I’m determined, but not desperate to succeed Amosun — Ogun Speaker

Ogun
Adekunbi

SPEAKER of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Right Honourable Suraju Adekunbi, is currently the longest-serving Speaker in the history of the state. The mechanical engineer from Yewa area of Ogun West Senatorial district and governorship aspirant on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview with TAIWO OLANREWAJU,  speaks on his ambition, the issue of power shift, and other issues. Excerpts:

WHAT is so special that you want to bring to the table as a gubernatorial aspirant?

All along, my principle and vision for this nation is selfless service; service to humanity. That was what led to my involvement in the Rotary International. As the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, our collective responsibility has always been to give adequate representation to our people and better interaction as well. In the state House of Assembly, our primary responsibility is to make laws for our people; laws that will bring about the enhancement of the socio-economic well-being of our people, as well as carry out appropriation and oversight of the same fund appropriated for the executive and the system.

As a major stakeholder, my responsibility is to consolidate on the gains of the current administration in which I am part of from day one. When you look at our policy direction, the agenda of the current administration under the able leadership of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, our vision is based on five cardinal programmes and you have been seeing the implementation of all these along. As the watchdog of the society, you have been monitoring our activities in the area of qualitative health care delivery; qualitative and affordable education; renewal and urbanisation; agriculture that will lead to industrialisation, and provision of housing for all.

Since the inception of our administration, we have been able to deliver on the mandate based on the support provided by the State House of Assembly. Within the shortest timeframe, we have been able to give our state that unprecedented transformation. Because we constitute part of the major stakeholders, who share the same vision and mission with the captain of the team, that’s why the people of the state always look up to us, and we have been working together as one government with one purpose, doing our best for the good people of Ogun State. And by the special grace of God, I want to consolidate on all of those areas that I have mentioned, such that every part of the state will have equal opportunities and we will dwell more on the provision of housing for all.

 

The incumbent governor must have more than a passing interest in who succeeds him in office. In what ways do you think the power of incumbency is going to affect your aspiration?

I think there are two things involved here. Do you want me to look at it as an incumbent Speaker?

 

Look at it as a gubernatorial aspirant, as the executive arm of government is likely to have its own idea about the succession contest.

When you look at the whole thing very well, as I said earlier, you cannot build something on anything. With the opportunity and the privilege given to serve, I believe that  has established me as a candidate to beat. When you are talking of a major stakeholder, as far as our administration is concerned, you will recall that from day one, I’ve been a part and parcel of all that is happening in the state. As the head of an arm of government, a first arm of government as far as our constitution is concerned, I have been taking advantage of that opportunity to reach out to our people. Of course, it’s just an opportunity, a privilege. From the beginning, I have been able to do everything within my ability and capacity, with the support of my members, to support our sincere and genuine mission to rebuild our state. In the area of infrastructure, we have really put in our best. And it’s just a platform for me to move ahead.

 

Are you saying that the incumbent governor will support your aspiration?

Yes, by God’s grace because I am one of the few ones that everybody can speak about, though there are many aspirants. At least, people can say one or two things about me.

 

There is much talk about power shift or rotation in Nigeria these days, and should the practice subsist if indeed Nigerians value integrity, hard work, capacity, ability, capability and vision as opposed to mediocrity and opportunism?

Given our antecedents as a country, I think there is nothing you can do without looking for national consensus when it comes to such issues like power shift or rotation. One, we need to consider our population and ethnic heterogeneity or if you like the ethnic nationalities that makeup Nigeria. So, the only way we can promote unity as a nation is to make deliberate and conscious efforts to give everybody a sense of belonging. We should define a way of creating such a platform so that people will know that truly, they are part of the system. The principle of power shift should be protected such that it can further strengthen and unite our nation.

 


Still talking about power shift, your area, Ogun West, has not had the opportunity to govern the state. How ready is the area for the task?

I want to appreciate our governor for offering leadership and for demonstrating a high level of commitment to the project Ogun State because of our strategic location and antecedents. Ogun is a state everybody should love and be willing to contribute his own quota to its growth and development. I want to appreciate our forebears for laying such a solid and sound foundation for successive administrations to build on. From Ogun West, we have not produced any governor but we have never been denied the opportunity to do so. Governor Amosun has declared his support for Ogun West on this issue based on equity, justice and fairness. That was his own opinion though, the truth of the matter is that the right thing must be done.

 

I think this time round, my people are ready. We are ready to serve Ogun State at that level. We are ready to contribute our own quota to the development of Ogun State at that level. That’s why our leaders and elders have been moving from one place to the other to consult with the people and critical stakeholders, as well as meeting with people that matter as far as Ogun State is concerned. As an aspirant, that has created a platform for me to consolidate on the efforts of the current administration. I have met with stakeholders in Ogun East and Ogun Central. Charity, they say, begins at home. I have also met with my people in Ogun West.  I believe that with the support of my people and the people of Ogun, the opportunity is sure.

