A law graduate of University of Jos, he was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2001. He also obtained his Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) in 2006, and presently a Ph. D in Law (Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Justice) candidate at Middlesex University London. He was elected at the 4th Convention of Labour Party as the National Secretary/Chief Administrative Officer on 11th October, 2014.
Kayode Ajulo speaks with The Street Journal on the raging political issues in the country, ranging from the adoption of President Goodluck Jonathan by the Labour Party in the March 28 election to the use of controversial voter’s card by INEC. Excerpts.
SJ: What motivated Labour Party into endorsing President Jonathan for president in the March 28 election?
Ajulo: Yes we endorsed Jonathan. But unlike what other political parties did, we had our National Executive Committee and through the NEC we would campaign for him. We’d set up a committee to campaign for Jonathan.
AJULO: The truth of the matter is that the two presidential candidates; President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP and Gen Mohammadu Buhari of APC. The Labour Party believes Nigerians deserve more than these two candidates. But as it is now; we have to make do with what we have. We have to face the reality. What we did in our party is first; we set up a committee. They submitted their report and the National Working Committee met and ratified the outcome of the committee’s work. They even put it to vote because in a democracy, everybody must have a say. And majority decided that we adopt Jonathan. The decision was brought to the NEC which is the highest decision-making organ of the party and you were there today when the motion was passed and it was ratified.
SJ: What you put into consideration before arriving at the decision.
AJULO: A lot of things were put into play. As God would have it; two of them have ruled this country before. One is still ruling. We have seen what they have done. So their deed is working for them. Everyone knows what Gen Buhari did as Head of State. A lot of things happened. This is a man that had to use a crime to be the policy of government at that time. Many of us know what happened to Umaru Dikko. That one alone…. his regime was quite repressive. Young Nigerians were killed with retroactive legislation. Let’s look at it very well. What brought him up? Illegality! Illegal action brought him up… the subversion of democratic aspiration of the people to get another democratic power.
When you even look at his age; 72 year-old man… 65 per cent of Nigerians are youths. For you to go and look for a 72 year-old man who as at now cannot ascertain his mental and health well-being, then we should not deceive ourselves. Let us be sincere with ourselves; if we are asking for change, we are not talking of change of personality. We are talking of change of ideas, change in structure, change of policy which Jonathan has done. If you look at it very well, during Jonathan regime, we have much pro-people legislation. If you remember minimum wage, it was during the Jonathan administration, we have the new pension reforms to review our tax and pension regime. It was during this government. Unlike other previous administrations, instead of sacking people, we have a well- structured mechanism where you can get as much as possible ghost workers.
Are we to talk about new Universities? When Obasanjo and Buhari were there, none of them built one University. When Obasanjo wanted to build one he built his own personal university. Jonathan within the time he got there, he built nine universities. In deed there is no state in the federation where you don’t have one university at least. He did a lot of things. We should just face the reality.
SJ: New Universities established on political sentiments as existing ones were still begging for funds and lecturers were agitating for better funding of the institutions when government came up with new ones.
AJULO: I always believe that in political calculation anywhere in the world, no university is well funded. This is relatively. It’s like, I can tell you that you are not a good journalist or competent journalist, but you know what you have put in and your employers know your worth. This is subject to different meanings and interpretations. But what is so clear and nobody can take away from him is that he established several universities. The issue of not well funded or over-funded or whatever is subjective. You can’t derive an objective take on that. Another thing we have to know is this; that there are some leaders that show capacity. If a leader believes that I have to establish as much as possible universities, please give it to him that he showed capacity to listen to the yearning of the people and tried to meet the aspiration of his people.
SJ: Possible backlash of adopting Jonathan as President in the March 28 election on candidates of Labour Party in other elections where your party will be fielding candidates, given the literacy level in the country.
AJULO: The point is we adopted the personality of President Goodluck Jonathan and not the party. It’s the duty of our candidates to educate the electorate. The people know their people. Even my mother in the village knows Jonathan. My mother knows Buhari. She knows the difference between PDP and APC. My mother is semi-literate. I believe my mother is somebody you can call the average Nigerian. The function of the political party is to educate its voters to let them know where to go. Adoption is part of education; to let them know the difference between two candidates. I know some people may want to twist it. But it’s the duty of the political party to educate its voters well to know where to go.
SJ: Jonathan and preponderance of unresolved corruption cases in the country; a weapon opposition is employing to campaign against the president.
AJULO: You know what I’d tell you; this thing is relative. Let me say that even up till now, I’m not one of the handlers of Mr President’s PR. Those he appointed would be in a better position to defend that. But one thing you should know is that this is election time. This is when you will see a lot of different claims and all that. This election is to authenticate most of these issues. This election is to show whether President Jonathan is competent or not. If the entirety of the country decides that you are competent, they vote for you. But the same Buhari that is talking about corruption now was head of PTF under Abacha where he single-handedly awarded who thing to a consulting firm to run PTF.
