A governorship aspirant in the coming election in Ondo State and stalwart of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, in this interview, speaks on his motivation for joining the race, his preparation for the primary and the possibility of coming out victorious. Jameelah Sanda brings the excerpts:
Some people are of the opinion that the large number of aspirants on the APC platform may not be good for the party. How do you react to that?
I don’t think the large number of governorship aspirants for the coming election in Ondo State will have any negative effect on the party. The problem we had in 2012 was that the candidate chosen for us was not popular. He was not the choice of the party in the state. He emerged in a way that upset so many people and many people felt that he didn’t have the temperament of a governor and left the party.
But then, we pulled ourselves together to work for the party along the line of his aspiration. We formed various committees to handle various aspects of the campaigns and the election. This time around, I don’t think we are too much. I told my friend, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, another aspirant that he should not worry about the situation. I called it a phase in our democracy, because many of the aspirants, especially those from other parties and even those from the Diaspora, are not really targeting the governorship seat. They are only announcing their arrival on the scene.
For those of us who are very serious, I want to congratulate us because when you know the task ahead, you will salute the courage of these serious aspirants. This is a state where the process of governance has almost grounded. Workers are being owed five month salary and there is disenchantment among the people. You will want to ask yourself, why am I going into this? It is a daunting task, but one that must be done.
During the Third Republic politics was not monetised and professionalised but now, it is unfortunate that the highest bidder takes the prize. That time, there were ideological differences; the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was a little bit to the left and the National Republican Convention (NRC), a little to the right.
We knew that the SDP was a concentration of progressive politicians and the NRC was more of conservative elements. The problem of money politics was not as pronounced as it is now and also the issue of thuggery and violence was not as pronounced as we have it today.
Going for campaigns at that period, we could travel by night to any part of the state without the fear of being attacked by political hoodlums. Primaries were conducted without the fear of disruptions. But, today, whenever politicians gather, thugs from the opposite party would come and cause confusion; even rivals within the same party attack each other. It is very unfortunate.
So you think thuggery and money politics have adverse effect on the quality of leadership and governance?
The first casualties are those who genuinely want to serve, but have no money. The field is full of those who have the financial muscle to bulldoze their way. Before, we have a list of highly cerebral individuals that were committed to serving the state and the country selflessly. But now, no matter how brilliant you are, how cerebral or how politically sagacious you are, if you don’t possess these two elements of violence and money, the road may be rough.
You must have the money and the capacity to mobilise thugs. When we talk of security now, we refer to formal security and informal security. The informal security is the retinue of thugs, but I don’t believe in it. I don’t have any thugs following me around and I don’t intend to have them. My security comprise of four policemen from the VIP Protection Unit of the Nigeria Police.
So how has politics being?
Well, when you are in politics, you cannot decide to be alone. You belong to a group and there are certain things that you may not believe in personally, but could be engaged in by your group since there are things that you have to leave for others to handle. I won’t be surprised if on a campaign outing, I see some of these things like informal security in our train. But, then, I can only insist that the informal security has to be protective only. These are some of the circumstances we find ourselves in the politics of Nigeria today.
But, we cannot because of that, leave the field, if the situation must be changed for the better. We just have to be in it and see how we can make the necessary changes. What drives my campaigns is getting the confidence of the electorate; talk to them, get their endorsement and assurances of support.
The idea is to put myself for assessment by the people. Let them assess me and my motives and then judge. When I contested as a senator in 2011, I had no thugs and I prayed that God should protect us from security issues that could destroy our campaigns and God answered our prayers. And I want to pledge that if I were elected to carry the flag of my party in the election, there would be no thuggery.
Of course, we will appeal to the security agencies to make sure that there is peace, especially in the light of the allegation that the other side is preparing for violence. We will not join them to do that. We will rely on security agencies to create a peaceful environment for the people of this state to cast their votes.
What is the difference between a professional politician and a professional in politics?
There are some professional politicians that are very good and honest. The only thing that I noticed is that a professional in politics is likely to be more decent and disciplined than a professional politician. The professional politician is ready to say or do anything that will make him win an election. The professional in politics is more interested in the delivery of the dividends of democracy to the people and leaving a legacy behind. Most professionals in politics don’t view politics as a means of livelihood. They are people that have attained a certain level of fulfillment in their chosen career and politics become a passion only because his community has pressurised him to come and serve or he is convinced that he can do things to move his people forward.
So, because of his antecedents, he would not want his integrity to be tarnished in any way. They are certainly better politicians than professional politicians who are very ambitious because they see politics as their means of livelihood. Of course, professional politicians are far more in number nowadays than professionals in politics because they have the money and the capacity to have their ways. We will be deceiving ourselves if we say our elections have been free and fair. From what we are reading in the newspapers, about the conduct of past elections, a lot of underhand dealings were done. Those who have money are more likely to win elections. We are hearing how people distributed large sums of money, running into billions of naira, to influence officials. Those who don’t have money cannot do this. When I contested election in 2011, I was just coming from public service. I was close to my people because our interactions with each other have reached a certain level. I had no money and I contested against a sitting senator who is a man of means by any standard. But, I relied on my relationship with my people and I won. This second one, I actually contested against the governor of the state who was the power behind the candidate with a lot of money and influence to throw around. But the simple message that I passed across to the people was that a senator could deliver as they witnessed in my first term in the Senate. In fact, I was the first senator in the district to return to the Senate because people wanted a repeat of what they had witnessed in our first outing.
Besides these, do you have other reasons for joining the race?
My journey into politics started from the university, where I played vital roles in the selection of vice-chancellors. I was also a representative of the congregation at the University of Ibadan (UI), where I even won several elections. I held several appointive and elective positions at the university, though these were periods that I was a member of the school administration. I did not play politics as a student, but my relationship with a lot of people in politics in later years started when I was a student.
It was in the university that I met former Ondo State governor, the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu, and another frontline politician, Dr. Olu Agunloye. Agagu and I were classmates at UI. We got admission the same year and finished the same year. While I stayed back at the university to do my PhD, Segun went abroad. When he came back, we worked together before he went into business. Olu Agunloye was a year our senior. We worked together as lecturers in the same faculty. He was in the Department of Physics, while I was in Zoology. Later, he went to join Agagu in business with one fellow from Bayelsa. But, I remained in the university.
However, we didn’t join the wider terrain of politics at the same time. I think there are different motives and circumstances that brought us into politics. They were in it before me, but I too was playing some roles in the political field of that period. I participated in the process that produced Agagu as the deputy governor of old Ondo State in the aborted third republic. Agunloye joined politics later when he became Special Assistant to the late Chief Bola Ige. When Ige died, he became a minister and that facilitated his going fully into politics, but I didn’t go into it until later.
I had the opportunities to enter into it fully during the Babangida era. In Ondo State, what metamorphosed into the SDP was called the New Era and I was really involved in it. That was the platform that produced Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua as the governor of old Ondo and Agagu as his deputy. At that time I was the chairman, Governing Council of the College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti and I was making college facilities available for our meetings.
As chairman of the Governing Council, we floated a company to generate funds for the college and we brought in some entrepreneurs to fertilise our ideas since we were academics and not grounded in business. We brought in Olumilua and Johnson Fagboyegun, the industrialist from Owo, to be members of the company and provide us with the business know-how. That was how I got involved with Olumilua.
The idea is to put myself for assessment by the people. Let them assess me and my motives and then judge. When I contested as a senator in 2011, I had no thugs and I prayed that God should protect us from security issues that could destroy our campaigns and God answered our prayers. And I want to pledge that if I were elected to carry the flag of my party in the election, there would be no thuggery