Dr. Olusegun Agagu
In this interview with Ayodele Opiah, former Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, addressesd some of the critical issues affecting the politics of the state, especially the governorship election slated for this weekend. Excerpts:
It was reported in some of the newspapers that the security report obtained to remove you from office as governor was forged. At what point did you realise this?
The origin of this is that during the tribunal hearings in Akure in 2007 and 2008, some security reports were tendered by the Labour Party which stated that there were election irregularities in 10 of the local government areas where we won. There are 18 local government areas in Ondo State, the Labour Party won in seven, while the PDP won in 11. As per INEC results, the PDP won but the Labour Party went to the tribunal to raise objections as to the fairness of the elections in 10 local government areas where the PDP won. The Labour Party did not have any cogent case to make except that they tendered some purported SSS report saying that elections were manipulated; that there was violence and ballot snatching in those 10 local government areas where the PDP won. Our lawyers objected to those reports because they were tendered across the bar and the judges said they would look at the merits and demerits of whether to give considerations to these reports or not.
To cut the long story short, we found out that in their judgment, they wrote clearly that elections should be cancelled in Okitipupa, Ilaje and few other local government areas because of a report written by the SSS. Specifically, they said elections were manipulated based on that report.
Our lawyers objected to the report at the tribunal and the Director of SSS was subpoenaed to come and give evidence; and the legal officer of the state department of SSS in Ondo State was sent to come and give evidence and he said clearly at the tribunal that those reports did not emanate from the SSS. Based on that, we never knew that the judges would take any consideration and make any judgment based on the document. Alas, when the judgment came, it was written that results should be cancelled in a number of local governments based on the reports at the tribunal.
We appealed, objecting to the declaration, especially because the SSS official came and denied that such reports emanated from their system. Again, we thought the Court of Appeal judges would hold our view, because that was the truth, unfortunately, the court again ruled that they would uphold those reports. The Court of Appeal actually said that the officer of the SSS must have been a hostile witness. How they arrived at that, only God knows. That was how we were removed from office.
Painful as that was I decided to take it as the will of God. About a year later, I think it was on May 19, 2010 because we were removed from office on February 23, 2009, I thought that I might not have to go and fight to be governor of Ondo State but it would be wise to put the records straight for the sake of posterity. So, I wrote to Mr. President complaining and that I will want the case to be investigated. I wrote first to the late President Yar’Adua, who didn’t respond to my petition until he passed on. By the time President Jonathan came on board as Acting President, I sent another letter to him and within a week, he instructed the Inspector-General of Police to investigate the matter. The matter was investigated, I was visited by SSS personnel and I was also invited to Abuja to write a statement. The long and short of it is that at the end of the day, the Police officers in the Special Investigation Unit told me that they have found out that the SSS has confirmed that the reports were forged and that they were going to prosecute Dr Olaiya Oni, who as chairman of the Labour Party, at the tribunal tendered those documents.
That is where we are. For about two years now, the matter has been laid to rest. I therefore, decided about two weeks ago, that for posterity and for one’s name, the last thing I want people to think about me is that I stole somebody’s mandate, so I wrote a petition to the Chief Justice of the Federation that the matter should be looked into so that the right decisions can be taken by the system. First is to exonerate me, secondly is to expose people who have procured judgment in a fraudulent manner so that the whole world can see.
How optimistic are you that action would be taken on the matter?
If one will dispassionately look at the judiciary in the country and its role in the last ten years or so with regards to election matters, one would see that between 2006 and 2010, judgments were a bit unusual in a number of cases. In a number of places like Osun, Ekiti, Edo and Ondo, you could see question marks in some of those judgments.
A lot of protestations have been going on in the some of the states mentioned. Such expositions will want to make one doubt the judiciary as to whether we can get justice or not, but I think the judiciary itself, since the period of the last CJN had been looking at itself with the view to cleansing the system and ensuring that the judiciary stands above board as they are supposed to be.
The governorship election in Ondo State has been tagged a three horse race, but do you think your party stands a chance to win at the poll considering the incumbency factor?
When people talk about incumbency, it is a double-edged sword. When you are an incumbent, you have power to manipulate by influencing the police and other security agencies and INEC. We think that the umpire will not allow themselves to be used, so we expect the Police, SSS and INEC to create a level playing ground for all. The other side of incumbency is that the occupier of the seat now, will be viewed and judged by all as to how their government is performing, if possible in relations to previous governments. So the person on the seat is like on the witness box.
We don’t think if a level playing ground is maintained that our party is at any disadvantage and we urge everybody who is to play the role of an umpire to do so according to law. From what I have seen, because I have gone out with Chief Olusola Oke on one of his campaigns, in terms of enthusiasm of the people, I think the PDP has the brightest chance to win this election.
Are you disturbed that some PDP members are alleged to be working against the party?
That is the sad thing we have about Nigerian politics. It is not happening only in PDP; there are few members of my party I can say are not working for us. I also want to tell you that we also know that there are people within the Labour Party who are not working for the Labour Party and people within the ACN who are not working for the ACN. So, it will balance itself out.
Agagu ...seeking justice, four years after