By Sunday Ani

Former Special Assistant on Oil and Gas to late Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and a former board member of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr. Benson Enikuomehin in this interview with some journalists, spoke on the November 16 off-cycle governorship election, why the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoned their tickets to Ondo South, among other issues.

What is your assessment of the off-season governorship election in Ondo State and the intrigues ahead of the primaries of the two major parties, the APC and the PDP?

The events happening in Ondo State now necessitated that we should speak out. We cannot keep quiet and watch events go awry because if you keep quiet when you need to speak, you may have to speak when you ought not to. But when you speak at the right time, things may be averted. We cannot allow the state to drift. When Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of blessed memory, was sick, and indisposed, some persons in the state were manipulating his ailment, we spoke out. I was everywhere saying that there is a joint ticket between the governor and his deputy, that once the governor is incapacitated, or sick, or cannot perform the functions of his office, it becomes automatic that his deputy must take over. More so, it was the governor that chose his deputy. So, we stood our ground and thanks to the things we said, the authorities in Abuja reasoned along our line, and asked the legislators to confer on the deputy governor the power of acting as governor. It was not too long after that Akeredolu passed on, and then the deputy governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa became governor. The two major political parties, namely APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have chosen the pattern of their primary elections. For the APC, it is going to be a direct primary, and for the PDP, it appears they are going for an indirect primary. If this is the situation, what do we expect the political parties to do? The APC needs to put its house in order. I hope that they will do it well and ensure that a reliable person is elected. We cannot afford to make mistakes because for now, Ondo is not getting its best from the resources available to the state. So, we must look for a credible, reliable, dependable individual.

What qualities do you expect the candidates to possess?

One, we should look at the antecedents of the individuals who are coming out. Two, we must look at their integrity. We should check how reliable they are, if this person says A, does it mean A? If he says B, does it mean B? If he says good morning, do we need to look at the sun to be sure that it is morning and not night? We also need to look at their minimum qualifications to be sure that the person we are projecting can go to the comity of nations or comity of states and represent us well. We will also look at his acceptability in the state and how acceptable he is to win the election, is he trustworthy? Can the people in the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Ondo State trust this person? How much have we committed into his hand before? What did he do? Is he a greenhorn? Is he a neophyte? We cannot at this stage afford to vote for a greenhorn. No. Ondo State is of age. These and many others are the things we need to consider when we make a choice.

Is it by design that the two major political parties, APC and PDP zoned the ticket to Ondo South?

The two political parties have done well, firstly, in zoning their governorship candidate to Ondo South. There are three Senatorial districts in Ondo State, Ondo North, Ondo Central, and Ondo South. In this dispensation, that is from 1999 till date, the following persons have taken charge of this state, our late father, Chief Adebayo Adefarati, from the North spent four years as Governor of Ondo State. Olusegun Agagu from the South took over from Adefarati, he completed his first term and was doing a second before he was removed by the court. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko from the Central took over. Dr. Mimiko was the first person who established that a governor could rule the state for two terms; it had never happened before in Ondo State. After his eight years, Mimiko tried to anoint another candidate from Ondo Central to succeed him but the people of the state revolted and voted for Rotimi Akeredolu from the North.

He completed his first term and was elected for a second term. Sadly, death took him away so, he couldn’t complete the eight years, but he spent a total of almost seven years or thereabout. Now, everyone in the state feels that since the Northern Senatorial district had it for almost 11 years between Adefarati and Akeredolu, Central had eight unbroken years under Mimiko, it would be wise, reasonable to zone it to Ondo South. So, that is why virtually all the political parties agreed on that.

What is your easement of the aspirants on the platforms of APC and PDP?

The caliber of persons that came out this season in the two political parties are largely men of credibility, sound education, and men whose integrity may not be doubted. However, when you take an examination, some people will have passed with the third class. Some will have second-class lower division, they have passed. Some will have second-class upper division, they passed, and yet, some will have first class.

Even among the first class, some will still top the class. If we assess these men and look at who they are, what they have done, what they have achieved, what people say about them, which of them can we ask to go for us? The people of Ondo need to ask, among these men that have come up in APC, in PDP, who shall we send?

You talk as if you have a preferred aspirant in mind…?

In 2012, when Mimiko, Akeredolu and Chief Oke came for a debate as to who should be the governor of the state, the debate was tough but due to sentiments of allowing Mimiko to complete two terms, the people voted for Mimiko.

When Mimiko left office, the people decided it should be the turn of Akeredolu and he was voted for two terms. Now only one man is left in that trio, and that is Chief Olusola Oke. Chief Oke, holds an LLM, not only that, he is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He has contested this position three times before. I think this will be the fourth time now that he will be contesting.

Is that why Oke is running a campaign of, “it’s my turn…?

Olusola Oke is not campaigning, “it is my turn.” He has contested about three times in the past. For me, I will go for the better choice. If I were contesting for the position of the governor of Ondo State, which I’m eminently qualified for, and Olusola Oke and I were to go into a contest, if I’m sincere with myself, I should step down from him, but I’m not contesting. Of all these persons who have shown interest in contesting for the governorship seat of Ondo State, Olusola Oke is the only one not holding government office.  Every other person has to fall back on the state’s resources to do it.

