What politicians must do to deepen democracy —Oduoye

Mr Kayode Oduoye, a lawyer and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State, who contested for the Boripe/Odo-Otin/Ifelodun Federal Constituency seat in the 2015 election, speaks to MOSES ALAO on the need to deepen the nation’s democracy and the performance of the All Progressives Congress-led government.

An attempted military coup was foiled in Turkey by civilians. What do you think is the implication of the Turkey incident for the country?

It stands as a watershed in political developments in Turkey and it also sent signals to the appropriate quarters in the international community. That incident comes with several implications. It is a confirmation that the citizenry of that country have preference for democracy as a system of government and that the people are in support of the government. It also means that the voice of the people must be recognised and nobody can be coerced through the power of the gun.

But we should look at relevance of that occurrence to Nigeria as a country where democracy is still not properly rooted. How do we get to the level where the people would rise in defence of a government in a situation devoid of monetary inducement and sponsored protests? What we need to do is to ensure that those in government look after the interests of the governed.


Talking about democracy not being properly rooted, there has been a running battle between the Senate and the Presidency with no end in sight. What do you think this portends for the nation’s democracy?

To me, there is nothing strange about the struggle. The only thing is that Nigerian politicians are not showing good signs of learning the rope when it comes to deepening the nation’s democracy. The originators of the system known as democracy, in their logical reasoning, came up with the idea of three independent arms of government – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – to bring about checks and balances. There is no democracy without legislature. We all know that under military administrations, the executive and the judiciary are kept intact while the legislature is shut down. Its reopening naturally signals the resumption of democracy.

What is going on between the Presidency and the Senate is fast becoming a case of when two elephants fight – the grass will suffer. It is the ordinary people on the streets that will bear the brunt of this needless battle in the long run. You can see that things are getting worse by the day and some of us who are not detached from the people at the grass-roots level know the kind of pressure we face. People are really suffering and there is the need for the government to do something about it.


What you said about people suffering takes one to the question of opposition politicians’ attempt to rubbish the achievements and efforts of the APC leadership at the federal level and in states like Osun…

What achievements? You refer to the pervasive poverty, the hunger and the palpable fear about the state of the economy as achievements? Even the Minister of Finance agreed that the government has achieved nothing by saying we are technically in recession.

And on your question about Osun State, I will not like to be drawn into a needless war of words but you should ask workers in the state when last they got their salary. Also do well to ask artisans and traders how their businesses have been in the last year. The people of Osun State can no longer be deceived by the self-styled progressives who ended up setting the state on the path of backwardness.


Are you saying the government has not achieved anything?

Go to the streets and do a vox pop; the people will be in the best position to answer that question. Sadly, we have left the era of campaigning, we should join hands to build the country and the state and that is why we have been advising the APC government to bury its pride and admit the challenges in the handling of the economy. They should get the right people to move the economy out of the doldrums. It is high time they admitted that they have let the people down.


You said something about you staying connected to the people, how do you react to people linking your philanthropic gestures to your political ambition?

People have the tendency of having a wrong impression about the activities of individuals because the political system is largely money-driven. Once you are endowed with kindness towards others, it is part of you. But if you are merely acting or you have a hidden agenda, there is no way the difference won’t be clear. I am a politician and it is natural to have one aspirations. This does not in any way vitiate a good intention.

I have heard a lot of stories about me spending because I have a political ambition or because I have one inherited pool of funds, but I have developed a thick skin to such insinuations. I regard them as irrelevant and distracting.