Kayode Olawepo is a chieftain of the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Isin local government and former chairman of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state. In this interview with HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, the former director of Inter-Party, Mandate 2015 and presently a member of the National Registration Committee of the APC for Imo state talks about sundry issues in the polity from his time in ACN to APC. Excerpts:
What necessitate your crossover (from the opposition to the ruling party?)
I didn’t cross but remained a party faithful. I was a member of the AD to AC and to ACN which I chaired when the party decided to merge with all other parties that brought about the present APC. When the PDP eventually decided to come into the merger, I remained faithful to my party and refused to be bothered about whatever anybody may say about a personality. The goal is to make Nigeria good and I am a part of whoever will do that. There is nothing like crossing over in the first place and I don’t harbour any animosity against any personality. So far, I have not regretted being here.
But some of your former colleagues didn’t see it this way, especially people like Belgore?
That is disloyalty to party directive because we that stayed and those from Dele that went were all at the party’s national convention in Lagos were the merger was sealed and the name ACN became defunct. But for whatever reasons known to them, either the realisation of the fact that they may not able to get what they believe they want there and secondly, just because of personal hatred for an individual. But the sum total of all amount to disloyalty to party directive.
Since that crossover, a lot has happened and there is the insinuation that the APC is factionalised along some party leaders in the state, do we really have APC factions in Kwara?
As far as I am concern, every individual has a right to maintain relationship. I have decided to be loyal to the party structure in the state in total and that does not mean I hate my former leader, Alhaji Lai Muhammed. It was he then that took about twenty of us to the Senate President in Ikoyi then before his emergence after the merger and introduced us to Saraki that we are his people and that we have become his (Saraki). So I believe that was asking me to be loyal to Dr Bukola Saraki and since then, he had not given us a contrary directive and told us to be loyal to any other person in the state. If anybody is doing otherwise, it means they are the ones that are not following the directive of Alhaji Lai Muhammed. He was equivocal on the issue, including political juggernauts in Lagos in the House of Representatives, state Assembly, among other politicians from Kwara that are owing big political positions in Lagos. There he told us Saraki is now our new leader and since then he has not said otherwise and I am sure he will not say otherwise. If anybody decided to stay aside, it’s not from the instruction of Alhaji Lai Muhammed. On this not, I don’t believe there a faction, you may say a group. At the state and local government levels, there are no two executives, and even up to the ward level.
What can you say about the insinuation that all is not well between Saraki and Lai Muhammed?
I have not seen anything except for we the followers that want to create the impression that we are loyal to one person than the other. But between them, what I can say on that is that we are Kwarans, working for Kwarans and it shall be well with Kwara by the grace of God.
So far, are you satisfied with the performance of the present administration?
It is not as simple as that. This is a federal structure and the principal partner is in Abuja. Nigerians hate history, especially the bad side. The country has been totally destroyed. The analogy is that it will take less than five minutes for a bomb to destroy a five-story building but over three years to clear the rubbles of the five minutes destruction. To now begin to reconstruct it from ground zero is another hell of a time and resources. This country has been totally destroyed. We have operated too long on a mono economy and coupled with the blowing up of pipelines in the Niger-Delta, with a little shock, the economy came down like a pack of cards. What is affecting the federal level will also affect the state and the local government. And what is being done at the federal level now is how to reconstruct the economy for things to be better even with the little they are sharing. The APC is fighting for the poor from the federal level to set them free from the thieves, but the thief will not give up and with the hardship going on in the country, the poor masses are beginning to assume that the thieves are right. But until they begin to see that what is happening at the federal level is in their own interest, they will continue to blame the wrong set of people. Now, whether recession or not, the reconstruction work to diversify the economy must go on. It is unfair to think that the APC government will fix sixteen year’s rot in two years. We have to be patient to see the real ground work that Buhari and the APC are doing. If not for him and his steps, we would have gotten to what I will call Zimbabwe by now, that is if we are not already there.
The APC has all the elective and appointive positions in the state making it amenable to be called one party state. Don’t you think this is dangerous for our democracy?
