Malik Ibitoye is a seasoned journalist turned politician. The amiable man who had worked with top politicians in the county is now the Publicity Secretary of the Ogun State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). He spoke with us on developments in Ogun PDP and other national issues. Excerpts.
What’s your assessment of state of affairs of Ogun State politics?
Well, we cannot divorce politics in Ogun State from the politics in Nigeria generally, and especially from the peoples way of life in the State. I want to tell you specifically that Ogun State is moving backward in the last five years, and the backwardness is actually caused by the incumbent government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun. The truth is that, the current APC government has killed the political life of the good people of Ogun State. The people are afraid to talk, including members of his party, they can’t question the man. We hear a lot of things from outside, and this has also translated into backwardness of the economy, because I can say categorically that the government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun has destroyed the fabrics of our economy in Ogun State. Despite the fact that he claimed to have increased the Internal Generated Revenue, Ogun State people are wallowing in abject poverty. All the link roads in Ogun State have been destroyed, the public schools are in terrible state, all government hospitals are houses of horror. Ask any medical worker in the state, they will tell you sordid stories of how this government has abandoned the place. There is no single project the government is doing, because I know that when PDP was in power, during Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s administration there is not a single aspect of life that OGD did not touch. Do you want to talk about internal roads? Do you want to talk about Agriculture, do you want to talk about empowering the people of the State? OGD built new hospitals and health centers across the state, rehabilitated existing ones. The PDP government of OGD built stadia in Ijebu Ode, Sagamu and Ilaro which engaged our youths in sporting activities and placed the state among the best Five states in sporting activities in Nigeria. What is the place of sports now in the state? Dead. Where is our Gateway Football Club now? Everything has collapsed under Gov Amosun and his band of APC team.
Gov Ibikunle Amosu will say he built roads in the state, but we all know he did not construct a single road, but expanded existing roads, empphais, existing roads, but no new ones. Even at that, he gave the multi billion naira contractss to Chinese firms and they did horrible jobs. Most of the roads he expanded are now failing, while the Ijoko-Akute road had been abandoned. He refused to engage our local contractors. He refused to use the money in Ogun State to empower Ogun State citizens. He refused to empower our local artisans. So, politically Ogun State is drawing backward, and it is very unfortunate that Amosun has really underdeveloped the State.
What is the problem with Ogun State chapter of PDP?
We understand our challenges in Ogun State PDP because from 1999 to 2011, PDP was very strong in Ogun State, but towards the end of Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s second term, a lot of interests came to be at play. You remember that Ogun State PDP had the most powerful, most influential and most eminent personalities in Nigeria. In fact, Ogun State had the first first functional permanent secretariat, even ahead of the National, Politicians like former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Former Spaker, Dimeji Bankole, Senator Jubril Martins Kuye, Baba Sdule Onabiyi, Senator Iyabo Anishulowo, Chief (Mrs) Titi Ajanaku and a host of other leaders. But towards the end of the second term of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, there were personalities clashes and these clashes resulted into some people either keeping quiet or taking a ‘siddon’ look attitude to the politics of the State. And this created a vacuum, as some people came in to highjack the structure of the party. That was the beginning of Ogun State PDP crisis. So for a long tme, many respected leaders kept quiet and some forces began to control, began to use money to woo people and at the end of the day PDP lost it’s soul. But right now, we have sat down, took a self internal, critical examination of ourselves and party and found out that we cannot abandon the Ogun State people like this, we have to redefine the politics of Ogun State.
I thank God for given us somebody like Hon. Ladi Adebutu, who stands like a Liberator of PDP in Ogun State. He started the process, he began to move with the other leadership to woo back all the aggrieved members. He said ‘Please come back and let us let us do this thing together’. So we are in the process of redefining PDP, we are in the process of rejuvenating PDP and we are in the process of taking back what rightly belongs to us. That is the governance of Ogun State, which is the government of the people and for the people.
What is your view about the last Local Government Election in Ogun State?
