I am sad about politics in Nigeria, says Koleosho at 80
Chief Michael Adeniyi Koleosho, former Secretary to Oyo State Government and former National Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), is 80 years old today. In this interview with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU, he speaks about his past, present and expectations, among other issues. Excerpts.
How do you feel at 80?
I feel so good. I feel so well. I feel so fine. I feel so happy. I am so elated. I am full of thanks to God Almighty who has made this a reality.
After 80 years, are you fulfilled?
I have seen the good times, I have seen the bad times. But I thank God that I have seen more good times than bad times. God has helped me a great deal. I can say with all emphasis that God has been good. In 1976, when I contested the councillorship election, it was not my wish, it was people who insisted that I should contest. For the three years I was a councillor, I did not take any salary or allowance. The money was used to build a maternity for my people and to embark on developmental projects in the area I represented. I could do that because by that time I was very okay. Ever since that time I have been up, getting better and going higher.
God has been so gracious to me. I can’t remember being in a hospital in the past 50 years, except when I go for medical checkups. I still drive myself around Ibadan. If my driver is not around, I drive myself. I can read without the aid of glasses. When people say the elderly should not take certain things, I just laugh; if my tea does not have plenty of sugar, I won’t take it. It is God’s grace, and I thank Him for it.
Sincerely, I never thought I would live to see my 60th birthday because of the lifestyle I adopted at a point in my life. But here I am now at 80. To God be the glory.
So, I feel fulfilled. As a parent, I feel fulfilled. My children are doing very well. As a politician, I feel fulfilled. God has helped me greatly in politics. As a public servant, I feel fulfilled; God has helped me to set some benchmarks in public service. As a businessman, I feel fulfilled. So, I am a much fulfilled man.
Now that you are 80, what are your expectations?
My expectations are for Nigeria, not even for myself. I am looking forward to a Nigeria that will be able to accommodate its citizens. I am looking forward to a situation in which Nigeria will be so good that Nigerians will not have to travel abroad in search of a greener pasture. I have expectations of a Nigeria where the citizens will be able to live in peace. I want a situation in which Nigerians will not be killed like chickens. These are my expectations for Nigeria.
For myself, I am optimistic that God will spare my life for more years. Having helped me so far, I believe He will help me further to do more good works. Just recently, I was ruminating after a friend called me from the United States. The friend, who was present at my 70th birthday celebration, said, “Mike, so, it’s 10 years already that we celebrated your 70th? I said yes. So, my expectation is that God will spare my life to celebrate my 90th.
As an indigene of Oke-Ogun, who has contributed greatly to the development of the area, are you satisfied with the state of development in the zone?
No, I am not satisfied. I want to take Saki as an example. Saki is developing, but there is no planning, people just build anyhow and that is not the way it should be. Looking back, even the little we were able to contribute to the development of the area is being bastardised. This does not make one happy.
If you go to Oke-Ogun today, there are 10 local government areas in Oke-Ogun, but there is nothing to point to as what the government is doing for the whole area. In the past when ONADEP (now OYSADEP) was brought to Saki, it was a masterpiece. The place could be compared with its type anywhere in the world. But today, it is a ghost of itself. They have ruined the place completely. You can’t even see the impact of government in the place. We should cultivate the culture of building on legacies, not destroying legacies. That place should not have been neglected, especially when there are no new ones to replace it. Even if there is money to do new ones, should the existing ones be ruined?
The technical college in Saki has been there for more than 30 years. I can say with all emphasis that it was only when I was in government that anything was done in that college. Up till today, the buildings in that college are not roofed. Also, there is a stadium in Saki which was started during the administration of Governor Lam Adesina. The stadium is just as it was left during Adesina’s tenure. It is very sad. I can continue to count. There is nothing in the whole 10 local governments which could be counted as achievement by the government. So, I don’t see any development in Oke-Ogun. That is the way I see it; others may see it differently, but that is the way I see it. There is no government presence in Oke-Ogun. I don’t know our offence, I don’t know what we have done to the government to deserve that.
However, it is my belief that people treat you as you present yourself to them. It is the way we present ourselves to various governments that made them to treat us as they do. I hope a better time will come.
But the current administration in the state has dualised the Iseyin township road and is also constructing a new road in Saki. Don’t those ones count in your reckoning?
To me, I don’t see anything to rejoice about in the dualisation of a stretch of road in Iseyin and Saki. Having been in government in the past, I know that dualisation of roads is not our priority in Oke-Ogun. I don’t know how much was expended on the dualisation of Iseyin road, but I am very sure if the money used on the dualisation had been used to fix the roads within Iseyin township, it would have had a better effect. Same thing in Saki. But if that is the government’s priority, I can’t query them, but I know that it would have been better to use that money to do all the feeder roads within the township to make the town more beautiful.
Do you think the situation in Oke-Ogun would be better if one of their own should become the governor?
It depends. Being an indigene does not mean that the person will do what is right. It is good for an Oke-Ogun indigene to become Oyo State governor. I believe sincerely within me that Oke-Ogun area will not be given proper attention until an indigene of the area becomes the governor of the state, but we need to quantify it. An Oke-Ogun indigene that is reasonable, forthright and focused that is the type of person that can become the state governor and Oke-Ogun will feel the impact. I might be wrong but that is the way I see it.
