Alhaji Rafiu Ogunleye was a Deputy Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Ogun State having served as Deputy Governor to Aremo Olusegun Osoba during the aborted Third Republic. In this interview with Uhuru Times, Ogunleye, whose political group, Imole De, recently defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), scored the Administration of the incumbent Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, low, arguing that most of its projects are misplaced priorities. Excerpts:
You left the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently. There are allegations out there that, it was because the Governor refused to share state resources with party leaders, that’s why a lot of you got angry with him, which snowballed into a crisis in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) before APC was formed. And that was a primary consideration for your defection to the PDP. What’s your reaction to this?
Those who are saying that do not know the genesis of what has happened in Ogun State after the election of 2011. As you know, we all worked very hard to install that Government. But I can assure you, and I am saying it emphatically, that immediately that the Governor got the ticket he refused to pick the calls of so many of us, including myself. We’ll now call him, he’ll not pick his calls. After that, he told us that his complaint was that we did not share elective offices with him. But we told him his getting the Governorship ticket is equivalent to three Senators, nine House of Representatives members and also equivalent to 26 House of Assembly members put together. And besides that, he has all the privileges, all the patronages of the state in his hands. Why does he want to share the House of Assembly and House of Representatives ticket with the party. That was the first problem. And he said he was leaving the party. He left. And, for one reason or the other, he decided to come back. He came to my house here at Itele more than four or five times. And my house at Lagos too, he came several times during his attempt to get the ticket. So, after he said he’ll come back. We agreed he should come back. He came, and we gave him the ticket. And from that time he was no longer picking anybody’s phone call, including myself. So, the question of sharing the resources of the state with him is out of it. As a matter of fact, there was nothing to share with him in the state, because immediately he got the ticket I knew that the party itself is in for problems in the state.
But the question remains that you were in the UPN, SDP, AD, AC and ACN. These are political parties with tendencies of the Obafemi Awolowo School of Thought in politics. Why go to the PDP now?
There are certain things many of us do not realise. I know, for sure, that there is no marked difference among all the political parties in Nigeria today. So, it is a question of semantics – some people say they are progressives and some are conservatives. There is no dividing line between them. Look at APC today; they amass wealth like any other (capitalist) person. Those are not progressives in nature. They are not. Look at all those who have championed the cause of progressivism in Nigeria today, you will see that they are arch-capitalists, amassing wealth all over the place. Amd you can see in Ogun State, those who are saying that they are progressives, the wealth of Ogun State is being shifted to Lagos State for one person. And they’ll turn round to say that person is a progressive. Well, there is no dividing line. You can see that (Chief Ebenezer) Babatope was with Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo during the time of the UPN. He’s been in PDP for some time now, I think from inception. So, how many of them are more progressive than Babatope. So many like that. Look at (Prince Dayo) Adeyeye in Ekiti State. He was the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere and a progressive. If you really sit down and see what these people are doing, you’ll just know that it is by word of mouth they are praising progressivism. So, in any case, I believe that there is no (ideological) dividing line among all the political parties as we have them in Nigeria today. As a matter of fact, I know that PDP is even more democratic than many of these political parties. They (PDP)’ll make sure there is primary (before an election). You can’t say that for many of the other political parties. The fact remains that in politics today, you’ll discover that, it is only PDP that will insist on having primaries to elect their candidates.
I understand that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu tried as much as possible to persuade you from leaving the party. Are there things you might want to consider if such cards are put on the table for you to go back to the APC?
No. No. No. I am not going back to APC. It wasn’t my own decision alone. It was the decision of the Imole Group. So, I am just the leader of the group. And it was a general decision that we should move to PDP. Yes, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu called me when he was in Britain (recuperating from surgery), and told me that we should not decamp until he comes back – that he will come back before the Ileya festival. But at that time, the decision had been taken. So, when he came back, he called me. But I felt that ‘epa o b’oro mo’ (it was too late). So, a decision has been made and we are going to stand by that decision. He also sent the Deputy Governor (of Ogun State) to call me. So, when I picked the phone (and) it was the deputy governor, and he said Tinubu wants to speak with me, at that point, I didn’t want to talk. I’ve already decamped to PDP, so there was no basis for any talk, for now. The reason is this, when this matter started, myself, the deputy governor, Alhaji (Abimbola) Awofeso and Hon. Bodunrin from Ogun Central, we went to see Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and laid all the problems in Ogun State before him. That was before the local government election, when they were picking candidates and we noticed that the thing was not being done properly and party people were not being carried along. So, we went to complain to him. We also went to complain to 9Chief) Bisi Akande, the chairman of the party then. He said he will look into it. But he didn’t do anything. That’s one. Secondly, most of the aggrieved people went to Lagos to complain to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, some of them came back very late in the night, and told people what happened to them – that they were just locked up somewhere until it was about 8 or 8.30pm that he came to tell them they should go home and he would look into it. And those boys came back, bitter about the whole thing. That’s over a year ago now. It was before the local government election, and nothing was done. Chief (Olusegun) Osoba also set up a committee of eight people to try and find out whether something could be done about the (complaints of how candidates were picked) for the local government election. So, we met with Chief Osoba. We met with the Governor, so that we can arrange something. But unfortunately, eight of us – I was 72 (years old) then, and the youngest – people of 75 years and 82 years were there. I was the youngest. So, we met with the governor. But what he told us that day made me to make up my mind that I will never remain in the same political party with him. He told us that he has a covenant with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and also have a covenant with Chief Osoba that he will not quarrel with them – that anybody (apart from those two), who crosses his path, he will crush him. Like I told you, I was the youngest at 72. So, I thought to