It is very unfortunate that we have degenerated to this level of political and election manipulation in Ogun State where an incumbent government will deploy thugs and brazenly in the open, rig elections in favour of its party candidates. it is quite obvious that PDP won most of the seats, especially Ogun West and Ogun East Senatorial districts. Across the Wards in the state and local governments, thugs were deployed, our members were chased away, ballot boxes were snatched. In year 2016 ballot boxes are still being snatched. Our agents were not allowed into collation centres. We all know that this election was a sham. It was simply a Vote of No Confidence of Governor Amosun, and the APC government. The governor sat somewhere, gave the mandate to OGSIEC to write election results and return all his candidates for him. And it is also unheard of, that you have an election into Local Government seats where the Chairmanship candidates will not have Vice- Chairmen. Right now as I am talking to you, most of the Local Government Chairmen that were declared by the OGSIEC as winners have no Vice- Chairmen, which should have been a prerequisite to even contest the election in the first place, because you must have a vice Chairman, they didnt have. The names of Vice- Chairmen for all the Local Governments and the LCDAs are now being sent through text messages by Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the governor, which means he is appointing the Vice- Chairmen after the election had been concluded. He sworn in all the Local Government Chairmen last week, just two days after election, without allowing for statutory number of days for litigation and legal challenge. He is now sitting down with his caucus, just about five people to decide, okay who should we give the vice-Chairman of Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government to? Who should we give this one to? Who should we give that to? Is that an election? It has shown that the election was a sham. But it was to test our popularity and we knew that it has given us a boost. Which has shown that by 2019, PDP is taking over in Ogun State, that is our position. We won the election squarely, because nobody wants to hear APC again in Ogun State because of how Amosun has destroyed the economies and social lives in all the nooks and crannies of the State. You can’t tell me APC won in Akute, You can’t tell me APC won in Alagbole, you can’t tell me APC won in Ado-Odo/Ota here, you can’t tell me they won in Shagamu. How can APC win in Shagamu? This is our stronghold. And we believe that the Local Government election we participated in was to measure our popularity and we have confirmed that the people want us back and they want this visionless government out of the State.
If you believe that the last Local Government election was marred by a lot of malpractices, will your candidates go to the tribunal for justice?
Yes, we are encouraging our candidates to present facts and figures at the tribunal. There is nothing stopping us to challenge the result because we have our results. No matter what the government says, we wil prove to them that we won the elections. Although, they have the apparatus of the government at the tribunal, because they are the one setting it up, but we will not be deterred. They can do whatever they like, but we will pursue it to the logical end.
What is your take on the recent call by the coalition of opposition parties for a change in electoral law to allow the local government polls be overseen by National Electoral Commission instead of State authorities?
I believe it is long overdue. Local government election should be conducted by National body which in Independent National Electoral Commission, because Local Governments are creations of the constitution, we are practicing a federalism system of government which has three tiers of government, that is Federal, State and Local Government. The local Government also draw it’s funds directly from the National purse. This is not about PDP or APC issue. But it’s about having a strong Institution. We can see across the country, if government of a political party organizes a local government election in a State, hardly will you have an opposition winning a ward Seat talk less of a Local Government seat. So we know it’s a sham and we would rather call for a total cleansing and remodeling of the law and give the power back to the Independent Electoral Commission to handle the Local Government Elections. So we accept that call.
You said that you had already redefined Ogun State PDP but we hear Ladi Adebutu’s faction and Buruji Kasamu’s faction here and there, what is really happening?
Yes, it is true there are factions in Ogun State PDP but I want to tell you with all sense of modesty that yes we have our differences, but we know how to settle the issues. Senator Buruji is a party leader and a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Ogun East. And Hon. Ladi Adebutu is very respected and loved by everybody in the State and he is currently the House of Representatives member representing Ikenne/Sagamu/ Remo North Federal Constituency. Both leaders have issues concerning the interest of the party. Both of them have the interest of the party at heart. But at the end of the day, all the frictions will be settled. Our national leaders had waded into it, they will settle the whole issue. So we can assure you that in the next few weeks, there won’t be any faction group in Ogun State and we know that either way, both of them have the interest of the party and the people of Ogun State at heart. They might differ on their strategies, they might differ on their modus operandi, but the ultimate aim is to kick out APC and get good governance once again back to Ogun State. So right now, I can assure you that within the next few weeks you won’t hear anything about faction again. You will see all our leaders coming under one umbrella to work for the enthronement of good governance in Ogun State once again.
