Ajimobi remains leader of Oyo APC —Oyeleke
In this interview with WALE AKINSELURE, lawmaker representing Ogo Oluwa/Surulere state constituency, Honourable Simeon Adegbola Oyeleke, speaks on the legislature’s approval of the sack of local government caretaker chairmen by the Governor Seyi Makinde led administration and the fortunes of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, among other issues..
As a lawmaker and caretaker chairman, your constituents will have high expectations of you. What are your plans for your constituents?
As a grassroots politician and former local government caretaker chairman, I understand the needs of my constituency, which is agrarian. Also, my constituents are concerned about road network and water, while the youths need to be engaged in productive activities. I ensure that my constituents attend trainings as to take them away from riding motorcycles as a business. We try to educate and orientate our women for them to be in a position to benefit from government and non-governmental organisations. I encourage the youths to seek secondary education, at the minimum and further to attend technical college. Furthermore, I have been discussing with the executive on the virile agriculture market in Ogbomoso zone. Most times, those agricultural produce are in excess, thereby discouraging farmers from producing. The government must therefore look at storage.
You were part of the House that approved the dissolution of local government caretaker chairmen who were elected on your party’s platform. Was that a typical case of your party, which is in the minority, only having its say but not its way?
We did not keep quiet. We have a former speaker as the Minority Leader of the House. We then voiced out that the Assembly should follow the constitution. Section 7 of the Nigerian Constitution stipulates that the local government has to be governed by democratically elected officers which Senator Abiola Ajimobi did. So, due process was followed then. We then made our intention known that the legislature should wait to allow for the tenure of the local government chairmen to expire but they have the majority number.
We also said we were not in support of the dissolution of the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) because they have four years mandate. Rather, they argued that the constitution only recognised 33 local government areas and not 35 local council development areas (LCDAs). The composition of LCDA was ratified by the eighth Assembly which has right to make laws. The matter is in court and we know that whenever the court pronounces the judgment, anybody affected will have to abide with it. However, the non-existence of local government chairmen has created a vacuum which is affecting activities at the grass roots level.
For the most part of the immediate past administration, caretaker chairmen ran the local government system. To prevent the vacuum, will you advise the present government to also appoint caretaker chairmen, pending the conduct of local government election next year?
It was not the intention of the Senator Ajimobi-led administration to use caretaker chairmen. A court case hindered the process and once the case was resolved, the local government election was conducted. So, I am not in support of the use of caretaker chairmen because this is not recognised by the Nigerian Constitution. The constitution recognises democratically elected local government chairmen. However, caretaker chairmen could be appointed, just for a short term arrangement, before the election is conducted.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is now in the opposition in the state, having lost the governorship election while former Governor Ajimobi also lost his bid to get a senatorial seat. Some people say your party is dead in Oyo State…
The APC is not finished in Oyo State. We operate a democracy and the people have the power of the polls to reject anyone. By the next poll, the people of Oyo State will be doing a comparison between this government and the past government to determine whom to support, moving forward. If in 2023, the people acknowledge having made a mistake by voting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they will once again go to the polls to correct the situation. The APC is still the party at the federal level. At the state level, the APC has acknowledged its wrongdoings and the party leaders are trying to correct those mistakes.
What were those wrongdoings that you are now trying to correct?
The problem was the failure of the party to be united. The lack of unity among the party leaders was the major problem during the 2019 elections. If we were united, no magnitude of opposition would have been able to penetrate. Sadly, many of our political supporters voted against the party. However, we have realised our mistakes and we are now coming together to build a strong party in the state. If we fail to put our house in order, this means we are yet to learn from the lessons of our failure. If the party gives room for suggestions, definitely, we can come back in 2023.
Fingers have been pointed at former Governor Ajimobi for some of the failures of the party in the 2019 elections. Is he still the one to lead the party for the 2023 elections?
We are all party to the failure. Ajimobi was a governor and leader hence he will receive the blame, whereas everybody knew that, without unity, we would not be able to win the battle. The party leadership and Ajimobi as the former governor have begun speaking with party members on the need to move forward.
The former governor is still the leader and we also have the leadership of the party chairman at the state level. The hierarchical structure of the party is such that we are under the leadership of the chairman at the state level. But this notwithstanding, the former governor is still relevant in the leadership of the party.