Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu said Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State is opposed to his governorship ambition because he fears he (Shittu) would jail him if he succeeds him in 2019.
He equally spoke on the aborted Ekiti APC governorship primary, blaming the police for the poor handling of the situation, even as he claimed that the crisis rocking the ruling party would not affect its fortune in next year’s election because of Buhari’s cult-like image.
What actually transpired at the last weekend’s Oyo State ward congress?
Congresses were ordered throughout the country but in Oyo State like many other states, the party is broken into two factions. We have the Ajimobi faction called the SENACO faction, which means Senator Ajimobi and we have the Unity faction made up people that have been oppressed, marginalised within the party and people who have been cheated in several ways by the leadership of the government, produced by the party.
When the congresses were ordered, the guideline is that anybody interested in pursuing any position should collect, pay for the forms and then participate in the congress.
Because many leaders in the country are used to the practice of impunity in the selection of people into positions, the SENACO people led by the governor did not pay for the collection of the forms as at Friday the last working day before the congresses.
The committee set up for the congress arrived Oyo on Friday but because they arrived late, they called for a stakeholders’ meeting on Saturday morning. We learnt that when the committee visited Ajimobi on Friday, he told them that the party in Oyo State was one family and there was not going to be election and as such they have compiled the names which will form the list of officers as agreed by the entire party.
What it means is that he was not prepared for the congress. He attempted to give the list to the committee which we understood it rejected on the ground that they were directed to conduct elective congress in the state not to collect any list of officers to fill the position.
It was a shocker to them because it was too late for them to pay and collect the forms. Some officers of the party loyal to him started calling him on phone to send thugs to ensure that the meeting and the congress did not hold.
They sent thugs within an hour; they beat up people and committed lots of atrocities. They came with guns, sticks, canes and bottles of beer and freely used on people. Two members of the committee got injured among others. Many were hospitalised and we had to scamper to safety.
We later went to the police headquarters same Saturday to address newsmen. Governor Ajimobi later came to the complex which belongs to him but used as party secretariat. He is the landlord and has access to the place every time.
He persuaded the committee to assure and bring us to the place, claiming that it was peaceful to hold a meeting to resolve when the congress will hold. We all agreed that for those that have paid, they should be given the forms that same Saturday while the congress should take place the next day, Sunday.
We waited for the implementation of the agreement but we heard on Saturday night that those in the Ajimobi camp have gone ahead to print forms. We were convinced that since they did not show evidence of payment for the forms before the close of banking transaction on Friday, their forms will not be of any use to them.
By the time our people started arriving the secretariat to submit their forms as agreed, they stopped our people from entering the party secretariat. In fact, the Commissioner of Police with an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) blocked people from gaining entry into the place.
When they were through with all that they did, we understood that the committee members were whisked away in a bus to Lagos to fly to their destinations in the guise of avoiding being attacked by the thugs I was bringing to the place. We that held the actual congress have not had the opportunity to see the committee to accept the results.
What is next?
This is a clarion call to the party’s national leadership to redeem the image of the APC which is on the verge of gaining disrepute because of the activities of greedy and self-centred individuals like Governor Ajimobi.
We are confident that none of his supporters have any bank teller with the date of the Friday deadline. We know that Oyo State government has funds in many of these banks and may try to play some games, but the banks should not get involved in any unethical transactions because of the consequences.
We have taken our case to the national leadership of the party who has advised that we write a petition to the Appeal Panel. Our problem however is that even if we write the petition now, the job of the committee sent to organise the congress remains incomplete.
It is only after the completion which will be symbolised by the collection of the result that we could go to the next stage of appealing. We also believe that the security of our members will be in jeopardy going to that same state secretariat owned by the governor.
Why is it difficult for you and the governor to work together despite intervention from the party’s Peace and Reconciliation committee, could it possibly be as a result of your desperation to be governor?
