APC remains the strongest party in Ogun, will win 2023 elections —Oladunjoye

Tunde Oladunjoye is the publicity secretary of the Caretaker Committee set up by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State. In this interview with IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI, he talks about the strength of the party towards the 2023 governorship election, crisis in the party and other issues. Excerpts:

 

How would you describe the strength of your party The All Progressives Congress (APC) as we look forward to the 2013 general election?

APC is the strongest party in Ogun State and we are good to go as far governance and the coming elections are concerned. This is the first time in the political annals of Ogun State, where we have all the former democratically elected governors in a single party. It has never happened like that in the past – Aremo Osoba, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and we have the current governor. We also have all their deputies – Sefiu Kaka, Segun Adesegun, Salmot Badru, and the sitting deputy governor. Almost all former senators – Akin Odunsi, Gbenga Kaka, Gbenga Obadara etc – are with us, same for former House of Representatives members – Isiaq Akinlade, Segun Osibote and many others – are in this party. Remember politics is local; these people are holding forte in their respective domains and these are the grassroots and places where votes will emanate. We believe that we have the calibre of people with which we will win our next election.

More importantly, the added value is the performance of the current governor of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who has been doing well in terms of infrastructure and education. Look at the top 10 from JAMB, our higher institutions, including Moshood Abiola Polytechnic that was almost scrapped, is now rated among the best in the country. When the governor came in, the staff unions of Tai Solarin (TASCE), which has been renamed after Oba Sikiru Adetona were on strike. They had a protracted strike. The governor met the staff and inaugurated the governing council headed by Chief Yemi Adefulu. It is rated as the best in Nigeria. In the health sector, Ogun recorded the index COVID-19 case even though it was imported from Lagos. But it is that kind of situation that you test leadership. The governor rose up to that occasion and when Lagos became the epicentre of Coronavirus, it was contained in Ogun State and we didn’t have a spill-over from Lagos despite our closeness, interaction and the fact that some places on the border are interwoven between Lagos and Ogun States. Today, there is no local government in the state that doesn’t have mobile ambulances; the governor regularly announces their locations. There are also tricycle-ambulances for movement of patients in rural areas. If you want to be moved in an ambulance from one government hospital to the other on referral in Ogun State today, it is completely free of charge. That wasn’t the case before now.

The government, in the last two years, has built two brand new fire stations and has renovated the existing ones. Fire trucks and tankers have been bought. Remember there was a time when there were widespread fire incidents in this country.

The forward-looking governor put those mobile, active and up-to-date fire houses, equipment and well-mobilised personnel in place and the governor is saying he is not stopping. There are road projects in 18 out of the 20 LGS in the state. At the last stakeholders’ meeting with party leaders, he said road contracts would soon be awarded for the remaining two local governments – Ijebu East and Ogun Waterside LGs. We believe we have what to take back to the electorate and campaign with. As I am talking to you, you cannot quote my governor anywhere talking about the second term. As far as he is concerned, the time for that is not now. He said he wants to continue with what he’s doing, which is serving the people of Ogun State and delivering dividends to them.

 

Was the second term ticket offered to him when he said that?

We haven’t got to that. We don’t want to put the cart before the horse. What the party is doing across the country is congresses. The governor is not desperate for a second term. He is just two years and four months into his first term in office and he feels that he still has a lot to accomplish. He has done things that haven’t happened before in the history of this state and Lagos State with the establishment of Lagos-Ogun Joint Commission where we can take the benefit of shared cost and advantages of our potentials. As I said earlier, there are towns where you cannot separate Lagos from Ogun and we are looking at giving them infrastructure, health, physical planning etc. The governor is focused on governance and the talk of the second term is not ripe.

 

With the achievements of his administration so far, will the party offer him the ticket for the second term in office if he remains consistent till the election time?

Well, I will give you a response that is very obvious. If you are a coach that has a striker like Messi or Ronaldo and he is fit and not injured and you have a critical or deciding match to play, will you bench such a player? You won’t do that. You will want to put your best foot forward. And that is how I will respond to that because the biggest advertiser of APC in Ogun today is Governor Abiodun by what he has done and what he is yet to do. He hasn’t increased the heat of the polity. He has shown himself as an Omoluabi Governor. You should be aware of what happened in Ogun State before March 9, 2019 in terms of political violence, killings, media war and this governor has maintained his cool. It is not that he hasn’t been taunted; not that he hasn’t been attacked and libelled, but he is taking it in his stride. For that reason, Ogun State has remained peaceful politically because when the state is not peaceful, the governor will not be focused and it will hamper the delivery of democratic dividends. There have been shenanigans from opposition within and without but he is focused and has maintained a recommendable cool headedness and that is why people who have opposed him in the last election are part of his fold now. Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka of ADC and Otunba Rotimi Paseda of the Social democratic Party (SDP), and many others are now in APC. The juggernauts of PDP have said that the soul and body of PDP are also now in APC. If anyone is talking about PDP in Ogun State today, maybe the person is talking of the skeleton or what remains of it.

