Dr. Ayoade Adewopo was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party in Osun State during the last governorship election in the state. In this interview with ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, the international legal practitioner predicted victory for his party in the November 16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
He also assured Nigerians that the opposition PDP is in the process of repositioning itself to wrestle power from the grip of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in future elections. The Ife-born politician also bared his mind on a number of other topical issues. Excerpts
GOVERNORSHIP elections hold on Nov 16 in Kogi and Bayelsa states. How ready do you think your party, the PDP, is for these crucial polls and why do you think so given the current state of things within the party in the two states and nationally?
I may not know what you are driving at with the current state of the party you alluded to, but from all indications clear enough to the blind, the PDP as a party is ready for the governorship elections in the two states and as a matter of fact, our great party, the PDP, remains the party to beat in the two states. We have seen the awesome ecstasy with which Engr. Musa Wada and Senator Douye Diri were being received everywhere they went so far. We have also seen the indelible performance of Governor Siriake Dickson of the PDP in Bayelsa and we have seen the near catastrophic performance of Governor Yahaya Bello of APC in Kogi State. The Kogi people especially would not want to continue with the uncertainty of a government of brigandage, emptiness and callous disposition of the current baby of circumstance in the state. They would want to redefine their standing as a people against the current toga of unproductive debt burden and exorbitant thuggery. The Igalas, the Okuns and the Ebira nations who basically determine the political pendulum of the state are respected people of note and are not the types you toss around on the chessboard of ego as we have seen with Governor Yahaya in the past four years and get away with it. I’m sure they will choose PDP this time around for a new lease of life while Bayelsa would not want to move from a land of promise in PDP into Golgotha of APC.
Would you say the PDP has learnt from its mistakes as regards how candidates emerge for elections using Kogi and Bayelsa as examples? Don’t forget the primaries in both states are currently being challenged in court.
Again, I don’t know what you mean by mistakes in PDP open processes of choosing candidates for electoral contests. The incontrovertible fact in the Nigerian political field so far is that PDP remains the most transparent in internal party mechanisms of choosing candidates, which I believe have impacted positively on our political experience as a nation. Perhaps what you call mistake stemmed from your experience with other political parties with tendencies of oligarchic method of candidates’ selection. The PDP as a party has never modeled choice of candidates in the whims of some leaders who in turn, usually subject such candidates to passive failures because they cannot run their own pro people policies. Engr Seyi Makinde happens to be the only PDP governor in the whole of the Southwest today and probably the youngest, yet he’s the only one with visible positive steps so far. This is because he was freely and democratically chosen by the people. He was not a product of imposition by anyone. He cannot be teleguided to suit some parochial interests. This is what the PDP is known for. A political party is an association of human beings where disagreements over quests to create space for personal ambitions are inevitable.
INEC has promised better polls for Nigeria, starting with Kogi and Bayelsa. How much confidence do you have in the commission?
If INEC is promising better polls today, it means they accept the fact that their conducts in recent past were largely flawed and I hope they live up to their words this time. The funny thing is, INEC would always promise Nigerians fair and credible poll only to mess things up themselves. A situation where the same statutory guidelines, acts and constitution under which elections are conducted, are being applied selectively, calls for concern. I hope like I said, INEC will be reasonable enough to be firm and fair in the application of constitutional codes guiding their activities with a view to averting unnecessary tensions often generated by INEC’s insecticide and deodorants approach to the electoral act; Apology to Senator Sheu Sanni.
Taking a look at the PDP since after the last general election till now, is the party still as united as it was back then? What will you ascribe the current state of the party to?
Nothing has changed. PDP has been one indivisible entity poised to entrench good governance in Nigeria and it will remain so. The main goal of the party is to see the country blossom again in prosperity in all variables of economic development. We are however, not pretenders hiding under any veil of deceit. We own up to whatever human shortcomings we find ourselves as human beings. We have offered apology where and when required because the party leaders felt we are after all, not infallible. We don’t play God. So, depending on what you meant by the state of the party, we are good to go any time. Nigerians trust PDP better. That is why our main rival, the APC become jittery any day they have to come against us in any contest. That is why they have to go extra miles of stampeding or trampling on institutions to get the better of PDP anywhere in the country like they did in Kano and Osun states.
