Following the reactions that have continued to trail the meeting held by former Speakers of state Houses of Assembly in the South- West as regards the 2023 elections, a former Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. Victor Olabimtan, in this interview with ADEWALE MOMOH speaks on developments over the parley and other issues
The Yoruba agenda for the 2023 elections seems to be gathering momentum. Do you think that the quest for power by the Yoruba is feasible, considering the seeming unorganised nature of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the moment?
What do you mean by unorganised? There is nothing unorganised about the APC. A party that is currently creating massive awareness in preparedness for a nationwide party registration cannot be said to be disorganised. The party is undergoing serious restructuring and repositioning to meet futuristic yearnings of Nigerians. It is an aberration that a party of the APC status cannot boast of a valid members’ register. For the first time, therefore, the present National Caretaker Committee is taking the bold step of setting the standard for the incoming party executives to build on. Are you not aware that the APC national convention comes up in July this year? Can a disorganised party be doing all of these? Your question on Yoruba presidency in 2023 has been over-flogged and addressed by sincere party leaders at different fora. The president coming from the South-West in 2023 is surely feasible, without any iota of doubt. The presidency is coming to the South in 2023 and the South-West is the stronghold of the APC in the South. Naturally, therefore, we should be expected to produce the APC presidential candidate come 2023.
You were part of the team purported to have adopted Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the consensus candidate for 2023 presidential election… Did you just say adoption?
That is far from the truth. It is not correct at all. What are you people even talking about? Where, when and how did we adopt Tinubu?
Were you not at the meeting of speakers of the South-West states, convened by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa?
Yes, I was at the meeting but please get it right that the meeting was never convened by Hon. Mudashiru Obasa as you said. I attended the meeting of Conference of Former Speakers of the South-West States in Ibadan and for the record, let me emphatically reiterate that the meeting was not convened by Hon. Obasa because he is not yet a member. We were convened by our South-West Coordinator, Hon. Titi Oseni-Gomez from Ogun State to receive Obasa and his team.
Obasa and his team informed the Forum of the aspiration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and suggested that all Yoruba states should support him. Speaking for myself, I told them without mincing words that Ondo and Ekiti states are not appendages of Lagos and Ogun states.
Though the roles of Asiwaju Tinubu as a National Leader of the APC is appreciated, however the call for all Yoruba states to queue behind him is not patriotic and unhealthy for our democracy for now.
I am of firm belief that other states, especially Ondo and Ekiti also deserve and qualify to produce the next president. That Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has done much as a leader isn’t in doubt but his impacts are mostly felt in Lagos and Ogun states. He has done nothing significant for us in Ondo and Ekiti, other than the continued treatment of our states as appendages of Lagos and Ogun. If Tinubu is sincerely interested in the presidency, he should discuss with us and get the support of our governors, who are the leaders of our respective states.
But the outcome of the meeting was reported in a national daily and you were quoted to have eulogized and endorsed him… How has eulogy meant adoption or endorsement?
I have equally eulogized him just now. I said he has done much as a national leader and is appreciated. The issue of endorsement was not just an outright lie but fallacy How do you endorse or adopt someone that has not declared interest in a contest? Two things played out at the meeting. Hon. Obasa and his team informed us of the presidential ambition of Asiwaju Tinubu. Hon. Ajigbolamu from Ekiti State also informed the forum of the presidential ambition of his principal, Governor Kayode Fayemi. Could there have been an endorsement when two illustrious sons of the South-West were introduced to the forum? Are they saying we rejected Fayemi? Does that mean that you and other attendees were misrepresented? They didn’t just misrepresent us, they were mischievously deceitful.
What is the ruse about? When you see a husband shouting on top of his voice, that he’s still the husband and leader of his household, watch carefully, he is really leading nobody. You don’t have to coerce rope or blackmail anybody to claim superiority or gain relevance, if you are truly superior. I am not sure Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will be proud of the ongoing mockery they are making of his ‘campaign.’ Anyone in doubt about what truly transpired at the meeting should contact Hon. Titi Oseni-Gomez. She convened the meeting and knows what happened.
Who is your preferred candidate for 2023 presidential election?
The issue of my preferred candidate is inconsequential at the moment. We are talking about 2023 presidential election, 24 hours is too long, they say, in politics not to talk of two years. Besides, I made it succinctly clear at the meeting that according to the APC constitution, governors are the leaders of their respective states, just like the President is the national leader of the party. Therefore, as a loyal party man, I will wait for my governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is the leader of APC in my state to tell me who to support for 2023 presidential election, when the time comes. It may interest you to know that all other former speakers from Ondo and Ekiti states toed my path on this.
Are you maintaining that the Conference of Former Speakers of South-West States didn’t endorse Asiwaju Tinubu for the 2023 presidency?
That is the simple fact and truth. His endorsement was never discussed and there was no basis for that. Conference of Former Speakers is made up of seasoned politicians, not pushovers. If indeed, there was an endorsement, it won’t be Hon. Obasa that will speak for us because he is not yet a member of the Forum.
What is your position on the controversy over the eviction order by the Ondo State government for herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserve?
There is really no controversy. I will simply call it communication deficiency. Governor Akeredolu didn’t order herdsmen to leave Ondo State. He said unregistered herdsmen must leave the government forest reserve, and equally banned all underage and abnormal grazing along the streets of Ondo State.
This isn’t the first time the state will be taking such action. Similar order was issued against indigenous farmers who encroached government forest reserve for routine farming in the past.
They were made to vacate the forest reserve and heaven didn’t fall then. That was done purely for economic reason, to preserve our common heritage. Now that the forest reserve is being used for notorious criminal activities, the onus is on Governor Akeredolu as the Chief Security Officer of Ondo State to rise up to the occasion.
Therefore, I support 100 per cent the position of Mr. Governor that we must get rid of these criminals before they consume us all. Even in the Nigerian Constitution, the number one responsibility of the government is the protection of lives and property. So, if ridding Ondo state forest reserve of encroaching farmers and unregistered herdsmen is what will restore sanity and make the state safer, so be it. We must all rally round Akeredolu to ensure that the right of the people to live without fear is guaranteed. The Federal Government must support this sincere and noble course. Government forest reserves worldwide are regulated.
There is therefore nothing strange or unusual about the order given by Mr. Governor. A secure society is the desire of every citizen of the country, and we must all embrace it rather than politicising security matters.