‘We are the party to beat in Ogun today’

Akinlade

Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, the Ogun State gubernatorial candidate of Allied Peoples Movement (APM), in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, traces the genesis of his emergence and relationship with Governor Ibikunle Amosun.

Could you recall the genesis of Ogun APC crisis that led to your exit?
Most people who were involved in Ogun State politics would have seen what the challenges were prior to my leaving APC. We had about 10 aspirants when the party decided about three years ago that because of the way Ogun State was structured, where Ogun East and Central had produced governors, it would only be fair for someone from Ogun West to be given the opportunity.

The proviso was that it would not be sacrificed on the altar of capacity or qualification to do the job, but we should be given the opportunity to work. It was agreed that someone from Ogun West should be given the opportunity.

Twenty-five elders came together to work on that and ensure they put the best foot forward rather than allow all 10 aspirants to go for the primaries in APC. It was only one person from Ogun East, who is Bimbo Ashiru. The Dapo Abiodun story had not come up.

At that point, the Ogun West candidates were screened and after over six to seven months of deliberations, I emerged as the successful candidate. And prior to that time, I met Comrade Adams Oshiomole in his residence in Abuja. My colleague (in the House of Representatives), Hon. Philip Shuaib, who is now the deputy governor of Edo State, took me to him. Being that he (Oshiomhole) had just transited from governance of Edo State, I felt he was in a better position to speak to my boss, Governor (Ibikunle) Amosun, on my behalf.

This is to show that I was not imposed. It was a process. I emerged and was presented to the party. And thank God that Oshiomole got back to me through Honourable Prestige Ossy from Abia State that Amosun told him at that time that I was not on his radar, but his immediate past deputy governor from Ikpokia, Alhaja Badaru.

So, I came back and started my consultations and like they say, the rest is now history. I emerged and was presented to the party. I was told the people began to ask, ‘this Kunle boy, are you sure?’ And the position most people took was, if you want a yes person do not choose Kunle, but if you want someone that has the capacity to do the job, then you could choose Kunle’. I think that was when he began to consider me. He openly announced to the party that I was the one chosen by Ogun West to run. The Remo people kicked against it, and decided to go for the primaries, and not a consensus.

I was the Senior Special Assistant for Internal Revenue between 2011 and 2014. So, I served in Ogun State and because of my job at the OGIRS (Ogun Internal Revenue Service), I interfaced with almost every union, association, artisans, religious bodies, Lafarge and so on because I was dealing with revenue, tax and all that.

We knew we had to go round so we went round because then it was an APC thing and it reflected in the vote on October 2, 2018, which I won unanimously and then a day after we heard that since the state executive that conducted and announced the results, the results would not be accepted. So they went and wrote their results and the issue lingered for about two months, which we thought was a joke.

It got to a point that we realised they were not going to shift grounds, so we decided to come back to our people and realised that Biodun did not have what it takes, nor clue of what to do. But what they told them was that once you hold the mandate, there is nothing they can do, because Kunle cannot go and campaign without Amosun; nobody knows Kunle and that was where they got it wrong.

I realised that Amosun had great good-will across the state and they believed in what was happening in Ogun State and believed in continuity; so we leveraged on that. I pleaded with the governor not to start his campaign yet and to give me a few weeks so as to get some track shots, because if APC started, APM would not see the light of day. He did not start his campaign early and he gave me three weeks. I have gathered a lot of electorate and thank God we chose cassava and our people are farmers who accepted it with both hands. We are the party to beat in Ogun State, today.

It was strange when two candidates from two political parties were presented to President Buhari for the governorship election. Chief Segun Osoba led Dapo Abiodun and you were also taken to the president by Governor Amosun. Does this not create confusion for your supporters and the electorate in Ogun State? Does bandwagon effect not frighten you?
There is no confusion. Prince Dapo Abiodun going to see Mr. President with Chief Osoba, I do not think there is any problem as he is a member of APC. I do not recognise him as an APC candidate considering the way he emerged.

I think the confusion should be with them and not with us. As a party, APM adopted President Buhari; we believe in his policies and we have absolute confidence in his programmes. I can assure him that he does not need Dapo Abiodun as APC candidate. That is simple; there is no ambiguity that the president does not need Dapo Abiodun to deliver him because he (Abiodun) will lose. I am from Yewah and as Yoruba and even in other culture, when you see an adult waiting to be taken by the hand by an old man to walk in the market place then there is something wrong.

Even as we speak, it took the number two citizen of the country to come to Ogun State and then taken to see the Awujale and all others around Ogun State. When you are popular and on the ground with the people, you don’t need all that. We want peaceful election because we will win and because they cannot win, they have caused a crisis but for us in Ogun State, and policemen from Lagos followed them and gave them support in Ogun State but we cannot be intimidated.

