Mrs Alexandria Onyemelukwu, the eldest daughter of a former Vice-President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, on Friday night described the deceased politician as a caring but disciplined father. Onyemelukwu gave the description in Lagos at the “Night of Tributes and Music” organised as part of funeral programmes of Ekwueme. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that…
By Sunday Ani
The Deputy Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and governorship aspirant in Ekiti state, Segun Oni, has made it clear that he was never imposed on his people as governor by the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
In this interview with some journalists in his country home, Ifaki, in Ekiti state, the former governor spoke on his reason for wanting to occupy the number one seat in the state again in 2018 and other issues of interest.
There are insinuations in some quarters that you were imposed on the people of Ekiti as governor the first time you came by former President Olusegun Obasanjo; what can you say about that?
Three years before the primaries, I had done a couple things that impacted positively on lives of my people in Ekiti. Before the primaries, I had provided micro credits to the people of the state. I was also providing free Universal Tertiary Matriculation Exams (UTME) forms and lectures, where I gave qualified people free UTME forms and a 15-week-free lesson in every local government area of the state. I also had a scholarship scheme because I realised that many of the people that did well in their UTME didn’t have the means to go to the University.
Now, if you do your arithmetic well, you will discover that it ran into millions of naira. So, before the primaries, I’m sure the delegates must have picked my name and goodwill. In terms of goodwill, I have never had any dent in my career. I worked in Xerox and many other places. So, if there was any screening about who would be the party’s candidate, I don’t think I would have failed it. But you will remember that the PDP combined that primary with the assessment of individual. Chief Ropo Adesanya was the chairman of the party at the time. And on the day of the primary, he addressed all the aspirants where he clearly stated that the primary would be combined with the assessment of individual, before they would pick the party’s candidate.
If they adhered to the guidelines they have told us about and they now picked one person, how does that become an imposition? There were three ballot boxes. I was there when they were opened. We were about 16 contestants. I already had more than 40 percent of the call in the first box before they stopped. They met and took their decision. By the time they resumed, the story changed. The guy who represented me was very naïve. He was not conversant with the procedure and he did not ask to see what was going on. He was just making calls. What I heard was that people did whatever they liked, but I never complained and I did not say anything. So, I believe and I’m saying this now, that I didn’t lose that primary. If I was not made the governor, I would not have also talked about it. The primaries were not conclusive because to be conclusive you have to score more than 50 percent but none of us scored that much. Yinka Akerele scored the highest, Professor Ojo followed and I came third. Oni from Okemesi came fourth. I immediately instructed my team to take N1m from our Save and give to Akerele. I also told them to give him two buses. I led my people round to thank all our delegates and tell them to vote for Akerele at the gubernatorial election.
But, eventually that was not to be. I think the lesson for me is that human beings can only strive; it is only God that determines our fate as humans. I’m saying this for the first time. I don’t mind the controversy, but individuals will justify their actions. So, it sounds so annoying for people to keep saying that I was imposed on the people.
On rating basis, which of the candidates would have been rated higher than me? What have they put into the lives of other people, young or old that would have made them to be rated higher than me? So, if I was rated number one in goodwill and I’m number three by the result of the primary, what stopped me from being the number one? And I don’t think I was number three, but let us assume I was number three, what stopped me from being number one? Let me also say that I was not close to Baba Obasanjo until I became a candidate. People just say all sorts of things without being fair to the old man. He did what was best for the party. I was not imposed by Obasanjo. Anybody who wants to counter all I have said now is free and we would talk. But in terms of goodwill, I was number one. Let us also not forget that primary election is supposed to be a test of popularity, because the party did not want to risk giving its ticket to somebody who would not win election. Also, at that time, people of Ekiti knew who was in the best position to command their votes.
Could you share your experiences in your first outing as the governor of Ekiti State?
It was very interesting. I contested for governorship because I had ideas I wanted to try out and I was very excited that I was given the opportunity to experiment those ideas. They worked and I am quite happy and grateful to God about that.
What would you like to do differently if you have another opportunity to lead the state?