I can say straight away that I am like any other Nigerian that heard that a committee was constituted. No invitation was extended to me for any purpose of discussions, negotiations, reconciliations or whatever. Nobody can blame me for that.
I want to say that if anybody is desperate in the Oyo political firmament, it should be Governor Ajimobi who believes that if Shittu succeeds him he will be in jail. That is what he is reported to have always told people who mentioned me to him.
He thinks that I am too principled, firm, unbendable and uncompromising when it comes to the issues of morality. It is he who is desperate to stop me not me being desperate to become governor.
What is your take on the claims by the governor that you are not on ground in Oyo?
Before I became the minister, I have lived in Oyo State for almost 50 years. I ceased staying in Ibadan permanently when I became minister just about two and half years ago. In 1979, as young as I was then, I was with his father in the Oyo state House of Assembly. We were both colleagues at the time. I have been Commissioner twice ever since then in 1983 and in 2007.
I contested against him for the governorship in 2011 but he defeated me and I congratulated him. So, if I have done all of these in Oyo State, how justifiable will it be for somebody to say that I am not on ground in the state?
The unanswered question is why is everybody against Ajimobi now? It is because he has lost all the goodwill he had enjoyed in the past.
What will be your next line of action if you fail at the Appeal committee?
I have been in politics for about 40 years but I am not among the political harlots. When it was unpopular to be a member of Buhari’s government, I was a minority in Oyo State then.
So, the point of attraction is not my personal interest with regards to whatever I want to become in an elective position but the fact that I am one leader who is patriotic, confident and who will not steal our money or compromise on the nationalist ideals. I want to however assure you that we will get justice.
Don’t you think that the structural defect in the APC which made the governors the leaders of the party in the state was responsible for the highhandedness of the governors?
I don’t think so because all parties make the governors the leader of the party in the state. Parties made the governors leaders apparently because they need funds to run the activities of the party. The governors have all the money in their states.
At the national level, I pay N100, 000 into the coffers of the party every month. That is what I am supposed to pay by law, but those who earn more probably pay more. It is not APC alone that made the governors leaders of the party and it will be wrong to assume that we are crying out too late because I don’t believe that the situation is insoluble.
The good thing we must say is that when we get to the situation where the very existence of this party will be threatened because of the misbehaviour of few leaders of the party, the party will have to sit up, face the problem and solve it.
What is the fate of the APC in 2019 considering what is happening now?
I strongly believe that the party will manage to solve its problems. One good thing we have that no other party has is the personality of our president. The cult-like image of Mr. President is what makes the party different from the others. Many people regardless of whether they gained anything or not will still vote for President Buhari any day.
Let me recall that in 2011, President Buhari scored 12 million votes after much rigging and violence. Out of these 12 million votes from the north, less than 200,000 came from the entire southern part of country.
In 2015, Mr. President got over 15 million votes with 12 million from the north and three million from the south. From what I have seen now, even from the south- east, Mr. President will get lots of votes. The south- east has discovered, suddenly and pleasantly that for the Igbo to become president in 2023, they need to support Mr. President.
More importantly is the fact that Mr. President has secured Sukuku loan to do virtually all the south -east roads. When the Igbo were comfortably in control of the federal government under Goodluck Jonathan, these roads were not fixed in the six years of his administration.
Today, all of those roads are receiving attention and in appreciation, the Igbo are coming forward to say he is one person we must appreciate. So, that symbol of unity, that symbol of affection and the symbol of appreciation is there. Whatever it is, APC will still make it by the grace of God.
As an APC chieftain in the south -west, what is your take on the shame recorded at the Ekiti governorship primary?
I strongly believe that it was the police that bungled the Ekiti governorship primary. I blame the police because the purpose of having policemen around was to ensure the arrest of anybody who tries to commit any crime there.
We saw on television the police looking and feigning ignorance while people are destroying the electoral materials. In fact, it was after people had destroyed these materials that they made any semblance of arrest. So, the police must be held responsible for what happened in Ekiti.