I am qualified to be South-West PDP chair —Arapaja
Former Oyo State deputy governor and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Jordan and Iraq, Chief Taofeek Oladejo Arapaja, recently spoke with journalists on the crisis rocking the South-West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his nomination as the zonal chairman. WALE AKINSELURE brings the excerpts of the interview:
HOW do you feel about the honour bestowed on you as the would-be chairman of the South-West caucus of the PDP?
Well, I thank God for everything because I always believe in him and believe that power flows from him alone. When you are in a party, you contribute your quota. It is not everything that the government or the party will do for you. What can you contribute to the party? I was just doing my own for the party; because whenever I am in a party, I am in a party hundred percent and the face of the party is the governor of Oyo state. That is the tradition of any political party. So, I will not go out and malign my governor and my leader. As far as Oyo State is concerned, the number one man is Engineer Seyi Makinde and that is how God wants it. So, anybody that is going against him is just like fighting God. Based on that, I can be called upon to contribute my own quota, to contribute my service, to the development of my party. I will be ready and I am ready to take up any responsibility as bestowed on my personality by the governor of Oyo state who’s the leader of the party in this state and in South-West. That is the tradition anywhere. So, I am happy that the leader of the party finds me worthy of serving the party. I am available and I will do my utmost best to reposition the party in the South-West and you know that will affect the whole country because there used to be a time when we have like five to six governors in the South-West. Today, we have one. There was a time that the country was in the hand of PDP; it is no more the case. We want to go back to that. If we compare the performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor and the PDP governor, you will see that it’s all lies and deceit in the former.
How do you intend, with your new assignment, to galvanize strength and make sure the PDP remains a united front?
The first objective is to reconcile all aggrieved persons so that we that we can mobilise. I am always of the opinion that there is no need for fight if our grievances are genuine. We have different types of politician; we have those with honour and integrity and we have those who are just there for their own benefits (if I cannot get what I want, the party can fall). This shouldn’t be; but, nevertheless, we still have to mobilise ourselves. We will plead with them and talk to them. The basic thing is to reconcile so that we will be able to mobilise.
How would you react to people saying that your loyalty to PDP is in question as you have changed political parties overtime before now?
There is no distinctive ideology on Nigeria politics. We are all the same. Injustice and impunity are at the highest level. I would rather pull out of the party rather than being in the party and be working against the party. It is better to leave a party than to go on maligning the government and be tearing the party apart. I am a politician with dignity and I have a name to protect. What happened in 2015 was that some elements wanted to impose themselves on the other. You should not expect me in such party because I won’t be happy because that is just a waste of time. Why would a person be in one party and be praising the leader of another party? If you like such person, then, you should move to his party rather than creating rancour in party you belong. The objective is to tear the party apart. How can a person be in PDP and say he doesn’t like Seyi Makinde’s face and also be taking pictures with the leader of another party openly. It is indiscipline.
There is tension ahead the South-West zonal congress and there are fears that the congress will turn parallel. Now in the event that the National Working Committee (NWC) postpones the congress or recognises the other camp (Ayodele Foyose’s), are you thinking of a boycott or legal action?
How can they recognise the other side because they are just making noise? We all know the antecedent of Fayose, their leader. Somebody with proper home training will not behave like that, castigating those who are older than you. He is always abusing this and that; those that are following him are even more decent than him. To be candid, how can you follow somebody like that? The majority and face of the PDP in the South-West is in one place. He also acknowledged Governor Makinde as the only PDP governor we have in the zone and, by extension, the leader of the party in zone but he is still claiming to be father of fathers. God can decide to elevate your son even above you. For instance, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the Ooni of Ife, he prostrated for the Ooni even though Obasanjo could give birth to the king. He prostrated not for the individual but for that stool. Prostrating for Ooni doesn’t reduce Obasanjo’s age or bring him down from the post of statesman that he is. So, the face of PDP in South-West is Governor Makinde; that is what God wants. So, I don’t want to speak for the NWC but the leader of the party is in one place and the majority of the members of the party are in one place. Someone who is hobnobbing with another political party is in another place. We keep on sing-praising Asiwaju Bola Tinubu every time. If they don’t believe in what he is doing, they should put him in his place. Now to compensate for what he is doing for them, they have released his passport for him to travel. All they want to do is to polarise the PDP and at the end of the day move to the APC. Why can’t they go now?
