interviewBy Ola Ajayi
Dr. Olu Agunloye, one-time Minister of Power and Steel, Minister of State for Defence (Navy), Special Assistant to the late Chief Bola Ige, member of Constitution Review Committee, and former chief executive of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. In this interview, he talks about his painful exit from the ACN and the verbal attacks on him by the National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Excerpts:
Implications of ACN defeat in Ondo election
The Ondo election brings a signal in two ways. We saw it as a struggle for survival, liberation from neo-colonisation and any form of remote control, liberation from any forcefully or deceitfully, cajoling to take the resources of the state to anywhere outside Ondo or into one person's pocket. And it was clear that Ondo people saw that very clearly. I was part of the campaign which was very strenuous and comprehensive. The second signal of the election is that Ondo people stayed along the line of progressive development. Ondo State people elected Mimiko because of his programmes, his ideas.
After the election, a newspaper quoted the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, as saying the election was fraught with massive irregularities. What is your comment on this?
It was his duty to make sure that there were no irregularities. So, if he said that, he must know what he was saying. But, then, I don't think anybody said the election had a hundred percent mark. Most people had admitted that it was far above average and I was part of that election and I also know it was far above average. There was a signal that the election was more or less one man one vote.
In areas where people used to have a margin of 12,000 votes, the margin became smaller than two thousand and a total number of votes cast under 5,000. In Ilaje, where people used to have a margin of 80,000 or 50,000, the total number of votes cast there was much less than that which means that, to a great extent, the principle of one man one vote was used.
The possibility of people stuffing ballot boxes with votes was reduced and violence was also reduced because security men were on ground. But, to say the election was hundred percent okay may not be correct. However, it was very clear that it was perhaps the best election we have had in Nigeria.
Is your governorship ambition for the future still intact?
I don't know what you mean. But, let me answer it the way people would like. I am leaving everything politically to God because I have done everything any human being can possibly do and things have gone the way they've gone. I worked for sixteen months relentlessly to build up the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and, at the end of the day, all I got for my efforts was,' if you are not satisfied, you can leave' - while the ticket was handed over to Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, who, to my knowledge, did not do any work. And, eventually, I found myself in the same camp with Gov. Mimiko. This only tells me that if God wants something done, he would do it. For me, and, at my age, I would leave everything to God.
Did your influence make any impact on that election?
The issue of followers, I would just try to quantify it. When we started the Omoluwabi project, there were a lot of people who indicated interest. I owed all that I have achieved over the years to the Omoluwabi platform and I feel very passionate about that because none of the followers made any demand on me nor got any promise from me. People followed me with passion because they believed in me. They knew if I got there, I would be useful to the state and to them. We sent forms out to them to fill. We could not get all the forms back.
But, we were able to get about 157,000 forms. These people registered on the Omoluwabi platform. When I shifted to Labour Party on July 26, 2012, not all people on the Omoluwabi platform followed me. Some of them mounted rostrum or used the radio to abuse the hell out of me for leaving the ACN; some of them had already left the ACN six weeks before, when I was waiting for what ACN would do for us. Some of them had shifted to the PDP but a couple of them came along with me. In the process between July and October 20, I went round to all the local governments to talk to people waiting for me to persuade them to leave and join.
As for what the impact was in the time of the election, here, we need to be modest and moderate. All I can say is that we had, as part of the deal with Mimiko, insisted that Omoluwabi across the 203 wards and the 18 local governments must be integrated into all the committees. So, what we found was that a typical Omoluwabi in a local government would either be a member of a committee or a member of the ward or unit committee.
And in a local government where Omoluwabi people were being sidelined, they made a call to me and I called the officer in charge and they were brought in. At the time of the election, the Omoluwabi had integrated and dissolved into Labour Party and worked for the party. I could say very clearly that there are some local governments where we had very significant impact.
The local governments are Oke-Igbo, Ilaje, Ile-Oluji, four Akokos, Ire Ikari, Owo and Oso Local Governments minus the works that our people did in Emure. We had seen ourselves as part and parcel of the Labour Party and I'm happy today. So, we played a significant role just like the old members of the Labour Party did before we got in.
Okay, let me play the devil's advocate here: If you had not defected to the Labour Party, do you think Mimiko would have won that election?
As a born-again member of the Labour Party, I won't respond to that......laughter!
If you could part ways with Tinubu, what assurances are there that you and Mimiko would not also part again?
I think you still have to clear some air on that. First, if there is any opportunity for us to fight again, we will fight. So, that is clear. If I fight with my wife here, I won't spare a fight with Mimiko or any other person because, as Yoruba people say, only a bastard would have the opportunity to be angry and would not and it is also a bastard that refuses entreaties to stop fighting. So, the cultural thing is that if there is room to fight, we will fight.
But, the second clarification I need to make is that I'm happy because Mimiko himself is a great achiever and so many things trail him. Some people said,' now that you have gone to Labour Party, do you think he would not do to you what he did before?' I said,' so what?' They knew there was a misunderstanding between Mimiko and I. Now, I thank God that I took that path. If I didn't take that path, I would not have set up the Omoluwabi platform.
For purposes of clarification, what happened between you and Mimiko before?
Mimiko said, 'You would not take this Senate slot, let us give you this House of Representatives slot'. He went on to explain why and the difference between the two and I also made my own point clear. He believed I was convinced. I told him midnight that if they had told me that outside, I would have refused flatly and that I would have gone to the Supreme Court and say 'see what they did to me'. Mimiko and seven top people in the party, excluding Olaiya Oni, were trying to convince me. They put pressure on me.
So, I was prevailed upon to step down from Senate and take the House of Representatives, but, the following day, things looked alright. We chatted in the Government House and, here, made the public announcement of it and, the third day, they expected me to pick the form for House of Representatives, but I didn't show up. They called me asking why I was not picking the form and they were panicky.
