The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Osun State, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, tells FEMI MAKINDE of SUNDAY PUNCH shortly before he won the primary election that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is not behind his candidacy
You are the only aspirant comfortable with the direct primary. Why are you okay with the method, which is said to be cumbersome?
Three issues have been raised in your question. The first is that I’m the only aspirant comfortable with direct primary. Two, that I’m not complaining and the last one is that the direct primary method is cumbersome.
To answer the issue in the first leg of your question, I say unequivocally that I’m not the only aspirant comfortable with direct primary. If you were at our meeting with the electoral panel from the national headquarters of our party, you heard those who spoke and declared emphatically that they were not afraid of elections. So, it will therefore be erroneous to infer that I’m the only aspirant comfortable with direct primary. Out of the 17 aspirants, those who complained, as seen today (Friday), were about five. The other 12 felt there was no justification for such complaints. Why should I complain about a method and process envisaged by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says government shall derive its power from the people of the country through a transparent election. The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) also provides for this in Section 87. Also, the APC constitution states it emphatically in Article 20 that such process can be direct or indirect. Again, as a loyal party man, who believes in party supremacy; as a democrat, who believes that democracy can be deepened if it’s participatory, on what ground should my complaints be predicated when the space for such participation is now provided? If you say the process of allowing the majority of our members determine who will fly the tickets of the party in the general elections is cumbersome, then your democrat credentials require a review. If it’s cumbersome, all the extant laws refer to above and the drafters of those laws would have contemplated that.
There are allegations that the process has been manipulated to favour you. Do you agree?
How can a process that has not commenced be skewed to favour me? That is laughable. Maybe, those who reasoned this way are already prophesying my victory. Such opinion is unfair, speculative and unfounded. Is there any evidence to prove that? I’m just an aspirant like the16 others; there’s no point to be intimidated by me or anyone for that matter. I am not the one that will conduct the exercise; party officials from Abuja have arrived and we all are members of this party. It is not fair to say that the process has been skewed to favour me or anybody. I believe all the aspirants have campaigned to our party members and I went all over the state to sell my message to our people and I am confident that the most popular aspirant would be elected by all members of the party. There is nothing to prove that and I believe this allegation is borne out of fear on their part; the fear of imminent defeat because I am very popular among the people and this is obvious.
There are rumours that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is your relative and that he is the one imposing you on the party through the leadership of the APC.
That’s far from the truth. I’m just a party member like any other aspirant. While I’m the Chief of Staff to Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, some of the aspirants are holding political positions bigger than mine. So, what’s special about me that call for the whole leadership of the APC to work the process in my favour? If Asiwaju Tinubu is so powerful to the extent of determining what party leadership would do and I’m such favoured by them, will there be any reason to waste time and resources to go into a process you described as cumbersome? Please, let’s be fair to our leaders and to our party. I’m nobody’s favourite. I’m aspiring in my own right as a bona-fide and competent citizen who is convinced about the need for continuity and consolidation. It is not true that the process has been manipulated to favour me.
Is it not easy to manipulate this method because of the lack of verifiable membership register?
How do you know there is no verifiable members’ register? Wait, if you listened to the representative of the chairman of the electoral panel, Senator (Ovie) Omo-Agege. He said the party had brought members’ register from Abuja that would be verified by all agents of aspirants before accreditation and voting commence. He also made it clear that permanent voter card or party membership card would be used for the exercise.
But using PVC, as an alternative, can give room for non-members to participate in the exercise. Is this not possible?
Don’t forget that voters would not just bring voter cards and vote. There is a register and if your name is not on the party’s register, which is equivalent to voter register in this exercise, you won’t be allowed to vote. Members at ward levels know each other; so, you can’t just go and import non-members to come and participate in the primary election.
There are insinuations that aggrieved aspirants may dump the APC in protest. Are you not afraid of this?
It will be unfair to me if you also continue your question to rationalise the insinuation. I’m just an aspirant like any other. I can speak for myself that I, Gboyega Isiaka Oyetola, will not leave this party if the direct primary does not go in my favour. I expect every civil, urbane and progressive democrat to do the same. So, I don’t expect anyone to go. The whole exercise is a family affair and we will resolve whatever differences that may be there.
If I emerge the APC candidate, God willing, I will surely reach out to my co-aspirants. As a party man, I know the more, the merrier. I’m deeply convinced that we must build a mass-based popular party. We all remain one. It is a family affair and the winner will need others because no one can do it alone.
Don’t you think that the exercise may be nullified in court if the aggrieved aspirants approach the court and have their way?
The judiciary is an important pillar of the democratic institution; so, anyone is free to approach the court to seek clarification of issues, including me.