YOU have been on the campaign train for quite some time now. How would you describe the experience on the field so far?
The political process is actually very interesting and quite challenging, because what you are trying to do is to convince people to be on your side and ultimately, to vote for you. And you are talking of millions of people because in Ogun State now, we have registered voters in excess of two million; the last figure given by the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) said we have 2.34 million registered people in the state. Of course, we are doing all of these in a very sophisticated state, where you have the most powerful people in Nigeria, historically and even in contemporary terms. You have Obasanjo there; you have Osoba there; so many big weights; captains of industry; very high net-worth individuals in Ogun State. So, it’s something that is at once interesting and challenging.
Most of these personalities do not belong to your party. Do you have any relationship with them in your quest for the coveted governorship seat since, in your words, they are powerful individuals?
Actually, very many of these people I have mentioned are politically very neutral, at least on the surface of it. But what we are trying to do is to establish a new model of electoral contest in Ogun State, and we are doing that very quietly because as it is said that you cannot be doing the same thing the same way and expect a different outcome. Our model of campaign is to reach the unreached: it is to try to reach the hitherto unreached; the people who are usually ignored in the political process. In Ogun State now, we are trying to bring in even new registered voters into the process; encourage those who have registered before, who, otherwise, could not even participate to go and collect their PVCs and participate in that process. So, the model we are trying to establish is to reach out to a new crop of political actors, who, hitherto, were not taken into account in the political process.
So, as a matter of campaign policy, we are not engaging the traditional politician’s way or game, because I have seen that the old style and the accompanying politicians are irredeemable; it’s about sharing money; it’s about material things; it’s not about ideology; it’s not about principle; it’s not about the critical values that we need to change the narrative of not just the electoral process, but ultimately of governance in Ogun State and in Nigeria. So, as a matter of principle, we resolved within our think-tank that we are not going to engage the usual politicians. Why? We even did a study and found out that those who are professional politicians are not more than 250,000 out of a voting population of 2.3 million; so, they are in the minority. And they have so defined politicians in such a way that it is all about money; what is accompanying it (kilo bade?). That is, what material benefits do they have? So, because if you go to them, very many of them cannot even influence five people in their immediate environment; they just say they are political leaders and they live on that; they have no second address. If we are going to do anything differently, we must make sure we do not engage such people. They cannot even guarantee you victory. These 250,000 that I’m talking about are the ones the major political parties are sharing among themselves. They are the ones in all the factions in Ogun State. I was with them in 2015 when I contested because I had no experience because I thought that they were the ones that would deliver the votes. They cannot; they do not have the votes and the reality on ground today is that the people themselves, who are not politicians, loathe them; they hate them; they know that they are the ones responsible for the sorry pass that we have in Nigeria in general and in Ogun State in particular.
Your party is relatively unknown and unpopular. Has the scenario changed to guarantee victory in a political space, where APC, PDP, ADC seem dominant?
It is a new party. But like we say, is it not human being that is sounding in that masquerade? It is about the people you are able to bring there. And what we are doing is not even unprecedented. We have the example of the former Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, who brought a relatively unknown party, 11 weeks to an election and he went ahead to win that election. It’s about having a structure that would deliver and that is the structure we are having and we are very silent about it. I have told you that our own structure is state-wide; it’s not ethnic; it’s not religious; we are engaging people who hitherto, were not engaged. I remember a book written by a political scientist from East Africa, Professor Mamdani, talking about the Uncaptured Peasantry. We are talking about the uncaptured electorate and the name of our party is Yes Electorates Solidarity, (Yes Party); bringing in new people into the political process; those people who understand issues that this thing we are doing, we must do it without making the process expensive because if it is ab initio, you are going to get there as Governor paying IOUs that we do not want to do as that would mean using the society’s scarce resources wrongly and not for development. That is why we have bad governance in the country. So, we want to run the race in such a way that we have no IOUs of any kind: political, business, financial, cultural or whatever to pay to anybody.
You talked about political structures, do you sincerely believe your party has the structures that could compete favourably with those of ruling APC and main opposition PDP, for example?
