Comrade Rotimi Obadofin, a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and former governorship candidate of the party in Kogi State spoke with our Osun State Correspondent, TIMOTHY AGBOR on some sundry national issues particularly the merger between his party and prominent opposition parties in the country. Excerpts:
Your party with other opposition parties in the country are coming together; why?
That is the demand from the circumstance we find ourselves. The ruling party has done what it could do and we discovered that what it could do is not satisfactory, we are not satisfied with their performance. They themselves are not satisfied with their own performance and this is the era of development all over the world, countries are transforming, so we can’t allow them to hold us behind; they have imprisoned our development and it is not acceptable. It will tell on the future of our children as it is telling on us now, so the opposition has to put their heads together and do something before it’s too late and this is the right time because election is coming in two or three years time, so it’s better we start preparing now and that is what is happening. So the merger is going to give a formidable party, it’s going to come out with a formidable party that will be strong enough to challenge the ruling party, so it’s the circumstance we find ourselves that dictated our action.
With what is on ground, is there any possibility on the opposition parties dislodging the PDP in the next general election despite the merger?
If there is no rigging, which is the characteristic of the ruling party. PDP have been winning elections through rigging. They have been able to win fairly in very few places.
With the merger, there is no way PDP will beat us in a free and fair election because by the time you add all the numbers of the followers and voters of the opposition, there is no how they won’t outnumber that of the ruling party, so our chances of winning are very bright.
Apart from this, the PDP has become so unpopular with its unpopular programmes as well as deep internal crisis, all these have increased the popularity of the merger parties giving clear indications that our candidates have greater chances of winning the election.
Experiences in the past have shown that mergers among opposition parties have never worked in this country. Are you sure this particular merger will work?
I don’t believe that mergers have always failed as you have put it. The ACN itself is a merger of some parties. If you can remember we used to be known as AC before we merged some political parties such as the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and others. If that particular merger worked, this will even perform better.
This particular merger is dictated by circumstance. It’s like we don’t have any option, it’s not an optional thing, it’s the only thing possible, otherwise all the opposition parties will fizzle out and be buried, so we have no option, it’s not an optional thing.
Those time you were talking, there were options, no option now, history has pushed us to that level that if you don’t do it, all our political parties will be paralyzed and we will now be running a one party state, which is not acceptable. The leaders have seen the compelling need dictated by history and our circumstance, it’s a product of our situation and you have to take the product whether you like it or not, the merger is going to work.
Don’t you think the distribution of political offices may lead to the collapse of the merger?
I don’t think so and that is why they set up a committee and that is where it’s going to be worked out. It is not mechanical, it is going to take a process, so all the parties involved have set up a committee that will relate and work it out, it’s going to be scientific, every aspect of it will be debated and worked upon. It is not automatic, it’s something that they will work for and follow the rules, with the rules, process followed, all those ones will be sorted out. There should not be a problem. That is why I said that it’s a compelling need, so everybody will have to bury his own ambition and ego and see the nation and the people as priority.
Are you satisfied with the composition of the membership of your party’s committee to the merger talk led by Chief Tom Ikimi?
I am not in a position to even disagree, my leaders are wiser than I, so they ought to have thought of it deeply, I am satisfied, not even in a position not to be satisfied but I am satisfied any way.
What is your take on the comments made by Asari Dokubo about Yorubas?
Somebody need to be cautioned and in being cautioned, you have to be cultured to know what to say. For those who are reasonable, it’s the Yorubas that championed this democracy, it’s the Yorubas strength and blood that were used to drive away the military, it was the Yorubas sweat and blood that sustained the democracy till today, so others should be grateful to us. For Jonathan to assume power, it was with the support of the Yoruba people.
We worked it out when he was in problem under late Musa Yaradua, when they did not want him to become the Acting President. It’s not only security we give him, we also came out to demonstrate on the streets at the detriment of our lives and freedom, to demonstrate that Jonathan must be made the Acting President. After he was made Acting President, we supported him to become the President by using all the influence we have, after that, when he was to be elected properly, he got all the votes in Yorubaland, so how else can we take care of this man? When he is need of spiritual blessing, he come to Yorubaland and Adeboye is there for him.
We are always there for these people in the country but they always pay us back in an ungrateful manner, they will come and say all sorts of things like Asari Dokubo who just abuse Yoruba anyhow and just look at the people from such a low culture coming to attack us. We are sure of our culture, we have superior culture. We tolerate, we are liberal, we are progressive, we are humane, that is what is sustaining us. Others don’t have it, that is why they are killing themselves. We don’t kidnap, any Yoruba that kidnap is not a genuine Yoruba person, quote me, anyone that is involved in killing people any how whether in the north or in the east, they are not Yoruba proper.
