Barrister Bankole Oluwajana was a governorship aspirant in Ondo State and presently the Vice Chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, Southwest. In this interview with BISI OLOMINU, he speaks on the party’s primary, 2019 elections, vote buying , defection by politicians and other sundry issues in Nigeria.
At the concluded All Progressives Congress NEC meeting, the party settled for direct primaries for its candidates. What’s the reason behind this?
Well, the party has not settled for direct primaries for all its elections. The decision of the National Executive Council and National Working Committee is that we are going to use direct primary for our presidential election. For others, stakeholders in each state will meet and decide on what they want by simple majority after deliberation. They will later write to NWC to notify it what they have decided in each state. The decision of NEC and NWC of APC is that we use direct primary to elect our presidential flag beater, and for others, use primary that’s peculiar to them after much meetings. The position of the acting National Publicity Secretary is absolutely wrong. Everybody present at the meeting agreed that we must use direct primary for our presidential candidate to energy, while states should discuss with critical stakeholders of the party and decide on the best primary for each state. I think the National Secretary of our party has corrected that in BBC programme.
Some aggrieved members who lost out in the party’s primaries have been clamouring for direct primary. Is the actions of some states not at variance with the directive of President Buhari on the matter?
Let me emphasize once again that our party’s constitution support both direct and indirect primaries. Both are good. That of the President is settled, there’s no strong opposition and direct primary will be used. That does not say that we are not going to see one or two people coming out to challenge President Buhari. But at the present moment, no challenger has come out to challenge our president. There are many stories behind those clamouring for direct primary in APC. If you look at it, it is purely good for us in the party. It gives room for party men and women participation and choosing their candidates. But before you do that, you must have a good record as a party man and you must have a good membership card that can never be faulted. Direct primary is a very good option but there are some things we need to put in place.
Those that are clamouring for direct primary now, they feel they don’t have control over the delegates. It is either the time the congresses were going on, they did not participate or lost out. Some think that this time around with direct primary, they may spring surprises. There are many stories behind the proponents argument. I sympathize with some of them, for there are some members who are senators, House of Reps members that have done very well. But that you have done so well, does not mean that others cannot do so well and surpass your achievements too or do better.
It is equally true that because of their activities in Abuja, they are far away from home and therefore at the time of the congresses,people felt that they have not done well. So all are fighting for their own right.
But was the National Secretariat of APC not taken into consideration the aggrieved grievances in some states?
Yes, that’s why I said that each state stakeholders would meet to discuss the primary that suits the state and later inform the national secretariat of its decision.
The PDP has alleged that direct primary chosen by APC is a ploy to rig the 2019 elections?
Our affairs in APC have nothing to do with PDP. What’s the party concern with APC affairs? We don’t have control over INEC, we are not going to rig the election, so, PDP should not dabble into our business, while we mind our own. Our constitution protects all members, those clamouring for direct or indirect primary. PDP should just stay on their own and leave APC alone. PDP has more problems than APC, instead of stretching their necks to another party’s affairs, they should mind their own business.
PDP and thirty-nine political parties have formed an alliance to wrestle power from APC come 2019. Do you think the alliance will work?
Where are the opposition parties? They should know that alliance has never work in Nigeria. They should look at history and tell us any alliance formed that worked. I really don’t see the coalition working against the victory of APC. Then truth of the matter is that coalition over the years have not really succeeded. They can get together and it will make the beaten more interesting.
Vote buying is the in thing in Nigeria politics. What’s your reaction to this?
Vote buying has been in existence for long in Nigeria, it is not just happening now. In the past, people were given amala and foodstuffs, rice to curry votes. So it has not just happened. When you have a candidate that’s strong and you have done your homework, vote buying would not affect you. Having said that, I want to acknowledge that vote buying is not okay. It is a new development that will take a small time to be erased, but it is not good for our democracy. But I know that where you have a strong candidate, people will take your money and vote for their choice candidates. But we must erase this to save our democracy.
