Why PDP Bigwigs Don’t Want Ladoja Back
Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, former governor of Oyo State, speaks to Yinka Adeniran, reporter/researcher, on his experience one year after he left office and the controversy surrounding the planned return of Rashidi Ladoja, former governor of the state to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Excerpts:
Newswatch: It has been one year since you left office. How would you describe your life after power?
Akala: Well, I thank God. I think I have taken back my sanity, and I am grateful to God Almighty who has given me the opportunity to serve the people of Oyo State. There is no doubt, I am okay, resting well and enjoying my rest.
Newswatch: After you left office, were there programmes and policies which you regret that you were not able to implement before leaving office?
Akala: No, I did not have anything that I wanted to do that I did not do. One thing with me then was that, all the promises that I made, that I opened my mouth to tell the people that I was going to do, I did all. I want to challenge anybody that I promised to do something in their area, and I did not do it to come out and say so. All the promises made were at least 95 percent fulfilled. I touched all the nooks and crannies of Oyo State. There was nowhere I did not touch and delivered on my promises.
Newswatch: You said earlier that you have regained your sanity. What exactly do you mean?
Akala: Well, the seat was hot and soothing. You know when something is very hot, but you are enjoying it, it has a way of soothing you. So, the best way I can describe it is, hot and soothing. It’s not easy to be on that seat, having to put on your head the problem of the whole state. The problem was enormous, but I thank God, I was able to do my best for posterity to judge.
Newswatch: There is this saying, even after you left office, that, Akala is good but he was surrounded by bad advisers. How would you react to this?
Akala: Well, I will not want to agree with that because it is one thing for them to advise me and another for me to take their advice. I don’t know what they mean by that, but nobody forced his advice on me and whenever I was advised, I looked at it well before I decided on what to do. I think I enjoyed working with everybody when I was there and I have no regrets whatsoever.
Newswatch: What factors worked against the PDP in the governorship election in Oyo State in 2011?
Akala: I think it was due to rancour within the party. Some people felt that, they were all in all and that was what cost us our victory. Nothing more than that.
Newswatch: There have been efforts at reconciling all warring factions in Oyo PDP. Would you now say that the Oyo State PDP is truly reconciled?
Akala: I have to be frank about that. Indeed, we are not reconciled, but there are moves and we are in the process of truly reconciling all members and you can be sure that before the next election, we would have put our house in order to get a favourable result. We have all learnt our lessons. The government in the state today is not getting things right at all. They cannot get things right because, they were not prepared for governance, they just found themselves there and they were shocked. They are not even prepared for the people they are governing. The way we were doing things was that, we were encouraging local participation in the activities of governance of Oyo State, but I don’t think they are. But we will see what will happen when the time for election comes.
Newswatch: You seem to be relating well with various factional leaders of your party going by their presence...
Akala: (cuts in…)…Well, I’m not a factional leader. I am the leader of everybody. There may be factions but I am not for any faction. I am for everybody, as long as you are in PDP. They may have their grievances, but I am sure we will bring everybody firmly together soon. Whatever our internal problems maybe, we still remain one and PDP still remains one, irrespective of our internal problems and differences. There is nothing like restructuring or dismantling one group at the expense of another, we are still all one, only that we have our differences. PDP still remains PDP and we are all one.
Newswatch: How far have you gone with the recent reconciliation move between you and your former boss, Rashidi Ladoja?
Akala: There was no reconciliation between me and my former boss. What happened was that, my former boss was angry but at the end of the day, he will come back to PDP, but we want to make sure that he is properly received and that is what we are doing. By the grace of God, I know we all want him to come back to PDP, because with him, we brighten the chances of PDP in Oyo State in reclaiming political power in the state in 2015. Definitely, he will not go to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. So, we are trying to make sure that we bring him back into the fold where all of us belong and that is PDP. He is coming back soon. I can assure you that he is coming.
Newswatch: Do you agree that there are some forces in PDP that do not want Ladoja back in the party?
Akala: You see, PDP is not a PLC, a limited liability company or a quoted company. PDP belongs to everybody and nobody can stop another person from not coming to PDP. PDP belongs to everybody and anybody can join. Maybe those who don’t want him to come are afraid of him because of his political strength and definitely, when he does, it will be like a cat and mouse game. You see, when somebody who is more professional than you is coming, and you know that your own power will be whittled down you begin to make moves not to allow such a person to come on board, maybe that is what is happening. But I believe that if there are people who don’t want him to come, they won’t be able to say it out. Those of us who want him to come back are far more than those who don’t want him to.
Newswatch: Is there anything you’re missing by not being governor again?
Akala: I miss the people of Oyo State. And I feel for them because they are not being taken care of the way I would have taken care of them; the way I have been taking care of them. I am a grassroots man, and there is this thing that when you rise through the ranks, you will know the intricacies of the system you are passing through. I mean the system you rise through at a particular time. Having gone through local government chairmanship position, to a deputy governor, then a governor as at that time, I got to know how to manage people and how to make people feel my impact when I have the opportunity to govern them. That was why I made the statement when I was coming on board that, it was a life time opportunity to govern the people of Oyo State.
