Honourable Gbenga Olayemi, the chairman of the Labour Party in Oyo State, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI AND AYOADE ADERINTO on the exit of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala from the party, why he dumped the camp of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, among others. Excerpts:
The opinion of many people in Oyo State and outside is that, with the exit of former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala from the Labour Party, the party is no longer a force to factor in calculations about the politics of the state. How true is it that your party is in coma?
I disagree with those who think the Labour Party in the state is in a state of coma. Currently, political activities in all the parties in the state are at the lowest ebb and this is because there is no election in the offing. After the last election, we went back to our places of work where we make a living. As a party, we are meeting regularly at the state, local government and ward levels across the 33 councils in the state. LP is intact, alive and waxing strong in the state.
But you have lost a big fish like Alao-Akala to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)…
It depends on your definition of big fish because in the ocean there are a lot of fishes. No doubt, Alao-Akala is a big fish. But we have a lot of other big fishes in the party as well. Sharafadeen Alli is a big fish. He won local government election before Alao-Akala became a council chairman. He is a former Secretary to the State Government, former Chief of Staff and former Managing Director, Oodua Group of Companies. We have Lowo Obisesan, Gbenga Oyekola, Kazeem Adedeji and many more big fishes in LP. So, the fact that one of the big fishes left does not mean it will have a serious effect on the party.
Before Akala joined LP, we had raised the status of the party to a very high level. He joined us when his former party PDP denied him the governorship ticket. With or without Alao-Akala, LP will continue to exist in the state. We disagreed with him on move to APC and support for Ajimobi because the governor instigated and financed the petitions against all our lawmakers at the election tribunal. We asked that the cases be withdrawn first. But the governor didn’t. Alao-Akala later joined him in APC. After that, the former governor retrieved the only thing he gave the party-a Hyundai bus. He retrieved it through his wife who sent a message to Obisesan that they needed the bus for a burial programme. Two weeks after, the bus was not returned and when we called, they said they wanted to be using it in Abuja. I managed the party so well that nobody demanded money from Alao-Akala before or when he joined LP. We that are nobodies won’t ask that our bus be returned.
In the next few months, you will see a rebranded LP in the state. This is imperative because there is a vacuum in Nigeria and Oyo State today. People don’t want either APC or PDP because of what these parties have done to them. The APC came on board having promised heaven and earth. Both the party and the government are no longer popular in the state and the country at large. So, there is a vacuum which a rebranded LP is being positioned to fill and take over the leadership seat in the state come 2019. Nothing good can come out of the PDP and there has been no governance in the state in almost one and a half years.
You used to be in the political camp of Governor Abiola Ajimobi. At what point did you both part ways and what happened?
I don’t worship people; I worship God. When I am loyal to someone, my loyalty is 100 per cent. We laid the foundations for Ajimobi’s governorship in 2011. It started when I was in Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) and he was in ANPP. I don’t believe in joining the ruling party for anything. Those who do, do so because of what they want to get from such party. We joined his camp after he lost his election petition and on the condition that, when we see white, we won’t call it black for him. He agreed and said we were the kind of people he wanted.
After we joined, we saw that he was not in good terms with Chief Michael Koleoso and Alhaji Lam Adesina. We told him he could not be fighting with the two leaders if he wanted to be governor in the state. He initially refused ous plea to him to let us visit the leaders, though he acknowledged that Chief Koleoso made him Senator in 2003. He later agreed and so himself, Dr Busari Adebisi, myself and Abass Aleshinloye went to Chief Koleoso’s house for reconciliation. That day, we laid the foundation for Ajimobi as governor of the state. Chief Koleoso went to Chief Bisi Akande, his bosom friend and then national chairman of the defunct ACN and Senator Bola Tinubu to convince them to pick Ajimobi. It was after that time that the leaders went to see Alhaji Lam and convinced him too. Alhaji Lam wanted Senator Olufemi Lanlehin as governor.
If you were so central to his governorship, what sort of disagreement led to your resigning from his government in the first term to join LP?
After the 2011 election, he appointed me chairman of the agency for youth development on a part-time basis and with N68, 000 as salary. Ordinarily, I deserved more than that. But as a person, I don’t so much believe in money. I believe it is God who blesses people and adds no sorrow. I resigned four months after my appointment. I went to his office where we were asked to defend our plan for the agency. I was at his office for 11 hours, waiting while he was in the office. When he finally came out, he insulted me. He talked down on me and said I frowned and I shouldn’t do that in his office. I told him I wasn’t a thug. I have two post-graduate degrees and I wasn’t fighting with anyone.
The second day, he asked to come again. We left his office around 11:30 p.m. He accused me of putting my hands in my pockets when I was talking to him. I told him there and then that I will have to leave his government. One thing about me is that I won’t do anything that will warrant anybody to insult me. I am always very careful. I resigned afterwards and people intervened, especially his wife, who called me and said I shouldn’t have done what I did. Chief Koleoso and others too intervened and I returned so I won’t be tagged a heady person. But I later resigned because he didn’t know change. He told me I was stupid during a meeting where I told him the truth.
During the SENACO struggle for Ajimobi, a lot of people contributed to his being governor. Honourable Nurudeen Akinyo, of blessed memory, was the one who financed SENACO in Ibadan North East/Ibadan South East Federal Constituency; Samuel Ajadi financed the group in Ibadan South West/Ibadan North-West Federal Constituency. When we went to launch ACN in Lagos State, SENACO people contributed to mobilise people. We got to Lagos with over 120 buses. We reduced other governorship aspirants, apart from Babatunde Fashola, to small masquerades that day.
Your leaving did not affect his re-election in 2015…
It does not matter. Personally, I still like him, but only dislike his political style. We the opposition parties made it easy for him to win. He won with just 32 per cent of the votes. If we had come together, he would not have won. The people of the state didn’t want Ajimobi and it was clear before the election. APC won with 85 per cent in the March 28 election, while the party got 32 per cent in the elections that were held two weeks after. Ego and personality clash among the leaders of the opposition parties gave the victory to Ajimobi.
Council election seems no longer feasible this year with the renewal of tenure of caretaker chairmen by the governor…
Apart from the local government election that was conducted by INEC in 1998, none subsequently can be said to be free and fair. The governor has already handpicked OYSIEC members. What do you expect? But if they want to write the result, we shall resist such attempt as a party. APC, as of today, can’t win a single council in a free and fair election. We are meeting and strategising. People are not happy; they are hungry and are dying. Will workers who are being owed six months salaries vote for APC? Will the artisans and traders vote for APC? We will mobilise people to show that APC is no longer wanted. We won’ encourage voter apathy which will give them a field day and room to manipulate the outcome of council polls. There will vehement resistance from the opposition parties and the people of the state to any attempt to rig the council elections.
There are opposition lawmakers in Oyo House of Assembly, yet it seems to be a one-party assembly with docile opposition lawmakers. Why is this so?
I don’t agree with you that they are docile. However, it is obvious that there are no opposition lawmakers in the House. The eight Accord lawmakers and six LP lawmakers are not behaving like opposition legislators, because they are not opposing policies that are clearly anti-people. I will say they inactive, but not docile. They are rubberstamp lawmakers. Vibrant opposition parties assist government to do the best for the people. They are just concurring to whatever is tossed at them by the governor. We are not happy about it. When there is a constructive opposition in the House, the governor will think about the reaction of the opposition before bringing anything to them. This will help the executive to think better. Look at the kind of screening they did for the commissioners and compare it with what happened at the National Assembly. I am calling on Accord and LP lawmakers to support whatever good policies Ajimobi brings and oppose bad ones.