Hon Saka Lawal
Hon Saka Lawal, Deputy Governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State speaks with Ayodele Opiah, on the October 20 election. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the political situation in Ondo as the election approaches?
The temperature of the people is very high. There is apprehension and frustration. The expectations of people from government have not been met. There is unemployment and poverty, the magnitude of which has not been seen before- a government with such a loud voice in the media but without anything to show for three and a half years. No single road can be pointed at as a completed project- only one three wards maternity hospital in three years? And yet, over N600b has accrued to the state since February 2009. It’s a terrible experience for the people.
You served in the Governor Mimiko cabinet as a key member, at what point did you fall out?
From the third month in that cabinet, I knew our chemistry would not gel. The truth is you do not know the true complexion of people until you see them occupy powerful offices. I mean we were all rabid about his ambition to be governor because we thought it was an opportunity to inject fresh ideas and create a new platform for progressive governance. But in the end, it was the worst experience of our lives. Let me tell you the truth none of those in Mimiko’s cabinet is happy today. They are all complaining and each time, they creep in the nights to open or continue discussion with us. I tell them I understand. Look, throughout the 22 months period of serving in his cabinet as Dr. Mimiko’s Special Adviser, no one knew how much was coming into the state.
But how is your party coping with the perception problem?
The PDP has no perception problem in Ondo State. In fact it has Perception advantage. See, you don’t go the market to announce to the people about a falling rain. Everyone in the market sees the rain, they know the intensity and they know its capability. One who is a hero is the one who is providing shade and succour to the people. Let me tell you, virtually everyone in my state is in the opposition to bad governance- what we call yahoo-yahoo leadership; promise and fail. The point is that the PDP and Chief Olusola Oke, are the faces of the opposition and hope in Ondo State, and there no one who can prove it better than me.
Are you not intimidated by the avalanche of achievements the Labour Party reels out on each campaign?
The tigritude of the Tiger consists not in self-praise or market shout; it is the ample bones of the deer and buffaloes, the cow and Zebra that portend that a Tiger once passed here. Everyone knows this governor is a gamesman. In spite of the over N600b collected from the federation accounts since 2009, what is there for the people to see? A government that is campaigning for a second term without a single road commissioned in the first term; a government that promised a multipurpose event centre called the Dome within three months of being in office, and up till now cannot account for either N1.5b or any physical structure called the Dome anywhere in Ondo State; a government that promised a gigantic maternity hospital in every Local government area of the state, but which has been celebrating just one three ward clinic built in Akure in three years, whereas the chairman of Mushin Local government in Lagos commissioned seven in one day; a government that promised a mega school in each local government but which has only constructed four in three local governments in nearly four years, and none is functioning up till now. I can go on and on.
What is your view about INEC’s readiness for this election?
First we believe INEC must do all within its power to make this election is free and fair and so far, we have no reason to complain. If INEC can deliver on all measures it has promised, then I will say we are ready for credible elections. Two, the electorate must also do all within their powers to make their votes count by voting according to their conscience. The security agencies must be alive to their responsibilities and must show impartiality and forthrightness. Now, I know this last count has always been the albatross of Nigerian elections. I also know that this is the absolute hope of our opponent. They intend to exploit the Nigerian factor by subverting the security agencies and then have their ways in perpetrating all the electoral fraud. If the IG, the CDS and NSA want elections to count, then they must insulate themselves from all forms of compromise to political interests. I believe in the President Jonathan’s deliberate efforts to make votes count in this country. Even if that is all he achieved in his tenure, Nigeria will never forget him.
Ondo state is known to be very volatile and this is on account of the political sophistication of the people. The President must take particular interest in the elections as it counts either way for him in international community. You know the greatest coup against bad governance is on the thumb of the people while the greatest coup against the people by the army or police is compromising the electoral process. We pray that will never happen.
What are the promises of your party to Ondo people?
Integrity! We will never lie to them. Two, we will continue all the life changing projects of our party’s last administration. Truth is, there is no good way of doing a bad thing, so we will show a great deal of modesty and fairness. The major problem we have in that state is unemployment. And the best way to tackle this is to industrialise and encourage commerce. We will deliberately embark on encouragement of small scale industries through aggressive skill acquisition programmes for our people. We will never seek cheap popularity by concentrating on and painting only the major roads in the state capital.
Do you think your party can post a good standing with the disenchantment within?
There is absolutely no bickering within the PDP that I know. The ingredients for this are just not there. Yes, there have been fifth columnists, who like Judas Iscariot, have made themselves available for the panicky incumbent to destabilise the party. Because of their perpetually precarious economic situation they have decided to take the perilous job of going into the lair to count the teeth of a hungry Lion. Yes, some of these elements want to stay within the party and work against it. But with a man like Chief Olusola Oke, who radiates confidence, love and promise for our party system, I think bickering is past tense.