When he was in NNPC then, that was when heard about Allison Ayida and all that, He should tell us what time he took action on anything. We all know that when he was Head of State, it was Tunde Idiagbon that was in control; and that is what they want to do now that he has gone for Yemi Osibanjo who has the power of attorney. His competency; he should tell us one single thing he has done. It was during his time the Suitcase issue happened. Is it not during his time Idiagbon even sent his under-age son abroad when other people, youths were arrested and killed in this country. A woman was killed. You flogged people all over the place. He messed up our law. Even the supreme offence in this world….he truncated a democratic regime. He banished our constitution. What else do you need to know? Look, the case is this; it’s like an armed rubber entering into somebody’s house. He loot them, you kill them and even rape a lady there. And you now say because the lady got pregnant, you now decide to arrange a society wedding for them after all she’s our child. That’s what Nigeria is about to do now with Buhari. Because you led a coup in this country; became head of state. So that is the only qualification you have. It can never be. And let me tell you something; you can quote me on this. When we are talking about kidnapping; who started it in this country? I have it on good authority that when he was abroad recently, he was interrogated on this and that was one of the reasons he tarried a while. I’ll get my facts and if it’s true, I’ll come let Nigerians know and if it’s a mere rumour, I’ll let Nigerians know.
You have a president that cannot go to another country to come back at the time he likes because the authorities are questioning him and all that. These are things you have to look at. But by and large, we have to be sincere. I believe, my party believes that Nigerians deserve more than the two options that we have. But in a situation where you are being given two alternatives, when one is wrong one must be better than the other. As far as I’m concerned, we can see who is better. We can see who can save our face that we are practicing true democracy. Everybody talks about change. The position of our party is so clear. Nigerians deserve change. We want change. But it’s not a change of personality. What happened in Libya should not happen in Nigeria. Everyone was shouting we need change, we need change. It got so frenzy. Ghadafi is bad, Ghadafi is bad. The mistake Libya made is that they did not ask themselves which change we want. Because they did not ask that question, they are regretting it till today. That’s why we need to ask questions. What kind of change are we asking for? A change to Buhari, we will regret it. Nigeria will regret it.
SJ: Labour Party as a dumping ground, so it seems, for decampees from other bigger parties. And immediately, they use LP as a platform to realize political ambition, they defect back to their former, bigger parties.
Ajulo: We have agreement. This agreement is like signing matrimonial contract. You take a matrimonial oath…if you want to marry your wife. If you do this, I do this. If you follow another man, this is what I’m going to do. If I’m divorcing you, this is what I’ll do. We have all that. We now have very stringent conditions. We have put mechanism on ground to prevent that. For you to leave the party now, you’d think twice. Mind you, we’ve been having a lot of defections. And you would agree with me that the defection of Ondo Governor took another dimension. The party did not hear from the radio that he was leaving. He called everybody. We sat down, dotted the lines and crossed the Ts. And that’s why up till now he left the party without bitterness. If he had left with bitterness, I’d be the first person to go to court. Let me say this; I am the National Secretary of this party and I can tell you that Mimiko is on sabbatical leave. You can quote me. At the appropriate time, at the appointed time, he’s coming back to the Labour Party. And when your lecturer is on sabbatical, you know what that means. He’ll surely come back. So, Mimiko will surely come back to our party when this time is ripe. His leaving Labour Party is very, very strategic. But he will return to LP… that I can assure you.
SJ: In the public domain, the insinuation was that he left to do the bidding of the president.
AJULO: I’m not a party to that. So I cannot confirm or deny that. One thing I know is that his leaving is very, very strategic.
SJ: Position of Labour Party on the use of card reader by INEC. The average Nigerian believes that opponents of card readers probably have some hiding agenda since the new technology in our electoral system is capable of eliminating fraud and manipulation.
AJULO: We are party of the people. Nigerian people must vote either with the card or not with the card; either with any technology or not. The card reader should not be used to disenfranchise Nigerians. We can use the PVC (permanent voter’s card) and where it fails, we can go manual. You are using your T.V and you are using remote control. When the remote control fails, you go there and use your hand to press it. We should use everything we have to ensure that every Nigerian vote. That is the position of the party.
SJ: Some politicians cloning and buying voter’s cards to actualize game-plan to rig the election vis a vis the use of card reader by INEC.
AJULO: Let us be sincere with this issue; in any human device, there is possibility of errors and manipulation. Even in the advanced countries, nothing can be 100 per cent…That’s why we must be vigilant. The party agents must do their job. The security agent must do their job. And at the end of the day, we will all be happy. I believe this all-important election should not be used to test run such device. That’s why I said even if you must have your way, you must remember to cross check it manually.
SJ: Chances of Labour Party in Oyo State.
AJULO: We know the feeling of the people of Oyo State. I’m yet to see any state yearning for change than Oyo State. Not that we will win. We consider that we have won. That’s why our Secretariat is gradually moving from Abuja to Ibadan. It’s clear and I’m sure you can feel the tempo. Everything about politics is about people. And we know the number of people in Oyo State. People of Oyo State are not aristocrats. Even the kingship in Ibadan alone is more democratic …that it has to be from one step to another. If election truly is for the people, and the people of Oyo State from all we have seen, Labour Party is the party. Then Akala will win the election by God’s grace.