They do have good and wide structures – the older political parties. That is the advantage age confers on you: you have experience, longevity, people that have been with you. But, what is the state of these parties as we speak in Ogun State? Take PDP for instance. It couldn’t win an election in 2015 when it was one; that same PDP is now divided into five factions, at least. Remember that the last time PDP won an election in Ogun State was in 2007, but they managed to forge some unity in 2015; the Kashamu faction; the OGD faction, they all came together to form one. That same PDP that failed in 2015 has been divided into five: the one that you know: the Kashamu faction; the Ladi Adebutu faction that are locked in a bitter legal battle; those are the two perhaps people talk about. The one you call the African Democratic Congress (ADC) being used by Gboyega Isiaka is a splinter group of PDP. The one that Dimeji Bankole is using now that is called Action Democratic Party (ADP) is also a splinter group of PDP. Accord Party led by Dr Doyin Okupe in Ogun State is a splinter group of PDP.
Why did I say so? All the leading lights and the people that constitute what you call structure in all these parties and factions today, we were all together in a PDP government as at 2011, when the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Governor Ibikunle Amosun, took over. All the five, either at the state or federal level, are PDP elements that have divided themselves into five, and as you know in System Theory, a part cannot be greater than the whole! When they were together as a whole, they couldn’t even win election. So, what people are hearing currently is just noise.
Now in the case of APC, the situation there is obvious; the battle between the sitting Governor who wants to put his own godson there, Abdulkadir Akinlade, and of course, the APC proper so to say. The first election is just about six weeks away, and this is the time they are dissolving the State Executive of the party; a party that wants to go into election. One is claiming federal might and the other is claiming state might, incumbency. What is happening in APC happened in 2011. I was in government at that time: the PDP/PPN scenario. The two were eventually thrown out. In fact, if you added the votes of the two together, they still could not muster majority, because Amosun had about 58 per cent of the votes then. So, if APC were one in Ogun State today; even if as we speak there is no division, there is no way an APC candidate would win in the state. With what are they going to campaign in the State? So, the issue of structure is about the people and the people who are going to vote are saying these ones that are fighting among themselves are certainly not fighting in our own interest; they are fighting because of themselves.
But all appears calm in the ADC which has former President Obasanjo as the main pillar. How do you see that?
What I’m saying is that a part cannot be greater than the whole. ADC is a splinter group of PDP.
Do you mean ADC is no threat even with the backing of Obasanjo?
In 2011, the main PDP had the support of former President Obasanjo, the TunjiOlurin faction. What was the result? With due respect, we must continue to venerate our father. He is an institution in Ogun State. But the state has its own peculiarities, peculiarities that have become entrenched over time and are still being entrenched. The process here, for instance, does not respect or regard incumbency because it is being established now that no departing Governor will be able to install a successor because when you are Governor, you cannot say you are the leader of the State. There are so many power centres in the State. But the ultimate power centre is what we are engaging, the people of the State who are the real decider in the political process.
It is about 40 days to the first election in 2019, what are you are trying to bring to the table that is different from what Ogun State has experienced over the years?
What is different about our party is that we are saying we are not among them. We are trying to change the narrative of politics, which is all about money. We tell our people anybody that is coming to you to induce you with rice; to induce you with material things and who would want to pay you on Election Day is your enemy. It is one of the things we are bringing to the table. Apart from that, the Yes Party is one party that has programmes; we have a manifesto. My manifesto is on my website. So, we are not just saying when you get to one place, we will empower traditional rulers; when you get to another place, you promise 40 per cent of that; things that they just mention; empty promises; it is not programmatic; it is not based on any serious thinking; any document people can refer to. We have our code. We are not just looking for power; we are not just looking for votes; we are looking to turn around the fortunes of the State and to make the people to be the king in the political process. We are changing the paradigm of government from the current top-down approach to bottom-up. So, these are things that mark us out as different from the rest. We can say confidently that in all our posters, it is categorically stated that we are not among them because we are saying whoever is asking us for money is not part of us. As a matter of principle in our campaign, we give them the analysis. This money (dibokosebe) is it that same soup you have been living on since four years ago when they gave you that N2,000 each? We are educating our people. Let me tell you that the kind of response we have been getting in Ogun State has been really very overwhelming.