What edge do you think you have over Eddy Olafeso in emerging the South-West PDP zonal chairman?
I don’t even know Eddy Olafeso. I know our political experience and what we are talking about here is politics. Before becoming local government chairman, I have been delegate in so many ways. I was a member of Oyo state Teaching Service Commission in 1992. In 1996, I became chairman of local government. In 1997, I came back to local government twice. In 2003, I became member of the House of Representatives. In 2007, I became the deputy governor of Oyo state. In 2017, I became Ambassador to Jordan and Iraq. I have been a politician all my life. This is politics. He should come out and tell us what he has achieved apart from being the zonal chairman, where it is about collecting money without integrity. We have to put PDP on the right track. The problem we have is in-house and they are using a bastard to destroy the PDP.
Would you be willing to work with the Fayose camp?
Reconciliation is the bedrock. It is good to reconcile if we have the same objective. If you have a house that you labored to build, will you be a party to the destruction of that house, if you truly are part of that family? So, if they are sincere and they reconcile because that’s the only way we can move forward and we recognise the ordained leader of the party. He was once a governor and was calling the shots at a point in time and was giving orders then. Even if Seyi Makinde is not up to a said age, he is father of Oyo State; he is the leader of the PDP in the zone. This is someone who wants to be respected but does not respect anyone. He keeps lambasting Obasanjo, Bode George and anybody as if no one is older than him. He is not somebody I fancy at all. God is wonderful because if you look at someone, you will say he is not worth becoming a chairman of local government but he was governor for two times. He thinks he can say and do anything. He even said he could stop Makinde. When God says yes, no one can say no. He has no moral, no etiquette, he has nothing, yet, he threatens the state governor.
But I thought politically, politicians appreciate nuisance value.
Yes, to a certain extent; but, that is if you believe that the person is prepared to listen but somebody who has an objective of bringing down and destroying something. What do you say to that? They have been accommodating him and that is why Governor Makinde instituted reconciliation committee which has been touring all the states, speaking to everybody. The leader of that committee, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has spoken to him but he won’t listen because we know the agenda. It is about 2023. Somebody wants to become president and it is only God that can make someone a president. Power flows from God.
If by the grace of God you emerge the zonal chairman, what will be your main task to address?
Our main task is to go back to the winning strategy. The way to go back is by reconciling all genuinely aggrieved persons, not somebody with one leg in, one leg out. There was a time we had five governors except Lagos. Then, we had Baba Obasanjo as President of the country. From Obasanjo, we had Yar’Adua and then Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria was doing good and we were in control of everything; but, eventually everything crumbled. Nigerians can see now the difference between PDP and APC. You know how much we used to buy petrol before and now; insecurity is everywhere, even at the backyard of the President. So, we can go back and the only party that can do that is PDP. But, we need to go back to the drawing board and pacify those that are genuinely aggrieved, and not those who have their own agenda somewhere and working for someone somewhere else from another party. Everybody can see it and he is not hiding it. How will you be comfortable with someone like that? If you believe in PDP, you must believe in the party that you are in. You don’t believe in your party and start sing-praising someone else in another party. They are now paying him back by releasing his passport and he can now travel.
As a stakeholder in the region and with all the information available to you, would you recommend a sanction from the NWC or what would be your advice to the NWC to deal with such persons?
The NWC knows what to do and I expect them to have done it by now because obviously they can see what we are seeing because it is not hidden. The man is boastful about it. I cannot tell them what to do. His activities are anti-party in a way. You don’t wash your dirty linen in public. He is just looking for the wrath of God because Seyi Makinde did not put himself there. If he believes in God, you castigate the work of the Almighty God. If they believe in PDP ideology, the NWC knows what to do.
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