A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adeniyi Akintola who is planning to temporarily drop his successful legal practice to enable him serve the people of Oyo State as governor, contends that Nigeria will be better served if her people work hard to make their leaders accountable. He spoke with Tobi Soniyi. Excerpts:
What will you do if the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not give you the ticket to contest for the governorship seat?
In the first place, I am not going to lose. I am going to get the ticket by the special grace of God. But I am a progressive and the question of looking for alternative platform does not arise. I was the arrow-head of what is now known as APC. I was one of those that were present at the 1998 Confab at Premier Hotel in Ibadan by Yoruba leaders, where we formulated the policy of participating under the Abdulsalam Abubakar’s government. We mandated Chief Bola Ige to liaise with other leaders across the country. Chief Bola Ige, in his wisdom, picked me, Prof Tunde Adeniran, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Dr. Tola Atimo, and Uncle Yemi Farounbi, as part and parcel of his team.
We wrote the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). When that did not work, we left PDP for All Peoples Party (APP). When we got there in Abuja, we saw some characters there, and Uncle Bola Ige said ‘well, we can’t stay here!’ We pulled out and we came back to the drawing board.
The registration then was closing. We had to quickly put something together to form the Alliance for Democracy (AD). That is why if you look at the AD Constitution and PDP Constitution, they are one and the same. The only difference there is just in the nomenclature.
Who put all those constitutions together? It was the AD that metamorphosed into Action Congress (AC), then to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and to APC. I happened to be the arrow-head of the take over of the South-west by the progressives. We started in Ibarapa Local Government by the then AC before I moved to Oshogbo, and I moved on to Benin, where we got Oshiomhole installed, I was the lead counsel there. I also moved to Ekiti, where we got Dr Fayemi installed. God also used me to bring Ladoja back to office. So, there is no question of me leaving the progressive camp, it cannot just be. Wherever the progressives tilt their boat, you will find me. For me to jump boat, no I can’t because I am a professional in politics. I have a second address.
What percentage of women will be in your administration, if you eventually emerged as governor in Oyo State?
The 35 per cent affirmative actions, I have had causes to address it, even at the party level, and I have addressed it very well. I am what the Yoruba people will call ‘Abigael’. Ninety per cent of my kids are women, and I am married to a woman. My wife is a judge. I am duty bound to apply the provision of the law as it was. Nigeria is a signatory to that international convention, of which we have domesticated it. Having domesticated it, we are duty bound. The problem with us in this country is that most people are just too lazy to hold those who are governing us to account. Every Nigerian citizen should be able to hold Nigeria leaders accountable to that position of the law. Nigeria is a signatory to the international convention, people should ask the government, ‘why are you doing this?’ I want to challenge you, hold me accountable when I become governor of Oyo State, to see whether I will implement that or not. I am an executive member of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). I am a good member of the International Bar Association, (IBA). They will ask me questions over there about it.
In October this year, we will be in Sidney, Australia and these are the types of questions they throw at us. Some six years ago, I was in Chicago for IBA, and after the presentation of my paper, one Australian, after receiving standing ovation, said ‘this is a very beautiful paper from a third world country from that country where Abacha ruled!’ He was trying to impugn on our integrity as a nation. But I quickly rose to the occasion and reminded him that ‘I am a proud Nigerian; that same country that produced Sani Abacha also produced Prof Wole Soyinka,’ and that shut his mouth. So, he held me accountable in that particular aspect.
People seeking political offices often rely on the backing of some godfathers to realise their ambition. There is also a narrative that politics in Nigeria is shifting away from god- fatherism. How do we balance the equation?
Every politics is local. There is a wall of difference between what ought to be and what is. Contrary to the impression out there, we are in a democracy where the majority will have its way and the minority will have its say. The reality of our situation on ground is that, this state is different from virtually all other states in the country. This is Oyo State, where traditions still rule very strongly.
In this state, the roles of the gatekeepers cannot be wished away. The gatekeepers are there and there are layers of it. Apart from that, we also have the stakeholders and anybody who wants to govern this state cannot wish away the roles of the gatekeepers.
Of course, our political leaders are gatekeepers. No matter how good you are as a fashion designer for instance, you need somebody to give you cloths. No matter how good you are as a dancer, you also need a good drummer. No matter how good a person is, you will also need a good platform to contest.
So, my governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, is a gatekeeper. Our traditional institutions are gatekeepers. For instance, my own immediate environment– I went to my ward in my local government, all the traditional rulers and community leaders were there. That shows the role of the gatekeepers. You cannot underplay the influence of eminent traditional rulers like the Alaafin of Oyo, Olubadan of Ibadanland, Soun of Ogbomoso, Ibadan Council of Elders, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII).
