A former governor of Ekiti State and candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the June 18 election, Chief Segun Oni, in this interview by ‘YOMI AYELESO, speaks on his aspiration, his party’s chances as a third force against the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and sundry issues leading to the poll.
In the last three years, you have been in the APC, PDP and now in SDP all in a bid to realise your ambition to be governor of the state again after your first term between 2007 and 2010. I am tempted to ask that; is Segun Oni a consistent politician in Nigeria?
I am consistent with principles and the principle is that political parties respect intra-party democracy. Political parties because they are looking for democracy at the top must instill democracy from within. If you have political parties that cannot conduct primaries and get them right, then do they have the right to complain ? There are political parties that when you apply to buy forms, they will tell you to go away that they will inform whoever that will get the ticket through text message. Is that the kind of selection process political parties would like to be subjected to? I am not a hypocrite, whatever I will not accept, I will not give and whatever I will not give, I will not accept. So, I have very low tolerance for evil, very low tolerance for dishonesty and low tolerance for oppression. Let me tell you that some of those things you are seeing in the society today are oppression of the people because how can you declare a process as secret ballot and somebody sitting there in the open, that is the Lord of Manor where people are showing him thumb printed ballot papers, would that political party be happy to hear that one of their opponents was able to hijack election process to the extent that they had to show him ballot thumb printed at a general election? it must not be anything goes because it is intra party affairs. If a party cannot guarantee democracy within itself, such a party would have no business asking for democracy at the top levels. So, I am consistent with principles.
Ahead of the June 18 governorship election, you have decided to contest under the SDP platform out of all the political parties in the country after you lost the PDP primaries. Why the choice of the SDP and how do you intend to build the party structures and make it formidable to dislodge the APC and the PDP in less than three months to the poll ?
The choice of the SDP first , I believe the SDP is new and we will have the opportunity to make it the kind of party we want it to be. The party that will respect itself because any party that cannot put together internal democracy in the purest form is not respecting itself. The party exists for democracy and if it cannot ask people to compete in a primary and select those who will lead them openly, that party is not respecting itself and I cannot belong to that category of political parties. We are seeking an alternative for Nigeria and those of us who are not happy with things now will put heads together looking for alternatives and the alternative we have seen is the SDP. We are doing our best by creating the structures at the ward and unit levels. I must tell you that we are getting tremendous applause and we are confident that before the election, structures would be in place.
Looking at the choice of your running mate in Chief Ladi Owolabi, who was a staunch member of the APC and chairman of the South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA) in Ado Local Government, it appears some people and groups in other parties are backing your ambition. Who are these people?
Well, I will say the people are behind this project. I was explaining that Ekiti is faced with a situation now where our collective patrimony, the biggest God has given us as Ekiti people and you see two people now want to appropriate it to themselves so that your children and my children would not be entitled to anything unless they go to them to prostrate,, kneel, bow or to put their backs on the ground. Of course we are not going to stay here and allow that to happen. So, this is a war. The people want to take their state back from individuals who want to appropriate it to themselves. Let me tell you that there are people in APC and PDP supporting this project. When I talked somewhere, I didn’t say all of SWAGA because when we were young , one of those things we learnt is the use of ‘All and Some’ You don’t say all when you mean some. So, we didn’t say all of SWAGA members but some of the people in the group; we didn’t say all members of repositioning group in the PDP but we said some and we still stand by all that. We are not here to give any false impression, that is not us. Whatever that is not true we will not say it.
You have left government about 12 years ago and you are now putting yourself forward to be governor again. What is the driving force and what are you bringing differently to governance if you are elected come June 18?
Different from what they have because as I have told you, the sovereign will of the people is so strong. You can’t have democracy unless you have political parties, political parties must be self-serving in such a way that nobody appropriate it to himself or herself. Even if that is the only thing we will do, we will have returned sovereign will to the people and we will have created an opportunity where your children and my children should now compete for whatever will happen. They have already dislodged the larger majority and they are now sitting to appropriate the state, it will not happen.
No doubt, money has become part of our elections in recent years and this coming election will not be an exemption. How is your party going to withstand the war chest, and influence from ruling APC with federal might and of course PDP?
The will of the people will be difficult to monetise. One of the reasons you have it this way is because the democracy itself is the bastardised form of it. In a bastardised union, anything will go and that is why people say they would come to voters and say, ‘ vote and cook soup’ and the people will put their hand forward to receive N5,000, maybe in few places N10,000 and they would not ask questions , this vote you want me to give you, when are you coming back to get the next vote and this vote you want me to cook, when am I coming for the next soup. It is so disheartening and it is because they have bastardised the whole thing and we are here to fight to restructure all these values. If we must start democracy, it is not that the elites continue to cheat and tell lies and appropriate what belongs to whole to themselves, that is what we are here to do. If I bring nothing differently to the table, we are bringing that and people will say that when Segun Oni was the governor, they did primary election not receiving tickets through the backdoor or text messages. Go and check the record, when I was governor, the only primary I presided over was for the local government chairmen. It brought out its own surprises because people they have ruled out won in a lot of places and that is how it is supposed to be. It is not people who go to prostrate at the house of leaders that would carry the day, it is who the people want. That is what we are planning to install in our polity.
How will your party stop the influence of politicians on the election processes?
The people will be the custodian. The people will ensure that their mandates is not appropriate into anybody’s pocket or by anybody the way it should not be. The people must stand up because we are doing all these for the people and I know people will stand up for us. Also, we are sounding a note of warning, we had elections in the state when it was part of old Ondo State in 1983 and people should remember history. Let us do what is expected, let INEC do what is expected, let the voters do what is expected and if you are a contestant and there are few people willing to vote for you, the fact that you are even lucky to be in the ballot, consider yourself lucky, you may have your day next time. Don’t try to force your will on the people because the people are getting to boiling point. We are close to them and we hear them and we see them. They are getting to boiling point and if you don’t allow the franchise of democracy to hold, you are only inviting violence and that is not what we want for our state and country.