Barrister Sola Ebiseni, the estwhile Commissioner for Environment and governorship aspirant under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State, speaks with HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, on his ambition, zoning and other issues. Excerpts:
What is your take on the clamour to zone the party’s ticket to a particular senatorial district?
Honestly, that is an issue I would ordinarily not want to discuss because I am involved. Certain ingredients are becoming noticeable in our political culture which any political party may ignore at its own peril. Such ingredients like zoning as a guarrantee of equitable access to power by stakeholders in the polity are rooted in the people’s political consciousness in both our traditional and democratic political practices. Thus, in our traditional government in this part of the world, the monarchy operates through ruling houses and it is not permissible that any ruling house succeeds itself back to back.
As a lawyer, I have seen and been involved in protracted chieftaincy litigations against monopolistic tendencies. In my area, I know a chieftaincy that has been vacant since 1989, with the ruling family in court on the issue of zoning. In our modern politics, particularly in this state, there are unwritten conventions engraved in the minds of the people of every local government rotating their chairmanship, same for their parliamentary positions. In all states, except where a group is dominant and takes such advantage like Ibadan in Oyo State, Igala or Kogi East in Kogi State, or Tiv in Benue, there is understanding among stakeholders for equitable access to the governance of their respective states.
Even in a seemingly monolithic and urban state like Lagos, after the tenures of Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fasola who are Muslims, there was subtle agitation for both a Christian successor and for a Lagos East consideration. In spite of his known grip on Lagos politics, Asiwaju kowtowed to the sentiments of the people culminating in Ambode’s governorship from Epe. At a time, Tinubu had to jettison his ambition for the Senate in favour of Ganiyu Solomon to put an end to the disquiet in his party.
The greater consideration for support for Jonathan’s second term presidency by all groups in the South South was what made particularly the Ijaw and other riverine people of Rivers State to tolerate the succession of Rotimi Amechi by Nyesom Wike, his Ikwerre compatriot. Jonah Jang was not that lucky in the polyglot Plateau State when he went for a successor from his senatorial District after his own eight years. The people showed their resentment by voting PDP in other elections except the governorship.
That was similar to what happened to our party, SDP, in Lagos in 1992 when Dapo Sarumi was given the governorship ticket instead of Femi Agbalajobi who was favoured by party members. The same people who overwhelmingly voted SDP in all other elections gave the minority NRC the governorship through political conspiracy or gerrymandering. Ondo State, more than any other state, has shown determination against dictatorship and the present governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, in his political career has been a veritable source of inspiration to those averse to lack of internal democracy. That’s what you get when politicians especially winning parties abuse the grace of God in our beliefs that we are wiser than the people.
The people of the South are clamouring for the governorship slot, do you see the party giving the ticket to the area?
Every such agitation is legitimate. The party members and ultimately the electorate will decide the tenability of such agitation based on the political history of our state and other criteria. In addition to verifiable issues in our political history, as it is in warfare or even in soccer, it behoves every political party to consolidate its stronghold.
If you fail to win the party’s primary, would you opt out of the party or support the candidate of the party?
Interesting! Primary or delegate election is a technical one that is almost predictable. All other things being equal, particularly ensuring free and fair process, there is no way we won’t win.
What makes you better than the other aspirants of the party?
It is not a matter of comparison. In terms of goodness—I am sure you do not expect me to bear witness of myself for as our Lord Jesus said, if I alone bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. Seeking public office will expose everything about all. I have served this state and its people all my adult life knowing them, adding value to their lives. I am full in accomplishment and in humility present a tabula rasa in terms of integrity. Let the people be the judge of us all.
What will you do differently from the present administration?
I am proud of our achievements under Dr Mimiko, my leader, elder brother and friend. I come not to abolish the law but to bring it to greater fulfilment under a fresh anointing combining the experiences garnered under previous administrations. Every administration has its own priorities defined sometimes by its peculiar challenges. While issues of access to quality education and health services are given, I intend not to pay lip service to the diversification of the state economy in this critical times. My experiences being in charge of the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources which spread across the state stands me in a better stead.
Ondo state is so gifted, it is the centre of the south if you travel from Seme in our boundary with Benin Repubic to Oron where we share boundary with Cameroun in the East. Vertically, it is the only state that traverses the Nigeria landscape from the shore of the Atlantic in the South to its boundary with Kogi state northern Nigeria. Our territory is replete with all conceivable minerals ranging from quarry rocks from Ore through Idanre, Ondo, Akure, Itaogbolu, Ifon, Supare, Ikare, lime stone at Okeluse and iron at Akunu not to mention our bitumen and crude oil and agriculture in which we undoubtedly have comparative advantage. We have the longest shoreline among the littoral state. Yet we are the only state yet to explore and exploit its coastal advantages and resources a factor which makes states like Lagos and Rivers thick. Proximity of Ogun to Lagos gives Ogun its industrial advantage and revenue from basically 2 Local Governments of AdoOdo/ Otta and Ifo. It is amazing to know that Ondo state to Lekki along the coast is less than an hour drive. Our unique state drags the Yoruba into the Niger Delta territorially and ranks 5th among the 9 oil producing states. In our development blueprint to be launched as soon as we secure our party ticket we intend to demonstrate in details how these resources will be translated to our advantages as a state and in some cases apparent constitutional constraints no longer constitute impediments to our progress.
Are you not worried by the crisis at the national level of your party?
Quite worrisome ordinarily but in such crisis is a statement of strength. The struggle for control of the party is a clear indication of its continued relevance in our national life as a veritable platform in achieving political ambitions and influencing the cause of our nation.
You were a delegate at the 2014 National Confab and known advocate of the restructuring of the Nigerian polity. What is your take in view of the refusal of Mr President’s refusal to implement the Confab reports.
The Confab resolutions are not an end unto themselves but means to the end of securing a peaceful, workable polity. To some of us the resolutions are mere national palliatives and not far reaching enough for the true federal Nigeria of our dream. In other words, the resolutions reached by consensus of eminent Nigerians from all walks of life, are the minimum conditions moving Nigeria forward. For instance, is it still feasible that in a federal state only the central government will have the power of law and order in such a way that so called governments of the federating states will be at the mercy of the government at the centre even to enforce the laws made by the federating parliaments. At the Confab some of us reasoned that if Boko Haram had such fear as they do for the ragtag Civilian JTF one could imagine the feat that would have been accomplished by a well trained and motivated police force of Borno indigenes with requisite intelligence on account of being an integral part of the Borno society. How can we continue to operate a federal system which main feature is the permanent dependence of the state on revenue bailout or donation to the federating units which to all intents and purposes ought to be autonomous. Happily the National Assembly now sees the need for the adoption of the resolutions.