Newswatch: The present administration suffered so many unprecedented challenges on assumption of office, especially the August 26, 2011 flood. So many things nobody envisaged happened on their assumption of office. Don’t you think that could have diverted their attention from their original plan and promises?
Akala: You see, I don’t want to offer them any form of advice in that regards. I will like us to leave the people of Oyo State, who are the judges of each leader that might have served them to judge between our own administration and the present administration. How open we were to the people, how accommodating we were, so that is how they will be able to judge between who and who has done a lot of things for them when the time comes.
Newswatch: One year after office, two of your former commissioners have left the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Some members of the state house of assembly too have cross carpeted, giving the ACN majority votes in the state House of Assembly. How would you react to this development?
Akala: I pity them. I pity those who left because they look like political jobbers and they are not interested in politics or making impact but they are only interested in their pockets. If they are principled they won’t leave a political party for another one. The person I pity most is my commissioner for finance, who… I doubt whether he has the fear of God in him, because when he was appointed commissioner, he was brought on a wheelchair to be sworn in and I left the position of commissioner for finance for him for five months when he was ill. Not that he has a very serious or enormous electoral value that wouldn’t have made me do away with him, but I left the office for him. I didn’t appoint another commissioner for five months. He came back like that and he was not all that active, that he couldn’t even climb the staircase. I relocated his office downstairs, and now he said he is no more in PDP. What is he looking for? At what age? He is even older than me. Even if he is somebody younger, we would have said he is ambitious, but for a man who is almost 70 years, it shows he is not interested in the people but in his pocket.
Newswatch: There was the rumour of a romance between you and the Oyo State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and its leadership, Lateef Eleweomo, alias Tokyo, Auxiliary & co.
Akala: You see, what happened in Oyo State then was not peculiar to the state. It is a phenomenon that we also see in other parts of the country as far as NURTW is concerned. I don’t want to comment on NURTW because it is only those that are not on ground that will be looking for the help of NURTW to do one thing or another. If I am to be in charge of NURTW, if they were to help or if they were a factor to reckon with in winning election, then we would have won every election, especially the last governorship election. So, I don’t believe in such a thing. I don’t even want to answer any question about NURTW, because I don’t have anything to do with them.
Newswatch: Some people believed that because of the way you actually condoned them and your declaring support for a particular faction at the expense of others…
Akala: (cuts in) How can I condone them? What is special about them? They are just like every other group in the society and other citizens in Nigeria. What is special about them? If they are members of PDP or any of them that are members of PDP, yes, they will go to their wards and local governments and relate like party members, but as a group, no.
Newswatch: One of the things the present administration is boasting of in Oyo State is the relative peace in Ibadan. What’s your reaction to that?
Akala: Unfortunately, they don’t know what they are saying. I was trained to maintain peace and that was exactly what I did when I was in office. There is nothing that happened during my time that the worst has not happened to them. Remember how many crises have been recorded and people that died immediately they came to office sometime in June, last year. I was more in control of security than they because I am trained to maintain peace.
Newswatch: How would you react to the allegation that so many of the projects you did were handled by unprofessional and unqualified contractors?
Akala: You see, what they are just doing is calling a dog a bad name to hang it. There are processes of paying contractors. If a job is not properly done, that is determined by the ministry and there are professionals to attest to that. If you are talking about roads, we had a director of roads, who is an engineer, who must have been a seasoned one, before rising to the director cadre of highways, and who would be in the position of certifying a job as either good or otherwise. Whether local contractors or not, what we are saying is that, the people we patronised were contractors, and if they were not doing their job very well, it is the people, engineer or commissioner who are to advise us and certify the jobs professionally.
Newswatch: I don’t know if you will agree with the saying among Ibadan people that what worked against your second term ambition is the belief that it is difficult for a governor to serve two terms in Oyo State?
Akala: I think it’s a myth. That nobody has been able to do that does not mean it is true or correct. It is just an ordinary myth and for the myth to succeed and come to pass, the people of Ibadan will come up with one thing or the other to campaign against anybody. I am glad that even the indigenes of Ibadan themselves have not been able to achieve the feat of two terms. If it was to be about me alone now, they would have said maybe it is because I am not an Ibadan man, but I think it is just an ordinary myth.
Newswatch: So, what should we expect from you in 2015?
Akala: 2015 is in the hands of God. Why should we be talking about 2015 when we are in 2012? Only God knows tomorrow and whatever will happen then, God will make it happen.
Newswatch: Where should we hope to see Alao-Akala come 2015?
Akala: Wherever God puts Akala, that’s where he will be, because it was not my making to be governor when I became governor. It was God that made it possible, and when it is 2015, we will know. God will direct us on where to go and how to go about it, but what I am sure of is that by the grace of God, come 2015, PDP is coming back into government in Oyo State.