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Quite a number of your kith and kin have indicated interest in the seat, but don’t you think it would brighten the chances of Ogun West to endorse one of them so as to brighten the chances of the zone?

One thing I understand about the whole game is that it is only one aspirant or candidate that will fly the flag of the party. At this level, everybody is exercising his or her right as a citizen of this country. Of course, we have a platform which is our party. At the end of the party, only one candidate will emerge. I pray to God to grant me the opportunity to be the one. What you are seeing right now is a demonstration of assets. We are showing the people of the state that Ogun West has competent hands to manage the affairs of the state and I have demonstrated this since I came on board as the Speaker.

 

The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) appears to be facing a Herculean task ahead the 2019 elections, going by the crises arising from the interplay of forces that have diametrically opposing views, and even agenda. What are the grave implications for the party in the South-West and the country at large?

I want to appreciate the leadership of our party at the national level. For us in the state, we are one indivisible family. We want to appreciate the leader of our party, President Muhammadu Buhari, for offering leadership. In a situation like this, it is normal, especially when we are approaching elections. There is bound to be one form of issue or another. It is natural. Our approach to it will define the outcome. For most of these issues, the national leadership of the party has been looking for ways to resolve the issues. President Buhari inaugurated a reconciliatory committee led by our own Senator Bola Tinubu. The step is taken, to me, is a good one. It is in the right direction and that will go a long way in reconciling us as a party and a family. I also appreciate the fact that the party leaders at the national level are sensitive to the hues and cries of the people.

 

But, what do you think went wrong such that the party which enjoyed a cult-like sympathy and following in 2015, is now seeking redemption, going by what Senator Tinubu implied in his speech when he met with APC stalwarts at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja recently?

There is bound to be challenged. What is key is just for us to look at the global picture of what we are doing. I want to believe that as a party we enjoyed that acceptability, that encomium from the populace. But, the truth of the matter is that in the course of performing our duties, it is normal, especially with what we met on ground, for us to have some issues and it is wise for us as well to look for a way of reconciling ourselves. And before we came together, we were from diverse backgrounds and we have our differences. I believe that even as at now, all necessary things will be done to give our party that acceptability and to rekindle the hope. What is happening in the country is not peculiar to us. It is a global issue and it is always like that. And part of the reason why we are here is to ensure that we get it right. What we are experiencing now is expected as well.

 

Calls for restructuring of the country remain in the front burner in the current build-up to the 2019 elections. How would you want the country to be restructured?

Time without number, the issue of restructuring has actually come up. During the military era, we had a conference and what they were talking about was restructuring and when we came on board, we have had cases about constitution amendment and we have the fourth alteration ongoing. The whole thing is about restructuring. As a big country like Nigeria, what is key is to have consensus on certain issues. Because of our diverse backgrounds and antecedents, I believe we should handle things the way we are doing now. You recall that during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, stakeholders came together and arrived at a position. Part of our campaigns to Nigerians was restructuring and our government is working on that. We must start somewhere. Restructuring can’t be achieved in a day; it is a gradual process. The constitution amendment will in some ways address this. People are talking about having state police, power devolution, a lot of things. But, these issues will be tackled one after the other. There are so many reasons why we should have a well-restructured system. With the sincerity of the present administration, we will record a success in that area. Some people are saying that the outcome of ex-President Jonathan’s Confab and the recommendations of our party be taken to the National Assembly for further actions. I believe that at that level, with present efforts, something worthwhile will come forth.

 

The opposition believes your party is at the exit door of power, since the PDP has recovered from a protracted crisis, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and others have stepped up efforts at strengthening their coalitions. How do all these bother you about the future of the APC, and why?

Like I said earlier, we are in the season of politicking, and people are bound to come up will all manner of permutations, ideas and hypotheses. So, what you seeing now is expected. For us in the APC, we won’t fold our arms. What is key is to work harder and deliver on electioneering campaign promises. When it comes to politicking, we will do the needful. It is about our people, and not about the party. Our people voted for us because of the confidence they had in the party. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it, so to speak.

 

In case your aspiration is unsuccessful, what is your Plan B?

Well, it is normal as a human being not to be pessimistic. I’m an optimistic person. I believe that by His Grace, I’m getting there. I’m more than determined, but not desperate. This is all about serving our people and I think I have demonstrated that passion, that determination and that readiness.

My husband’s new faith forbids that I eat with spoon, kneel or greet anyone —Woman


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