 

Recently, a chieftain of the PDP, Ladi Adebutu, said your party has “a crisis of confidence and governance.” Would you say this is the true picture of the party, in the light of the internal wranglings of some power blocs in the party?

I read Adebutu’s interview and digested it. The first thing that came to my mind was that the interview was conducted very well in the morning when he just woke up from bed because he unbelievably exhibited acute naivety of governance in politics, administration and awareness of realities in Ogun State. I feel he granted the interview after he hurried out of bed. For somebody, whose present political status was boosted by his appointment by ex-Governor Daniel who made him a commissioner in one of the commissions during his era, for that same person to now describe Daniel, Baba Osoba, Isiaka in those terms, the least I can say is that it is very unfortunate. But we know that he is a pig farmer and we will not wrestle with a pig farmer, we will only try to educate him. The legacies provided by these statesmen (Osoba and Daniel) in Ogun State still live on. Go to many nooks and crannies of Ogun State and you will still see lots of their projects there. These are things our governor is building on while initiating others. Governor Abiodun came and said he would complete all projects uncompleted by the previous administration, provided that they have economic value to the state. Our Kuto bridge wasn’t completed by the last administration but it has been done now. A new stretch of layer is being put on the Sagamu-Abeokuta expressway. The model school at Kobape that wasn’t in use has been turned to Ogun State Tech Hub. You need to go there and see what the youngsters there are doing. I was there last week at the end of the Summer Camp and I saw children of 9-11 years showing what they did. Some of them are doing animations that cost millions of naira whenever it is to be used for political campaigns. It is better to educate him than to exchange words with him. He will need to take a second look at the interview to see if those adjectives he used against those people are worthy of them but I won’t go into that.

 

What about the internal wrangling in your party?

I will tell you that crisis in any party is part of politicking and I will not hide behind one finger like he did to say that there are no disagreements in APC. The bigger the head, the bigger the headache. APC has the largest followership in Ogun State and in Nigeria. PDP has no courage to embark on membership registration because people are leaving their party in droves to the APC, including sitting governors. When you have these kinds of political juggernauts leaving to join a party and you know people are into politics for one reason or the other either for elective or for appointive offices, there are bound to be conflicting interests. But clarification must be made that there is no parallel group or congress or faction. In politics, there is only one party and the party is in Abuja according to the Electoral Law and constitution and to organise congresses, the party will set up committees for that purpose. Only one committee was put together for Ogun State, the committee went round, recorded them on tape, some people said they weren’t pleased, they approached the appeal committee and made their case. The case was looked into and it was decided that ward congress in Ogun State under the chairmanship of Chief Yemi Sanusi was free, fair and transparent and that the executive that emanated from such congress should be sworn in. It was on the basis of that the same congress committee was sent back to organise the local government congress. The congress we organised was supervised by INEC as stipulated by the Electoral Law. If anybody is saying ‘I’m organising a congress without supervision and coordination by a committee sent from Abuja, INEC and others, it is a charade. It is a waste of time. It is like comparing a gold-plated ornament to gold. They are not the same and you can’t call the two items of gold; one is clearly not gold. These same set of people went away to form the Allied People Movement (APM) in 2019 and had a governorship candidate. Before that, when we held our governorship primary in 2019 conducted by the committee sent by the APC leadership of Adams Oshiomhole, they went and held a separate primary without supervision and for the first time in Ogun history, the result of that primary was announced by the then Secretary to the State Government which is an absurdity. Since what they did was not reckoned with, they went to another party and contested the election. They came back around March and said they only went to APM and that “APM was dead,” according to his words and they are back to join the mainstream APC. You will realise that not all of them came back fully because to join a party, you have to register at your ward. Some of them are with us and the same people who think they can rabblerouse are the same set of people that are talking about factional congress. But as we move on, you will wonder why they are following the same route, why do you keep doing the same thing that has led to failure and will continue to lead to failure? That is how I can explain the differences.

Let me give you two examples. When we had the membership registration and revalidation, all materials used were brought under the care of the caretaker committee headed by Yemi Sanusi and conducted from this secretariat. The former governor, who is sponsoring this dissent, came to register with us. Why didn’t they hold a factional registration?

 

But, he is a card-carrying member of your party and was re-elected as a senator on the APC platform.

