Chief Olusola Oke, a former governorship hopeful in Ondo State, spoke to Omotayo Olaleye on trending national issues. Excerpts:
What’s your view on the recent call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a third force movement for regime change in 2019 general election?
I think we should not isolate the call for a third force from the totality of the three times former President. I appreciate how the media team of Mr. President, the APC and the presidency managed the situation, which otherwise would have been very explosive. The former president, we all know, is gradually acquiring the conscience status of the nation and when he speaks like that, one must be able to take a deep look and consideration to the issue he has raised, which is what the presidency and the media managers of Mr. president has done. They did not just react virtuously without looking at the substance of the letter.
As a former President, elder statesman and international figure in Nigeria, one expects him to raise an audit alarm, when things appear not going totally in the direction Nigerians expect. There is no doubt this administration inherited a very bad situation by the time the economy was nose-diving, infrastructure was very bad, security challenges and corruption was at its peak. Therefore, it’s not going to be a tea party; it’s not going to be a one day affair to reverse the trend. From what I can read and hear, the economy is gradually gaining momentum. We are out of recession.
But the grassroots people appear not to be feeling the economy recovery. Is the recovery real?
Yes, Nigerians at the grassroots might not be feeling the effect of the total recovery, but economy managers are giving us the impression that Nigeria’s economy is becoming healthier than it used to be. Looking at the issue of security challenges, even though it’s raring its face in other dimension, the original challenge was that of Boko Haram and the Crisis in the Niger Delta. The present administration has been able to confront the Boko haram and decimated it substantially. On the issue of farmers and cattle herdsmen, government is reacting to it. So, coming to the call for a third force, I think it was clear in that letter that it was not meant to be a political party.
The former president said once it’s acquiring the status of a new party, he would move out of it. I want to regard this as a wakeup call, a challenge to the president to do more, look at some areas highlighted and make amends. That’s why I have commended the managers of the president in the way they handled it. The former President is not being treated as treacherous, not as one raising a false alarm, he wasn’t reacted to as someone who has no reason or made no sense out of the document; they are highlighting the alarms raised in the letter and the president is gradually reacting to those ones he believes are well made and he also reacted by saying the economy is not as bad as the former president would want Nigerian to believe and highlighted the gains. So, I believe the position of Obasanjo wasn’t frivolous and government has reacted correctly.
But the opposition PDP looks at it differently?
First, one would wonder whether it lies in the mouth of an opposition party to guide or guard the ruling party as to which candidate they are to sponsor. The letter condemned both the APC and the PDP. Of course, it gave greater condemnation to PDP that brought us to where we are today. So, it must be out of lack of shame for the PDP to seek to create a trauma for APC out of that letter. The former President is an eminent Nigerian, who has right to express his view and concerns about goings in the country. But he has not in any way absorbed the PDP of responsibility for the situation we find ourselves today.
So, as to whether the president should contest or not, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is a retired Army General and President Muhammadu Buhari is a retired Army General. Secondly, Obasanjo being a former Head of State and former President of this country and President Buhari being a former Head of State and present president, they understand themselves more than any of us. I believe the decision not to contest ultimately will lie with the president and the decision not to return him will ultimately lie with Nigerians – if he decides to put himself forward.
It is not available for the PDP to clamour for President Buhari not to run for election. He is not going to be their candidate but of APC. So, if any political party is going to say don’t run, it has to be the APC. I understand PDP are saying we don’t have candidate that can face the president, therefore, he should not come. Give us a weaker candidate that we might be able to manipulate our way. PDP must be very shameless dabbling into the internal affairs of the APC
Being a two-time governorship hopeful in Ondo State, what measures would you have taken regarding herdsmen attack if you were a sitting governor?
It would have required me being from one of the northern states to be confronted with that challenge. I’m from Ondo State and Ondo State is not facing such challenge at the moment. Yes, injury to one is injury to all, but I believe that the two parties involved are Nigerians. The herdsmen, though we are being made to believe now that some of them migrated from neighbouring countries to Nigeria, they are Nigerians who also advance the frontier of Nigeria economy, whose supply of protein we cannot run away from. Equally, the farmers whose products are being ruined by cattle are also Nigerians. I think the government was a little slow in handling the situation. This battle has always been there; it wasn’t this outlandish. Government should have been foresighted to secure that environment to prevent a total conflagration coming out of it. That being said, the president has hinted that he would fortify the area with adequate security and good ideas are coming out as to permanent solution to it. Cattle rearers cannot be stopped from rearing their cattle. It’s their source of economy in the same way we cannot encourage the farmers to bear the brunt of the occupation of another group of people in Nigeria.
What is the way out?
