Dr. Eddy Olafeso, until recently the National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is one of the aspirants seeking to fly the party’s flag in the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State. He speaks in this interview on his ambition and vision for the state. ONYEKACHI EZE reports
Ondo State was a stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the wrangling that rocked the party during the 2016 governorship election. Is the party now speaking with one voice?
We have worked so hard in the last four years and we have done everything possible to build the party from one that cannot win an election to one that can win elections. Remember that in the 2019 general election, we won two seats in the Senate, three seats in the House of Representatives and two state Assembly seats. We also won the presidential election in the state, so we are ready.
Besides, there were certain things the party did not do well in the past; the issue of unwritten law about zoning. In Ondo State, it is palpable, it is alive, when you don’t zone, people will zone for you. What happened in the 2016 election was not because we were not popular, I think the leadership at that time ran against the current by ensuring that each of the district were given the opportunity to produce governor. Of the three senatorial districts, the North is doing its 12th year; the Central through Olusegun Mimiko did eight years and the South where we hail from, did four years through Dr. Olusegun Agagu.
So, that lopsidedness and not listening to the electorate cost us heavily. That is why we are asking the party at this moment to please ensure that it does everything to listen to the people. I think what is far more important is that people’s power is far more important than any other power. For us, we are strong, we are capable and I can be trusted because I have been with the party at the National Working Committee doing congresses everywhere. The ability to do free, fair and acceptable congresses is what will unite us immediately after the primary and we will continue in our journey of producing the next governor for Ondo State. I am very confident and I can assure you that we are going to win the governorship election by the grace of God.
Why should PDP delegates settle for you instead of the other governorship aspirants?
I have been in this party since 1998. I am committed to this party and have worked so hard. Even when the party was down, I remained, I have never wavered for once and I have worked with the best that administered the states. Besides being the secretary of this party, I have worked in various capacities helping to develop the party. The advantage we have today is that our integrity, honour and humility will all come to pass when we are doing things. I know fully well that such is exactly what the people are looking at. We have created a new beginning for our economic pursuit.
The tragedy is that Ondo State is too blessed; all the resources you can ever imagine in this country are all there, but then why have we come this far and this poor? The reason is about leadership, to be creative, to be innovative to be able to develop the economy, so that it can serve the people better. From the southern senatorial district to the central senatorial district and northern senatorial district, we have all it takes to actually be rich. It is tragic that we are still a state waiting for federal allocation when we should actually be helping the Federal Government in its own deficit.
So, I believe that having worked in so many capacities in the state, at no time did I betray their confidence, made promises that I have not delivered. I know fully well that they will have confidence in me and that they will do better in terms of voting for me than all the other aspirants. In terms of maturity and longevity, I think that they will have confidence that I will do the best for our state.
Will you accept to step down if the aspirants root for a consensus candidate?’
On what basis will I want to step down for another aspirant? In the first instance, we are going into the primaries. It is the decision of the delegates to pick who they want. If I am not their choice, then I can understand. I just bought the form. I know that you are aware that the cost of the form is N21 million and I didn’t borrow it from anybody. So, why do you think that having come this far, and the quality of people surrounding me, that I am going to step down for someone?
We reasoned out very well before we set out on this matter; that it was time we change the leadership of governance in Ondo State and bring somebody with capacity, with intellectual gift, somebody with the background of the private sector to drive the public sector with a view of delivering dividends of democracy to our people. It is a long walk and the desire is encompassing that I believe that in the next four years, we will witness tremendous growth in Ondo State. We are not stepping down for anybody.
Who are you godfathers and sponsors?
I have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That is sufficient for me.
Many aspirants have picked forms; is it not better that all of you come together and agree on a consensus candidate; put resources together to confront the incumbent governor?
Given my track record and the number of times I have actually ran for elections in this party and lost, I can tell you that I am a team player. That we are competing doesn’t tear the party apart. To me, I celebrate the fact that this party is worth something and everybody is coming to say that I am picking form. Let’s leave the people to make their own choices and if you are not their choice, be reasonable enough to step aside for another time and may be continue to preach your own gospel until they understand what you are saying.
For us, it is an opportunity to tell the world that PDP is popular in our state. As the highest ranking party officer in the state, I speak with everyone of them, I encourage them for all the of us to be united. But can you kill the desire of an individual, who wants to become something? No! They want to become governor and we must encourage them too. That’s why I encourage them, try and let’s see what happens. Even if we double this number, it is not enough reason why we should not be united immediately after the primary if it is free and fair and say that this is the route we are going. I guarantee you, this party is better for it.
Besides, there are too many responsibilities the party is picking up here, which is the challenge we face in terms of taking care of our people, so the more people show interest, the better for all of us. So, entertain no fear, this party will win in Ondo state I guarantee you that.
What is your plan for the huge deposit of bitumen in Ondo State?
What you can only do with bitumen is to ensure that it is part of your infrastructure development for roads. The environmental impact of the exploration of bitumen is so severe, that is why it has not been money for anybody. I cannot sit here and begin to lie to my people when I know that a single slug of bitumen, when it interacts with the environment takes 50 years to cure. The environmental impact is massive. Our desire is to turn the bitumen into road construction material, which is possible by the time you mix it with other things. We are looking at that because we are going to massively develop our road infrastructure to accommodate what we intended to do in the southern senatorial district. I am an environmentalist. There is no way I will leave a diseased earth for children yet unborn.
Do you have the financial war chest to go into this battle?
There is no financial war chest more than the people; the people who are going to vote for you and the people who you are going to serve are those going to ensure that resources are made available. If with the coronavirus pandemic, we can pay N21 million, then we can equally risk a couple of billions to make sure that we take government to the people. The beauty of it is that we have a track record of integrity and honour, so a lot of people will invest in you when they know that you are someone who says what he means and mean what he says.
You too have a role to play; you must begin to engage with the people to ensure that we minimize the role of money in politics. I lived for 20 years in America, when people come out for elections, it is individuals that contribute money for the candidate they believe in and not the candidate giving money to those that are going to vote.