Is it feasible for an Oke-Ogun indigene to become governor in Oyo State?
Yes, it is feasible. However, it depends on Oke-Ogun people themselves. If everyone of us in Oke-Ogun sits down and takes a decision that any of our sons and daughters who emerges as a governorship candidate in any of the parties should be voted for by Oke-Ogun indigenes and we all do, with the sympathy other zones have for Oke-Ogun, then Oke-Ogun can produce the governor. But the hard question is, can all Oke-Ogun indigenes vote for an Oke-Ogun governorship candidate? You would be surprised at what some people would say. But I am still very hopeful that something good will come out of it. People have been clamouring for it, and I hope that it will happen soon.
God used you and the late Alhaji Lam Adesina to bring the current governor of Oyo State into office. But along the line, there was a disagreement between you and the governor. What really happened?
No, I do not have any disagreement with the governor. I don’t have anything against the governor and I am sure he does not have anything against me. But don’t forget that it is not everyone you do good to that will reciprocate with good. It is not every time that you do something good to somebody that the person will repay you with good. But that notwithstanding, there is no big deal in helping someone to get to a position. But don’t forget that there was no agreement between us that ‘If you become governor of the state, you will do this and this for me.’ There was no such agreement.
Is it because Lam Adesina is no longer around that you and the governor went your different ways?
Who told you we went our different ways?
It is obvious. You are no longer together as you were initially.
How? Is it politically?
I am not talking about political party now. He saw you as a father then…
That was then but not now. Well I don’t know but I what I know is that I have nothing against the governor.
It is believed that the difference between you and the governor has its root in the poor state of development in Oke-Ogun area of the state…
Who am I to question the governor over his doings and activities? But I have said it times without number that it is not everybody that you do good to that will repay you with good.
How do you see politics in Nigeria?
I am so sad about what is happening in politics today because the way things are going now cannot make anyone happy. Almost on a daily basis now you hear of people being killed. It has never been this bad in Nigeria. If they say it is politics, what type of politics is that? People say there is no smoke without fire. It means there is something underneath that is causing this. If you look at various states today, there is hardly one that is okay. Look at the parties; look at PDP, look at APC, which one of them really is sound? People are talking about restructuring; even with restructuring, if we cannot accommodate one another, we are still going to have problems.
The major problem in this country is selfishness. If it were the relations of the leaders that are being killed day and night, there would have been a solution to the problem. They wouldn’t have folded their arms. But the tragedy is that we the masses too do not know where we are going. If those who are masterminding the killings as well as those who are in the position to check the killings should go on a visit to the states where people are being killed today, they will still be given red carpet reception. Can you imagine that? I do not know whether it is the level of illiteracy or greed that caused this.
What is the way forward, having been in politics for over 40 years?
A few days ago, some people came to my house in Ibadan. They cut across all the major parties; APC, PDP, Accord, Labour, SDP etc. I told them pointblank that I do not belong to any political party but I would welcome anyone who comes to me for counsel or guidance. But I shocked them when I asked them if they knew what they were doing. My reason is simple. If you listen to these people talk, you will know that they are pained by the turn of things in the state and the country. But the question is, are they willing to do anything to change the way things are?
The slogan during the last governorship election in Ondo State is “Dibo ki o s’ebe.” Meaning vote and get money for food. It has gone to that hopeless level. I have said it repeatedly, until we people do something about our lust for money, we won’t have a strong polity.
Sometime ago, we advised the leadership of APC that it would not be good for the governors to be regarded as the party leader in the state, but it did not go down well with them. See what is happening today. The governors do not have anyone to caution them, they do not have anyone to call them to order. The governors have practically become emperors. This has been negatively affecting both party management and state governance.
We have to do away with love for money and self-centeredness. Without changing our way, we cannot move forward. My prayer is that God will direct our leaders to lead us aright.
What advice do you have for young Nigerians?
The first one is that they should be honest. Young Nigerians should embrace honesty at all times and refrain from telling lies or engaging in dishonesty. The Bible says that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Then, young Nigerians should be focused; it is very difficult to make any significant progress in life without being focused.
They should also be forthright. Those who are in politics should not see politics as a means of livelihood. Before anyone should go into politics, such person should have solid means of livelihood. That will save the person from the desperation which results in engaging in acts that one would be shameful of later. If you know that you do not need politics to feed yourself or meet your basic needs, you will be emboldened to say ‘no’ to certain things. I see politics as a hobby. Anyone who takes politics as a business is not likely to end up well.
So, I advise them to be sincere, passionate and committed to the improvement of this country. They should strive to contribute their own quota to the development of the country. If each of us does what we ought to do, Nigeria will be as great as those other countries that our youths always flee to. They should aspire to make Nigeria better.
What are your regrets?
I have no regret. If there is anything I will refer to as my regret, it is the situation of this country. But as a person, I do not have any regret. If any bad thing had happened to me in the past, God has compensated me with something that is 20 times more than what happened. So, personally, I have no regret.