Abiodun Akinlade, an aspirant for the Ogun West Senatorial District seat in the 2023 general election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is a former three-term member of the House of Representatives. In this interview, the Ogun State Federal Commissioner on the board of the Federal Character Commission, speaks on his ambition, the need for the senatorial district to eschew politics of money and godfatherism, and why Governor Dapo Abiodun deserves a second term. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
What informed your aspiration to represent Ogun West at the Senate after a successful three-term stint in the House of Representatives?
Firstly, the two positions are different in roles, size, influence, and operations. While in the House of Representatives, I was able to know the weaknesses and lapses of where I’m coming from in Ogun West. They lack a lot of things and that was why I was so passionate when I was in the House of Reps to go the extra mile in getting things done for my people. I left the House of Reps about seven years ago and, by the glory of God, about two people came after me and they have not been able to match the record I have set just because of my passion. I believe if I have another opportunity at the Senate, it will be a step higher than the House of Reps, although they operate on the same level when I was in the House of Reps, I covered only two local governments and I believe if I manage to get to Senate, I would have the opportunity of covering the whole Ogun West Senatorial District. I believe my impact, my knowledge and everything I have is needed to take Ogun West to the next level. I believe it is only when I get to the Senate that the general people of Ogun West can have a feel of the stuff I am made of.
Senator Olamilekan Adeola is another person vying for the Ogun West Senatorial seat; do you see yourself matching him when it comes to the primary election?
Also, when it comes to local politics, money plays a very big role; do you see yourself matching Senator Adeola financially? I don’t like talking much about him because we know ourselves in Ogun West, we know where we are coming from, and we know our background. That is why I always don’t want to respond to those questions that have to do with him because we know ourselves. On the issue of matching him, I just want to say one thing; we should move away from the money politics. We are talking about issue-based campaign. I thank God you mentioned his name, I think he is coming from Lagos and wants to come to Ogun-West, I don’t know why he wants to do that. He has been in the House of Assembly, he has been in the House of Reps, and is now a two-term member of the Senate, making it 20 years as a parliamentarian, he should come out and tell us his achievements. I like talking about people like that. With all the advantageous positions he has occupied, he should come and show us his scorecard, and his record of achievements, where he is coming from. If you believe you are the best, you must have your records. I said it openly today again, we should leave money out of this because we are not poor in Ogun West and you can’t buy anybody’s conscience in Ogun West. Your money is your money, so take your money to where you are coming from because this is an issue- based campaign. Tell us your achievements and where you are coming from. If you have the achievements and you think those achievements surpass those that are on the ground, you are welcome. Otherwise, go and spend your money in another place.
It appears that some powerful forces are behind Adeola’s migration from Lagos West to Ogun West. How do you intend to overcome these powerful people against your senatorial ambition and what is the assurance that you would be able to beat other contestants at the primary election?
In Ogun-West, I say it again, we know ourselves and my people know me and the stuff I’m made of. They are not asking me for money; they have this belief that I’m tested and trusted and what they are looking for is in me. I don’t have the backing of anybody. The backing we should be looking for today is the backing of the Almighty God and the backing of my people. They will bring their money and my people will collect their money and my people will not vote for them because they know that I have been with them from the beginning. So, I believe and trust that my people will give me that mandate to represent them.
What is your relationship with Governor Dapo Abiodun?
I’m very close to Governor Dapo Abiodun and I pity him as a governor, when you look at issues not only in Ogun-West but in all the three senatorial districts, the House of Assembly, Reps and the Senate and everybody is talking about how they believe that they have the ears and eyes of the governor. I, in particular, believe that if the governor is given the opportunity to choose, he would not look left or right, he would just choose me because he knows what I can do. I was elected into the House of Reps in 2011 under the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and I also ran for governorship with Senator Amosun in 2011 under ACN. I said this to you, I also run for governorship under APC in 2019 and I’m also the deputy DG campaign of APC to Dapo Abiodun in 2019. So, I’m the landlord of APC in Ogun-West.
Every other aspirant met me in Ogun APC as a member and chieftain. So, I cannot be afraid of my house and my leader because of some people. We have been together for a long time. I was the deputy Director-General of the Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation. And interestingly, the office, I’m occupying today in the Federal Character Commission, the Governor of Ogun State nominated me to be the Ogun State representative. For him to have given it to me tells you the kind of relationship that exists between me and the governor. We have a very good relationship and I’m also thinking and looking forward to his second term.
So, I am not scared that they can use the governor against me. The more the merrier. They are all welcome so far he or she is a true son of the soil. All of us will meet and talk about it. There will not be an issue with that. Whether in Amosun’s camp or Abiodun’s camp, as of today, we have only one APC. Even those in Amosun’s camp, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), have collapsed that structure into APC, which makes Dipo Abiodun the leader of the party in Ogun State. Even the serving senator today is in another camp but it is under the leadership of Prince Abiodun.
How confident are you that your party, the APC, will win the general election in Ogun West?
I make bold to say, with all humility of course, that I am the senatorial aspirant to beat in Ogun West District. And with me as the candidate, APC is sure of victory because that is what the people are waiting for. Like I told you, the majority of our constituents are rooting for my candidature in recognition of my past legislative and empowerment activities as well as the many people-oriented projects I have facilitated across Yewaland and even beyond. When I was in the House of Repre-sentatives, I discovered that in Ogun West, we still have a long way to go towards development. Our district lacks many amenities.
I left in 2015, I worked hard to cover a lot of grounds but there is still a lot to be done. That is why I am in the senatorial race today. I have tried to be governor before. I believe that if I am a senator, I will be able to cover wider areas. As I have tried explaining to you earlier, I never knew I would contest for the Senate when I facilitated the projects in many places outside my constituency. You can now understand why I said we are determined to get to the senate. It is because we are determined to do more for the people. Ogun West needs a man who understands the task to be done and who is ready to go the extra mile to get it done.
We are ready for any form of primary the party would want us to go through and I am sure that anyone they agree on will favour me. We need to come together as a team in Ogun West. I will not rest on my oars of facilitating capital projects, job security, empowerment and regular engagement of my people among others. When I declared my intention to vie for the Senate seat of Ogun West Senatorial District, I did that on the strength of my capacity, competence, and antecedence in terms of project facilitation, job security, empowerment and regular engagement of my people.
Which option would you prefer for the primary?
Unfortunately, any option I recommend today may be immaterial because it is whatever the party comes up with that we have to agree with. You know, when the National Assembly tried to compel the parties to go for direct primaries only, it was thrown out. And in the constitution of our party, all the options are there. The party may decide to use direct primary, it may decide to use indirect or consensus. So, whichever option, as a party member, I have no choice but to accept the option.