What’s APC doing to curb vote buying in Nigeria?
Well, let’s draw a line between our party and other parties. I will say that APC as a party will encourage our police and other security agents to put a stop to vote buying. Talking for the party, I think there will be a level of developmental years that will make vote buying thing of the past. In APC, we are discouraging it. We are telling our people to evangelise, tell people about the achievements of our party since in power. Let them know the goods you have done while in office, let us campaign, get agents that will canvass for you, that’s our emphasis. We are not part of vote buying, we are not going to make provision for that, we are not going to encourage that and if there are our members doing that, we are going to discourage them. Vote buying will be discouraged in APC, for it is not helping our democracy. For us in APC, we have reference points that we can point to as our achievements.
Looking at the economy, do you see APC winning the 2019 election?
This hunger you are talking about has been with us since I was a youth. I was old enough to know what was happening in the country, we have always been saying that there is hunger in the land. Growing up in this environment, people use to sing ‘,Country is hard,money is scared. Men and women are lamenting. Country is hard, money scared’. It is the nature of man to bow to the challenges around them, but a few of us have come to understand that in this environment that some are saying there’s poverty, the same environment some are making money without stress. I have a friend abroad that has been planning to come back home, but the whole flights booked. Not all those flying around steal money, as a matter of fact, politicians are finding it so difficult to travel around for the money is no longer there. There are opportunities to make money in Nigeria, but one thing that is lacking in the country is education and we are getting our priority wrong. What we are spending our money on in Nigeria are mundane things and on frivolities. Between Iju-Itaogbolu, you can can’t up to twenty or thirty parties at weekend where millions of naira are spend. The amount of noise we make about church harvest now was not like that in the past. If you are going to do church harvest, you will take ‘aso ebi’, kill cows and the rest. This is how we get our priority wrong in the country. What we have as challenges are our attitudes to life.
What’s your reaction to the gale of defections by politicians in the country?
The gale of defections in 2015 was quite different from what we have now. In 2015, it was becoming an embarrassment for someone to call himself a member of PDP. They believed all participated in the distribution of dollars to manipulate that election. Some people left PDP because it was becoming an embarrassment to belong to the party again. But this time around, APC has upgraded politics, those who left the party have realised that they could not get their present positions in the next dispensation. Don’t forget that the then rAPC members were negotiating with APC before they left. They left because APC is not ready to bend the rule. They wanted a commitment to remain senate President and other positions,but met a brick wall in APC . All those senators and Reps members that left APC left because they could not get automatic tickets again. We have many universities in Nigeria, and they all have standards. The standard of APC has gone up and you must have the highest mark before you can get the party’s ticket.
Osun governorship is slated for October, what is the party doing to win the election?
As we always do, we will put in our best. Osun election will not be different from what happened in Ekiti State. If you recall in that election nobody gave APC any chance to win the election, the incumbent governor overwhelmed us, but at the end people of the state spoke and gave APC the mandate. Our desire in the party is that the whole Southwest should be under APC if we say that we are progressive. So in Osun state, we are going to campaign from village to village, ward to wards to win the coming election in Osun state. Governor Rauf Aregbesola has done well for the state and all his works will speak for APC candidate during the election. Yes, we have some aggrieved members concerning the primary, but they have been spoken to, except for about one or two who have left the party. With this APC will still win the election.
What is your office doing to unite APC members in Ondo state?
In my position as the Vice Chairman of the party in the Southwest, my scope of work is not limited to Ondo state alone, but the entire Southwest. So I will canvass that all interest must be taken care of. Let there be level playing field for all aspirants since we want the best to emerge. I can assure you that there will be a level playing field for all aspirants in Ondo State. I have an extensive discussion with Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on the issue, and he is more concerned that all aspirants in the state should have a level playing field. He doesn’t talk much, doesn’t play to the gallery and his ready to allow a level playing field for all genuine members of APC in Ondo state.
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