The Communications Minister, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, at a parley with journalists in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, speaks on the 2019 Nigeria Project, the crises in the state All Progressives Congress, APC, the chance of President Muhammadu Buhari and many more. ADEBAYO WAHEED was there and brings the excerpts
What is your stand on this 2019 general elections and what is expected of stakeholders?
I know that many of you are from Oyo State, and even if you are not from Oyo State the fact that you reside and work here in Oyo State that makes you one of the stakeholders in this state.
If you say you are not part of Oyo State, that you don’t want to partake in whatever happens here, then whoever that is in government will make laws that will affect your lives, the laws that will affect the education of your children and you will not be able to do anything about it and things will get worse every day; the roads will be in bad condition and all that, and I believe that nobody wants to leave Oyo State now. So I want to believe that we must be dutifully concerned about what is happening in Oyo State.
It should not be left to politicians alone, because politicians will not rule only on themselves, but the masses, the citizens who voted them in.
That is why I will start by saying it is a thing of regret that in the Nigerian political environment, there is usually some dichotomy between progressives and the conservatives or ordinary politicians.
Everybody will agree with me that the APC is a progressive party. And fortunately also, we have the misfortune of having very reactionary elements within our party, the APC, which at times makes someone feel sad and unhappy that you would have wished there was a way of having only the progressives to hold various positions in this progressive party of ours.
With this perceived personal ‘war’ between you and Governor Abiola Ajimobi, what are your chances of securing your party’s ticket for the 2019 governorship elections in Oyo State?
Interestingly, Governor Ajimobi is my senior brother, I would say with all due respect that my relationship with his family does not start with him, it started with his most respectable father, who is also my father and with whom I was a member of Oyo State House of Assembly at the same time and because of that history, one will expect that our relationship could be better than this, but when I finish my speech you people will know the person that is right or wrong between us.
Apart from having been a colleague to his father, Pa Gani Ajimobi, I am also the oldest polical actor in the state in terms of years of political practice, beause I started politics around 1978 or even 1977, while I was still a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, as at that time, I was in court holding meetings together with late Pa Obafemi Awolowo and those meetings included committee of friends, which later became the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
As young as I was then, just a little above 20, I participated in the writing and formulation of the policy papers of the UPN, which became the four cardinal points of the UPN.
And consistently since then, I have been in politics, as a matter of fact, because I have consistently been in politics since then, it even affected my legal practice, because I considered politics as a noblest profession that anybody can engage in.
You will recall that in 2007, when Rashidi Ladoja was governor of Oyo State, I was at a time an Attorney General of Oyo State. It was during that time that Governor Ajimobi contested for the governor of the state.
But why has the face-off continued despite efforts at reconciliation?
By the time he was contesting, because my boss then, Chief Ladoja was not given the ticket to contest under PDP, Ladoja gave Ajimobi all the support of his people, because he announced publicly that everybody should vote for Ajimobi, and people massively voted for him.
That was his first outing and he was voted for massively by the grace of Ladoja at that time. When he lost, Ladoja called me and said as an Attorney General of the state, I should set up a legal team that will fight for Ajimobi, who obviously has been robbed.
I set up a legal team appointing Niyi Akintola, SAN, to handle the case. We paid N25 million to assist Ajimobi in his case, despite the fact that he had contested under the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and we were in PDP, for everyday that the case comes up in court, I always personally appeared in court to assist Akintola in the case.
From the tribunal, which was obviously compromised, that was a story for another day, we moved on to the Court of Appeal. Again, I am always in the court to give support, and solidarity again. Unfortunately, we lost that as well.
And I believed all these made us to become friendlier, because of the support and sacrifices I have given him, thereafter we remained friends, till 2011, when Buhari founded the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, CPC. I became the governorship candidates of the CPC and he was the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
We contested together and I think that was the point of division, when things started going asunder.
He won that election clearly. And I went to his house to congratulate him, the day I went, Rauf Aregbesola was also there and I met him there so I took it in good faith, because I knew another day would come.
Is it right to say that some people are benefiting from the crisis?
Then in 2015, we had established the APC by this time, I was coming from CPC he was coming from ACN, so we met in APC. And the agreement pact that we had at the meeting when we were establishing APC was that all parties were to contribute membership into the exco of APC in all the wards of the state, but he used some kind of machinery to deny us and the CPC bloc didn’t have any input in the formations of the executive.
Of course a few people who joined his team or group were given very juicy positions, but I as leader of CPC was not given a hearing; he did that to secure for himself an overwhelming support at the primary. When he eventually was said to have emerged, I challenge his emergency, in court as the candidate of APC on the basis of the faulty position or formation of the APC exco, who became the delegates for the primary election.
I was still in court when my nomination as a minister was announced on the television. Ordinarily you would have expected him to be happy, because that would have save him from the headache of court case on his neck, but unfortunately, instead of him being happy about it, he launched an attack against me that he will make sure that I was not confirmed by the Senate, he also went to Mr. President to persuade him not to use me as his minister, saying that I, Bayo Shittu, did not work for APC in the last election, that I only worked for Buhari.
And this was the election that I was the chief collating officer of APC in my local government area, on the appointment of the party state exco.
Many of you who were in Oyo State then will attest to the crisis and struggles then, so many groups were coming up challenging him, even in the Senate, he tried to bypass people not to vote for me.
But I was said to have perform so well in the Senate screening.
Eventually, I became a minister, and ever since then, as the only minister from the state I automatically become a senior person/officer of the party, but I have never for once been invited for any political meeting in the state. And I was excluded from all meetings.
What efforts have you made to let him realise that you are a senior member of the party?
