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Former Governor of Osun State and National Secretary of the New PDP led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, in this interview with select journalists at a rally in Okuku, Odo-Otin Local Government Area of Osun State on Sunday, opens up on the genesis of the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP). He raised alarm over the impact of the crisis on the nation’s polity. OUR CORRESPONDENT, Gbenga Faturoti, was there. Excerpts:
What is the cause of the crisis currently rocking the leadership of the PDP?
The current crisis, which polarizes the PDP started in 2010, when President Goodluck Jonathan declared his intention to contest the 2011 presidential election and perceived some serving governors as not being supportive of his ambition. President Jonathan called me at about 1a.m. sometime in 2010 and requested that I should come to see him in Abuja. I honoured him and when I got to him, he told me of his ambition to contest the presidential election and sought my support. The President later told me that he knew that my hands were tied but I told him immediately that I was not a goat so no one could tie me. His belief was that I would give maximum support to General Ibrahim Babangida because of my relationship with him and interestingly, Jonathan had 99 out of 100 votes cast by the delegates from Osun state.
It is, however, unfortunate that President Jonathan took side in the process that led to my removal as the National Secretary of PDP and all peace meetings called by notable leaders of the party to resolve the matter were deadlocked.
So, in essence, the unjust and mischievous removal of the National Secretary from office is one of the problems that caused the major crisis in the party. What I mean is that they interpreted the court judgment to suit their purpose. They claim that I am not a nominated candidate of the south West. What is the connection or nexus between the zonal congress and national convention? I went to the national secretariat by myself to pick form to contest for the position of the National Secretary. Other aspirants from South West went to pick forms and contested against me. Where are those nomination forms from? That is why we say that something is wrong somewhere. Those who stepped down did so for some reasons and if I am not a nominee, nobody would have contested against me but two others did. Sarumi contested against me and one other person and that was why when INEC wrote its report that some of officers were not duly elected, the position of National Secretary was not among them. Only four of us were jointly creditably elected; the chairman, secretary, financial secretary and auditor. So, if I am duly elected and they say I am not nominated from my zone, it means there is no one in the national working committee that is a product of the zonal congress, no connection at all.
What do you think is the way out of this crisis?
I am very sure that the current crisis would affect Nigeria in the sense that since the democratic dispensation, PDP has been in charge and we have somehow affected the lives of people in this country no matter how it is, now to have a new beginning from what it used to be will affect all the fabrics and segments of the society and that is why I said it would affect Nigeria. It would be a new beginning instead of having a continuous administration that will continue to build on the past accomplishments. We believe that our elders, the council of elders, will prevail but if that does not work, it means I or we should find another platform that will accommodate us. Party politics is associating with colleagues and people of like minds and when it comes to the point that you don’t want me. There is always a way forward. My former chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, has told us and some governors that whoever wants to leave should leave and I don’t believe that is good leadership. As a good leader, you should be able to listen to them, counsel and solve any crisis within your power and not to arrogantly say you can go if you want to go.
Can you recall the genesis of the crisis?
The genesis of the crisis is two-fold. My problem with my former boss, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and the 2015 ambition of Mr. President are the causes of the crisis. The crisis started right from my first day in office. When I resumed to the office in 2011, he introduced some strange things that are not provided for in the party’s constitution. He created the office of the Chief of Staff and others and I kicked against this development and he took offence at my action.
From then, he started running the party’s affairs with impunity and without recourse to the party’s constitution. The crisis got to the notice of Mr. President and nothing was done to it. Even when the President called both of us to a parley in Abuja, nothing meaningful was achieved. I also tried to advise Tukur as an elderly person to me but he turned deaf ears to my advice. Now Tukur ruined the PDP when he started fighting everybody. He fought the governor of his state and other Northern governors. He believed he could do everything on his own without the support of other people.
You talk about marginalisation of the South West under the present administration, what did you do as National Secretary of PDP to correct the situation?
It is not that we did not do anything about it. Despite the support we gave to President Goodluck Jonathan to in the 2011 general election, if you look at the sharing of political offices from the Mr. President to about 15th in the position of hierarchy, you cannot find a single Yoruba man there. We made representations to the President and he promised to make amend but the promise has not being fulfilled. I can say that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and I met Mr. President, not once, not twice, to present the difficulty facing us as a result of marginalisation.
The state cshapter of PDP has threatened to sanction you over your role in the factionalisation of the party. What is your reaction to this?
Well, I think a party is always guided by its constitution whenever there is an infringement. On the details of the constitution of the party, let them go ahead and apply it. One thing I know is that they will apply it more against Alhaji Bamanga Tukur than anybody in my shoe because he is somebody that rules with total disregards of our constitution. So, if anybody is thinking of sanctioning me; they will sanction Bamanga Tukur 10 times before me.
There are allegations that when you were the National Secretary of the party, you allocated more board appointments to your loyalists. Is this true?
Talking about the alleged allocation, I cannot precisely pick what you are saying but what I can say is that the allocation is done on zonal and state basis and the office of the President and Vice President supervises the submission and its execution. So, there is no specific allocation to the one you are saying.
What is your reaction to the closure of the New PDP office in Abuja?
You must have seen my decision and because that is another demonstration of impunity by those who carried out such function when we are waiting for the outcome of the elders meeting with us. I think we should do things as we are supposed to; do things with caution rather than taking actions that will aggravate the whole situation. One thing we must understand is that you cannot beg someone to become a slave and we have a choice to do whatever we wish.
What is your reaction to the huge turnout at the solidarity rally?
This is the wish of the majority. I was told that some people have been making phone calls that they should not attend to me but in view of our association and what we have done together when we were in office, people have turned them down and they are here in thousands. Maybe they have not seen what I have seen and with time, they realised that I, the son of Oyinlola, will never mislead my people.
Is your former deputy, Erelu Olusola Obada, with you; where does she belong?
I don’t know who and who are with me or not.
Are you not afraid of any possible threat to your life?
At the age of 18, I signed up my life that I want to serve this country in the air, land and sea and that oath I took for 30 years through the mercy of God that has seen me through. I am not afraid of death.