News Column

George - Fayemi Is the Hero of Ekiti Election

July 31, 2014

Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman, South of the Peoples Democratic Party is also a delegate to the National Conference in Abuja. In this interview with Sheriff Balogun, George speaks about his experience at the conference, President Goodluck Jonathan's$1b proposed loan and the chances of the PDP in the August 9 governorship election in Osun State. Excerpts:

What's your experience at the conference and what should Nigerians expect at the end of the day?

I would say I am very happy to be a participant at the conference. I have read a lot about the 1946, 1954 1976 constitutions. I have participated in other conferences during the military regime but they were all different from this. This one is unique in the sense that it is the first after the centenary celebration. It is good to do appraisal of where we are, and how far we have gone to enable us forge ahead. Now, we gathered to discuss the state of the nation, it is not time to discuss our differences; it is time to discuss nation-building and time to discuss how to strengthen the foundation laid by Lord Lugard.

These are some of the captivating issues that came to my mind. And when the president presented the expose at the inauguration of the conference, you can see the sincerity and honesty of purpose. I think one of the best speeches I have ever heard in Nigeria was that day. Having been together for a period of 100 years, so many parts of those years were by the British trying to fashion out what we should look like, ways to best deal with us because of our differences.

They tried to fashion out our governance with their own system of government without minding our cultural afflictions? Were they able to get it right? After that, the unitary system of government came, then the military government came, the three regions became four and Yakubu Gowon came and divided into 12. We had the civil war; we had reconciliation and rehabilitation, all this paved the way for the present day Nigeria.

We became stronger and bigger then greed and mistrust began to rear their ugly heads. And there came democracy and through divine intervention came the president who I strongly believe is the messiah of this country. His name really projects Good luck because he never would have thought that he would become the centenary president. His speech during the inauguration was moving and was also inspiring. He got us all thinking.

The congregation was also unique in the sense that all those who attended the 1954, 1959 constitutional conference were among the delegates at the confab. Some of them were ministers in the First Republic under Tafawa Balewa and some who fought on both sides during the civil war were also delegates. For the first time civil societies were included. The youngest delegate who was 24 years was very intelligent. Whatever we conceptualised will be for them not for us any longer.

We can only bring in our own experience by reshaping and redirecting our initiatives and tell them the minefield they should avoid. The conference was very rich in terms of human resources and the choice of the chairman was perfect. He is a very rare gentleman, who has seen it all and got to the pinnacle of his career as Chief Justice (CJ) of the nation. This reflected in the gathering as he was able to manage and forestall any crisis. Initially, the tension was thick. We found it difficult to associate with each other but at the end of the day, we were able to understand and live with our differences.

And I think God loves this country like what do define as consensus - 75, 65 per cent and some said the usual per cent is 60. The solution was brought in by a professor of Mathematics. The issue of governance was in contention - the type or system of government to be adopted - is it parliamentary, military or unitary system of government? Also devolution of power and resource control, among others, were deliberated upon. Totalitarianism in our governance as well as the removal of immunity was also raised.

We reasoned that those who were elected by the people should not be above the law of the country. The laws are made by the representatives of the people and they should not just come and turn themselves to demi-gods. However, there should be state police system which would be in charge of enforcing laws made by state assemblies and of course the federal system. It is logical for us to have state and federal police. Take for instance the Americans have the federal police, state police and local police.

We have to remove militarism from our democracy and practice true democracy, so we have to start now. If we are not doing what democracy entails, we are not a nation because a nation will give all what democracy entails to bring about development. All Nigerians must be given equal right no matter where they are from. There must be justice, fairness and equity which will usher in a new dawn. On a final note, the conference was a unique opportunity for me and it opened my eyes to a lot of things.

Your party recorded success in the Ekiti election and now, August 9 is around the corner for Osun State's governorship election; is your party going to pull another stunt?

Well, they are deceiving themselves that they are in power. The issue is the populace. You have to go out to campaign and canvass for the people's vote based on your achievement. The people have to trust you based on your previous achievements. The beauty of democracy is that you have four years to rule and another four years to renew your mandate. If you've done well, they will vote you in and if not, they will kick you out.

Ekiti people saw the lack of support of the government to their basic needs; the state is compact and the only state that is 100 per cent homogenous. They speak same language, same belief and the only industry in the state is education. Every home can afford to give you ten professors free of charge.

