Alhaji Ali Olagunju Olanusi, a former deputy governor of Ondo State and Board of Trustees (BOT) member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is the leader of the Unity Forum in the state. In this interview by YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, he speaks on the crisis within the APC in the state, reconciliation moves, and the future of the party.
The Ondo State chapter of the APC has been in crisis for some years, what actually is the problem?
The problems are hydra-headed; they started shortly after the emergence of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the elected governor of the state. He pushed aside those who did not belong to his Aketi Team and hijacked the party structure by positioning members of his team as exco members from the state to the ward levels. He practically left leaders and members who laboured tirelessly for the victory of the party in the cold. He runs the government of the state for the benefits of himself, while others are left to struggle for crumbs. It is a style of governance that is alien to us in Ondo State.In fact, in the choice of officers of the party, I mean Executive Committee members from state to the ward levels; the governor just sat down with his team members and handpicked his loyalists to fill the positions. As I speak with you, there is an ongoing court case instituted by Idowu Otetubi to challenge the process.
As progressives, we believe in transparent process but the approach the governor employed further plunged the party into crises. Again, the anti-party activities of the governor and his team during the last National Assembly and presidential elections further deepened the problems. We all know the outcome as we lost many National Assembly seats and unbelievably, the president also lost in Ondo State. It’s a disgrace. All these and many other factors are the build-up to the present ordeal.
It is rumoured that you are throwing your support for one of the aspirants from the southern senatorial district?
Not me. Who among them? I say this loud and clear today, I am a father to all of them. They all have my blessing; they are members of the group. I have no preferred one among them. They will all go through the process and the best will emerge but, I can assure you that there will be no loser among them because the next government in Ondo State will be a government of the people. The true owners of the party who are the members will have their party back. We are looking forward to an all- inclusive government with room enough for all. We cannot have two governors but all of us can be involved in governance. That is true party politics. On the issue of support for a particular aspirant, it is nothing but a blatant lie. It will never happen. I’m only here as leader not an impostor. When the time comes, the people will decide.
But the governor was quoted saying that if the APC fails to give him second term ticket, the party will lose. What is your take?
This is laughable. It is nothing better than a mere beer parlour joke. It is an ordinary outburst and an empty threat. We are on ground here and the reality is that close to 80 per cent of party members are disenchanted with his government. The Unity Forum meets regularly in my house and I can tell you authoritatively that that is where the strength of the party lies in Ondo State as at present. Maybe, I should invite you to our next meeting to see for yourself.I said it in a recent interview that if he leaves APC, we will not miss him at all. The the APC of today in Ondo State is in the hands of the leaders and members not the pocket of the governor, he leads an imaginary army.
About leaving the party, he is free to do that after all, our constitution allows for freedom of association. But a Yoruba adage says, ‘won o so wipe ki omode ma d’ete to ba ti le ma da gbe inu igbo’, that is any child that develops leprosy should be ready to be quarantined to the leprosarium. I describe the statement as an overestimation of self and very illusory.
You and other leaders attended a meeting with Governor Akeredolu on February 1, what was it all about?
It is true we attended a meeting with him at Heritage Hotel, Ijapo, Akure, at the instance of Chief Pius Akinyelure and the principal issues discussed were the non-consultation with party leaders; illegal constitution of Executive Committee from state to the ward level. It is on record that the July meeting recommended the dissolution of the Executive Committee and constitution of a caretaker committee.
But, they report is that you endorsed him for a second term in office at the meeting?
Second what? That’s not true. It is a gross misrepresentation of the whole exercise. We did not discuss anything about election or re-election. I was surprised to hear after the meeting that what took place was endorsement for second term. It was never part of our discussion. In fairness to the governor, in his welcome address at the meeting he said categorically that the meeting was not to discuss the candidacy of governorship election. So, we neither adopted nor endorsed him, we only met in the party’s interest. I urge all our people and the general public to discountenance the misleading reports.
What are the steps taken so far to resolve the crises in your party?
Well, we need to thank Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and Aremo Olusegun Osoba who took the initiative in July 2019 and attempted to broker peace and reconcile the factions but unfortunately none of the recommendations at the meeting has been attended to by the governor. He failed to call meetings for committees to be constituted to carry out assignments and steps that may bring lasting solutions.
So presently, are you expecting the Senate President led reconciliation committee in Ondo State?
Why not? That is what we are waiting for? The meeting that held few days ago was just a follow up to a previous meeting with Asiwaju Tinubu and other leaders; it does not stop the committee constituted by the party to do their job. The committee is coming here and the members are men of integrity. I think the Ahmed Lawan- led committee would be the only panacea to the crises bedevilling the party. We need help here and we are anxiously waiting for them.