Why we lost 2019 elections in Ondo —Former APC chairman

Mr Isaacs Kekemeke is the immediate past chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. In this interview by HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, he speaks on the crisis in Ondo APC and the suspension of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, among other issues.

What is your assessment of the 2019 elections across the country?

Well, I believe that Nigerians deserve to be congratulated for this unbroken 20 years of democratic practice. Generally, the elections were fair and the outcomes, in my view, represent the general will of the people. The increase in violence leading to deaths, ballot snatching, destruction of collation centre and over-visibility of the military are however, worrisome signals. Though, it does appear that these developments are a reaction to the foreclosure of some other vices like ballot stuffing, vote buying that plagued the electoral process, by and large, the important thing is that the outcomes represent the general will of the people.


APC lost the presidential election in Ondo State. What do you think is responsible for this?

If the truth must be said, as I think we lost in that election because we were firing the cylinder from too many angles. All of us wanted President Muhammadu Buhari to win but we were disunited. There was no central command and rallying point, as was the case in 2015. As for the National Assembly election, it was clear that some highly-placed people in the APC engaged in anti-party activities against their party by raising and supporting candidates in another party, the Action Alliance (AA). So while we were united about the president winning the election, we disagreed and were not united on the Senate or House of Representatives seats in a number of constituencies, particularly in about six of the constituencies and we lost.


If you were to be the governor, what would you have done differently?

The biggest challenge was created by the governor himself. I have respect for his person, but my view has always been that when you win an election, you don’t begin to revenge. What to do is to bring everybody together; you no longer have a team of your own and everybody in the party becomes yours.

Even beyond that, everybody in the state should be yours. I believe the governor was not and is still not magnanimous in victory. If I were to be the governor, that is what I would have done; exactly what I did when I became the chairman of the party. I brought everybody together as it didn’t matter whether you like me or not. For example, when I won the chairmanship seat in the 2014 state congress, the governor didn’t support me. I went to Ibadan twice to see him and to solicit his support for my administration. That is the way to go.


Many people see the disunity within the party and among its chieftains as one of the reasons Ondo APC is not really moving forward…

You are right. There are too many tendencies within the party in the state and it was partly responsible for the reversal of our electoral gains of 2015. Now that we all have seen what exclusion and disunity can fetch us, we should all put the past behind us and embrace peace. Election is a periodic thing and you will always need a party. The more united a party is, the easier it is for it to win elections. So the ball is still in the governor’s court.


What do you think of the suspension of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu from the party?

Everyone in Ondo State APC believes that the governor has issues with the national leadership of our party on allegation of anti-party activities. Though the state is rife with rumours of the governor’s suspension from the party, there is neither a confirmation nor a rebuttal’s from the party national leadership. It is only a matter of time before we know the truth.


There is a clamour for the dissolution of the Ondo State executive of the party. Do you share the view?

I do not want to sound vindictive but the bitter truth known to many party men is that Ondo State APC deserves a better leadership than it currently has.


The governorship election is coming up next year, what should the governor do in order for the party to retain the state and do you see such a possibility, given the level of rancour within the party and among its members?

Well, I am very optimistic that our party will still win in the next governorship election in Ondo State, but not without hard work. What happened in Oyo, Adamawa and Imo states is instructive. We need to start putting the party together, more so that I foresee an election before the election, there is the need to stabilise the party now to avert disaster and the earlier our party is put together, the better for us.


There is a rumour that you aspire to be the governor in the state. Is this true?

Of course, in advanced democracies, this is the time a lot of things happen. Every citizen of this state who has the requisite qualifications stipulated in our constitution has a right to aspire and I think I am qualified. I am looking at the availability of the opportunity and also looking at if it can be explored and then take a decision after due consultations.


If eventually you decide to run, what are some of the things you plan to do?

Looking at my involvement in the politics of this state in the last 27 years and having moved through the legislature, the executive and with some insight into the judiciary, and having worked in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the pioneer secretary and the APC as the pioneer chairman in the state, I will ensure that our party is one, irrespective of individual’s inclination in the party primary elections. I will primarily focus on education, access to health, employment generation, agriculture and industries.

What about the health sector, nothing seems to be happening now?

The present government is trying its best but much can still be done. We ought to focus more attention on primary health care and make sure that the programme that the late Dr Olusegun Agagu administration instituted is reinvigorated by ensuring that all the political wards have functional basic health centres. We should also ensure that the 26 hospitals across the state function properly with qualified medical personnel. Of course, there is a need for active and sustained partnership and collaboration with all governmental and non- governmental actors in the sector.


What should Nigerians expect in the next four years under the President Buhari?

President Buhari is very easy to read; he is not a man of too many words. During both the 2015 and 2019 elections, he didn’t speak too elaborately so it is easy to read him and know what he is going to do. He will reinvigorate the fight against corruption. In the next four years, the defeat of the Boko Haram sect will be on the ground and not just technical. I mean Boko Haram would be physically defeated. I join other Nigerians to wish for a better standard of living. I foresee a consolidation of the effort in agriculture so that in a short while, Nigeria would be able to feed its people. On the fight against corruption, some have labeled it as selective but for me a selective fight against corruption is still better than a no fight at all.

The president should however make sure that members of his administration who have committed breaches be prosecuted without delay. Luckily, the president has indicated his resolve to do so. I will also want the president to conclude the reformation of the electoral system before the next round of elections. As much as possible our election process should employ more technology. Between now and 2023, everything should be done to allow for electronic voting and electronic computation of result.