From that Saturday, January 8 or 9, Mimiko had practically made all possible efforts to beg me, to cajole me, to apologise and did all sorts of things including coming down to my house on Sunday, 9 January, while I was away.He regretted, saying, 'look, come and let us do it again'. But I had my mind on running for the Senate. On Monday morning, I had already made up my mind to join the ACN. At that point, he knew I had made up my mind.
You lost a ticket in Labour Party, you went to ACN; in ACN, too, you lost a ticket and you ran back to Labour Party. What's the difference?
Do you now want to compare that to what happened to me in the ACN?
My question is what's the difference?
That of ACN is directly opposite. I worked for 15 months. In normal mathematical way, that was 30 months. I worked, building the party and, at the end of the day, I was told in a meeting where other people were present that,' look, we have given the ticket to somebody because we have decided not to give it to the most popular aspirant. We have decided not to give it to an aspirant who has a structure that is stronger than the party so that he doesn't hold the party to ransom'.
Those were nearly the words of Chief Adebisi Akande, the National Chairman of ACN. I was shocked because one of the two criteria that people use for campaign is popularity, acceptability and structure and I had demonstrated in the last fifteen months.
But that ....? (Cuts in)
Let me tell you why I left the ACN. We had been told if we did not spend up to a certain amount, we would not be considered. But, I had gone beyond that benchmark and I did not need an accountant to tell me how much I had spent. I told them all along that my accounts were run through the banks. Ninety per cent of the money I spent was through transfer and the cheques are there. Even people who gave me cash of N2m, I went to the nearest bank and paid it into my account.
After doing all that, I had a meeting with Mr. Tinubu and all I heard was that,' we have done that severally to people. If you are not satisfied, you can leave.' It was like, 'did I hear him right'. I had four different meetings with Tinubu, three with Aregbesola and one with Fayemi and about five trips to Ila Orangun to locate the chairman. It then occurred to me to ask myself: 'why are you doing this for a jewel that is in Ondo State'. I was not running to be governor of Lagos or Osun State. I then asked myself, 'why are you running about'?
I just concluded that this is a situation where the proprietors and dynasty of ACN are hell bent on the political business model which we believe is not traceable to Ondo State. In Labour Party, I had misunderstanding with some people and they begged me not to go until I returned to the party and the other one, ACN, I did all that could be done single-handedly for that party, yet they said I could go if I wanted to. The records are there. All I heard was, 'get lost'.
After I left, it was surprising that all I got from the National Chairman of the party was insult; he opened his mouth and said Agunloye was a mole, he was sent by Mimiko. We took him like a father. And then suddenly the father said, ' I think this my son was an armed robber. 'He paid my house rent two years ago, I was surprised, he bought me a new car, I was wondering, he paid the school fees of his younger brother, I was wondering, he repainted the house.
Now, I know he is an armed robber'. They now brought guard dogs from Lagos who now called me a political prostitute. Why this language? Who has not done it? Akande himself has done it. He was in Alliance for Democracy, AD. When they called me a political prostitute, I said ' these guys don't know what they are talking about'.
If the ACN makes overture to you again, say, in two or three years, to come, would you go back to the party?
It is not an issue of overture. Overture can be made today or tomorrow. In the party, I understand that people are reckless and they say it is allowed. People deliberately say what they want. If not, I don't imagine any human being on earth to say I betrayed the late Bola Ige not to talk about Bisi Akande saying that kind of rubbish. So, people can say what they like. But, the truth is that there was a critical thing that happened to me in Labour Party before I left and the party itself realized it was wrong. That was why they did all they could to get me back.
In ACN, something more brutal, more irritating, more reckless happened. But, that is part of the recklessness of the party and that is why we believe that God has started taking power off them. That was the reason they lost woefully in Ondo State, coming third. The point is that I was not the only one who left the party and those who did not leave were complaining bitterly. The political terrain in Nigeria is in a state of flux and it would take sometime for things to gel.
With your efforts in Ondo election, what do you think that Governor Mimiko can give you to appreciate your support during the election?
He has given me that already. He has integrated all my people into the party. Three of my top supporters have been given appointments. The remainder really is in God's hands. We know they,the opposition, have gone to the tribunal and if the judiciary says come and hold a fresh election, we are ready for that and we will beat them more and more. Leaders of the ACN have been going about saying Mimiko got 41 per cent, it means 59 percent of people did not want him. What they refused to say is that 67 per cent of Ondo people didn't want the ACN and 63 per cent of the people did not want the PDP.
Tributes to the late Lamidi Adesina
Exactly, my close interaction with him started when Chief Moshood Abiola died. I remember that day when the body was brought to Lagos for burial, there was a lot of pandemonium in MKO's residence in Ikeja. A lot of people were barred from entering because people who were there were mostly activists and people who were aggrieved were mad against the people who they believed were not part of their programme and I remember that it was Great Lam Adesina and I who stood at the gate for over one hour trying to identify people and piloting them in to spare them from the agony of being barred from entering.
And my second close encounter with him was when Bola Ige died and I tried to set up Bola Ige Movement and he gave a lot of support to allow the Movement to take-off from his office. I had two rooms in his office that I was using. Each time we held a bi-monthly meeting, he may not attend. Usually, he may come up and greet us and leave. But, he added a lot of boost to it. Eventually, he got his SSG, Babalaje, to be the chairman of Bola Ige Movement while I remained the convener of the movement. As an administrator and a politician, Great Lam was respected.
The old ones must go before the younger ones. These people lived a very good life. Dr. Olusola Saraki was very strong and had a very good grip on Kwara State. To me, it was that grip that people wanted and when they protested, he found a means to soften that grip. So, at that level, we can say Saraki was a very good leader.