Yes, but don’t forget that he sponsored the dissidents and when they wanted to inaugurate their Executive Committee, it was done at his constituency office in Leme. That office used to wear the colours of APM. It was after they announced that APM was dead that they made it his constituency office and the same office is used to swear in excos elected during the charade they did. When we had registration under Sanusi, he went to his ward to register; they could have said they don’t recognise Sanusi. When they had opinion about our congresses, they (Senators Odebiyi and Mustapha and one Baruwa) submitted their petitions to the appeal committee. They appeared before the committee to defend their petitions. The only APC chairman in Ogun State, Sanusi, was called to respond to those allegations. They could have stood and protested that Sanusi was not the chairman.

 

One would think their camp is enjoying the federal appointments from Ogun State. Sharafa Tunji Ishola, Ronke Shokefun, Lekan Adegbite etc. all belong to their camp. Will that not be seen as a form of federal or presidential backing of the sort that is making them toe that same line from 2019?

Well, I don’t know if they are touting any backing but I know appointments have been given and it is continuous. Senator Lanre Tejuoso was recently made Chairman of the Governing Council of UNILAG. The current chairman of APC, Sanusi, was made chairman of the Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic Ukana, Akwa-Ibom State. Our secretary, Ayo Olubori, is a member of the Governing Council of Yaba College of Technology. The Director-General of Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation, Chief Segun Adesegun, a few weeks back, was made an Executive Member of the Board of Directors of Wema Bank. Would you say these people belong to their camp? Appointments are continuous and what I know for certain is that President Buhari and the party at the national level will never support anti-party activities and disloyalty and it will be somewhat of a hallucination that appointment given to certain people in their camp is a federal backing. Who appoints people for all the appointable offices at the state level? The governor does. He not only appoints but also creates offices for appointments. Bandying the appointments of certain people falls flat on the face. The governor can sit and give appointments as he has been giving thus far and we have thousands of people to take care of at the state level. Look at the ministries, commissions, special advisers, assistants, boards, corporations, agencies etc. into which the governor has appointed people and is still appointing them.

 

Let’s go back quickly to some allegations made by Honourable Adebutu against your party. He said your party is run by “Louts and motor park guys” and that LGs in Ogun State cannot account for about N64 billion federal allocation they got in the last two years. How true are these claims and how do you respond to these?

I, as a person and the party, do not wish to descend to the gutter with Hon Adebutu. He is a pig farmer and we will not wrestle with him.

He has touted some materials on the issue of local governments, why don’t you wait for him. Don’t let us preempt him. Let’s allow him enjoy his infatuation concerning local government administration in Ogun State because, in the last one and a half years when we have caretaker committees in place before our recent LG election, there is no local government that do not have at least three major projects that were commissioned by the Commissioner for Local Government for Chieftaincy Affairs, Honourable Afuape, who went round the 20 local governments. There are tapes, documentaries and write ups about them. It has not been fruitful under a caretaker administration. His comments show he lacks awareness about the issues. So, we will wait for him and see how far he will make a ridicule of himself. During the campaign, our governor said there will be a new lease of life at the local government level. If you have a minimum of three projects per local government, that’s 60 projects, to say the least. Some did roads, markets, transformers etc. In my local government, we have a market, and some classrooms were renovated. When we get to that juncture, we will open our cards. What he is doing is an attempt to draw us out but as far as our party and governor is concerned, it is not yet time for electioneering.

 

Honourable Adebutu of the PDP also alleged that the state government is rather preoccupied with federal roads, when it should be focusing on rural roads. In the real sense of it, what is the rationale behind the attention that these federal roads get and what are the specific benefits to the people of the state?

That’s laughable. In Ogun Central senatorial district, the Dapo Abiodun administration is constructing Somorin-Kenta road. Obantoko to Fajol to Unity Estate road has been completed; Elite road completed in Abeokuta; Vespa road in Ifo has been completed; Total Junction to Itori in Ewekoro local government, has been completed. So also Olomore-Sanni road, to mention but a few. In Ogun West, our administration has completed the Ikola road, Raypower road. Work is ongoing on Ilase-Koko-Alare road in Ipokia LG, Ado-Odo-Ikoga road and Joju road in Sango are completed, Imasayi-Ayetoro road is ongoing, Ejila road is completed and chemically treated, while  Ola road is ongoing. In Ogun East, right there in Honourable. Ladi Adebutu’s local government, Ilishan Market road has been completed. Awa-Oru-Ilaporu road has been completed. Asafa Oke-Asafa Isale completed; Fusingboye to Molipa road completed, Awujale Palace to Stadium road completed, while Molusi College road is ongoing. So, when I tell you that the man granted that interview after he just woke up from bed and that he has lost touch with reality, then you will agree with me. Honourable Adebutu has removed himself from the present reality in Ogun State, he is busy with pigs on his farm and infatuating on his moribund ambition. In Ogun, people do not make a separation between federal and state roads. Look at the Lagos-Ota Road for which the government is being bashed, it is a federal road but our people are not interested in that. That is why, as a responsible and responsive governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun is fixing both federal and state roads. The welfare of the people is the purpose of our government.