In all these criminal activities, you hardly see Yoruba person, very low in terms of number. Of course we can’t have a pure nationality, there will be criminals from nationality but our own is minority due to our superior culture. In every home, you see all the representatives of all the religions that exist in Nigeria: the native one, the one that existed before Christianity and Islam. Most homes you will see Christians, Muslims and traditionalists and they eat and live together; you never hear any complaint or grumbling, they live in harmony, peace and love.
So it’s only Yoruba people in the whole world that has that type of culture, others are so intolerant of other religion, you can’t come and be talking to them anyhow.
Most of other tribes are in Yorubaland because they have peace in Yorubaland, people in the north are moving to Yoruba area because there is no peace in the north, it’s only in Yoruba land that you find peace, love harmony and progressive activities. So, if you are to take census of Nigeria, I can tell you confidently that not less that 50% of Nigerians reside in Yoruba speaking area now from Jebba to Lokoja to Abeokuta to Lagos. So people who have this culture, how do you open your mouth and talk anyhow against them? When Asari was in problem, it was Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and the Yoruba people that bailed him out. We saved him and now he can just open his mouth and talk anyhow.
Well, it’s because of our rich culture that we are not responding. Sometimes, silence is golden hence when you reduced yourself to their level, it means you have also imbibed the low culture. So, people should mind what they say to Yoruba people because there is also limit to which you can absorb all these things, they should be reasonable.
You are a close confidant of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, some people see him as an extremist, some see him as a unionist; from your close contact and interraction with him, who is Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola?
Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, is an unusual person. When you are a kind of prophet, people won’t understand you on time. I agree with what he is saying 100 percent because I can understand him and because he is doing good things. Ordinary people in the street have no problem with the governor because the governor is giving them what they want. He is approaching this governance philosophically, he is very rich in terms of knowledge.
Islam has taught him a lot of things; as a socialist, socialism has taught him a lot of things; as an activist, student union activist, pro-democracy activist, he has learnt a lot from all that; so he is a man of idea, he is not a value-free somebody, he has values and he wants to implement those values. He knows there are Christians, he celebrates Christmas like Jesus himself will celebrate it, no Christian celebrates Christmas better than Aregbesola.
He knows we have people who believe in Ifa and all that, he recognizes them, let God himself judge and he doesn’t joke with his own Islam, he is promoting them. He is giving everybody his or her own; there is no how you won’t find your interest protected by Aregbesola. So he is a man with very rich philosophy, he understands every steps he is taking and he is taking it scientifically, by the time the results start coming out, it’s going to affect the whole country because they will now know that there is a revolutionary in place.
Like in every revolution which are always misunderstood in the beginning, he is going to be misunderstood by some people. No government in the country is generating employment like Aregbesola, if he is not employing in internal revenue, he is employing in civil service, teaching service, SUBEB, O-YES, drivers, thousands of people are being employed every month, that is what we call a government, that is how an ordinary person on the street can recover his dignity and that how they can be linked and participate in popular government. Once your interest is protected either economically, politically, religiously or culturally, you are part of the government and that is what he is doing.
He is trying to make sure that Osun is clean and that has reduced outbreak of diseases drastically. I can tell you, he has foresight, all the canals have been cleaned and expanded, that itself has prevented flood that has consumed most of the states in the country. He has vision, ideas and programmes that are realistic and have nexus with the society. So, he is doing so many things, he is building roads, Osun has become a huge site of construction, everywhere you go is constructions, it is either school or road, Osun is working under Aregbesola.
Let’s come back to your state, Kogi, since its creation about 20 years ago, the major ethnic group has always been in government in the state, do you think the minority has any chance to govern the state in the future?
That is mis-information, who told you that they are majority? Who gave out all these statistics? As a native of that place, let me inform you better, we have 21 local governments, seven of which are in the West Senatorial District, five in the Central Senatorial District, that is 12 already. We then have nine that came from Benue, because we were carved out from Benue and Kwara States. Those of us from Kwara have two senatorial districts while those coming from Benue have one senatorial district.
How then do you now say one is greater than two?
It’s just that there was this bogus census in 1963 and the people in the eastern part of the state have been able to sustain that figure which was worked out for them by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello because they were inclined towards main District. Our Igala brothers were inclined, through their king, towards the Sardauna party, the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) while our people, the Okun Yoruba section and the Igbiras were inclined towards the Action Group (AG) which is the predominant party in the West. So, Sardauna having seen that we will never work for Northern Peoples’ Congress, deliberately manipulated the census of 1963, and they have successfully sustained and maintained that bogus figure, you need to travel there and find out, where is that population?
In the census of 2006, they went to stop the real result, because the result that was conducted before the sampled census which was conducted by United Nations, you know it was proved beyond doubt that we have more population in our place, the Okun Yoruba speaking people followed by the Ebiras. So in reality, we have more people and our chances of governing the state are very bright and very soon what I told you now will manifest.