‘Jonathan’s Regime Empowered Individual Pockets’


Chief Femi Alafe-Aluko, an economist and property consultant, spoke to Femi Ogbonnikan, on the root causes of the fall of the PDP-led government in last year’s general election and the challenges of the present administration, among others. Excerpts:

It seems you have been on sabbatical leave for some time because you have not been heard in the political circle of Osun State, in recent times. Why did you choose to go quiet?
So, many factors can be attributed to it. The first factor is that the looting galore and stealing with impunity that took place under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration are disappointing and demoralising. I thought the party’s slogan was power to the people. What transpired was power to the leaders’ pockets and another factor was the brazen daylight robbery that was called PDP primaries.

The after effect of that shameful conduct is there for everyone to see. It left a very sore taste in my mouth. The party was hijacked by an unelected cabal. If they conduct their congresses in the same manner, it is farewell to the party’s existence in Osun. It is not about going back to the Bisi Akande-led progressive camp. The other day Nuhu Ribadu went to visit Baba Akande at his country home, Ila, Osun State, he was still a PDP man.

The two major parties have almost similar ideologies, conservatives and progressives in their folds, apart from the President, Tinubu, Akande, Onu, Oyegun and Momoh, tell me one APC leader, that doesn’t have PDP blood. It is not about party affiliation, but having the desire and the will power to do what is right and proper for our people once voted into power. Baba Akande, whom I contested against, was a man in 2003, whose prudent use of scarce resources I admire.

How was the mood when Chief Bisi Akande, a national leader of the APC, and your very good friend, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, received you back into their fold?
Well, Aregbesola has been a very good friend, because we were always communicating when I was even contesting under the PDP. He has always been a friend. Our friendship transcends politics. Politics will come and go. So, it is not a matter of me retracing my steps but he is just like a brother – getting closer to a brother, rather than on a party platform.

Chief Bisi Akande will always remain a political father to me, just like others are political fathers to me, also in PDP. Dr Olu Alabi is a political father to me. Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun is a political father to me. So, it is not a matter on which platform. Those are people you look up to for guidance.

Before you left PDP, was the party no longer fashionable for your choice?
It is not that I left PDP, but I was not happy with the happenings within the party. Things I predicted two years ago were going to happen to the party are happening now. I used to quote the governorship primaries of the party, because I was an active participant and I have stated my misgivings about it and I hope such a thing will not happen again, because it was like a daylight robbery. And I am sure it is something that APC too will also learn from.
Imposition will not get you anywhere. Politics is now dynamic. There is more awareness. The populace or the voting public also knows what they want. Also, individuals know what she or he wants. But when a party insists on imposing a candidate, of course, there is going to be a backlash. That was what really put me off from PDP and I just pray they will get their acts together.

If you are to do an appraisal of the present state of affairs of PDP in Osun State, how would you describe it?
They are saying they are trying to get their acts together and it is one thing to say and it is another thing to see it in reality. When you have a cabal, who are holding the party by the jugular, then nothing good can come out of it. They will just be groping in darkness, like motion without movement. The congresses they are going to do in May will determine whether they are really sincere or not that they want to overhaul the party or move it forward.
In APC, Governor Aregbesola has good intentions but the fall in oil price has really affected some of the projects he wants to embark upon. That’s not to say I have totally agreed with his government, for instance, the new Local Development Councils Area (LCDAs) being created.

Yes, he has stated that there is going to be no additional cost involved, but I want to see how that will materialised because I know they will have new chairmen, they will want to buy new vehicles, there is going to be overhead costs, they are going to rent buildings for councils headquarters, they are going to print new stationeries and so on. It is a good intention, but whether this is the time to do such things is another thing entirely. But I know he really has good intentions.

Now, that you have joined APC, are you nursing any political ambition in the nearest future?
I have no intention to do so because I had vied for the governorship seat of Osun State three times and I think it is high time to relax. It is not only when you are a governor that you can contribute positively to the society. You can be an adviser at the background. Nobody foresees the future, but for now, I have no intention of contesting any political position.

How is Governor Aregbesola performing in terms of governance, bearing it in mind that civil servants are being owed salaries for months?
Osun is not the only state where salaries are being owed. At least, he has been open enough to let the civil servants know how much is coming to the state from the federal allocation. And I am also sure that he has fully engaged the union leaders on how things are. Of course, everybody is praying that things will improve.
I believe, he consults enough and he has set up different committees. I believe there is still a lot of rooms for improvement because at the end of the day, nobody is going to be happy if you have worked and you are not getting renumerated as and when due. It gives a lot for concern. But I know that he has good intentions.

Nigerians are despaired over the ‘change’ mantra yet to manifest at the centre. In your views, why hasn’t the government lived up to its expectations?
Maybe his economic team didn’t foresee that there was going to be a drastic fall in oil prices. And governance, under military, is not the same as under a civilian dispensation. I am sure, there are many things he should start learning because the president has military background.

The change mantra was, of course, a vote-winning slogan but unfortunately, like I said earlier, the only way you can judge that things are improving is how much comes into your pocket and how much you get at the end of the month. Much, as it is nice, is to look inward – people should start patronising ‘Made-in-Nigeria goods and so on and so forth.

People are yet to feel the impacts of government and I know that it is still less than a year. I think one should be able to do an appropriate assessment after one year. Also, they should let us know the value of all the looted money they have recovered and how they are going to be used. I think the government should concentrate more on transportation, power together with infrastructure and of course, fighting corruption, as well.

If the government can concentrate on these sectors and let the people see the impacts, because I remember that between June and July, I am sure that Nigeria was generating 4,000 plus megawatts in power and for it now to drop to about 1, 500 it means, something is wrong. It is the job of the government to rectify it.

And what are we producing? South Africa is producing 140,000 megawatts. And even in our foresight that we want to produce 10, 000 or 5,000 shows that we are not ambitious enough and if you look at the money that has been invested into that sector, with what we are getting now, how commensurate is it?
I was in Ghana about two weeks ago and not once was there any blackout. And I am sure Ghana is not as buoyant as Nigeria. So, every Nigerian prays that things will improve. And of course, now, at least, to a certain extent, elections are now more transparent. If they don’t perform, they will be voted out in 2019.

Should anti-corruption crusade take predominance over other activities of the government?
It should not be the main thing. Of course, when you are fighting corruption, ultimately, it ought to have a holistic view. Corruption is everywhere. Anti-corruption should start from our household. I am not saying that anybody that has stolen, whether in PDP or APC should not be brought to book but when that money is being recovered, we should know how much it is.

For instance, about $ 321 million Abacha’s loots is to be released by the Switzerland government, but I am happy they gave conditions for the release. What projects are going to be done and what projects are these funds to be released for?
The anti-corruption crusade should also cut across all parties, whether APC or Labour Party or PDP and everybody should be brought to book. Everybody that holds a position of responsibility should be asked to come and account for his or her stewardship. We are not out of the wood yet, but I pray things will get better.

The looting galore and stealing with impunity that took place under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration are disappointing and demoralising. I thought the party’s slogan was power to the people. What transpired was power to the leaders’ pockets and another factor was the brazen daylight robbery that was called PDP primaries