 

Some recent turn of events, including the indictment of one of the governor’s aides and the recent raid on the government property by Economc and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) among others, have made some say the government has a soft spot for fraud and corruption. Do you share these sentiments?

Let me assure you that this government has zero tolerance for fraud and corruption. The governor has been a businessman for many decades. On the incident regarding the aide, the government swiftly suspended him and withdrew all privileges of his appointment the day the news of his arrest broke, that’s even before trial started. In some other parts of this country, some government will defend him and justify why he should remain an appointee; they will say they are waiting for the conclusion of the investigation and trial since he is yet to be pronounced guilty by the court of law. Dapo Abiodun didn’t do that, that shows the kind of person that he is. On the raid of EFCC on MITROS Residences. That wasn’t the only place that was raided. About fifty-six persons were arrested. That MITROS facility is not run by the government but a consultant that is managing it and will pay some agreed sum back to the government. It is not an extension of government ministry or agency. It is purely a business enterprise run by another entity even though the property is owned by the government. Those who engage in that business of fraud only took advantage of the comfort, electricity supply, free WiFi that hotels offer. And these hotel managers now know better that they need to be more careful and vigilant with regards to people who check into their facilities so that the upright citizens who use their facilities are not harassed or embarrassed in the process. And I know MITROS Residences will look into that. It is not a government agency.

 

In the last local government election in the state, the NNPP claims to date that its candidate won Imala Ward 14 in Abeokuta North and that the winner was substituted with and APC candidate that was eventually sworn in, how true are these allegations?

The Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) will be in the best position to react to that. I don’t speak for OGSIEC and I know that they have reacted to those claims. But an unknown party that was not there, that didn’t campaign and didn’t post posters suddenly said, in their dream, they have won. Our election was free and fair and we won fairly. Go and check the results. Even in my local government (Ijebu East), we had a real election where you will be wondering how the PDP got some figures there. It shows that we contested the election and not that someone sat somewhere to write the results. The gladdening thing is that there is nowhere that any opposition or all of them combined got more than 25% and that is grassroots election. That case has been sorted and adequately responded to by OGSIEC.

 

A video of the governor re-editing an already prepared speech during his rehearsal recently went viral. A committee was instituted to look into it and some person accused you of being behind the leakage of the said video. You have not publicly addressed that issue since it happened. Why is this so?

You are right to say I have not spoken about it. I have not and I will not because it is pointless reacting to what does not exist. What I know for sure is that our governor is meticulous, on top of his game and mentally alert. No matter the shenanigans of mischievous elements, we as well as people within and outside Ogun State and the country know that we have a very cerebral governor that knows his onions, commendable, recommendable and commands a lot of respect among his peers. And that is what I will say on that matter.

 

For those you call dissidents in the party whose interests are different from that of the governor, would you advise them to pitch their tent with the governor and the national secretariat?

I will advise them to do unto others as they will like others to do unto them. Their major sponsor had the rare privilege of being where the present governor is sitting today. Would anybody have tried all what they are doing today with him knowing his pedigree and influence? Certainly no! Furthermore, I am very sure that Governor Abiodun is not expecting one hundred percent support from all party members but those who disagree or want to aspire should follow the rule of law, laws and regulation of the party and the Electoral Act. If your party says a committee is coming to conduct a congress in your state, submit yourself to that committee. Don’t go and hold a charade elsewhere. If you have petitioned the appeal committee set up by your party, appeared and made your case before it and the appeal committee ruled that your case has no merit, as a democrat, you should be able to accept the ruling of that committee unless you have an ulterior motive. Ask yourself, if I was sitting in this capacity as the ruler and with all my influence, local and national contacts, security and others alike and I embarked on another sojourn to push for another candidate and it failed, what magic can one now do when you’re no longer the chief executive officer? Are the people of Ogun State stupid to forget the incident of February 11, 2019 where people who are not members of APC carried placards of another party that the then governor was supporting stormed MKO Abiola Stadium and three stones and all sorts at the president to the point where he had to be rescued alongside the APC governorship candidate. You cannot sponsor such a thing and say you are loyal to the president. You can’t be a loyal member of a house or room and be the one urinating in such a room.

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