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Olusola Oke has risen to the peak of his career and is eminently qualified. But looking at it critically, if the North has had it for 11 years under Adefarati and Akeredolu, the Central had it for eight years under Mimiko and the South for six years under Agagu, now that it has come back to the South, morality and moral adoration can be used to plead, and say, gentlemen when your son was coming on board, we supported him, why not allow us?

The incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa is also from the South. If Mr Aiyedatiwa is a gentleman, he has what it takes to continue in the office, but will this serve the best interest of the people of the South, will the South not be short-changed? And that is fundamental, and that necessitates why we must educate our people.

If Ondo South is to have eight years of unbroken governorship going by the convention already established from Mimiko to Akeredolu, then we must support Olusola Oke. But, the people of Ondo Central are playing one game, their game is to help the incumbent, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa, why?  Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa by the constitution of Nigeria as of now, can only contest one more governorship election, he has been sworn in. The law is that when you are sworn in to take over the remainder of the tenure of your boss, you can only contest for one more election.

That’s why you see a good number of them coming out and canvassing for Aiyedatiwa; it is not because of their love for the man. No. It is because their turn to have it will come sooner than later. So, for the APC, the banana peel is on the ground that could enable the PDP to say, we are available, we can get you the eight years, and our people can be very sentimental.

Why do you think that Oke is better positioned to win the governorship election in the state?

If the incumbent Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa emerges the candidate of the party in Ondo State gubernatorial election, Ondo-South senatorial zone will be shortchanged. Aiyedatiwa would only spend a term going by the amendments in the constitution which says that once someone succeeds his or her boss, he or she can only spend a term.

as nobody can be sworn in for more than two terms. Providence threw up Aiyedatiwa as the governor at the moment, and nobody is against that. Assuming that providence would allow him to do two terms, it would have been better. We’ll be shortchanged if Aiyedatiwa is allowed to contest. Former Governor Olusegun Mimiko from Ondo Central spent eight years and was closely followed by late Rotimi Akeredolu, from Ondo North who spent almost eight years before his death.

So, the South deserves eight unbroken years. For fairness and equity, the Ilaje Local Government Area (LGA) should be considered. One of the ways the APC will quickly throw away this beautiful baby that it has been nursing for years is to shortchange Ondo-South. Make no mistake about it, we can mobilise people and friends to say that we’re not slaves.

The PDP is not dead in Ondo State. If the APC chooses a candidate that would shortchange Ondo-South, the PDP may be a preferred option. Chief Olusola Oke towered above other aspirants from Ondo-South because of his pedigree. I have nothing personal against Aiyedatiwa. I was among those who fought to stop his impeachment during the political turbulence. What is at stake now is bigger than him. We cannot allow a greenhorn to run the state.

What do you mean?

When I listened to Chief Oke’s manifesto and what he promised to do, it’s very extensive, and it shows that he understands what the issues are. Chief Olusola Oke can finance his campaign, and he won’t be the one the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will be pursuing after his exit from government. Dr. Olusegun Agagu was the one who opened us up. We were a people forgotten. A people not to be considered. He constructed the road from Ipopoda to Aralogun. He constructed the longest bridge in Ondo State towards the end of his tenure. He was the one who linked Okitipupa with Irere, the second longest bridge in Ondo State. If you go to my village, there is no light. You can’t go there by road.

There is no water. The sea is almost taking Aiyetoro away. My younger brother is from Aiyetoro, his family house is already on the high sea. Was the water in Lagos not taking Bar Beach away before? Some people came up and built Atlantic City. The one that the sea took away, they reclaimed it. We should go back and look for somebody who has the courage and ability to do so. Let us remove sentiments. We should have somebody who can walk into any office. If he needs to plead, he will plead. If he needs to talk, he will talk. If he needs to persuade, he will do so. If he needs to give corrections, he will do so.

I am not looking for a job from him. I am doing well in my profession. To keep quiet now, they will come after me. Every now and then I receive text messages, ‘Bros please send N20,000 to me” If they are fully engaged, they will not bother me. Like the man said, he would introduce agriculture. I have never seen it from that angle. When he explained, I was taken in. He said he would not do agriculture the way they are doing it. He said that when he opens the road, he would build houses in those areas and put solar lights. He said that because he was aware of the mischief makers, the kidnappers, he would build barracks for Amotekun. He said that Amotekun has no business being in the city, it should be in the forest. At your beck and call, you can call Amotekun. Nobody has thought in that direction. We are looking for somebody who will do a good job. I didn’t deride any person; everybody is qualified.  If you go to Ilaje and stay there beyond 6pm, mosquitoes will throw you into the sea.

If Olusola Oke doesn’t secure the ticket, will you support Aiyedatiwa?

If you are looking for a ticket, and you don’t have a first class ticket but there is one for business class, if the journey to you is very vital, you will go for economy. But when the first class ticket is available, why will you go and sit on the economy when you have the money for a first class ticket where you can comfort yourself? Therefore, if the preferable is not gotten, the available may be used, but the consequences of it are yours. I bear no grudge against Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa. Let me say this, Aiyedatiwa and I are from the same ward. For the larger house because I must put these things on the table,  I worked to ensure that he was not impeached as I said earlier. But when we come to the larger pool, for goodness sake, the horn on the head of a snail is not what we are looking for.

Remember that Aiyedatiwa is the incumbent and the party which would be eager to win would want the ticket to go to the incumbent?

Remember that it is not a one party thing. Your opponents are watching you. The PDP is not dead, it may be sleeping, but it is not dead. It is watching very keenly.