Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State, Alex Kalejaiye, in this interview with James Sowole, takes a swipe at former Deputy Governor Alhaji Alli Olanusi for allegedly criticizing the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu administration
APC has been in the saddle in Ondo State for over two and half years what can you say are its achievements?
The achievements of APC-led government in Ondo State are enormous. I can tell you confidently that we have fulfilled very largely our electoral promises in less than three years. As at today, the APC government can boast of over 78 Km of roads that are completed with asphalt overlay in three senatorial districts.
In Owo, we have completed more than 15km. In Ifon, we have constructed about 6km of roads. Another 18km of road is ongoing in Ute. In Akoko axis, the dualisation of Ikare Akoko Road is ongoing; in Ugbe, more than 4km of road had been constructed. The Oke Alabojuto in Ikare had been leveled and the disaster spot reconstructed.
In the Central Senatorial District, in Akure, the state capital, more than 28 Km of road had been tarred including the High Court-Hospital Road, Iwalewa Road and so many others. In Idanre Township, a 4.2km road has been constructed. Idanre to Akure, through Ijoka Road, about 18km is ongoing. In Ilara Mokin, Oke Ogba, the roads there have been completed. In the Southern Senatorial Districts, the flyover in Ore would be completed and inaugurated by December. The road network in the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa had been completed and another 5.2km roads construction completed in Ile Oluji/Okeigbo, while Ese-Odo is not left out.
Aside the road infrastructure, the chain of industries in Ore, can only be imagined by most state governments in the country. There are three factories that are going to take off simultaneously at the Ore Industrial Park. The factories are being built to create more employment opportunities for our teeming youths, and boost the economy of the state.
We are strongly committed to the Deep Sea Port in Ilaje Local Government Area, while government has encouraged investors to commence bitumen exploration. In the education sector, many schools have been built, renovated and reconstructed. In agricultural sector, the Akeredolu-led government has been able to make farming more attractive to our youths.
What is the state of the party in Ondo as of today?
The Ondo State chapter of APC is very healthy, vibrant, and focused. It is arguably the party to beat in any election and our confidence is borne out the fact that we have justified the confidence reposed in us by the electorate. If you move round the state, the people will gleefully attest to all the claims I have made so far.
The State Working Committee (SWC) under the Chairmanship of Engr Ade Adetimehin shortly after the election, held reconciliatory meetings with the party stalwarts round all the local governments. We met with leaders that were not happy with some decisions.
The SWC engaged the executive members at the local government and ward levels; the political appointees and party elders that were genuinely interested in the development of the party, and we identified those who were aggrieved.
We have been doing this and it has been giving us results and most of the aggrieved members are now back on board. The Chairman of the party, Adetimehin is a grassroots person, who knows and understands the importance of holding regular meetings. He has been in the game for years and knows what we should be doing to keep our people on the same page.
How will you react to an insinuation that if the party contest another election in Ondo, it will not likely be successful?
APC in Ondo State remains the party to beat in any election. Some of the things I mentioned earlier as our achievements were some of the measures and strategies to ensure we have a walkover during the next governorship election. We have appealed to all aggrieved members and have resolved to give priority to the interest of the party.
There is only one political party that is visible and viable in Ondo State today and that is APC. We are viable, stable, healthy and organised. We won’t lose sleep over any election. APC in Ondo has proved to the good people of the state that it is here to serve them and to work for them. We have so many things to showcase in virtually every sector, and this has endeared the party to the people, and has assured us of their consistent support, encouragement, and votes.
The civil servants, for instance, have been receiving their salaries promptly, and we have done so much to ensure that there is no disruption in this arrangement. Those that have been plying the roads and shouting Halleluyah will ensure the government remains in power to keep enjoying more of these infrastructure in the state.
Is it true that Governor Akeredolu does not consult party members before taking decisions?
Put unambiguously, it is not true. The governor consults and meets regularly with the party executives and leaders to fashion out decisions. There is no political appointment made without the consent of the state secretariat of the party. Governor Akeredolu consults very regularly with the party even on such matter as siting of projects. There is continuous rapport between the party and the government, which, in any case, is the baby of the party.
If all you have said is true, why is a former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Alli Olanusi, claiming the governor was not accessible, running a one-man show?
I am particularly surprised that the former deputy governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, could make some of the statements attributed to him. Having said that, he confessed in the said interview that if there’s anything he wants from the governor today he will get it.
That depicts there is a level of closeness between them; it shows that the governor is accessible to leaders like Alhaji Olanusi, who have his ears at all times. The governor does not run a one man’s show. I have a feeling that Alhaji Olanusi has a personal grouse against the governor.
This ill-feeling is not unconnected to his carryover of emoluments from the previous government. Ordinarily, one would expect that the governor gets kudos rather than knocks for approving the release of almost N150m, which was paid to the account of Olanusi. He was encouraged to approach the court, and Mr. Governor acted promptly to the judgment of the court by approving the payment.
No sooner was this done than Baba came up with fresh claims that were turned down. The governor advised him to go back to court and get a judgment to that effect. I think that is the crux of the disagreement between the governor and Alhaji Olanusi.
So, he is fighting a personal cause?
I strongly believe so, but sadly enough, he is using a platform called the Unity Forum. Those who are familiar with the political development of Ondo State, particularly from 1999, would recall that no governor has been spared by him, from Chief Adebayo Adefarati, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the trend has been the same, so it would be unusual to expect that Akeredolu would be spared.
There is a belief that Akeredolu might not be given the ticket of the party in 2020 election, how far is this true?
APC is a party that is being guided by constitution, and believes in the collective interest of members. Although Governor Akeredolu has not come to the party to discuss second term, we believe he is a bonafide member of the party, and constitutionally entitled to it.
What happens if other members of the APC show interest in the governorship race?
That is the beauty of democracy, and we believe in internal democracy in APC. The more the merrier. They are welcome and I want to believe that some members have been showing and expressing interests in the seat.
We will show the world that we are impartial and we will provide a level playing ground for all the aspirants, who are interested in the race. Our duty as a party is to ensure that whosoever emerges as the party’s candidate wins the governorship election in the state.
What is the relationship between the APC in the state and the national level?
The relationship is very cordial. You will recall that when the election campaign for Kogi governorship election was being set up, the National Secretariat thought it wise to appoint the state chairman of the party in Ondo State as a member of that electoral campaign.
This shows the level of confidence the national secretariat has in him as a person; and the level of relationship between the national secretariat and Ondo State. So, we are together, working towards the same goal to ensure the prosperity and stability of the party, whether in the Southwest, North Central or anywhere in the country.