Akintola: No zoning in Oyo APC
Legal luminary Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) is an All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in Oyo State. The former Deputy Speaker of House of the Assembly spoke with LEKE SALAUDEEN on his chances at the primary, his programmes, zoning and other partisan issues.
What prompted you to join politics in the aborted Third Republic?
My foray into politics was not by accident; it was designed. I started playing politics right from my university days. Since then, I have been showing interest in developments in my state. I was the General Secretary, Federation of Ibadan Students Union. The President of the University of Ibadan Students Union at that time, Mr Bola Longe, was my room-mate. The person who succeeded him was my friend. We were very close to the late Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige. We were referred to as Bola Ige boys. We are also fans of the former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope (a.k.a Ebino Topsy). I was instrumental to the creation of my local government (Ido Local Government from Akinyele LG). In 1992, I contested and won a seat in the Oyo State House of Assembly. I later became the Deputy Speaker of the House.
Why are you back in politics?
I have always been in politics. At the time when the late Gen. Sani Abacha turned the country upside down, I was a member of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the pressure group that spearheaded the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, which was annulled by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime. The Ige boys in NADECO included Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Prof. Tola Atimo, Dr Yemi Farounbi and the late Ondo State Governor Dr Olusegun Agagu. In 1998, we held a pan-Yoruba Congress in Ibadan. That was the peak of NADECO activities. It was there that the Yoruba nation decided to participate in Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition programme. The congress was well attended by the royal fathers, intelligentsias, professionals and opinion leaders. Before then, most of our leaders, such as Ige and Chief Lamidi Adedibu, were in detention. Some human rights activists like Comrades Awosede, Moshood Erubami. Dave Ajetunmobi and I organised anti-Abacha rallies.
With that the Yoruba people became united for a purpose. The congress mandated Chief Ige to liaise with people of like minds across the country to form a formidable political party. This led to the formation of the G-21 headed by the former Vice President, the late Dr Alex Ekwueme. Notable members included Malam Adamu Ciroma, Ige, Solomon Lar and Bola Tinubu. The G-21 transformed into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP constitution was drafted by Ige. He co-opted me, Mrs Kofo Akerele-Bucknor, Prof. Adeniran, Prof. Atimo and Dr Agagu, to assist him in drafting the constitution.
When the PDP was hijacked by the conservatives, the Southwest leaders pulled out to form another party. We moved to the All Peoples Party (APP). When we saw Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and others on the high table, Ige said we can’t stay here; we pulled out again. This was three days before the close of submission form for the registration of political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Our leaders resolved to float a new party named Alliance for Democracy (AD). We had to beat the INEC deadline. That was why the PDP and AD constitution were the same. All we changed in the PDP constitution were the nomenclatures.
Who is your political hero?
I have two of them: the late Chief Bola Ige and lately, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Both of them studied Chief Awolowo in and out. Tinubu is a talent hunted politician. He appreciates talent when he sees one. In 2000, Tinubu invited me for a meeting, through his Chief of Staff, Babatunde Fashola (SAN). Tinubu told me at the meeting that he wanted me to continue what I was doing under Ige. That was how I was recruited into his think-tank team and that was how I became Tinubu’s boy. I am yet to see another talent hunter like him. The rest are feudalists. Ige and Tinubu are true disciples of Awo.
The take-over of the Southwest by the progressives was planned by him. I will never forget Tinubu. God used him twice to save my life. He started with the case of one Dr Akintaro who won the Ibarapa East Local Government chairmanship on the platform of the Action Congress (AC), but the Oyo State Governor then, Chief Rashidi Ladoja of the PDP refused to swear-in Akintaro. The case went up to the Supreme Court and Akintaro won and he was eventually sworn-in as council chairman. It was in the process of handling that case that I collapsed in court. It was Tinubu that took care of me.
When Ladoja was impeached, I handled his case; his impeachment was nullified by Justice Bolaji Yusuf. After the judgment Tinubu called me and asked me to leave Ibadan immediately. On my relocation to Lagos, Tinubu paid my hotel bills for 14 months. Ibadan was no longer safe for me to stay. That was how Tinubu influenced my relocation to Lagos as a lawyer. I returned to Ibadan in 2011, after the victory of Governor Ajimobi. When Tinubu gives you assignment, he will give you all the support to make you achieve. That is why people like me passionately and fanatically believe in his leadership.
What are your chances in Oyo APC governorship primary?
I don’t count my chickens until they hatch. I have a good chance. Every aspirant is qualified. All of us are indigenes of Oyo State; we are all good; the more the merrier. If it were to be the era of Ige and Pa Abraham Adesanya, everyone would have known his limitation. That time there was party discipline, respect for elders. This kind of proliferation of aspirants would have not been allowed. In 1992, Lam Adesina emerged as Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate unopposed, because he was the most experienced. Well, it is the constitutional right of every indigene of the state to aspire for the office of governor.
