Kayode Ajulo, a lawyer, human rights activist, and founder, Egalitarian Mission Africa, was the Federal Capital Territory senatorial candidate of Labour Party in the last general election. Ajulo, a chieftain of LP and one of the confidants of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, speaks on politics in the state and other national issues, in this interview with Chuks Okocha. Excerpts:
What were some of the factors that made Governor Olusegun Mimiko win the last governorship election in Ondo State?
Governor Olusegun Mimiko's re-election is a straight forward exercise, so evident that you did not need the combination of Nostradamus, Okonzua, Olabayo, TB Joshua and other seers to tells you what the outcome would be. If I must say, the key factors that helped propel Mimiko to a historic win were his socio-political transformation and flawed opponents. Mimiko, without doubt, identified with the people of Ondo State. He appealed to their sentiments and what they cherished. Unlike other contestants, he took into cognisance the composition and the nature of the people of Ondo State. The people are resourceful, principled, discerning, enlightened and egalitarian.
That is why you see the likes of Gani Fawehimi, Baba Omojola, Federick Fasehun, Olu Falae, Bishop Gbonigi, Sehinde Arogbofa, Gani Adams and the rest coming from Ondo State. Our people understand only one language; that language is performance. They understand only one social concept as a pivot of development; that concept is egalitarianism, where you preach equity, equal opportunity, and follow the law.
What are some of the governor's programmes that you see as demonstrating his understanding of the local sentiments you have mentioned?
The reality of his appreciation of the wants of his people is evident in his programmes, which are fashioned and tailored within his covenant of working for the people, and making it possible that everybody in the state, irrespective of financial, social geographic and educational strata, is a partaker of the projects of the government. For example, the ABIYE (safe motherhood) project, everyone is a beneficiary, both the rich and the poor; to the poor because it is free, while to the rich because that is the best service that they could get. I am also a beneficiary as the wives of my office driver and head of chambers delivered their children at one of the Abiye's hospitals, one of them even delivered triplets.
Also the educational system, which is more or less like a religion in Ondo State, no other in the nation can compare to it. It is only in Ondo State that the government schools are better than private schools both in structure and standard. The urban renewal and development is also not an exemption, just to mention a few.
But do you believe Mimiko actually faced a strong opposition in the last election?
Another factor that helped Mimiko is that he literarily ran alone, as his main opponents were either morally, legally not qualified or unprepared for the election. So it can be said that his opponents complemented and strengthened his re-election. The Peoples Democratic Party at the time of campaign was beclouded with a lot of internal crises. The consideration on which the choice of the party's governorship candidate, Olusola Oke, was based was false. One could vividly see that the campaign of Olusola Oke was packaged for other motives, such as federal appointment, and not really for governance of Ondo State. As for Action Congress of Nigeria, it was so pathetic that the party fielded a candidate that was so obviously a foreigner in the scheme of things in the state, particularly, when there is a unresolved issue of the fact that the candidate, though a leader and colossus in his profession, has been indicted by a tribunal duly constituted and the same indictment has received a government nod.
What is your take on the allegation that Mimiko is planning to return to PDP?
Honestly, Mimiko is the best person to clear the air on this issue, which I am sure he has done in several fora. And we should be conscious of the fact that this is a man that did not join the PDP when it was expedient for him to do so. Having said this, from my privileged knowledge of Mimiko, he is a man that is not afraid to do anything once he has made up his mind. Let us recall how and why he left Alliance for Democracy to PDP and how he left PDP to join a fresh party, Labour Party. In these two instances, one thing that is crystal clear is that he did not unilaterally leave, what happened was "Exodus of the People," the movement of the people with common cause, goal and aspiration left in the two instances and Mimiko only served as the totem/mascot of the movement.
He is not called a leader by happenstance but by his deeds, as during the deliberation on whether to leave, he listened to the last man. This was what he did again in the party when the issue of which of the presidential candidates to support since our party, LP, was not presenting any candidate, came up. Here was a man that despite being a governor with command, first sat with every member of the party to deliberate extensively before the lot fell on President Goodluck Jonathan. And when we decided to support President Jonathan, he went the full hog in campaigning for the man. It is on these premises that I am of the belief that Mimiko will not be in hurry to join any party as there must be a cause akin to the previous scenarios before embarking on another exodus, particularly, when the fortune of LP is soaring.
Do you nurse fears for LP's future, particularly in Ondo State, considering that the party is a lone hand in the South-west?
My advice is that Mimiko should continue to do what has endeared him to the people, that is total commitment to his policy of the people first, that is what Egalitarian Mission Africa is all about. There must be equity, justice, equal opportunity and strict adherence to the law. I am giving him my total support today due to the fact that he has shown commitment and capacity to be with the people. I must also warn that it is proper to emphasise that Labour Party being the only one in the whole of South-west of Nigeria is temporal; subsequent elections will prove me right that LP has come to stay. Everything in life is a phase; there was a point in time that for four years Action Congress of Nigeria was only controlling Lagos State but today they have virtually taken over the whole of South-west until the emergence of Labour Party. Now the result of election in Ondo State is a clear indicator that the Yoruba has come to adopt our party, the very reason the likes of Governor Aregbesola is jittery and has embarked on shadow boxing.
Mimiko is about to form a new cabinet. How would he ensure that the major segments of the society are carried along?
One of the greatest qualities of a leader is the ability to identify who to work with and carry them along and this ability has been perfectly demonstrated by Mimiko as the success story of his first term which was affirmed by his victory for the second term. Mimiko's success is a testimony of carrying everyone along. This can also be gleaned from his mantra that there is space for all. We at Labour Party are governed by a well-known ideology among which is equal opportunity for all. This is what endears us at Egalitarian Mission Africa with the practice and style of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and we can say today that we are proud of him and nobody will be disappointed.
The younger generation is rapidly taking over politics in the South-west. What do you think is responsible for this generational shift?
The threshold of the political community of the south western states is beginning to read just to the reality that beckons at it, most especially as young and vibrant politicians are beginning to take the centre stage while the older players are gradually withdrawing into their cocoon. The South-west of Nigeria is peculiar as Yoruba predominantly and traditionally revered their elders and defer to them, while any younger elements within them must ride on the back of his/her father or a political patron.
This explains why any younger politician in the region must ride on someone's shoulder. In recent times, there has been lots of debate and rational arguments have been canvassed at several forums regarding the very shallow opinion that only the older generation have what it takes to hold public offices potently and in good trust for the benefit of its citizens and that the new generation are not ready or better put, are still undergoing incubation process and not capable of manning any political or public office. Even a former military head of state in time past, canvassed in favour of this very obnoxious opinion.
However, we are trying to change this as the politics of the now has taken a radical departure from what the aged or older generation can lay claim as their rightful position or entitlement. This explained why I braced all odds to emerge as a senatorial candidate of my party, LP, in Abuja Federal Capital Territory.
I am glad today that one can point to young firebrand politicians that are stepping up the stage: the likes of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, a former member of the Ekiti state House of Assembly and now commissioner in Ekiti State, Dr. Yinka Odumakin, a veteran public commentator and a leading figure of the Afenifere Renewal group.