Hammed Shittu holds a conversation with Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, a former Kwara State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the evolving situation in Kwara and the state of the nation
How do you see your party winning all the seats including the Kwara State governorship position in the 2019 national elections?
Frankly speaking, I was surprised we could win all. I thought we would make impact, may be by winning one senate seat, two House of Representatives seats and perhaps eight or 10 seats in the state House of Assembly.
I was not thinking it would be total. I believe it is the deed of God that we were able to win all.
But I’m happy. It means God made our own formula for change in Kwara State work. I told my colleagues that we could not beat Saraki to his own game, and that is money for money. I told them we should vary the tactics of election in Kwara State. That was why we embarked on serious sensitization of the people of Kwara State through our radio programmes. We started with Harmony FM, Idofian, Royal FM, later to Sobi FM and later we also went to some other radio (stations) even outside Kwara State.
The people of Kwara State keyed into the whole programme; the agenda of change. We were address them on what could be their areas of need; areas where they feel the pinch of a bad administration. If you are not telling lies to the people, they will move with you.
If we were waiting for when we would have enough resources to fight the Senate President and the structure, we will not be where we are today. Some people were saying that before we could defeat the structure of Saraki in Kwara, we should be looking for about N6billion. Where would we get N6billion? Of course, we can’t get anything near that. So, we designed a programme that made us touch the heart of the people. While the method of giving people money only touched the hand, we were able to penetrate the heart of the people of Kwara State, and it worked wonderfully.
Now that your party has won, how do you intend to manage the success?
Politics to me is management of intrigues. I know very well that we can even be described as ‘Strange Bed Fellows’. Some of us are not actually sharing the vision of emancipation. Some just want to share public office. Those are some of problems we may have. But we don’t really have a choice in Kwara State than for this party (APC) to do well. To whom much is given, much is certainly expected.
We were given all. We won all including the President. We are also conscious of that fact. Even if we want to fight, we must be very careful that the crisis that can be permitted would not rock the boat so that we would not be chased out of Government House prematurely.
We need to be patient with one another; there must be a high level of tolerance among us. In fact, I must tell you that what carried us thus far is tolerance. You can’t get all that you want in a political party. There would be various schemes. But we still believe that having an Abdulrahman in Government House is by far better than having a nominee of the Senate President, because now we know there has been a change, which is acknowledged nationally.
APC national leadership has chosen Ahmad Lawan as preferred candidate for Senate President while two other candidates have also emerged. Don’t you foresee a repeat of the 2015 scenario?
There would not be anything like that of 2015 in the National Assembly of today. APC is in clear majority in that National Assembly. What happened in 2015 happened because the PDP and APC were contending forces in the National Assembly, and there was no clear and overwhelming majority. It was just easy for members of the APC to befriend PDP and betray their party in order to make it. I don’t foresee that now.
Two, we should know one thing that in Nigeria we are not ripe for a National Assembly that can be out rightly democratic in the choice of principal officers. This thing, for some time, will still be dominated by the party’s choice. And this is clear. Because many of these senators have their root in their various constituencies under some leadership there. Some of them are controlled by their governors, and so it would be very easy for them to be instructed by leaders from their various states on where they should go.
I foresee that majority will still toe the party line. Those of them that they may not follow the party line, will be in minority. They are not likely to upturn the decision of the party.
What is your advice for contenders going against the decision of the party?
Leadership may not be given to the best in the National Assembly, but it can be given to whoever has the favour of the party leadership. One should just urge all of them to toe the party line for now. May be in future, when we are more democratic, you can campaign on the floor of the House and you are made the presiding officer.
And don’t forget that even in the House, if you want to defy party, there must be a sort of power equation that is favourable like we had in 2014. If the situation is as it is now, Saraki would never have his way in a National Assembly dominated overwhelmingly by APC. He was sustained by the PDP throughout.
Let us come down to Kwara. In view of the new political order, how do you think the leadership should emerge?
Something unusual is happening in Kwara State, and many people don’t really understand the content of our victory. I want to be honest that there would not be any particular leader that will dictate who to become presiding officer in the Kwara State House of Assembly under this present dispensation. This is because there is no one leader whose image towers above everybody.
