Dr. Mike Omotosho is the immediate past district governor of the Rotary Club of Nigeria and a 2015 Labour Party gubernatorial candidate in Kwara State. In this interview with CHIDI NWACHUKWU, he bares his mind on the issues that trailed his governorship race and sundry issues.
You contested for the governorship of Kwara State in 2015, what’s the major reason why you didn’t succeed?
Well, I prefer to tell people that I was not declared the winner, not that I didn’t succeed. For every endeavour, the essence is to be positive, and we were very positive. For everything you do in life it’s not all about winning, and the definition of success differs from one person to the other. As far as we were concerned, we made it very clear and obvious that there is a large chunk of people that are very dissatisfied with the status quo, and they will not just sit down and continue to murmur. They will raise their voices, and ensure that their voices are heard, and for us, it’s not just about an election, it’s about a way of life.
Did you at any point stop to consider the Saraki factor while running the gubernatorial race?
Of course! In fact that was the main influence on ground, and that was the reason we were running, and that’s why I’m saying the people will have to rise up and ensure that their voices can be heard, because for me, it’s not about Saraki, but about the processes. I and my team have nothing against the person, but we are totally unhappy with his style of leadership. The people are unhappy with the processes on ground. People are not able to feel and get the dividends of democracy, and we needed to come out and make a bold statement.
You are from the Christian minority of Kwara State. How do you hope to break through the thick wall of religion which is a sensitive issue in the state?
My brother, hunger does not have a religion. When you’re hungry, whether it’s a Christian or a Muslim, or even an atheist that gives you food, you will collect and eat. We are talking about issues that are affecting everybody. This is across tribal divides, it’s across languages and tongues, it’s about survival of the people. It’s not about religion, it’s about an ideology. We are not voting for who is going to be the bishop or who is going to be the Imam. We are voting for who can help make life better for the people, and we had a lot of support when we were running. We had a lot of support from both Christians and Muslims; in fact there was no dichotomy.
Do you see a possible end to the Saraki dynasty in the near future?
For everything in life, there is a time. But for me, I don’t have any problem with the Saraki dynasty, like I said earlier.
You sound like one who is not hell-bent on actualizing his political ambition, yet the people you’re going to meet at the polls are very desperate, power-hungry and formidable politicians. Don’t you think you may be treading on very dangerous grounds?
O yes! If you’ve not found what you’re ready to die for in life, then you’re not ready to even live. This is a cause I believe in, and I know a lot of people believe in it too; millions of people believe in this cause across the nation. There are few people sitting on the wealth of an entire country. They say it’s commonwealth, so share it let the people get the basic means of life.
Going by the present state of affairs in the country, would you support restructuring?
If I ask you what restructuring is, you will be shocked how people will give you different definitions of what restructuring is. So for me, it’s just semantics. The most important thing is holding our leaders accountable. I mean, enough of expecting a state governor for instance every month, to expect allocation from the centre. I’m not saying the allocation should not come, but when you get the allocation, let’s find out what you did with the one of last month. How did you spend it? Did you spend it the way you are supposed to spend it? Are you able to do some capital projects? Are you able to ensure that life becomes better for people? Who is monitoring them? Who is ensuring that they do what they are supposed to do? When we begin to hold ourselves accountable, then our leaders and legislators will begin to become more responsible and accountable; not just accountable, but also transparent.
So, as a leadership and mentorship expert, what is your view on the current situation of the country?
Well, I think there has to be more communication. The government needs to come out more. People need to know what’s happening. I believe the government has good intentions, but if they can’t communicate it, people won’t be patient to listen especially when there’s discomfort. When people are not satisfied, they are disgruntled. So they need to communicate more, let people know that this is where they are going, this is what they need to do, and I tell you, the best leader is not the one with the best ideas or the best intentions. The best leader is the one who understands where you need to go and presents it to you in such a way that you yourself would want to go there.
Are you still interested in occupying the highest office in Kwara State?
Sure! But for me, I’m not a career politician. My first answer is yes. It’s about the will of the people. For me, it’s an opportunity to make life better. We cannot cry more than the bereaved. But I have a blueprint of how we can revolutionize things in Kwara, how we can govern with transparency and accountability, how we can indeed use the four way test of Rotary to make life better for everyone.
You contested under the platform of the Labour Party, why didn’t you opt for one of the major parties?
I contested under Labour Party because of the ideals the party represents. The Labour Party is a masses-oriented. So for instance, the Labour Party has as part of its manifesto ‘entrenching the minimum wage of workers.’ It’s a masses-oriented party that’s why we chose the platform then, because it’s not about a mega party or winning. No! It’s about the people, and we had a movement. So it was truly a movement of like-minds, people who share the same ideology, not just a vehicle to be able to win an election.
If you are to contest in the next election, will you still go under the Labour Party?
Well looking at it, now I’m more of a politician than I was a few years back. So, one will need to do some permutations. Look at where your strengths are; it’s not just about ideologies alone. You’ve got to look at the vehicle as well as the ideology, a combination of the two to be able to deliver. There is no point running a race that is a lost battle ab initio.
As it stands now, do you have any plans to contest in 2019?
Well, like I said, it is the people that will determine it, it’s not for me, because I’m not going there for myself, I’m going to represent my people. I’m going to serve my people; if they want me to serve them, why not?
You talk very much about the people being the determining factor to your contesting; don’t you desire personally to contest?
I’m desirous of serving my people that’s why when you asked me the first time, I said yes – it’s a categorical yes, but I mean, it’s not about me planning to say ‘Ok, how do we do this?’ I’m not like the regular politician that will get into office, and the moment he is in office, he starts planning the next election. That’s not the way I am. Our own is about development, about transparency, it’s about good governance, it’s about dividends of democracy, it’s about ensuring that people are able to eat, people are able to go to school, people are able to get access to healthcare, people have human dignity – that their human dignity is restored. That is what we represent.
Considering the terrain you find yourself in, can you play the desperate kind of politics that your opponents and fellow contenders are out to play?
No we are not. We are not one of them. We are not playing the politics of money bag, we are not playing the politics of god-fatherism, and we are not playing the politics of anointed candidate. No, we are playing the politics of real democracy, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and at the right time, the people’s voice will be heard. Watch and see, you’ll be amazed at what will happen in 2019. People are more enlightened now.
What is your unique selling proposition as an aspirant?
Sincerity of purpose. We know that most times when people go to campaign, they make campaign promises, and I tell you, it remains that – campaign promises. A famous author once said, “The best politicians are those who can make the best promises, and then come back again to explain why they could not achieve those promises.” From that, it is clear that there was no intention to even deliver the promises at all, ab initio. So my unique selling point is that even without being in office, we are touching lives already using various avenues, using Rotary, using Mike Omotosho Foundation, using partnerships, direct involvements, whatever it is we can do.
Do you support independent candidacy?
Well, if we have independent candidates, it doesn’t really make any difference. It’s about having the structures, ensuring that what needs to be done is been done. Even if you are running as an independent candidate, you are still expected to probably have agents. You are expected to have coordinators at the various levels, then how does it differ from a political party, just the name? That’s the point. That’s exactly what where we are going. For me, I think we are almost getting there. Our democracy may not be ripe yet for that. It’s just a nomenclature for now.