Advertising guru turned politician, Senator Akin Odunsi is the SDP governorship candidate for Ogun State. He is presently the senator representing the Ogun West Senatorial district. Excerpts:
By Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu and Gbenga Oke
I think you should begin to ask yourself if a governor who came to power on the back of the senators and suddenly without any of the senators. I think people should ask questions. Are all the three senators so bad? Or is there something wrong.
If you look deep down, I am sure you will find answers. Let me use this opportunity to tell you that it is not only the three senators that are locked up in battle with the current governor. Five out of the nine House of Representatives members who were elected on the platform of the APC and who the current governor has said they have no electoral value are also with us.
I want to assure you that we in the SDP are very confident, we are closer to the people, and we know how we got in there in the first place. For instance, I won my election as a senator in a place where don’t want to hear you are not from Yewa/Awori extraction and I had to go round the whole of Ogun West convincing my people to deliver the votes to the Governor. I told my people that when he becomes Governor, he will not forget Ogun West in a hurry.
But lo and behold, hardly had he arrived Government House, he ensured that the Ogun West was totally marginalized in the appointments he made, in the dividends of democracy. In fact, as I speak to you, I want to challenge the governor to show me one project that he executed in Ogun West, that he executed fully. I want to assure you that those of us in SDP are very confident and Governor Amosun should just be counting days. If I were in his shoes reading the tide of the moment, I would begin to count my days because he is not going back there.
Who is SDP voting for at the Presidential level?
We are voting for ourselves. We don’t have a candidate, but we will vote SDP all the way.
Are you not fighting the governor because of his inability to settle you personally?
No. If we were interested in ourselves alone, we would not have gotten to where we are today. No. It is an issue of our party men, our followers because, at a stage, they tried to attract us back saying we should come back, our tickets will be given to us. Who is going to give me my ticket?
Is it the governor? He is also fighting for his own ticket even though he has organized all types of endorsements package even before the primaries. We are not doing what we are doing because of ourselves, no.
We are fighting the cause of the people, the cause of a common man, we are fighting for equity and fighting to ensure that governance is fair to all and that Ogun State is governed properly. It is not because of our own interest.
Governor Amosun has alleged that he does not have any problems with Aremo Osoba but with the three senators and particularly Senator Kaka who did not want to go through primaries. It is alleged that you people denied his people opportunities to contest in 2011 and now he wants them to vie with you?
To say we were not ready to go for the primaries is a lie. Nothing can be farther than the truth. Let me explain something that happened. We were all in ACN, when we went into a merger arrangement with ANPP, CPC, and part of APGA, we were excited about the prospects that we were now going to have a truly virile democratically run party, not a one man show that ACN was fast becoming.
So we embraced the idea of APC, and we then look forward to registration of new members and the congresses that will happen.
Lo and behold, at the point of even registration, we began to see signs and evidence that our governor had some ulterior motives to ensure that many of our members do not get properly registered into the new APC. It did not bother us because we knew unless he was going to import people from heaven or invite people from space, members who may register even under APC are our men because we had control over them. So we went through the registration through its flaws and when it came to congresses, that’s where the departure started; because many of the people who are feeding fat on the government, in their own wards, they knew they could not win to become delegates. So, what did they do?
They separated meetings to ensure they broke the meetings into camps, so they had the SIA group and the authentic APC group, because if they went to the consolidated ward meetings, many of them would not get delegates from the elections.
When we got guidelines from the party, the guidelines specified that to take part in the congresses and for you to contest, you must pay a prescribed fee at some designated banks and come with your teller.
The chairman of the party then, Chief Akande made a statement that was carried in the newspapers that because ‘we know some party leaders may prevent you from getting forms, once you are in possession of your tellers, you are free to contest any position in the party.’ At the first ward congresses, where were the SIA supporters? They disappeared. They went to their homes and wrote names for the offices and what happened? The governor accepted it. We then protested and the national body sent a team to come and investigate.
The team that came was assaulted by a leading member of the governor’s cabinet, that even the people that came to investigate scampered for safety because the thing became very violent. Now from then, all other congresses were paralleled from the ward to the local government and state congresses.
When all that was done, we did everything possible to ensure that the national body reconciled everything but we were not going to get anything from them. So to say that we ran away because we didn’t want to face primaries, nothing can be further from the truth. We know we had control of the party but he had the machinery of support of the national leadership to muscle us and we did everything in the books to ensure that we got a fair treatment. In the end, we had to leave them with their party and came to our own SDP.
Don’t you think SDP should team up with another opposition party like the PDP in Ogun state to fight the incumbent?
We are progressives and the PDP is a Conservative party. So we are two different parties. We can’t come together because of our ways of life because we believe in serious democratic values, so we cannot come together as a party. In our own party, the door is open for everybody, you contest for primaries whereas in PDP, they pick candidates.
There are about four different factions in the Ogun PDP today, where do you want us to belong? So we cannot be with them. Only those who believe they can work with the progressives that can come to us. Our ideology is quite different because we want to practice real democracy in SDP and that’s what we are doing.
So there is no autocracy like you have in APC or PDP leadership. So we are putting all our cards on the table as a party.
For those of us who are keen watchers of politics in Ogun State today, we know that truly speaking the next governorship election is between APC and SDP. As far as PDP is concerned, they have their own issues which have become some point of benefit to us in SDP. We have received so many defectors from the PDP. Even if we want to merge with the PDP, I don’t know which faction we will be talking about now. Our doors are widely open in SDP and we have been receiving many of those who have left PDP and in the same vein, we are receiving the APC fold