Basically, the Ekiti people are mainly teachers or civil servants and the government of Fayemi should have known that. They are not people that indulge in fraudulent activities to get money. He did not pay salaries to teachers and civil servants for so many months, yet he expects them to survive. How does he want them to survive? If he was a politician, he should have known that this was a threat in line. As a governor, the first thing he should have done was to pay salaries to workers. By not doing this, it shows you did not support them, so how do you want them to cater for their needs? When you needed their support, you were now running up and down to pay off.

Fayemi is a well-read fellow with a doctoral degree. So what happened to his government and the state? If he got his mandate through dint of hard work, he would have known the importance of governance. He got there through the manipulation of Justice Salami. You know the scandal that followed Salami. The same Salami in Osun; same in my own case at the Court of Appeal - all these will follow their children and grand-children. Fayemi is my hero; he has set an example as a civilised politician by accepting defeat.

So, Osun State election will not be different. Aregbesola did not pay salaries of teachers and civil servants. Where did he get the money to buy Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) that the police are using? What does he want to do with it? To fight people who voted him in during the election? Is he planning a war in a poor state like Osun? Aregbesola that is militarising the state ahead of August election is accusing federal government of same.

Did federal government deploy troops to Ekiti to terrorise the electorate? Have we ever held elections in this country without deploying troops to state to ensure calmness in polling units? If you want to win an election, make sure you address and win the heart of your people, the power of being there is in their hands. They have the same power to kick you out. It is going to be one man, and one vote just like in Ekiti.

The level of insecurity is alarming and the president is seeking $1billion loan to fight the trend. But the request has met stiff resistance, why is that?

The money is not only to fight insurgence and insecurity, some of the money would be for job creation because an idle mind is the devil's workshop. Part of it will also be for infrastructure development. The education sector is not left out as part of it will be used for the total overhaul of education in Nigeria vis-a-vis improve our standard of education. Education makes it easy for people to rule and difficult for people to be enslaved. We must bring them from poverty to riches by exposing them to good and sound education. In addition, the money will be used to support those peasant farmers to boost production for better life. It is a total package and not just for fighting insurgency and insecurity.

The PDP has had it difficult winning Lagos since 1999 and now, 2015 is close, are there plans to wrest power from the ruling party? Where are we today? To sustain yourself in office is the people; to keep your mandate is the people. The greatest debtor in the country is my state, Lagos State. Our generation to come would not be able to pay the debt my state is owes. The poor governance and mismanagement is unimaginable. Our assets from the day we were created headed by Mobolaji Johnson are in serious catastrophe. The people are ready for change. Fifteen years they have fooled us. Go to any market - okada riders - ask them about governance? Who is at peace in Lagos? They would tell you.

What about the kabiyesis that are saying all is well, the question is, are they happy?

Average Lagosians are not happy, most of the people living on the Lekki belt cannot come to the mainland to enjoy the free air they have to pay for it. What is the increment in their salaries, go across and ask. An average Lagosian pays for everything. What benefit do we enjoy as Lagosians? What about the university undergraduate in LASU? LASU was created for the poor Lagosians, who have no money so that they can get quality education at a low cost. Education makes it easy to govern. School fees were increased from N25,000 to N350,000 - who among the peasants can afford to pay that for their wards?

Governor Fashola went through affordable education before he became a governor, so why is he removing the ladder? Does the emperor of Bourdilon not want the children of the poor to go to school any long? People are tired; they want a change. What audacity, for instance, does he have to make his own daughter the Iyaloja of Lagos? Is the little girl over and above those women, who have been in the market years ago? Why? Can he defend that action? Let what you do today speak for you tomorrow.

Yes, they've nominated their own governorship candidate; we'll go through the same process because there are a lot of people aspiring to be governor of Lagos on our platform. We'll give them equal opportunities. Our contestants would be presented to the electorate and they would decide which of them is qualified. I was told that someone said there would be no contest. But since we started this democratic dispensation, nobody has ever imposed candidate on Lagos State because of the sophistication. The development and education will not allow any imposition of such. We'll debate to present a governor that would be able to defend and project Lagos State with pride without looking at the book. We'll organise the best debate for our aspirants, no matter the numbers are; I'll pay for it. So that Lagosians can choose the best among them and also decide if we are practising politics or politricks because we want to make a difference.

We have a pool of brilliant people, whom we trust and believe in. No single individual can impose anybody on Lagos state. It is 16 years of democracy, people are clamouring for change. What you saw in Ekiti is a Tsunami that is ravaging and by the time it goes out of Osun, it is heading for Lagos State.

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Source: AllAfrica

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