There are about forty parties in Nigeria now with the new registration of INEC and they are all in existence. It is not possible to have a single party structure in Kwara state. If for instance there are elections and every party work and contested but lost, the loss does not make their parties ineffective or the state a one party structure. The argument would wash if they were prevented from having election in the first instance. They contested all these positions we are talking about and they lost, which is nobody’s fault. What we urge them to do is to improve on their attitude towards winning elections. You cannot ask a person to deliver power to you ‘A la carte’, nobody does that.
You are from Isin that reportedly did not do well, especially during the last election. What was the issue?
The Saraki dynasty has won election in my ward in Edidi for a very long time, but they won this time. At the gubernatorial and state constituencies election, APC won in Isanlu I and II. You may say the margin is close. The gubernatorial candidate of the PDP then is a Kwara southerner, same with the chairman of the PDP who would want to prove a point that he can deliver. But the situation there then and now is totally different and the APC has become a behemoth in Isin Local government.
Politicking is believed to come with compensation, are you in APC for the spoils of office and do you believe you have been compensated enough?
I thank God for what He has done. Compensation is a continuous process but what is important is that there are interests we must look at in being a politician which involves oneself, family and community. If one and his family are conformable but the community suffers because of one’s personal interest, then the interest need be reviewed to benefit the community. That to me is a bigger compensation and I am not having any regret as far as this government is concern in relation to what is happening to my community. I am comfortable.
You are a member of the Imo APC registration Committee that is taking inventory of members for the south east zone. What story can you tell us about that?
The purpose of the committee is to correct the data base of the party in the region which had some little problems so that the south east APC will have their full complement of registered members backed up with good data base and record. I cannot put a figure to the registration now. The APC has taken over the region. There is a ward in Imo state where I am serving that has registered more than two thousand members, not local government. This is what is happening in other states too. It is the key stakeholders that determine what happens and when they speak, the people definitely will follow. That is the ripple effect of what we are seeing now. The region used to be the zone of PDP, but I can tell you from my first hand observation and knowledge that the region is now APC. You may have some handful of people in other parties and you don’t expect all of them to change overnight. But the core and key peoples that matter in the region are now in the APC. The party is already making an inroad in the region. You can’t use the last election as a basis for what is happening in the east now. That election is gone and the tenure is four years, we will be able to test the region’s power of the APC during the next election.
What next for you politically?
I am a party man to the core and I believe in 100 per cent loyalty. To be anything, it is either you contest or there is consensus. I must be able to respect the party’s leadership decision in everything. There is no party where there are no leaders influence in this country today, none. I was in a school before and we had it.
Do you believe the APC has enough to win the coming LG polls in the state?
The poor masses must be very careful not to fall to the pranks of the PDP in Kwara state. They have not been in governance, see what is happening, this is party’s resources. If they now have state resources, what will happen? All the noise on radio is just talk; they don’t have the capacity to better the lots of the people in Kwara. Where are those that would win the election in the first instance? Who among them are here to come and prepare them for any election, or do they want an election to be handed over to them just like that. The better and the stronger side will always win any election.
You where purportedly suspended during your chairmanship of the ACN in Kwara. Why?
There was a failed attempt by the Dele faction to suspend me because I was loyal to Lai Muhammed. Twelve local governments and the national leadership were on my side. The problem then was that Dele wanted to take over the leadership of the party and Alhaji Lai Muhammed was the highest political office holder. Dele’s argument then was that he was the gubernatorial candidate and must be the leader of Kwara ACN. But he lost the election. It wasn’t a fight before the election but after the final judgment at the Supreme Court. We believe it was unfair for Dele to take over the leadership from Lai. Some of the chairmen that believed in him wanted to see if they can overrule 12 local governments and other wards. With that fight, we destroyed the fabric of the old ACN in Kwara and caused ourselves lots of pains. I hope one day, those outside the APC now will rethink that it is better to be united than divided. They have a better stake being in the APC, it’s their home and we are trying to bring them back.