Of course, when I was eventually confirmed as a minister, I went to him to extend my olive branch, and he asked me if I would love to live in the Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, but I said no, I have an apartment somewhere that I will like to make use of and what remains for me is the rent fee and he said how much and I said N8 million and he said as soon as he can raise the money, he will let me know, and I thank him so much and left.
And before he could send that money, a legal adviser, who is my junior brother by name Niyi Raji from Iseyin had paid the money and also furnished the house for me.
Later it was Alhaji Yunis Akintunde who said the governor has given him the money, I said ‘Yunis, the house had been paid for already, but I have some books that I want to publish, am an author, I said I have seven books that I want to publish, I said you know the printer is your brother go and help me send the money into his account so he can published the book for me.
Though before that time, I had printed 1,000 copies of each of the seven books that I do give out to people who come to pay me visit free of charge. So I diverted that money for the printing of my books.
I appreciated him, and later along the line I started hearing different kind of stories that he cannot support me for governorship, that if I become the governor he will be in jail, I never told anybody that that will happen.
Sometime about six months ago, we held a meeting at the Government House, APC South-West leaders in Agodi and during AOB and that meeting had in attendance Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Segun Osoba, and Ajimobi said, “Eyin reconciliation committee, you don’t do your work well, if you people had done your work properly, you should have known that myself and Barr Shittu are not in good terms.”
And they asked him what causes the fight and he said whenever I see him I would be greeting him, saying, ‘egbon’ and all that, but whenever I’m not in his presence, I would be saying ‘that Ajimobi boy, I will deal with him’ and I said I was happy that he made the statement he made that I will look forward to see how the reconciliation committee would call us together for him to give evidence of what he said. Chief Osoba, who was the head of the committee went abroad for his medical and I think this is taking too long, I had to initiate a reconciliation committee to meet him in Government Lodge in Abuja, when I got there he was not around, I called him to tell him that I came but he said he was coming then he invited Teslim, Hon. Segun from Ogbomoso, Odebunmi and this Oyo man, Kamil, so they were all there and I said ‘governor, the said allegation that you heard about me, say it to my face now where you got it from, so probably I may challenge the person’.
I said by my nature, I don’t poke nose, I don’t maltreat people. I said, ‘my governor, don’t listen to “won ni won pe” (dem say)’ and he said there is no more fight that I should go and tell my people that there is no more fight, that we have reconciled, and we left in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere. Three days later, I called to thank him, for that meeting.
Now there was a case about a piece of land where there had been previous agreement between me and the local government caretaker chairman of my local government, Saki West and one Mrs Wunmi Ogunesan, who is from a local government beside mine, and she is now the Head of Service.
I wanted to use the land for an ICT centre for the people of my area, but they said they wanted to use the land for fire station, a land that was not on the main road, in a town that already had one on fire station on the main road, they now wanted to use my land, given to me by my people, the Saki Parapo, and I said no. So I had taken the matter to court. I had approached the governor once to intervene in the matter.
So, after thanking him for the meeting, he said, ‘on that matter of land, I will wade in to see how it will be settled’, and I was happy that on his own conditions he initiated that.
Few days after the telephone discussion, he took the bulldozer to the place and bulldoze and level the whole place, including all the 2,000 plus blocks there, everything was levelled.
I was also told that they came with 10 tippers which parked the rubbles and used it to level the pot holes in the town of Saki to Ogboroo road.
When I saw that, I phoned him immediately, he didn’t pick the calls, then I sent a text message, that two days ago, we discussed on the said land, but I’m surprised that your boys came to distroyed my property, which the subject matter is in court’s, till date he has not called me on the matter.
Some people around him said when my message got to him, he said, ‘it is that bush boy, he is the one calling and sending me messages’.
Most people working for him, don’t like him, they are his enemies and they don’t like whatever he’s doing.
We have been having the disagreement over the issue of local government, because the constitutions said we must have three tiers of government, the federal the state and the local government, and gave guides lines to the framework of each, if we now have a state governor that for eight years refused to conduct local government elections, and at the dusk of his leaving office, he is now desperate to organise local government elections and even as against all the democratic principles, then it becomes an issue, I have always criticise him; you could recalled sometime last year, the APC state exco announced that the people who are interested in contesting local government elections, should come forward to buy forms, and that a day should be fixed for the primaries.
And he insisted that there cannot be primaries, that he will have to choose who represent the party and I will always challenge him, that that it’s not proper and not democratic to be using the process of choosing the candidates.
So these are the issues that are setting us apart from each other and if you look at what is happening in the last few day, he thinks he has succeeded in rubbishing the issue of primary elections for the local government. And to me the cases are in court, Federal High Court, Abuja and also Federal High Court, Ibadan.
We expect that after all these tyranny of elections, the court would come up and rubbish what has been done today in the name of local government elections.
What is your take in ward, local and state congress elections?
Now on the issue of the congress, the constitution said every four years, there must be fresh congress to elect new officers of the party, in the case of Oyo State, last Saturday was fixed for the ward congresses. Now this thinking that they could engaged in an impunity like they did in the case of local government election, he has that mindset that his people not need to take forms, he would just prepared a list, which he did present to the congress committee which he did when the committee came, naturally the committee went to his office to greet him and he told the committee that the APC in Oyo State is in one accord, that they didn’t need to do congress that he had already had the names of the party nominees, but the committee declined and said no, they were not sent to Oyo State to collect names, but conduct a peaceful congress and that what they told him in his office and they left.
They called us for the stakeholders meeting on Saturday, we then discovered that because they thought that they could just submit list they didn’t care to buy forms for nominations, but all our members collected forms with their tellers, so we are invited to the hotel where the committee resided. You will recall that when we were at the party secretariat, thugs were sent to attack us.
We have bought our forms, more than 9,000 forms, the committee arrived Ibadan on Friday May 4 and the congress was scheduled for the following day, but because they didn’t buy forms they were not ready.
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