I have been to the hospital to see the injured citizens. I am going back to Abeokuta to encourage our people to remain resolute as we shall vote and our vote will count. We will not be involved in violence as we are the first in almost everything and we shall show it.
Buhari is our president and our party, APM, has adopted him. I think I reserve the right to meet Mr President and reassure him that we believe in him and believe in what he is doing. Thank him for the rail that has come to Ogun State, in terms of industry and attracting young people to live in Ogun State, especially the law that says you pay your tax where you live and not where you work. And so it makes more sense for me to grab any opportunity to get more people to live in Ogun State and work in Lagos. He went there for them to raise his hands; I did not go there for endorsement. I went there to thank the president and pray that he wins again because it is only when the president gets there that they can finish the rail project for me. PDP tried to do it before they abandoned it. It is for me to get there so that they can complete the rail project.

You said the mandate was stolen, yet it was recognised by APC leadership. Is that enough for you to distance yourself from APC?
There is nothing wrong with APC as a party. I believe in APC. It is the leadership of that party that matters. If it was something that happened in Ogun State alone, I would have been worried. I am a member of the House of Representatives; more than 80 per cent of my members went through the same thing I went through and so if it happened to me alone, I would have said it was a personal vendetta against me. So, it means there is something wrong with the leadership of the party. APC has wonderful policies under the able leadership of the president. I have no issues with APC as a party. It is the people running and managing the party; I feel they got carried away along the way and lost track of the purpose for setting up the party. I would never have appreciated my people this much and never would have appreciated God even more if APC had not experienced that crisis. I am stronger today. If I had needed to spend N100, 000 to sell myself, I do not need to spend a dime now. If the crisis had bought me popularity then I do not have an issue with it. I believe in the policy of the party.
We know your party adopted President Buhari, but when you become governor, how will you service all the ‘I Owe Yous? How would you handle Amosun’s internal battles and bring peace and cohesion within the state?

In the world of IOU, you cannot owe the person giving you something. If what had happened had not happened, I would have had to owe a lot of people. The first time I ran was in 2015 and I won. So that is only two local government areas out of 20; to sell me in the other 18 out of 20, I would have had to do a lot of work. The crisis actually saved me so much as I enjoy so much goodwill now. There is this adage that ‘everyman fights his own battles’. People associated with Amosun are my fathers. I am under 50. It cannot be my challenge to be honest with you. I have deep respect for Chief Segun Osoba and the only time I actually shook his hands in the church was at Baba Alake’s 75th birthday ceremony. I had never met with Baba Tinubu.

Three things are very certain in life. As a man of faith, you will succeed. If you do business, you must have sincerity of purpose and once people know that you are sincere, they would entrust anything into your hands. When it comes to our business of politics, it is loyalty. When you are loyal and can enjoy anything irrespective of who your parents are, people will stand for you and would not mind using their head to break coconut for you. I do not think I will have to inherit any of my predecessors’ issues, if any. I have always made it clear that I am a child.

There are insinuations that Amosun is pushing you as a stooge to cover his acts. Being passionate about loyalty, when loyalty conflicts with public interest, how would you balance that?
Loyalty should be defined appropriately. In Ogun State, there is no god-fatherism; what we have is mentorship. God-fatherism plays out when you go to the garage or motor park and pick up somebody that lacks competence and capacity and put him in leadership. Then you will have to feed him with ideas on what you want him do, because he cannot do anything and then you have to tell him what to do, how much to appropriate and what not to appropriate. I did not meet governor Amosun till I was 41 and that was in 2011 and I had achieved what a man should have achieved at that age. As they say in politics, loyalty is paramount.

In a state like Ogun State, we are too intelligent, enlightened and knowledgeable as a people; so that what happens in other states cannot happen in Ogun State. When I met with former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, he said Ogun State is like one wearing silk agbada. He said when you adjust one side, the other side will drop and so it is when you carry Ogun West, Ogun East would drop, but what you should do is ensure that people see your efforts in working for all parties in your own capacity. Loyalty in politics is vital, very important. It does not define what you will do but it would give you opportunity. Also, that you are loyal does not determine how you will run your government. Having strong faith does not determine the number of years you will spend, but that is what will give you breakthroughs to be able to touch lives, that is faith. Having sincerity in business does not mean that you would be the richest in the trade but it will sustain you. Loyalty has given me the language above others to get to where I want to get to but it does not determine what I am going to do or how Ogun State Government would run. I wanted to clarify that.

Do you plan to return to APC if you win?
I am a member of APM. I never knew prior to the challenges we had how important people are in politics. I used to think that once you are able to mobilise people and they turn and laugh, and shout, that is the end of it. It was after the mandate was stolen and I realised how the people stood with us, how market women and youths began to use their money to print aprons and t-shirts, then I realised how important people are. When people use federal or political might, where you turn to is ‘the people’. It is their election and when you enjoy such goodwill, it is good to make them understand that if they decide white, it would be white or black and it would be black. I have realised that as a political candidate, you have no power outside the power of the people.

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