The ultimate is to find out what happens in advanced countries that prevent such a clash. That allows the farmers enjoy the full benefit of their occupation and also the cattle rearers, which is the cattle ranch. People are not totally opposed to cattle ranch, what they are reacting to is the colony, which gives the impression of new colonialism, appropriating the land of some people at their detriment to others. All that is important at the moment is for government to be up and doing, arise to its responsibility by fortifying the area with sufficient security.
Are you still nurturing the dream of being the governor of Ondo State?
For everything, there is a season. God knows the future. My political future is entirely in the hands of God. My mission was to reverse the dwindling fortune of the economy of Ondo State. My intervention was to bring about a new regime of hope in the state. I was pissed off with the level of unemployment, the degradation of the health sector, education and infrastructure. Ondo State has no reason to encounter backwardness because of the abundant natural and human resources in the state. Ondo State has one of the richest forestry, richest mineral and human resources, yet, today in terms of poverty index, it’s one of the most backward states in Nigeria.
I thought with my experience with the former governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, who laid a very solid foundation for prosperity in the state, I could bring a new era of hope, defeat despair and backwardness in the state. Those were the reason for my aspiration. But God knows why I didn’t make it in the two attempts. As to whether my supporters should still have hope, I believe with God all things are still possible. There is a governor in place, so I am not aspiring to be governor now but he is not going to be governor in perpetuity. He might take the minimum or the maximum, until those things that I have perceived as wrong in Ondo state are corrected.
Until Ondo State acquires its maximum prosperity, become an enviable state in Nigeria, fully exploited its potential, coastal and agricultural resources to the benefit of the people of the state, minimum unemployment and maximum of wealth to the people, as a stable, developed and secure state, only then will there be no need for aspiration. For now, I will give the sitting governor the support to succeed. Let’s see how far he takes Ondo State. If he takes Ondo State to the peak, of course, we can then say we have arrived but until then, there cannot be an end to aspiration.
But aspiration must be put in the context that there is a good man in place, who is willing to listen, not the previous situation, where somebody arrogates to himself, the monopoly of knowledge, but which turned out to be the peak of foolishness. Now, there is someone saying I cannot do it alone. Even God did not create man alone. He invited the angels to come and together they created man in their image. If God did that, no human should think he knows it all. I see in this governor, the idea of I don’t know it all, come let’s do it together. For now, my aspiration is to see him succeed.
What informed your coming back to APC?
I came back to APC because I know the gargantuan problem in Ondo State is not what one man, thinking and acting alone, can confront. I believe there must be a swift in our politics, where once you fail election you are on the other side throwing pestle and stones to bring down or distract the incumbent governor. The sitting governor has been my friend for a long time. We are members of the inner bar and we are related by blood. He does not think himself all alone. He possesses the capacity to confront the monster created by the previous administration that neglected everything good in the state. Having studied him, he appears to me as someone, who also wants to take advice from well-meaning members of the state. I have returned to APC to add value, give support, encourage and minimize distraction, which my remaining in another party might have cost him.
It is obvious you wanted to reach out to youths in the state to secure a better future for them. What are your thoughts?
Well, the saying has always been that youths are the leaders of tomorrow, but I think the time has come for youths to ask the question of what kind of tomorrow they want to lead. Is it the tomorrow that is full of regrets, lamentations, poverty, denial, lack, want, ignorance and disease? Or tomorrow that is prosperous, full of opportunities for self-actualisation and hope for the future of generations unborn? What tomorrow would be must start today. So, the youth can no longer watch from the side line because that tomorrow, if good, is for them and if it bad, is still for them. If youth want a good tomorrow they must begin to generate it today by being participants.
A major issue with our youth today is what I will call lackadaisical attitude. Everyone is looking at what they can get, forgetting that when the economy is bad, it affects everyone. I think the youth must be ready to fight, not in terms of violence to secure their very future. Today if you summon a meeting of landlords, I will attend, summon a meeting of car owners or parents, I will be there but with the reality of the economy today, some of the youth are not sure of when they will become landlords, become parent or even own a car.
Therefore, they should not be impassive or fold their harms, when their future is being destroyed. For instance, the youth should also join the struggle to fight corruption, which has been a plank of this administration. Corruption, we all know, is an anathema and cankerworm that destroys the fabric of the society. Why should the youth keep quiet? This country is blessed with abundant resources, so why are we not making progress? The resources meant for our development are being diverted, appropriated to individuals and exported out of the country to the denial of the generation coming in the future. My message to the youths is involvement. If the leaders are not getting it right, let them cry out, because the leaders are passing away soon and the younger ones have a longer time on the stage. What concerns the youth must be of interest to the youth.