Some people say 2023 presidential ambitions will further divide PDP chieftains; do you agree with this?
If the party was not divided in 2018 with all the intrigues that played out towards picking Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as our presidential candidate, I don’t see anything dividing the party in 2023? Yes, politics is about ambitions here and there, but I can tell you the party as presently constituted under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus, has all it takes to handle such issues capable of causing division. Those saying the party or its chieftains will be more divided in 2023 should go bury their worries.
There’s a fierce debate over zoning as regards 2023. Where do you stand on the north/south divide?
Right from day one of my foray into politics, I have been an advocate of getting the best anywhere, in any part of the country to get the job done for the people. It is my firm belief that this zoning arrangement most times, only throws up unbridled mediocrity where someone is zeroed in for a very sensitive job of administering the country mainly on the basis of his zone or clan and not on a pedestal of manifestly verifiable competence or mental stamina. It has not done us much good and can only continue to hurt us. While I also believe ultimately that only God crowns a man at any given time but what Nigeria needs is someone that’s of sound mind, sound health, intellectual capacity, human capital development tendencies, a thorough democrat and a detribalised Nigerian. Someone with this attributes can be fetched from either the South or the North in the next dispensation.
Nigeria is currently battling the P&ID saga. As an international legal practitioner, how in your opinion did we allow that to happen?
I have told people through another platform that we will do ourselves a lot of good if we keep the P&ID mess off the newsstands while we allow authorities do their job in the interest of the country. It is unfortunate enough that we got ourselves into such humongous dealing with such an outrageous amount of money hooded in so much secrecy, only to throw out fragments of the mess for public discourse.
Do you see Nigeria winning the legal tussle? What advice will you give the federal government as the cases progress?
It will be tough for us to come out of it unscathed. The whole thing has gone down to each party trying to protect its interest in asset seizures perhaps to show stern intents in a way. But I wouldn’t know if Nigeria is positioned strongly enough to go the whole hog of the litigation lane. We have more to ask from P&ID parent authorities and that is why we need to be smart and circumspect in pursuing the case mainly in the court rooms over there because their society is fashioned to obey letters of contractual agreements. However, diplomacy may help more in this.
Your home state of Osun got it’s commissioners in place recently. Looking at the arrays of appointees, are you satisfied? If not, what would you have done differently if you had been elected governor?
He has selected his “Best Eleven’ and we wait to see how they want to pull through the whole mess inflicted on the state in the past nine years in which Mr. Gboyega Oyetola himself has been a major actor. You wanted to know what I could have done differently? Well, I would have put such team together immediately. Whatever has kept Mr. Oyetola this long to appoint commissioners may not give him respite in his government and that is the danger. Unfortunately, the good people of Osun State are the ones to bear the brunt of such laxity.
What is the current state of Osun PDP? Are there ongoing efforts to pacify aggrieved ex chieftains like Omisore, etc.?
Osun PDP is good and our teeming members and supporters alike are upbeat to save the state from the ruinous hands of APC. Efforts are ongoing to bring all willing hands back to the fold with the state chairman, Honorable Soji Adagunodo, leading the charge. On Senator Ademola Adeleke, what do you expect his relationship to be than cordial and productive? It is normal for him to take some needed rest after all the rigours of the election where he and our party were violently rigged out. I can tell you he’s always in tune with the party activities and like a special breed that he is, he’s in good spirits and a happy man all the time.
What is your assessment of the government in the state today?
Like I said, there’s nothing to assess the government about for now. Maybe the governor has been waiting for this one year to lapse or he’s resting on a working seat, one can’t really say. However, I can say he has given our youth opportunities to lead as the composition of his cabinet shows. However, I hope he wakes up now that he has a team to assist him and kick-start his government, so that people can begin to have a feel of the government’s presence in the state. For now, he cannot be gauged on any side.