Do you subscribe to zoning of the governorship in Oyo State?
The word zoning is meant for cultural and social illiterates. Who are the indigenes of Oyo? The Oyos are one. It is the antics of those who cannot compete; those who have siege mentality that are clamouring for zoning. Anyone playing religious or ethnic card must be suffering from inferiority complex.
The Oyo people are one, irrespective of towns or location. Oyo starts from Ota in Ogun State to Offa in Kwara State. I am an indigene of Ibadan, but my progenitor Ibikunle was from Ogbomoso. I am sixth generation of Ibikunle. I speak as an Oyo man, I am Oyo proper. We have had six Olubadans who were from Ogbomoso; they include Oba Salau Amminu and Oba Oyetunde. The father of the present Olubadan was from Igbeti. Oba Ali Iwo hailed from Iwo. In fact, three quarters of people in Iwo have family compound in Ibadan. Today, Iwo is in Osun State. The former President of Central Council of Ibadan Indegenes (CCII), Chief Bayo Oyero, comes from Iragberi, in Osun State. Former Governor Kolapo Ishola was from Ede. The grandfather of incumbent Governor Abiola Ajimobi was from Iseyin in Oke-Ogun. Are you aware that the late MKO Abiola was from Ojoo in Ibadan? His grandfather was Balogun Ojoo. That was why he was made Bashorun of Ibadanland. The famous Arulogun family are from Offa. A former Commissioner of Works, Bolaji Kareem, is from Isale-Osi in Ibadan, but his grandfather migrated to Iseyin.
What is your programme for the people of Oyo State?
I don’t want to let out the cat from the bag. I have my job well cut out for me. I am an Ige, Tinubu and Ajimobi boy. I have been part of the system. Lagos State has set the template for us in the Southwest. All of us are keying into it. I have other things to add, but the foundation had been laid for us by the Lagos State. Tinubu is the founder of modern Yoruba development. From the word go, Asiwaju has laid the foundation for the development of the Southwest. The foundation of human and infrastructural development was laid by Tinubu. The developmental plan of Asiwaju Tinubu which he put in a blueprint since 1999 are vividly captured in the working document of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN). If DAWN is allowed to actualise its aims and objectives, the Southwest in the next 25 years will become an Asian Tiger in Nigeria. I have been part and parcel of the above development plan from the word go. I won’t be a governor that will not know what to do. I am happy to have come across Ige and Tinubu and to have drank from their fountain of knowledge. Today, Southwest is the most stable, peaceful, pragmatic and economically-developed in the country. People are migrating to Southwest at geometric rate.
On no account should the people of the Southwest allow conservatives and reactionaries to take-over power in the region. The worst of a progressive government is better than the best, most benevolent conservative and reactionary government. We have seen the result of continuity in Lagos and we are all benefitting from it. We should allow it to continue in other Southwest states.
Today, look at Lekki/Epe/Badagry axis of Lagos State, the developmental efforts are so phenomenal that one will think that the projects were carried out by the Federal Government. They are the handiwork of Tinubu, Fashola and Ambode. We can’t afford to break the chain. Continuity should be replicated in other Southwest states, so that the efforts of DAWN will be beneficial to all of us. We must give Tinubu boys the chance to be in charge for at least 50 years.
How would you assess Ajimobi’s tenure?
His performance in office has been fantastic. Before the advent of Ajimobi, we had government of illiterates by the illiterates, for the enlightened. It was rather unfortunate that the Pacesetter State could degenerate to a lawless state. In a day, 13 medical students were mowed down. Thugs were in charge of Oyo State before Ajimobi came. I don’t know the magic wand he used to restore peace, law and order in the state. Peace is the flagship of his achievements.
Ajimobi has attracted 153 industries from China; 32 are completed and functional. He introduced welfare scheme for students and civil servants; free transport from all locations. The Ajumose bus service has been on since he assumed office. He has constructed many roads within and outside the state capital, such as UI–Secretariat by Jemibewon Road; dualised Yemetu-Bere Road; Toll gate-Challenge road dualised; Onireke-Magazine road; Dugbe-Magazine-Eleyele road; Eleyele-Eruwa road; Koso (Iseyin)–Okeho junction; Federal Government College-Taake–Palace-Ejigbo round about in Ogbomoso under construction.; Olivet-Isokun road in Oyo town has been dualised; Poly-Sabo road in Saki under construction.
If you see anybody criticising or castigating him for his style of governance, you should take a look at the person, he could have been a beneficiary of “ Amala politics of Molete”. Ajimobi has taste and class. He is gold. That is why those of us who want to succeed him must be platinum.