Many of the people elected into the House of Assembly were chosen and elected by their various constituencies. Nobody can just stand up and say this is what the party chairman says. Before the party chairman or the governor will do that, he has to call specific leaders from the 16 local governments and then we agree on who becomes the leaders of the assembly.
I foresee a collective leadership that will now make possible the emergence of principal officers in Kwara State House of Assembly. It has not been so in the last 20 years. I was in that assembly in 1999. The party leaders may be represented by just three people. They will just distribute offices and say, ‘go and endorse’. Though I was not part of the 2003 assembly, it is usually the same.
Under Bukola Saraki, some of them will just be made to come from the House of Representatives to become Speaker here. They have done it on two occasions. They knew that they would become the Speaker even before they contested. Nobody can say that one now. That is the true meaning of our victory.
Can we talk of zoning in this type of arrangement?
We would certainly talk of zoning. Kwara is standing on a tripod; we have the South, the Central and the North. Today, the Governor- elect is from the Central, the Deputy is from the South. If you just say let us give Speaker to any other place, unless it is conceded by the North, I foresee problem. I’m sure there would be discussion around zoning.
Even when you consider experience and seniority?
It is a sad thing, sometimes in politics. And in any case, 23 of 24 of them (members of the state House of Assembly elect) are greenhorns. They are just going there for the first time. Only one can be said to be part of the last assembly. Ordinarily, when you want to consider experience, you will want to give it to that person. But would the North concede?
Supposing all of them are new, would you go and import somebody, who didn’t make it? We don’t have to be sentimental about it. Presiding officer of the House can easily be trained to take over. When I was in the assembly, Benjamin Issa was the Speaker, and he had no legislative experience. I want tell you that up till today in the present dispensation, I rate him the best of all our Speakers. Not because I served under him, but the records are there.
In view of the talk about how the governments of Kwara State were run in the last 16 years or so, would you suggest a probe?
I’m not the governor, and I don’t know how his mind operates. To me, there must be accountability. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be punishment but you must account for your tenure. The problem of leadership in Nigeria is lack of accountability. We don’t hold our leaders accountable, that is the major problem we have. Of course, if you were a governor for eight years or 16 years, you must be able to account for your tenure. You must be able to talk specifically on what you left behind. They did a lot of projects and programmes. If the governor believes that there must be a review, so be it?
What I want to caution against is that we should not make review of the past a sort of vendetta. We should not also make it a project that we would say we are probing, so we cannot do anything. I would never go for that. We should not also use it as a means of playing to the gallery so that you make the headlines. There must be a way of reviewing the past without much sentiments.
I think we can be objective so that it would be transparently known to everybody. If they are wrong, people would see. If they are not wrong, tell people that they are not. That does not mean anything.
What if this provides an excuse for the inability of the incoming APC government to perform?
I’m always against excuses. We cannot give excuses that things were bad. We knew those things were bad before we said we wanted to be in government. I don’t believe any Kwaran would take it from us. That is being very honest. What Kwarans expect is for us to hit the ground running. We have had enough time to prepare for alternative government in Kwara. Therefore, there should not be any excuse that we did not meet any money. If we did not meet any money, if there is a way that we can make it known generally and acceptably to people, and a way of trying to wriggle out of lack of money in order to please the people, we have to do it.
Looking at the current perception of the judiciary, referred to as last hope of the common man, what do you think can be done to change the perception in the society?
Judiciary, legislature and the executive, they are populated by Nigerian leaders. And what is leadership? It is the conspiracy of the elite. If we want to single out the judiciary, what of the executive and the legislature? Legislature as we see in Bukola (Saraki), cannot be said to be good. For the executive, many people blamed (Goodluck) Jonathan for some ills.
So, if we have some dosage of corruption in the judiciary, it is part of the national malaise. The difference, however, is that we see judiciary as last hope of the common man. We have had consistent and durable development in the judiciary, even under the military, they were still there. One would have thought we would have outstanding men of integrity and character in the judiciary. If we don’t have, if there is a purge, I don’t think there is anything bad to flush out those that are guilty.
The Judiciary should help by purging itself of people of questionable character. There is nothing we can do with a corrupt Judiciary. It will not lead us to any credible end in this country. If the people in legislature are bad, they will say take them to court. Same for people in the executive, they will say take them to court. If there is no hope where you are taking them to, there is no hope for the whole country.