You have talked about what should constitute an ideal in the political process. But, given the obvious high level of poverty in the land, coupled with the manner voters acted in recent elections in the country, the electorate might be eager to be settled. Is it not likely to work against you and your party if you discountenance the factor of money during the election; if you do not join the others who might be willing to ‘settle’ voters?
We can’t join them. Deliberately, we have not even acquired the capacity.
What exactly do you mean by capacity?
The capacity is in terms of the billions of naira; deliberately, we have not sought such amount of money. We want to operate within the law that says that for the governorship race, we should not spend more than N200 million and we are deliberately going to stay within that band to win the coming election to show our people that politics, the one that should bring and undergird development in the society, should not be about money.
Concerning the issue of poverty, that is where the issue of voter education comes in. we have been telling the people, ‘yes, you are poor, but this money that they give you, does it take you out of poverty?’ No. It is because you take such money that you are being perpetuated in poverty and six Nigerians are slipping into poverty every single minute; 3.3 million Nigerians lost their jobs in just nine months, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). That is exactly what we are telling them and our people are responding positively. Election, as you said, is just 40 days away, we are going to see the outcome. Deliberately, we are not making any noise about it, even making noise still requires money that we decided we are not going to spend that way. In any case, we are telling our people that we do not need such money in politics and we do not need such money to win this election since the people themselves are with us and they do not require money to vote for what would benefit them. The campaign we are running which is centered on the people and is even funded by the people themselves does not require filthy money. We do not need such money to win this election, because we are engaging with the people; we are involved in a mass movement, where these people we are talking to are even contributing to our campaign; prospective voters are contributing money; those who are making posters and stickers are doing that; ordinary people. So it is a deliberate policy that we are not making all this noise. The rallies that they hold, they are hired crowds; we do not want to deceive ourselves by hiring any crowd. If we say we want to hold a rally, where 10,000 people will be, when you look at the budget, the minimum that you would need to spend would be about N50 million. Why do you want to do that; who are you trying to impress? How many rallies did Amosun hold before he defeated both the former President and the sitting Governor in an election in the past?
What do you consider as the cores that ought to engage stakeholders in Ogun State in the coming election and why?
The core issues are good governance, alleviating poverty, redressing the terrible infrastructure deficit that you have in Ogun State; the issue of insecurity. These are the things that we are talking about and the people are up in arms against the godfathers and against money politics because our people have been educated in such a way that they see them now as enemies. So, we are sounding a note of warning and we are telling our people that whoever is bringing rice and other items to them, they should resist them, because even spiritually, that has problems, as that person has to be your enemy wanting you to be down and down permanently. You all know what the role of rituals in politics is in Nigeria. People have seen that even much of this money they take is ritual money; filthy money; stolen money; looted funds; because if you are a legitimate businessman and you have made N2 billion, will you go and share it the way they do? Nobody is going to do that. So, what they usually bring is looted funds and we have told our people. So, it is not even the issue that when they bring it, you should collect; no, we are saying when they bring it, do not collect it; don’t be partakers in their evil. Don’t be accessories to fact of their crime.
What are the cardinal programmes of your party?
We have what we call Ward Development Council (WDC) because under the state government, you have the local government, and you have the ward and we now have the WDC; we want to empower the ward in such a way that they initiate the projects and undertake the projects that are important for themselves – each ward would be in charge of its own development and use local artisans so that they can make money from government spending, unlike what you have now where billions being spent on infrastructure and foreigners are the ones taking all the money. Our people do not benefit and so, like I said, we want to reverse the model of governance from top-down to bottom-up. That is number one. We want to use government spending as a means of empowering the local population because the money we are going to spend which is basically our IGR, because that is the one you can count on, you don’t even know what will be coming from the federal level; it is not given, but your IGR, you can say plus or minus 10 per cent, so you can plan on that. We want to return the IGR that will be coming from the people to the people by empowering them. We also want to make it as a policy that every spending of government would be geared towards employment creation. So that request and demand about opportunity for employment would be paramount even among that N10 million you want to spend, – the questions we would want to ask are: what will it do in terms of employment creation; what will it do in terms of creating value for our people? If I want to build a road, for example, that road, what economic benefit does it have for the people? Politically, it is to make the people to actualise one of the definitions of democracy as government of the people, by the people for the people. The people themselves should run the administration.
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