Even, when we came on board in 2011, it was not the ACN alone that brought us to power. It was the combination of all these forces; and that s the reality. You cannot underplay the influence of these factors. This is a traditional society, not like any other state. The traditional rulers still wield a lot of influence. Every society has its own different patterns of governance. In some states, there could be an individual. For instance, when Baba Adedibu was alive, he was a gatekeeper and that was the reality. It has no negative effect on democratic principles as it were and that is the truth. No one has ever become the governor of the state without the support of these gatekeepers and our political leaders appreciate it that much. These gatekeepers live among the people, know their feelings and all what is happening to them.
Ibadan indigenes have been having the headway in producing governors for the state. But there have been agitations that other political zones of the state should be allowed to produce the next governor. You are from Ibadan; do you support rotation of governorship for the state?
There is no rotation in any part of the country. It is not part of our law. Oyo State is one. The Oyo speaking people know that they are one, and only one under one God.
In Ibadan today, we have more kings very soon. The governor has reviewed the 1957 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration. Is the review okay?
It was something that ought to have been done long time ago. Pardon me, if I will give a very biased answer because I have been involved from the word go. In 1999, former governor, the late Alhaji Lam Adesina set up Oloko Commission of Inquiry. I was a counsel before that commission. Recommendations were made by the commission, but there was no political will to implement the recommendations. Then, came former Governor Rashidi Ladoja, who put up Adio Commission of Inquiry.
Virtually, every governor has tried his hand on that.
In the olden days, we used to say a Mogaji (head of family) in Ibadanland was more than a king in other climes. There was a Mogaji in Ibadan that had under him Iwo, Ede, Osogbo, and Ikirun; that was why the titular heads of those towns would abandon their positions to come and contest to become Mogaji in Ibadan because they were practically under the control of the Mogajis.
But times are changing. What was obtainable then is no longer tenable now. Look at how big Moniya is, it is bigger than some state capitals in this country. Look at Omi-Adio, it is a cosmopolitan big town. By 2006 population census, it had 186,000 people. Yet, you expect the Olomi of Omi to be under a Mogaji in Ibadan town. That was what those governors have been trying to correct. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the political will to do so.
Now, if you look at what is happening around us, Olubadan of Ibadanland, when he is going out, there are no Obas to follow him., yet he is the paramount ruler of the entire Ibadan.
From Moniya to High Court at Ring Road is 47 kilometres. By the time you pass through Ring Road to Ago Taylor and through Aleshinloye and you come out at Ojoo, you would have covered 92 kilometres in the same town; and you have not even reached Apata.
That is why the Land Use Act Implementation Law could not be applied fully in Oyo State because of the distance. The implementation law says 15 kilometres radius, but within Ibadan, you have 92 kilometres.
So, every other area is now rural under the Land Use Act. People don’t appreciate the position of the law on this. All these are interwoven.
We thank God that we now have a governor, who has the political will to put this thing into practice. Give it to the present governor, he is highly cerebral and very courageous; every other governor had tried the review before, but they stopped mid-way, though they set up judicial commission of inquiries over the issues.
There have been agitation for this for long, even under Chief Bola Ige, there was. He fell short of setting up a judicial commission of enquiries. At every point in time, except the present one, I had appeared as a counsel in all the past three judicial commissions of inquiries. It is something that is commendable. I think majority of the people in Ibadan welcomed it. I think the governor has done the right thing in the circumstance.
What gives you the assurance that you will win this election if you emerge as candidate of your party?
My personality cuts across the party line. Though party is a factor and it is going to remain a factor in the forthcoming general elections in 2019. However, it will depend on personality picked to contest.
Buhari became the president not only on the platform of APC but because the people in PDP supported his candidature. Personality is going to play a major role in 2019. Over the years, I have worked for this state, I have worked for the party, worked for individuals and Nigeria as a whole and people know this. So, many of them are owing me and this is a pay back time.
Beyond that, when you look at the make up of this state, you will agree with me that we are one from Ibadan to Oke Ogun and from Oyo to Ogbomoso. If I get the ticket, I am on my way to government house.
I am in the race and I know God will decide because He is the ultimate power giver. With the support of the people, if they find me suitable to lead them, so be it. I am not desperate. It’s not a do- or- die thing. I am not a professional politician but a professional in politics. Some are so desperate, but I have not closed my eyes to my profession.
If I get the ticket, I am on my way to the government house.