Most of our ideas then had been abandoned. I think I will still bring back the micro credit the way we did it before, but definitely we must do something to give people access to credit, because that was what that programme was meant to achieve. That scheme would be completely repackaged.
The new thinking all over the world is geared towards developing the youths. We have not given enough attention to our young people. We keep bringing children to the world without thinking about their welfare. This is neither Ekiti problem, nor that of Nigeria, but that of humanity. That is why human trafficking is thriving because people are frustrated. A frustrated person wants a way out of this country, even if that way is unreasonable. Many of the trafficked persons paid to be ferried across the Mediterranean and they know the dangers involved, some will even go through the desert, facing all the dangers. Many have died in the process. So, we must provide for this younger generation. If you look at the so-called Jihad terrorists, you find that they are young people. Even the ones they call home boy terrorists are equally people who are in their productive years but frustrated.
The energy they would have used to serve humanity is what they divert to commit all sorts of crime. So, this is the time for us to face the plight of the youth and we can’t do that by singing on the pages of newspapers. We must create an opportunity for them. We must make their issue a front line agenda by creating a martial plan for them. For me, that is the most interesting challenge I want to tackle, if elected governor next year. I’m not saying I know all the answers but they are beginning to come from people I have thrown this question to. That is more important to me than building roads because nobody has constructed more roads than me in Ekiti state. I built the blue hospital. I equally built the best eye hospital in Africa in Ekiti, and in a few period it operated, it recovered many sights from within the South-West, other parts of Nigeria and even from outside the country.
There are strong rumours circulating as we speak that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is backing you in this second mission to govern Ekiti State; is that true?
God is backing me. I also want to say that nobody could have achieved what we are seeing on ground now, if he does not have the backing of God. I also believe that I will be backed by not only Asiwaju Tinubu, but also by Baba Akande, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President and everybody that want the party to win and have a good run in Ekiti. I’m not backed yet, but I will be backed and I’m working towards that.
You were in PDP before you crossed over to the APC. Recently, someone said that APC governorship ticket is not for people with no progressive background, which was a veiled reference to those who defected from other parties; what is your reaction to that?
My reaction would be to know what progressive background means. I was governor of this state and I know that progressive politics is about care and attention to the under-privileged. It is about equity and equitable distribution. When I was governor of this state, I was the first to start a scholarship scheme. There was no scholarship scheme before I came to this place. Bursary was the only thing the state was doing and I told the local government to take over bursary and they did so. So, in addition to bursary, we had scholarship. I introduced nutritional subsidy for school children twice a week with chocolate tea and egg, yet I’m still not a progressive. I introduced quarterly free surgeries involving more than 2,000 people who are today alive, yet I’m not a progressive. I abolished the practice of carrying bench and desk to school and ensured that every child had full complement of desk and benches. I ensured that every school had full complement of library. I also ensured that free text books were given to students at senior and junior secondary schools. We ensured that the rich and the poor had equal level of access, yet I’m not a progressive. I recruited over 4000 people at once into the civil service here based purely on merit because I wanted equity, yet I’m not a progressive. So, let all the progressives who are contesting show their credentials, and let’s see who is a progressive. I did not respond because I thought it was no worth responding to. It was not because I don’t have progressive credentials. I believe, without mincing words, that nobody can fault my credentials.
There are insinuations that you are planning to go back to the PDP?
It is good that all these questions are coming in but if I were you, I would ask those rumour peddlers where they got their information from. Why would I go back to PDP; did I owe PDP money that I need to go and pay back? Why will I be going there? I have been here; we conscientiously fought the PDP out of power, with everything we have got. Those peddling the rumours are either bystanders or those who didn’t believe in the agenda of President Buhari and who are now trying to find ways of rubbishing people who believe in the President. I’m a member of the APC and by the grace of God, the deputy national chairman. I don’t know any other party. I have said that if I don’t pick the APC ticket, I would not go to any other party; I don’t have a plan B. My plan A, B or C is APC because I’m not desperate. Why would I be desperate when I know that honour has no equivalent? So if anybody tells you I want to go to the PDP, the question you should ask the person is whether I told him so or if I held any meeting with him where such matter was discussed.