Chief Olusola Oke came third in the recently conducted controversial governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. In this interview with DEPUTY EDITOR, DAPO FALADE, he speaks on the issues generated by the primary, concluding that it was a flawed exercise.
Can you lay bare what really transpired in the course of the Ondo State governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) recently held in the state?
Nothing uncommon, nothing unexpected in terms of human endeavours could be said to be happening in APC. When there are conflicting interests, there are bound to be disagreement. It is no longer news that we had our primary on September 3 and that some of us, the aspirants were dissatisfied with the outcome and we articulated in our press statement and appealed to the panel constituted for that purpose by the party the grounds of our grievances.
For me, I’m a democrat and once an election had been conducted and the due process was followed and a winner emerges, it is a norm in every civilised society that all other aspirants, in the interest of the party, should rally round the winner. Where, therefore, as in this case, we have protested the outcome, there must be good reasons.
I can only speak for myself. The protest started, even before the commencement of the primary. Two weeks before the primary, we insisted, in order to give room for transparency and accountability, that the list of the voters, in this case, the delegates, be made available to us as aspirants and the office of the national organising secretary, on the directive of the national chairman, did. All of us, several times, went through it and we found out that the names were actually the names that emerged from the 2014 party congresses, except in instances where some names were omitted. We wanted them to find out from the record whether these names omitted were as a result of non-conduct of congresses in those wards and if it was printing omission, they should restore them.
You are one of the frontline aspirants and it was a public knowledge that you and some other aspirants, immediately after the primary, congratulated the winner, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu…
I did not congratulate him
At what point did you get to know the errors you mentioned?
If I finish this story line, it will provide the background. On Friday (a day before the congress), around 6pm, we insisted on a clean copy and we assumed that some minor errors and corrections would have been made. I got the copy around 11:30 pm, only for me to find out that the list had been totally substituted. When I counted and did the analysis, I found out that 383 names had been imported and injected into the list. I didn’t know who these people are.
Assuming they came in legally and I know them, I would have gone to lobby them and persuade them to vote for me. They are people I have never met; nobody knows their location, who they are and where there were coming from. That totally destabilised everybody. In my camp, when I was doing accreditation in the morning for them to go and vote, 115 delegates were there stranded; they have been dropped out of the list. So, one of the grounds for complain was the doctoring and the bastardisation of the delegates’ list.
Another specie of corruption, which vitiated the congress, was the sale of delegates’ tags to a particular aspirant. Evidence available showed that a particular aspirant was given tags which he was handing over to non-members of APC-all manners of people, market women, salesgirls, drivers-to go and vote. And one or two buses were dedicated for that illegal purpose and they were just conveying them after pulling the tags and, of course with some gratification.
The third specie was that, at one point, proper accreditation stopped. Anybody who brought an identification card, whether of primary school or secondary school or of any sort, were just given tags without checking the name against the list to be sure that it was theirs. So, what we had were all these and other forms of corruption. It is not about me; it is about the process; it is about the fate of the people of Ondo State.
Having known all these, prior to the primary…
From what I just said, I wouldn’t have known prior to the primary, except the delegate list. And when that came to my knowledge, around 2am, I presented the letter of protest to the chairman, articulating our grievances. The others occurred in the course of the conduct of the primary. I wouldn’t have known that somebody was going to give out tags or that somebody was going to refuse to do proper accreditation.
A meeting was said to had been scheduled for Friday, last week, to address some of the issues you raised and which would to a large extent, determine the fate of Ondo APC and the next line of action of the aspirants. Are you aware of such a meeting?
I am not aware of any such meeting, except that it was reported that the National Working Committee (NWC) met to receive the report of the ad hoc committee constituted to look into the complaints. I was told; I’m not a member of the NWC so, I didn’t attend. It was that meeting, we are hoping, will resolve the issue or come out with a decision of yes or no to the complaints and then we will take it from there. No outcome of it is yet known to us.
Speculations are high that Olusola Oke is contemplating leaving the party and considering some other options. What are the options before you?
