Ekiti APC administration has failed —Lawal
Dr Sikiru Tae Lawal, a former deputy governor of Ekiti State during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration and Baba Adini of Ekiti land, speaks with DAPO FALADE on sundry issues affecting the state, declaring that the present administration in the state has fallen short of public expectations.
TAKING a look at your political odyssey, you were a former deputy governor of Ekiti State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which lost out to then Action Congress (AC) and things seems to be in disarray since then…
I will not agree with you that everything is in disarray because we only lost to the then Action Congress of Nigeria in court. We came back to government again after four years, when Governor Ayo Fayose was elected in 2014. The PDP was in government in Ekiti State for four years before lost again to the all Progressives Congress (APC) in the last election in 2018.
What happened to the (PDP) People Democratic Party in Ekiti State in 2018 was because of imposition. You will recall that former Governor Segun Oni, left for the APC. For me, I left for the Labour Party (LP) where I contested for the last governorship election and I later came back to the PDP. This was because we discovered that the PDP is the party to beat in Ekiti State.
When former Governor Oni left the PDP for the APC, the expectation was that his deputy will follow him. At what point did you part ways with your boss politically?
Engineer Segun Oni is a complete gentleman, an administrator per excellence who I will forever respect all my life. He did his best for Ekiti State and, if you come to Ekiti, you will see that, today, all the projects he started are yet to be completed. However, I don’t believe in the APC as a party and I told him frankly that the APC is not a political party to join. When you see what they are doing to him in the party now, you will discover that the fear of those of us who felt the APC is not worth it is correct and justified.
You left the PDP to contest the governorship election. Why did you leave the party in the first instance?
I left the PDP because I believe in fair play. There was no fair play in the selection of the candidate for the governorship election. Politics is about consultation; it is about relevance and it is about service to the people. When you have a leader who does not want to consult and who believes that he is the all-in-all, you cannot prosper politically under such a leader. Recognition will not be there and you will discover that there are times in your life that you will want to prove a point that you want to walk the talk. I was invited and told the people that I was interested in the governorship race.
I was in a meeting where people were being invited and they said that somebody had been chosen and that all other aspirants should go and vote for him at the party primary. I said that was not right for a leader. If that person had won in a free and fair primary, I would be the number one person to go out and support him. Even if we had been consulted and we were told that those of us who we interested in the governorship seat, “why don’t you go among yourself and pick one,” that would have been better. But even, ordinary consultation or a call that you, Dr Sikiru Lawal, I am aware that you are interested in the governorship, why don’t you step down and allow this particular person to do it for now would have made a difference. But there was no consultation; it was like we were told to go to blazes and that is not right in politics. Sincerely, it will interest you to know that Ekiti is a PDP state but we lost the election because of that kind of approach.
After all said and done, what now gave you the conviction to return to the party?
You see, some of the leaders talked to us. I was invited to a series of meetings. Like I said earlier, politics is about consultation. We held meetings in Ado-Ekiti; we also held meetings in Abuja. After all those meetings, a lot of us who still believed in the PDP said: Okay, why can’t we just go back to the party?’ The likes of Ambassador Dare Bejide, Chief Yinka Akerele and quite a host of other leaders who were over 20 in number met, with the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and issues were resolved and we decided to go back to the PDP.
The state of Ekiti PDP now does not appear rosy. You are in the opposition and just recently, seven of your local government chairmen defected to the ruling APC in the state. What do you really think accounted for the development?
What happened is politics of the carrot and the stick. The APC in Ekiti State is not popular and they want to give a contrary impression and that they are in government. The election that produced the present administration in Ekiti was riddled with fraud, ballot box snatching and the rest of it. Now, they want people, and through their promises, look, the first thing they did was to suspend all the local government chairmen. Eight of them were later returned and a month or so ago, they returned another eight. They have been promising that they are going to do this and that. But that remains at the realm of promises.
In fact, you can see that Ekiti PDP is still very strong, in spite of all the antics of the present administration in the state. We still have more than 50 per cent of the local government chairmen. The APC only got seven out of the 16 local government chairmen. Even at that, for some of those who left for the APC, their vice chairmen did not defect; the councilors did not defect. So, when you look at it, a place where you have a minimum of 10 councilors, but just some the chairmen and maybe, some vice chairmen defected, you can see that, despite the fact that we are in the opposition, the PDP remains the party to beat in Ekiti State.
You claimed that the APC is not popular but the party proved its popularity with the recent local government election held in the state and in which it won all the local government areas. How else do you mean?
Oh my God! Forget about that. Is that an election? Would you call that a local government election? Was that election or selection? In some local government areas and wards, ballot boxes and election materials were not made available. In some places, they were just thumb printing anyhow. Tell me a state anywhere in the country where the ruling party lost the local government election. Go to the record to prove me wrong…
That means your own party, when it was in power, was also involved in what you are saying now…
I am not disputing that; what we have been having is local government selection. What I am telling you is that the last local government election in Ekiti was not a test the popularity of the APC. The main election, that is, the governorship, will soon be here in 2022 and we are winning that by the special grace of God.
You said the APC is popular. If it is true, how do you then explain the violence that happened during the so-called local government election?
In spite of the fact that it was a local government election, someone was killed in Ikere-Ekiti; some people, who were shot by thugs, are still in the hospital, as we speak. That would tell you that these people are not popular. If they are afraid of local government election, what would happen at the general election? But let me assure you, the PDP is prepared to face the APC in the general election. People are suffering now and they have realised that the worst of the PDP is better than the best of the APC. They have seen Segun Oni in government under the PDP; they have seen Ayo Fayose in government under the PDP and they have seen Kayode Fayemi’s first term in government and his second coming. They are now in a position to determine which one is good for them; they knew that the last governorship election in the state was marred with vote buying and they are now regretting because they were paid to vote.
But the alleged vote buying was not limited to any party as it was said that the PDP was also involved but one party higher than the other…
Let me tell you one thing: There is a difference between getting people to go and vote and paying for votes. What the PDP did was to assist those who were not able to get to the polling units. It was not by going to the polling units to say, “Vote for us, we pay you N5, 000 or N10, 000”, which was what the APC did. The truth is that if they had allowed a free and fair election, the PDP would have won, in spite of the rancour in the party because Ekiti is PDP.
How do you see PDP in the opposition for the next three years in Ekiti State?
I am happy that we are coming together. I am happy for the judgment that brought Senator Abiodun Olujinmi back and I am happy that she is providing the right leadership. We are coming together and everybody is coming together. We are working towards our congresses and, by the special grace of God, we are all working assiduously so that we can get it right at the congresses. The moment we get it right at the congresses, we will have worthy leaders and we are sure of winning the next governorship election.
You see, the present government in Ekiti is not doing much. It is seen only in the social media; you read a lot about its activities on the social media but it has not been impacting. When it comes to programmes that affect the lives of the common people in the state, the APC government has been found wanting.
But it was said that most of the PDP members are disillusioned and hungry…
The APC members in the state are hungrier than members of the PDP in the state. Just come over here and see things for yourself. I live here and I know what is happening; I live among the people; I associate with the poor and I can assure you that everybody in Ekiti, not just PDP members, is hungry.