Hon. Rasheed Elegbeleye is the Minority Leader of the Ondo State House of Assembly. In this interview with Babatope Okeowo, he speaks on the crisis rocking the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the prospect of the party in future elections, among other issues
Are you aware of your suspension by the Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
I have not received any letter from the State Working Committee of PDP that I have been suspended. I only read about it the social media.
By the time the information came out, many people were doubting it as they asked how can I be suspended alongside the former State Chairman, former State Secretary, former Publicity Secretary and former member of the National Assembly?
Five of us went to pay solidarity visit to the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, over his support to our son, Chief Eddy Olafeso, who wants to become the National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the party.
It was after that meeting in Lagos that we heard that we have been suspended. They claimed to have suspended us basically because of the meeting. They only used the term anti-party as an allegation and which was out of it.
Was there any time the leadership of the party queried you over anti-party activity?
I am a one of the founding members of PDP. Since 1998 that I joined PDP I have never for once worked against the party.
I may support a candidate during the primary but during the general election, I participated fully. Before carrying out their purported suspension, they never contacted my ward or local government. That is the reason my local government (Akoko North East) is protesting against the purported suspension.
We only heard that we have been suspended. I know the reason they are doing all these. Those who worked against the party in 2019 believe that what they did back then against me will make me to reciprocate such during the 2020 governorship election. Are you alleging that leaders of the party worked against the candidates of the party in 2019 elections?
Yes, they worked against the National Assembly candidates; both House of Representatives and Senate as well as House of Assembly candidates. They even invited an incumbent APC senator who was a candidate then to their meeting. We reported the development to the same state secretariat.
The current State Chairman was the Deputy Chairman then. I made a report to Hon. Clement Faboyede, who was the party’s chairman about the happenings in my local government.
The chairman promised then to give them the marching order but the reverse was the case. But I thank God and the people of Akoko North East for giving me victory at the polls.
I did not win because I am a PDP member, I won because of the love my people have for me. Men, women, both young and old as well as monarchs and chiefs all worked for me. That was why I dedicated my victory to the people of Akoko North East, particularly the people of Ikare-Akoko.
What is your the next line of action following the suspension?
I don’t need to take any action because the zonal executive of the party in the South-West has told the state executive of the party that the purported suspension is illegal because they did not follow the due process.
Also, section 59(3) of the PDP constitution, states that no organ of the party in the state has the right to suspend any legislator. Maybe they did not even read the constitution before making the move.
Only the National Working Committee of the party has such right. I am the Minority Leader of the Ondo State House of Assembly. How can they suspend me without querying me, without inviting me or any letter from my ward, local government or my senatorial district (Ondo North)? They just woke up and said they have suspended me; for what?
What is the way out of the crisis rocking Ondo PDP?
The way forward is that the leaders of the party should go and plan how PDP in Ondo State will not continue to be in opposition. Most of them contributed to the failure of the party. Since 2009, we have been in one place without moving forward. You only see those leaders during the primaries but during the main elections, they will be nowhere to be found.
They should allow the new generation to take over the party structure and make the party more viable. Just like what the All Progressives Congress (APC) did. We always have bad plans before election. For instance, during the last governorship election, after Akeredolu emerged as the governorship candidate of APC, he visited all the aspirants and leaders of his party.
And all of them came together. But in our own party, the reverse was the case. They said I am closer to Agboola Ajayi. I supported him during the primary. Even when he was to be impeached by my colleagues, I kicked against it. I will be the last person to join the multitude to do evil.
Even if it is Akeredolu, I will never sign against him. I did not go to the House of Assembly for impeachment. I went there to get dividends of democracy for the people of Akoko North East.
What do you think should be done to make PDP a winning party now that the next general election is around the corner?
The leaders must put their house in order, they should put sentiments apart, godfatherism within the party should be laid to rest. It’s only in Ondo State that you will see an 80-year-old man putting himself forward as a delegate. You can never see those things in other states. It is only in Ondo State that we will be parading a former adviser in the era of Adekunle Ajasin as a leader today.
Those who are supposed to advise the youth will want to take the role and position of youths. Nobody will take that. As at today, there is no youth structure in PDP. I was a former local government youth leader, a former state youth leader. This is not the same PDP we used to know.
When Olusegun Agagu was alive, we used to mobilize from unit to the state level. Those who are leading PDP now in Ondo State know nothing about the party but they have suddenly turned themselves to thin gods.
The state chairman, Fatai Adams, is from my federal constituency; I was part of the people who received him into the party, likewise many people who are calling themselves leaders today. Today you cannot talk.
They will be ordering the state chairman to do this and that. He was not that kind of person before. They should try and guide him well. It is not compulsory to be in PDP but I will not leave PDP for anybody. Nobody can force me out of this party. PDP has a future. What has APC done since 2015 other than creating problems for this country?
Do you see any future in the ongoing suit filed the PDP at the election petition tribunal over the last governorship election?
I do not have much belief in the Nigerian judiciary, particularly when it comes to a tribunal like this. Since 2015, I have never seen a tribunal nullify any governorship election in Nigeria, even in Kogi State that a helicopter was used to snatch ballot boxes. I pray Ondo State will be the number one but I don’t have much confidence in them.
Those who had good cases lost due to issues of technicalities. I am not saying we do not have a case but I don’t have belief in state tribunal. Look at Kano and that of Kogi states, should we call that free and fair election? But they were not nullified.
At the end of the day, you will just hear that someone did not prove his case beyond reasonable doubt. I pray that of Eyitayo Jegede should not turn out that way. I am supporting PDP not because of anybody but because it is my party.
Given the crisis rocking your party, are you expecting more people to leave the party?
How can I expect more people to leave the party that I am one of its founders. People are ready to join PDP. PDP is the hope of Nigeria in 2023. If there is election today, PDP will win in Ebonyi State.
In Ondo State today, those in PDP are more than those in APC but APC knows how to organize itself when election comes, while the reverse is the case in PDP as they will scatter themselves during elections.
In 2015, we had 11 governors, today we have 15 governors. When elections come in 2023, how will APC defeat PDP? So, in the months ahead, more people will join PDP. We are expecting Agboola Ajayi to come back to PDP and I believe he will come back because he has good followers. If we can work and synergize together, victory will be certain.
Are you saying that members of the state executive of the PDP are not doing enough to woo new members into the party?
If they are doing something; why the suspension this time around? Someone wants to become the National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the party and you are giving Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, support because he supported Jegede during the 2020 primary and governorship election. Do we now say because of that we should leave what is meant for Ondo for Oyo?
I know the history of this party. Chief Bode George who was the former Military Administrator of Ondo State was a former South-West Chairman and later became the Deputy National Chairman. He served for almost eight years.
In Oyo State, Shuaibu Oyedokun served as the South-West Chairman and Deputy National Chairman. Also Chief Adelami served as the South-West chairman from the same Oyo State. In Osun State, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipupo served. In Ekiti State, it was the court that late Senator Buruji Kashamu used against them to have the South-West chairman. This is the first time for Ondo State.
Today, Ekiti State has the National Treasurer. Ogun State has Deputy National Chairman, Oyo State have its own national executive as well as Lagos State. They are zoning National Organizing Secretary to us in Ondo State in order to take South-West National Chairman to Oyo State.
The only governor we have is from Oyo State and they want to give Oyo State the South-West National Chairman. They don’t know the meaning of working committee because some of them are from Labour Party. That is why they don’t even know what PDP is.
They are from the Labour Party because Labour Party was a one-man show. It is different from PDP. PDP is an organized party from the ward to the national level. If PDP is not an organized party, what the State Working Committee did against us would have been the end for the party.