ENGINEER Raufu Aderemi Olaniyan, a prominent Accord Party chieftain and retired civil servant in Oyo state who recently dumped the party for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in an interactive session with members of South West Group of Online Publishers (SWEGOP) in Ibadan, talks extensively on Oyo politics, why he joined the ruling party and his relationship with Senator Rashidi Ladoja. Excerpts:
You recently left the Accord Party (AP), where you were a key member to join the All Progressives Congress (APC). There are feelers that you want to be governor; wouldn’t your recent move amount to adding to the already over-bloated number of governorship aspirants in the APC? And let’s also ask what transpired between you and Senator Ladoja that made you leave the party?
Life is a continuum! Nothing is static. I was formerly in Accord Party but now I am in APC. So many people may insinuate different things but the key reason is that my people want me in APC. I was in Accord Party and when I came back, I don’t know how they managed to know, the representatives of APC and their leaders in Oorelope Local Government came to my office. They said ‘we want you in APC’.
It was my first day in office after I came back. They have been able to monitor my trip. I can say I mix freely with people, the leaders of APC used to come to my house. Some of them even accused others of anti-party activities. The Chairman of APC would come to my house with APC branded vehicle and park it in my compound for as long as five hours sometimes. So it is not that I just woke overnight and decided.
When you are in a political system, who do you need? You need your people. So it is not as if it is from the top or anything. It is my people in Oorelope that said ‘we need you in APC.’ All their exco, including the party leaders came. Some people are going home to lobby to join parties and they will say no. I did not lobby. I did what my people wanted; they were the ones that said enough is enough in Accord.
You are asking if my going to APC will swell the number of aspirants. To what? Is it up to 1,000 already? So it doesn’t make any difference. The political space is wide enough for 1,001 aspirants to come out but there will be some yardsticks through which they will be decreasing by elimination.
If you want to look at the aspirants, there is no way three parameters will not be considered, you want to know if that aspirant is sellable, is he a reliable person, is he a credible person, among other parameters. So you can see that if there are 1,001, one will eventually emerge.
You were with Senator Ladoja, you were the de – facto backbone of that party. Now that you are no longer there, the powers that be will not be too happy with you. Maybe you felt they used you or they were not giving you value for what you were doing for them. But now that you are in APC, do you think you won’t be treated the same way?
Let me quickly correct that. I was not the de – facto backbone. As far as I am concerned, I am Mr. Nobody. I didn’t aspire for any position; nobody can say it was because he wanted to be this and he didn’t get it that he left. Like I said earlier, my people said enough is enough in Accord, we need you somewhere else. I remember one day, just after the morning prayer, around 10 minutes past six, four elderly men came to my house. Two of them incidentally were my bosses between 1973 and 1975, they were NTC farmers, I was working with them as a labourer so I still look at them as my bosses. They said ‘we want you in APC, we need somebody to be our arrow head’. That was more than a year ago. My reply then was that when we get to the river, we will know how to cross it.
So it is not that I have any problem with anybody.
Your relationship with Senator Rashidi Ladoja, what is it like now?
It’s okay. In my office, I remember I drove one lady out of the compound because she used a derogatory word against Senator Ladoja. I told the gateman never to allow her enter the compound again. So it is up to that level.
You are swimming in the pool of APC presently, assuming in the near future, you find yourself in the same party with Senator Ladoja, how would you feel?
I have told you Senator Ladoja and I have no acrimony at all. If he enters into this room now, as a younger man, I will prostrate for him.
You are aspiring for the number one seat of this state. What is your driving force? Why do you want to be in that position? And APC seems not to be on ground in your constituency. The last election, it was Labour Party that won, the rerun election, it was Labour Party and you said you joined APC because your people want you to. Isn’t it because they want to use you to achieve certain aims or they want to use your financial strength?
Now you are trying to tell me what to do. Aspiring for the number one position of this state is not for me as a person, I come from a bloc, I come from Oke Ogun. When the chips are down, from time back, whether in the Western Region, Old Oyo, New Oyo, they always say Oke Ogun has abundant resources, abundant land for agriculture, no one ever talks of abundant human resources. So if I see myself as part of that abundant human resource, what stops me?
And anytime they pick any governor, they start looking for who can be deputy governor in Oke Ogun. I can tell you that I have been called severally to be deputy governor, but I will not mention anyone. But I always wondered what for?
Why did you refuse those offers?
I didn’t have time. My people had different responsibilities for me. I have made my mark, without being immodest; I thank God, what am I created for? It is not just to put on agbada but for people to feel me. If not because my religion does not allow trumpeting, and even in Christianity it is taught that when the left hand gives, the right should not know. My people want me, they know me and I am dancing to their tune.
And talking about Labour Party winning the election, the politics of Igboho is more than what you are looking at. Even when Accord did not win the election, the day we met the APC Chairman, he said it, he believed I was a problem to the APC in Oke Ogun. When all their permutation and calculation showed that they were going to get 13, at the end of the day, they might get 9 and when they ask, they will say it is Engineer Olaniyan.
They came during the last election which you spoke about, the party organ moved to Igboho, they stayed for 9 days. I was not in Nigeria, I came back to Nigeria on Thursday, got to Ibadan that night, the following morning, I moved to Igboho. The Chairman told me all the beautiful permutation and arrangement they had made on ground, Olaniyan just came in overnight and scattered it.
The Honourable that eventually won came to my office to thank me. He said he knew that if I had not moved, he wouldn’t have won. We are all in Igboho, and we are all related one way or the other. The last Honourable was assassinated, that alone gave room for sympathy or consolatory votes for that party.
I decamped in Igboho, I registered in Ward 9, the first meeting of that Ward 9, apart from various Accord Party members that registered, we had 15 members of PDP. This is no longer Olaniyan from Accord, Olaniyan has joined APC and I have my supporters all over the state. In Oluyole Local Government, it was massive decamping from Accord to APC. It will happen in North West very soon, it will happen in Saki very soon, I think May 12 or so. It will happen all over the state but we don’t have to make noise. We don’t have to abuse anybody.
You moved from Accord to APC. It is general knowledge that Accord Party does not have tolerance for internal democracy, APC is equally guilty. Won’t you be like an outsider in this system? How do you plan to make it when there are many big names in this contest, especially from Oke Ogun?
When you take your dictionary, try and see the meaning of the word ‘underdog’. There is always an underdog in any setting. Even when you line up football teams in the World Cup, you will find out that there will be an underdog that will spring surprises.
So you are banking on surprise?
Don’t worry. If you are going for a competition, do you want to eliminate yourself?
But your party, APC does not hold primaries, so how do you want to jump from being a member of the party to the candidate? How do you want to challenge the status quo?
You keep saying in APC, in APC, has APC not been producing candidates? They have been producing candidates and they have been winning elections.
There is also this trend in APC that by the time the candidate emerges, it leaves a lot of people disgruntled and leads to an exodus from the party.
Are you a member of APC? (General laughter). There is no way in any political setting where they want to pick a governor, where 92 showed interest, and one person must emerge, internal wrangling is bound to occur but there has to be a mechanism to resolve issues. Through which you will tell members to take it easy. If they have not been taking it easy, they will not be winning.
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