Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, Ogun State governorship candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) hails from Ikpokia in Ogun West council. He is a member of the House of Representatives. His exit from the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been one of the most infamous crises that bedevilled the ruling party. There have been claims and counter-claims of what happened at the primaries of the APC, but his insistence on giving the opportunity to lead the state to someone from Ogun West, which aligns with Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s thinking was allegedly sabotaged.
He told Nseobong Okon-Ekong that Providence had earlier placed him in a position to serve as Senior Special Assistant for internal revenue between 2011 and 2014. With that designation, Akinlade interfaced with almost every union, association, artisans, religious bodies, Lafarge, because he was dealing with revenue, tax and all that. He had to go round and it reflected in the vote on the 2nd October 2018, which he won unanimously.
However, the National Secretariat of the APC rejected the result because it was conducted by the state executives and announced the results, the results would not be accepted. He explained what happened thereafter, “They went and wrote their results. The issue lingered for about two months and it got to a point that we realised they were not going to change their ground. We decided to come back to our people, as we realised that Dapo Abiodun did not have what it takes, nor clue of what to do. What they told them was that, ‘once you hold the mandate, there is nothing they can do because Kunle cannot go and campaign without Amosun, nobody knows Kunle’. That was where they got it wrong. I realised that Amosun had great good will across the state and they believed in continuity. We leveraged on that. I pleaded with Mr. Governor not to start his campaign because if APC started ahead of us, APM would not see the light of day. He gave me three weeks. Thank God, we chose Cassava as the symbol of the party and our people are farmers. We are the party to beat in Ogun State.
“My own vision is to make sure that we increase our IGR. Our revenue can only go up. That is my area of expertise; where the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) will be used to drive it in a way that create enabling environment for people to come and do business, attract more young people into Ogun State. I think once we get to 10 million in population in the next 10 to 15 years, we can say we are there.”
Your endorsement by Governor Amosun comes with some challenges. He has internal battles. There is disconnect between him and the godfather of Lagos politics, how can you bring peace and cohesion within the state?
In the world of ‘I Owe You’, you cannot owe the person giving you something. If what had happened had not happened, I would have had to owe a lot of people. The first time I ran was in 2015. I started in 2014 and won. I represent only two local government areas out of 20. To sell me in the other 18, I would have to do a lot of work. The crisis actually saved me so much as I enjoy so much goodwill now. There is this adage that ‘everyman fights his own battles’. People associated with Amosun are my fathers. I am under 50. It cannot be my challenge. I have deep respect for Chief Segun Osoba and the only time I actually shook his hands in the church was at Baba Alake’s 75th birthday ceremony. I have never met with Baba Tinubu. Three things are very certain in life. As a man of faith, you will succeed. If you do business, you must have sincerity of purpose and once people know that you are sincere, they will entrust anything into your hands. When it comes to our business of politics, it is loyalty. When you are loyal, you can enjoy anything irrespective of who your parents are. People will stand for you and would not mind using their head to break coconut for you. I do not think I will inherit any of my predecessor’s issues. I have always made it clear that I am a child. If you are conversant with the National Geographical Wild channel on DSTV, I learnt that when a younger lion that is going to take over sees that a big buffalo has been killed, the big lion of the pride will eat alone and leave while the others will line up, to share in turn. Come May 29, 2019, by the grace of God, it will be my turn. I cannot even look up at them, talk less, of getting involved.
There is a prevailing insinuation that you are Governor Amosun’s stooge. If it is true, how are you going to balance that which may sometimes conflicts with the public interest?
Loyalty should be defined appropriately. In Ogun State, there is no god-fatherism, what we have is mentorship. God-fatherism plays out when you go to the garage or motor park and pick somebody that lacks competence and capacity and put him in leadership. You will have to feed him with ideas because he cannot do anything. You have to tell him what to do, how much to appropriate and what not to appropriate. I did not meet Governor Amosun till I was 41 and that was in 2011 and I had achieved what a man should have achieved at that age. I agree that in politics, loyalty is paramount in politics. In Ogun State, we are too intelligent, enlightened and knowledgeable as a people. What happens in other states cannot happen in Ogun State. When I met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he said Ogun state is like one wearing silk agbada. He said when you pack one side; the other side will drop. When you carry Ogun West, Ogun East would drop. What you should do is ensure that people see your efforts in working for all parties in your own capacity. Loyalty in politics is vital, very important. It does not define what you will do but it would give you opportunity. That you are loyal does not determine how you will run your government. Having strong faith does not determine the number of years you will spend but that is what will give you breakthroughs to be able to touch lives. That is faith. Having sincerity of business does not mean that you could be the richest in the trade, but it will sustain you. Loyalty has given me the language above others to get to where I want to get to but it does not determine what I am going to do or how Ogun State government would run. I want to clarify that.