myself, this is not a place for somebody to be. People like me, I don’t do this kind of politics. So, I made up my mind that day. From that day, I was careful not to attend any meeting in Abeokuta again. Those are the genesis. So, it is not a question of sharing anything. Because at the initial stage, he asked us to nominate people. But he did whatever he wanted to with each list. He didn’t do much with it. So, everybody just hands off. But I have the privilege of meeting with him on November 5, 2011. That was about six months after we got into office. He called me and he was talking about positions. And I said, it is not about positions, that he should give me an appointment to see him. So, he said if I could come the following day. So, I went to see him the following day, which was November 6, 2011. It was a Saturday or so. The Ileya of that year was the following day. So, I put two or three issues before him, and said look, we are barely six months in government and the things I am hearing outside are not favourable to our government. That people are beginning to be disenchanted with this government, for just only six months. And the reason was that all the appointments he made were lopsided. And that PDP were still in control of so many places. And that his relationship with his deputy was sending a wrong signal to Ogun East Senatorial District. He being the highest office holder in the government from Ogun East Senatorial District. So, I said he should try and improve on their relationship. So, he said he agreed with the first two or three issues of differences in the political groups. And when he wants to send things to the party he’ll divide it into two, he will send some to SIA Group and another to the party. That he should stop doing that. He agreed that he will do all that. But with that of the deputy governor, he said no, because Chief Osoba made his boss his deputy. I said, how come? Adesegun was the choice of the party. You, being from ANPP, the AC had to make their own contribution. And the party nominated Adesegun your deputy. It was not an issue of Chief Osoba making your boss your deputy. But in any case, you are a Muslim. I am a Muslim. We, Muslims, believe that anything that God does not have a hand in will never be possible. That he should forget whatever it is in the past, that it has been divinely arranged that he and Segun Adesegun will run and will then win an election. So, he should forget about it. That was November 5, 2011. So, it is not a question of sharing anything. And he offered (me a position). When I said I do not want any position, that he should look after the younger ones. He said he will look for a position that will add value to my name. I said what position? Don’t give me any board. There are so many boys that worked for this party that we need to take care of. You take care of them. He said he’ll make me Chairman of TASUED. I said, don’t worry, I am okay. You just look after the younger ones who really worked and laboured for this party. And we left. So, who wanted to share resources with him? That’s why I said there is nothing to share. I am a contended person.
You are a close associate of Chief Olusegun Osoba. Will the man not be angry that you left the APC, which he belongs to and joined the PDP?
He shouldn’t be angry, because we met when we were doing … before SDP, there was a political association. I was the Assistant State Secretary of that association. I think it is PSP. That was the time we met. Around 1989/90. So, we all met. So, we did not start at the same time. That is one. And, secondly, at 73, I should be able to know what I want and what I do not want. And in any case, the Yorubas have a saying, ‘Eyi wu e, eyi o wu mi l’omo iya meji fi njeun won lotooto.’ (That we are siblings does not mean we like the same thing). Even in this country, you’ll see two brothers belonging to two different parties. In overseas, where we are trying to copy, brother and sister often belong to different political parties. It does not make them to be enemies of themselves. So, I do not think there is anything wrong in belonging to a political party my followers said we should go.
What is your assessment of the current administration in Ogun State?
For me, the Government in Ogun State has not satisfied the people. And the essence of governance is to satisfy, at least, the majority of the people of that state. For example, the local government system as we know it has been completely destroyed in Ogun State. There is nothing like local government system (in Ogun State today). What you have all the time is complaints, that at the end of the month, they(Ogun State Government)’ll send N30 million or N40 million to each local government and that barely pays their salaries, talk less of them doing any project. So, where is the remaining amount of money (from Federal Allocation to the local governments)? Where does it go (every month)? You look round, you are from Ijebu East here, how many times have you seen graders going round to grade roads since this government has come?
… roads are being dualised, bridges are being built …
Yes, (but) at what cost to the people? As a matter of fact, those roads, those flyovers that are being built is at the expense of the economic development of the people, because they are destroying houses, destroying shops, and this is where ordinary people in this state earn their living. So, you deprive them of all those. People are not happy. You go round, you’ll see that people are not just happy in this state. So, it is not a question of dualising roads or making flyovers. The two flyovers at Ejinrin road, Ijebu Ode, they are just about 200m from each other, and you put two flyovers there, to project what? Where is the traffic congestion in these places? To my own belief and understanding, I’ve lived overseas before – you put flyovers where there is terrible traffic congestion on the ground, so that people will pass the top to ease the congestion on the ground. But where is that (in these projects) at Ejinrin road in Ijebu Ode? And apart from that, see where those two flyovers are, and they destroyed houses from that place to Ibadan Garage, which is about one and half or two kilometres away. So, those people that have been rendered homeless, deprived of their means of livelihood, because generations upon generations have been living and feeding on the shops and houses along that road, then suddenly you came, you destroyed them, and no alternative. So, to me, it is misplaced priorities. Those flyovers, road dualisation, they are misplaced priorities. Go and look at the inner roads all over the place, in Ijebu Ode and even in Abeokuta. They are poor, they are bad. And you are just destroying the houses where people eke their living. So, for me, I don’t see much (performance). Look at the education-wise. There are some schools, when they want to resume, they have no chalk, nothing. They just go about asking people to donate money for them so that they can buy those few things that they require in school. Go to the hospitals and see. Those are the areas where you can judge where a government is performing or not performing. Apart from that, you see, people are being chased around for one tax or the other. Look at Agege in Itele here, people go there to dredge sand. They told me recently that they sent mobile policemen there to stop them, asking them to contribute N400,000 (each) before they can dredge sand. When fish is no longer in the river, they begin to dredge for sand for means of livelihood. So, where are they going to get N400,000 from? There are so many examples like that. So, for me, they can be dualising roads and building flyovers, but it is just a means of taking money away from the state and nothing more.