Sir, if you look at the indices, Hon. Ladi Adebutu has gained a lot of popularity and is well loved by the entire people of Ogun State which has generated a sort of speculation that he might contest for Ogun State gubernatorial election in 2019.
Hon. Ladi Adebutu is a God sent man to the people of Ogun State. Very few leaders have his qualities, which is about having human kindness in him. He is somebody that knows how to deal with the grassroots. A lot of people will see him and say because he was born with a silver spoon, they expect him to keep the politicians and masses at arms length. But Hon. Ladi Adebutu is somebody that will eat on the same table with you, will eat in the same plate with you. He understands the people. I am aware there is a lot of pressure on him to run for governorship seat in 2019. He is not looking for money or popularity, the popularity is there already. The money is there already. So the only way he can help humanity is to spread the wealth. How much is the total budget of Ogun State in a year that some people will say he wants to go there and steal? He cannot take a dime of people’s money. This is somebody who has placed so many students on scholarships, even beyond his own Federal Constituency.
Across the State, he’s been giving out cars to empower people, he’s been giving out grinding machines to empower people. He is a very quiet person and very sociable. That is the kind of people we must have at the healm of affairs in Ogun State. So if some people are saying that Ladi Adebutu wants to be governor, it’s a welcome development. I believe he would yield to the clarion calls of the people to come and rescue them from this shackles of bondage being put in their hands by the government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Interestingly, a lot of people don’t know that Ladi Adebutu is an experienced politician. This is not his first time in the National Assembly, he was first elected into the House of Reps in 1992 under the defunct Social Democratic Party during the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime. He contested in 2003, 2007 and 2011 for seats in the National Assembly, and had always been a member of the PDP since it was formed.. So, he is in tune with the political realities of Ogun State and Nigeria. It will therefore be a blessing if he accepts to run for the governorship seat.
If Hon. Ladi Adebutu yield to the call of the people to contest for governorship election in 2019. Do you think it will go down well with the people of Ogun West who according to political observers should produce the next governor?
I am from Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government, and Ado-Odo/Ota has the highest voting population in Ogun West. We have our own issues in Ogun West. And we have identified our issues in Ogun West. Twice, Ogun West has been given the opportunity to produce governor, but whatever happens to that is left to history. We are not foreclosing the possibility of any other aspirant coming out from Ogun West though. If you know you can beat Ladi Adebutu, come out, we will accept you. But if Ladi Adebutu rolls out his political machineries today and say I want to be the governor of Ogun State in 2019, I think the best thing for us is to support him because Ogun East had always supported us. During the 2011 election, Ogun East gave us their support. At the last election in 2015 too, they gave us their votes and the question is, why cant Ogun West have a block vote for their own, because Amosun wouldn’t have won if Ogun West had delivered their votes. So it is logical we support Hon Ladi Adebutu so that we can begin a new process of re-set. Let me assure you, the Ogun West project is most likely to be easier with an incumben governor planning witth us. Our best chance was when Governor Daniel swore to replace himslef with an Ogun west Governor. So, we can always reiset and re-strategise. To this end therefore, I need to say, that right now, our leaders in Ogun West are behind Hon. Ladi Adebutu.
Let’s even forget about where somebody comes from in terms of zoning or no zoning arrangement. What is the essence of government? To make life better for the people. If somebody from Ogun ‘South’ can make life better in Ogun West, why won’t I follow the person? Why won’t I rally massive support for the person? If somebody from Ogun Central can do it, why don’t we allow him, if somebody from Ogun East can do it, why don’t we allow him? I believe that our Ogun West people too are trying to put their house in order. I know that our leaders cannot lead us astray in Ogun West. I am talking as an Ogun West politician. We have reached an agreement that we will support Hon. Ladi Adebutu in PDP to actualise his aspiration and are comfortable with Ladi Adebutu.
What are the machineries being put in place by Ogun State PDP to make sure that the party emerged as a winner in 2019 gubernatorial election because the same factional syndrome that is affecting PDP at the National level is now plaguing Ogun State chapter of PDP?