Ogun State is benefitting from the spill over of population in Lagos State but in terms of development, you have not scratched the surface, around Agbara to Igbesa, how are you going to address the issue of infrastructure to attract more people from Lagos to these areas?
Every administration has its focus. In 2011, I was part of this administration and it focussed on building road infrastructure. Do not forget, you have to look at the capital. If it is only that bridge at Ijebu Ode, you will agree that it has saved hundreds of lives. Do not forget that no matter how laudable your intentions are, it all boils down to availability of resources. You are talking about a government that met less than N700 million in IGR when it came on board, PDP was at the federal level. There was nothing to back you up. The government had to look inward and used all the financial engineering possible, to generate income. By 2015, when he had his own party at the centre, the country went into recession. He has been struggling to get back on track. What we want to do is to sit down with the private sector. We have our agenda. At Igbesa, we are working on the bridge as we want to attend to industrial clusters and hubs and partner with private companies. If you look at the industrial hub in Agbara, the top management lives in Lagos and you will need 300 low cadre staff using all my facilities and infrastructure to get the amount that one Executive Director pays as Pay As You Earn. and I do not get any money for it. With one bulletproof car, he drives into Ogun State, does his work and goes away. Now with technology, they do not even come in anymore as they have video conferencing technology, which keeps them away. There are a lot of concessions we can give to these companies. Come and let us partner where we concession this estate to you, build it, own and transfer after some years, say 15 years to Ogun State government. However, the Pay As You Earn that I can make from the director of such a company should concern me more. We would need to build an helipad that would make logistics easy for them.
Two candidates from two political parties were presented to Mr. President for the 2019 governorship election in Ogun State. Chief Segun Osoba led Dapo Abiodun to the President and he was acknowledged by the President. You were also taken to the President by Governor Amosun. What is the message you are passing to your supporters and the electorate of Ogun State?
There is no confusion. Prince Dapo Abiodun going to see Mr. President with Chief Osoba, is not a problem. He is a member of the APC. I do not recognise him as an APC candidate, considering the way he emerged. I think the confusion should be with them and not with us. As a party, APM, we adopted Mr. President and believe in his policies and we have absolute confidence in his programmes. I will assure him that he does not need Dapo Abiodun as APC and that is simple, there is no ambiguity that the president does not need Dapo Abiodun to deliver because he will lose. I am from Yewa and Yoruba. Even in other culture, when you see an adult waiting to be taken by the hand by an old man to walk in the market place then there is something wrong.
As we speak, it took the Number Two citizen of the country to come to Ogun State to take him to see the Awujale and other leading Obas. We want peaceful election. We will win. They know they cannot win. They have caused crisis for us in Ogun State. Policemen from Lagos followed them and gave them support in Ogun State but we cannot be intimidated. I have been to the hospital to see the injured. I am going back to Abeokuta to encourage our people to remain resolute as we shall vote and our vote will count. We will not be involved in violence as we are the first in almost everything and we shall show it.
Buhari is our president. I think I reserve the right to meet Mr. President and reassure him that we believe in him and believe in what he is doing. We will thank him for the rail that has come to Ogun State. In terms of industry, for attracting young people to live in Ogun State especially the law that says you pay your tax where you live and not where you work. It makes more sense for me to grab any opportunity to get more people to live in Ogun State and work in Lagos. He went there for them to raise his hands, I did not go there for endorsement. I went there to thank the President and pray that he gets there again because it is only when the President gets there that they can finish the rail project for me. PDP will abandon it. It is for me to get there so that they can complete the rail project.
Do you have plans of returning to the APC if you win this election?
I am a member of APM. I never knew prior to the challenges we had, how important people are in politics. I used to think that once you are able to mobilise people that is the end of it. It was after the mandate was stolen and I realised how the people stood with us, market women and youths began to use their money to print aprons and t-shirts then I realised how important people are. When people use the federal or political might, where you turn back to is ‘the people’. It is their election and when you enjoy such goodwill, it is good to make them understand that if they decide white, it would be white or black and it would be black. Not for me, I have realised that as a political candidate, you have no power outside the power of the people.
That stolen mandate was recognised by the APC leadership. Is that enough to distance yourself from the party, APC?
There is nothing wrong with APC as a party. I believe in APC. It is the leadership of that party that matters. If it was something that happened in Ogun State alone, I would have been worried. I am a member of the House of Representatives, more than 80% of my members, went through the same thing. It means there is something wrong with the leadership of the party. APC has wonderful policies under the able leadership of the President. I have no issues with APC as a party. It is the people running the party, I feel they got carried away along the way and lost track of the purpose for setting up the party. I would never have appreciated my people this much and never would have appreciated God even more if APC had not experienced that crisis. I am stronger today. If I had needed to spend N100,000 to sell myself, I do not need to spend a dime now. If the crisis had bought me popularity then I do not have an issue with it. I believe in the policy of the party.