It is when my options are put in the public domain, that they become options. As I speak with you, I remain a member of APC. I am pursuing an appeal to redress the wrongs that I thought were done to me or done to the system. The outcome is not yet here. So, it would amount to, as you have rightly described it, speculations to say that I would be leaving APC. Who told them I will not win my appeal? Those who said I want to leave must be speculating that I will not win. It is premature to have a position because whatever position that I would have will depend on the outcome. I am a party man; you know my history, 31 years of politics. I have never changed party until I came to APC and I have to come because the boat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was already sinking and I don’t want to die of mishap. So, I left.
But it was also said that you are already in talk with some other political parties, including SDP and APGA. How far is this true?
I don’t like to react to rumour; it is a rumour. When I make up my mind to behave one way or the other, I will call the press to say this is my position. My position is that the primary should be nullified and a fresh primary, free of vices and those viruses. That is me. What the party will do, I have no control over it. The party may decide to heed my prayers or it may say I am not talking well. The party may say, ‘yes, you talked right but let’s do it this way’. Don’t forget that I no longer own myself;I belong to the people of this state; I belong to my supporters, my admirers. So anything that comes my way, comes their way. We will meet; we would evaluate and we would look at it. We will take an informed decision, not forgetting that I am a politician of credible pedigree. So, for now, the only decision on the table is that we await the outcome of this appeal.
In the event that the appeal upholds the victory of Akeredolu, what happens?
What happens is that the party has taken decision in that circumstance. I have said that these are all words of if, but I deal with reality. If he is picked, come back to me and I will tell you what I will do. He has not been picked, so, why will I be saying if.
Secondly, the issue is not between me and Akeredolu. He is my friend; we remain friends. There are so many things holding us together. We have no personal acrimony or vendetta over this. The issue is about the system. APC stands for change. If it amounts to good change for the prostitution of the delegates’ list; if it is a good change for selling tags to non-delegates; if it is a good change not to do proper accreditation, wait until the party says so. Then, I will call on supporters, my admirers, we will look at it; is the party right or is it wrong? It cannot be my opinion. I will be prejudicing the opinion of these people who may be wiser than me to express a view on what will happen.
For as long as the party will want to wait, we are waiting for them. We are APC, we are working for APC, we are praying for APC to save it from itself. That is it.
The APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, was reported to have said APC can only win Ondo State if Mr Olusegun Abraham is picked as its governorship candidate…
I didn’t read that statement; that is the truth. All I thought I have heard from everybody is that we should pick a credible and sellable candidate. I never read where Tinubu said Abraham is the only credible candidate. The winning principle is, pick a sellable candidate. I have explained and given one million reasons why I am the most sellable and that is why 576 delegates agreed with me and voted for me. I didn’t have padded votes; those who had padded votes know themselves. Real delegates voted for me; my votes were not padded. It is the padded votes that I am quarreling against. So, if anybody had said it has to be a particular person, that can only be his personal opinion. But honestly, I never read anything like that.
If another candidate emerges through another primary and without any padded votes, will you still remain in APC?
I am not a cantankerous character; I have never insisted that it has to be me. All I want is that it has to be the choice of the delegates by the majority. So, if that person has to be somebody else, I will work for the party. If that person happens to be me, I will work for myself and I will urge everybody to work for me. When you have set a process, I don’t like a distortion of it; I don’t like a pervasion of it; I don’t like a criminalisation of it and then I keep quiet. If I keep quiet at my age and position in politics, who else will talk? I have all it takes to talk. I am not visited by hunger; I am not afflicted with cowardice; I have not been mischievous. When can I speak? I am speaking and I will continue to speak that this is not right. It doesn’t matter what they do. I will speak because all it takes the evil to triumph is for good people to keep quiet. If I didn’t see it, it is a different thing. I saw it; it happened and I am speaking about it. It doesn’t matter what the party is going to decide at the end of the day. What is important is that, ‘did Oke keep quiet?’ No, he spoke out. ‘Did they listen?’ That depends on them.
Don’t you see APC creating room for PDP to retain its status as the ruling party in the state?
Ruling party? A party with two candidates? That is organised anarchy within itself. So, I am not looking at PDP in that mould. There is nothing like PDP, as far as I am concerned, in this issue. The party, in itself, has indulged in self-destruction. How can you market two candidates of the same party? The law has not been amended to accommodate two candidates. So, whatever that happens to APC, any time, any day, it will defeat PDP in the state, subject to good candidature.