I have said it earlier on, that in every big political party like the PDP there are lots of contending forces; there are several interests at play, which brought out the issues of factions. We have done our assessments, and we are working hard from Ward level to Constituency level, to Regional level, to State Level to resolve all these issues.
Politics is about give and take. Politics is about compromises. Yes this is what I want, okay take this. Because at the end of the day, it is the people that will be the beneficiary. That is why I said the other time that we all want to work to achieve good governance for the people of Ogun State. But our styles are different. We now realized that we need to close rank, if we don’t close rank, it might be difficult for us. When you go on any street in Ogun State they will tell you that PDP should please close rank, we are tired of this present administration. That is why people themselves (the masses) are bringing the factions together. So we have no option when people say go and close rank. Because PDP is a party built on and for the masses, it is a party built on the people. I can tell you 2019 is just by the door. We will get there. We are getting to the government seat of Ogun State in 2019. We are putting all the structures on ground, there is no doubt about that.
What is your take about President Buhari’s approach to corruption. People believe that the President is being lopsided as only the PDP former office holders are being haunted and detained while the alleged corrupt APC office holders are walking free?
It is quite obvious that President Buhari cannot fight corruption. It is obvious that Buhari is a sectional leader. It is quite obvious that he has nepotism in him. It is quite obvious that Buhari is also a despotic leader. He is somebody that does not believe in the rule of law. And the foundation of democracy is built on the rule of law. That is the first thing in a democracy. So when you say you suspend the rule of law to fight corruption, on what stand are you placing the corruption if it is not based on the rule of law? All these war on corruption has no single conviction since Buhari assumed office as the President. Even it’s on record that the PDP government of Obasanjo arrested an IG, Tafa Balogun convicted, sent to prison. The PDP government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo arrested S.M Afolabi during the I.D Card scam. People were saying that why didn’t Jonathan do that? Jonathan was handicapped. We knew the impediments he had to work against. But this government of APC, Buhari government, we have not seen a single person. Itt has all beeb media trial all along. And you say you are fighting corruption. There have been indictments upon indictment of people that are in your government. Fayemi has a load of corruption cases on him. Amaechi has a trailer load of corrupt cases, even with a judicial indictment and you still sent his name to be cleared in the Senate and he was rewarded with plum ministerial position. Is that the way to fight corruption? You unleash your attack dogs (the DSS) on sitting Judges to go and burst them. And you say it is ‘Sting Operation’ what kind of Sting Operation on judges that you did not invite. These are elderly men, go to their houses, broke their doors. If they have heart attack, what would you do? Because you don’t care. You ‘ve locked Dasuki in prison for over a year. Despite all the court judgments that said grant him bail. Recently the ECOWAS court ordered that Dasuki should be released with immediate effect, they even awarded a cost against the Federal government. What is our president Buhari doing? He is doing nothing. The economy is in shamble. He has not started a single road project for over a year. They have not added a single thing to our megawatts in the national grid. There is nothing going on in our Aviation sector. Even the minister of Finance is confused. It is because of the level of intellectual capacity of the kind of minister of Finance that they appointed. The woman destroyed Ogun State Economy as Ogun State Commissioner of Finance. She couldn’t give her master, Amosun good economic advise. And because of political consideration, she was appointed as a Minister of Finance. What is her pedigree. Where has she worked before? The world has become a global village, you must understand the dynamics of whatever happens in Ukraine, affects us here in Nigeria. The war that is going on in Syria has an impact here. Whatever happens in Russia has an impact here. That is why we have Ambassadors all over. So you must have somebody that understands the global economy, and the person is not Mrs Kemi Adeosun . Though she can speak good Queen’s English but can you match her with an Okonjo Iweala? Can you match her with Obi Ezekwesili? PDP has done well for Nigeria. President Buhari has nothing to offer this country. I will just appeal to Nigerians to be patient till the next election. Even Buhari’s wife, Aisha is attacking him. This is first time in the history of the world that the sitting president’s wife will say my husband is getting it all wrong, that she will not vote for her husband if he wants reelection.