Sarafadeen Abiodun Alli was both the Chief of Staff and Secretary to the State Oyo Government (SSG) under former governor Rashidi Ladoja. In this interview with Tunde Sanni, he spoke on politics in commemoration of his 50th birthday. Excerpts:
What’s your perception and experience about governance from being local government chairman to SSG to Chief of Staff and presently chairman, Odu’a Investment?
Governance is not something that is very difficult. But one thing that should be uppermost in one’s mind is that, one must be plain, be honest and be diligent. That is all that is required. Wherever you find yourself serving, you should be able to do well to meet the aspiration of the people.
You were a legal adviser to the defunct NRC in 1990; would you say it prepared you for your eventual election as chairman of Ibadan North local government?
Well, that is true but I must say this, as a young man, what I could say I did then could have only earned me the nomination of the party like giving services to people, being available for the party, serving party in legal committee, doing this and doing that. Whenever our party members had problem on issues bothering on legal matters, I was there for them. That only earned me nomination.
You were elected senator but the mandate was scuttled, how did you feel then?
What happened was this, in the SDP days, Senator Ladoja was the official candidate of the party but he was disqualified for one reason or the other. Maybe because he was seen as a NADECO man, he was accused of buying Government Company. All because they didn’t like him, so they cooked up such to disqualify him. He was disqualified about four days to the election and I was substituted as the candidate and I won. But because General Abacha died before we were inaugurated as the civilian president, I was not sworn in. The entire transition process was aborted by General Abdul-salam Abubakar when he came on board.
You have always been a conservative from your NRC days, PDP era and of recent. But about two years ago, you joined the progressive camp, how has it been in the progressive camp?
Which one is conservative? Is it not the same ideology? There is nobody that is not progressive. Every Nigerian is a progressive and from what we see today, if you look at the constitution of the parties, it is the same, it is just the minor differences that are there. If you look at the manifestoes, it is entirely the same especially that of the then APP, PDP and AD. Late Chief Bola Ige was the chairman of the constitution drafting committee for AD. When he left AD and went to PDP, he was the chairman there too. There is actually no difference; so, it is about the people in politics. What can you say of Governor Mimiko in Ondo State today and the ACN? Are they all not all progressives or democrats?
Are you truly Ladoja’s boy?
Yes, he is my father and there is no doubt about that. Apart from being my father, we are also related. Politically, he is my father. Like I said in an interview sometime ago, I said the people that I was looking at when I wanted to join politics were people like late Obafemi Awolowo, S.L. Akintola but by the time I joined politics, I discovered that there were still some people I could still look up to and see as my own mentor that I can take after and those are people like Senator Ladoja and Alhaji Lam Adesina.
Why did you abandon him in the 2011 election?
I didn’t abandon him. It was a disagreement on principle. As at that time, we had different beliefs on how to approach the 2011 election and you know as a democrat, you would like to take a decision. It was not a case of abandonment. It was just a disagreement on principle. I believe the best way to approach that election was in this matter and he held contrary opinion and saw it from another angle.
And you parted ways?
We are still together. We are still father and son together.
Is there any hope of reconciliation?
We never fought. We are together as a father and son. We may belong to different political parties today but if God still permits us, we may find ourselves in another party together.
Do you have any regret leaving Ladoja’s camp?
No, not at all! I believed in what I was doing. Thank God it has paid off. God crowned my efforts. The party I went to won in my ward, my local government and eventually the gubernatorial election.
When you left Ladoja’s camp, there was insinuation that you were pursuing an Ibadan agenda to elect an Ibadan man as the governor?
It was not only an Ibadan agenda. It was also an agenda for good governance except that the thing favoured an Ibadan man.
If you have the opportunity, will you still take that decision again?
If the opportunity occurred in the same circumstances, I will still do so.
At 50, you are not getting any younger, what do we expect from you as a public figure by 2015?
As a public figure, I will continue to pay my service to the people of Oyo State and do all I can in all ramifications to see to the progress and development of this state and Nigeria as a whole, may God help me.