
During the EndSARS protest, I asked some APC senators to talk to President Buhari because I was scared that if the crisis was not managed well, there could be a coup in Nigeria. Even when he talked, what did he say?
He said nothing. So, it’s the leadership. If we have good President, you’ll just see that things will be changing, everybody will sit tight, there will be discipline and people would shun unnecessary wealth. All these security votes should be scrapped. For instance, the security vote of a governor is about N700 million. You and I know that N500 million every month can set up an industry in every state. So, all those conduit pipes should be blocked.
There was a time the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi accused the Governor that the money he’s making every month is about N1 billion. That N1 billion can set up a good biscuit factory in my home town. It will set up a good manufacturing company. Look at Araromi Obu.
Araromi Obu is producing raw rubber and they are taking that raw rubber to Ghana to produce tyres. Why can’t they bring those raw rubbers to Akure here and set up a rubber factory in Akure. We are just deceiving ourselves.
Still talking about money politics, can someone who doesn’t have money be a President or governor of Nigeria?
Just look at my situation. I contested with two other heavyweight politicians. I had the least money. My predecessor contested with me and a candidate from AA that was backed by the Ondo State government contested with me. I have no godfather. It was God that put me there. And the people in Ondo South supported me. They saw me going round talking and they were listening to me. They met other candidates and they saw that they are just nonsense. Apart from that, the presidential system of government has failed, because you want to be the president, you have to move round the 36 states. It’s expensive. But if it’s parliamentary system of government, you just work with your local government and if your party has the highest number of parliament members, they will form government. It’ll be easy. We’re not America. I as a senator, if they ask that me that what is the best option, parliamentary is better than presidential For instance, if it was parliamentary system, Buhari can never be our President because the party would have identify a good material within that locality. Our politics will become local. When our politics becomes local, we’ll identify good materials and all these materials will merge together and they will form government. But in presidential system of government, a moron will carry money from Kastina to Ondo State to come and campaign and everybody will be rushing after money and will look like a fool. Where do we go from here because people have been calling for constitutional review and restructuring but it seems the body language of others doesn’t support it? At the Senate, you’ve to look at your party. APC has the majority than PDP. So, no matter the number of votes we hold, they will defeat us. I believe in one thing, God has a way of doing things. It will just be like a movie when things will change in this country. Things will change in this country and the way it going to change will surprise everyone.
What is giving you that assurance?
What is giving me that assurance is that the youths are waking up. The youths used to be asleep, but now they are becoming conscious. The consciousness is graduating. When it gets to a point, it will spark and everybody will be conscious. The youths are talking. They should not be tired.
Is it about youths taking up leadership positions or getting credible leaders?
It is not about youth becoming president that I’m talking about but they will be part of the process. Youth cannot be the president of this country that cannot do well. The sensitization has begun. There are things that not even exposed to us in this country that people don’t even talk about.
There is imbalance in this country. If you look at the budget, 70 per cent of the budget is spent on the North and 30 per cent in the South. If you look out the roads in the North and the roads in the South-West, we are in the jungle here. The northerners are wiser than us because their senators are doing second, third and fourth term. In the South-West when you do one term they will uproot you and ensure you don’t get a second term.
For many years now, some parts of Ondo South where you are representing have been without electricity. What have you made to rectify this?
As soon as I won my election, I went to the power plant at Omotosho and I held a meeting with them there was need to supply electricity to the axis and they agreed. And they started working on it.
There is a substation in Erinje which will take care of four local governments of Okitipupa, Irele, Ilaje and Ese-Odo. Progress has been made. But my accident didn’t allow me to move around that period, but the NDDC played a very meaningful role. They are the one building the substation that will serve that area. I’m sure that before the end of this year. Electricity will be everywhere in Ondo South.
We learnt some time ago that PDP senators from Ondo State were under pressure to join the APC. How true is this?
Well, I don’t know whether it’s true or false, but nobody has pressurized me because I defeated APC at the last election. They were even trying to steal my mandate by organising a rerun. And I defeated APC with over 28,000 votes. And it is very meaningful to me, so I cannot throw it away and go to another party. Like I always tell people, I’m a PDP person and I’ll remain in PDP. No matter the influence they are throwing here and there, I cannot leave PDP which is my party, so I’m committed to my party.
Recently, Senator Rochas Okorocha opined that people should come together to form another party that will be a third force against the APC and the PDP. Do you share this view as well?
Senator Okorocha is in APC, I’m in PDP. He has his own opinion. But what I know is this. There are two major parties – PDP and APC. It’s not the party that matters; it’s the responsibility of the masses to choose responsible materials.
If Nigerians can wake up now and look at quality materials that can hold offices as good senators, as good members of the House of Representatives, as good members in the House of Assembly, that will turn Nigeria around, than party. It’s beyond party; it’s the quality of people. For instance, look at my senatorial district, we have three House of Representatives members, and they have not done a single empowerment.
What they are doing is that they are just giving out money. They have their own style. They are just doing cash and carry. But if they are committed to their people, the money they gave them for these types of facilities, they would have used it properly. So, it’s not a matter of party. It’s the matter of quality of persons involved