*says they will make President go for second term
The Minister of Communication and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State, Barrister Adebayo Shittu in this interview at a media parley in Ibadan bares his mind on various political and national issues. New Nigerian’s Oyo State Editor, BAYO AKAMO, was there. Excerpts:
Oyo state is privileged to have a minister of communications and chairmen of National Assembly committee on Communication related matters, sometime ago we hadcthe chairman Senate committee on ICT and Cybercrime, we ‘ve also hosted the chairman House of Reps Committee on Telecoms, Hon Saheed Akinade Fijabi and what we were able to deduce from Hon Fijabi’s claims when he came was that more would have been done for Oyo State in ICT if they have your cooperation, we want a clarification and reasons why they don’t have your cooperation?
It’s a pity I was not here when he said that, but if I was the journalist who was being told that, I would have asked him to name a specific initiative by them which I frustrated .This is not a forum for throwing brake pads, Hon Fijabi with due respect has been fighting a proxy war against me, that is the truth of it but I want to say in fairness to him that the chairman of NCC Chief Durojaye has intervened and as far as I am concerned, he is my son and his father is my friend, he is not the one person I can fight and I think he has since ceased fire.
I as the Minister, I have many initiatives which I am using my office to benefit Oyo State. I have brought into Oyo State projects already worth more than N350m ( Three hundred and fifty million naira), I have established for Oke Ogun Polytechnic an ICT worth N250M, I have also established something similar but smaller in Saki Parapo, Community Grammar School, it worth about N80 million, I have also established in about 7 secondary schools what we called knowledge centre, one is in Oolo in Ogbomoso, Sepeteri, Kishi, Oyo and Ibadan here, apart from that, the type of N250m projects in Oke Ogun Polytechnic is also being established somewhere in Samonda now, a third one will also come up from the ministry again in Ibadan, so I am conscious that opportunity comes but once and whatever I can do to benefit my state as the only Minister of the Federal government from Oyo State I must do it.
Understandingly he was talking from a sentimental point of view at any case, whenever you see him again ask him that I said he should name one specific initiative that I frustrated. In any case the relationship between the legislature and the executives when we make initiatives it is for them to approve we don’t have power to approve our own initiative, they have the power more than we do so it cannot be the truth, it was lies meant to achieve political ends and I reject that accusation.
Are you really contesing governorship election in Oyo State?
I am not a lawless person, the laws are there, there is nothing criminal or unlawful about having an ambition, and if you have anybody complaining about my ambition, you have to ask him what the problem is, is he also interested or is he fighting a proxy war? I have told you what I have done in one and a half years of being minister in terms of benefiting Oyo State, apart from those directly in the area of communication, I have also donated already built from my pocket 12 boreholes in different parts of the state. Six in Ibadan, they will be commissioned perhaps next week, three in Iseyin local government, they were commissioned last week, three in my local government Saki West, they were commissioned more than two months ago. I ask anybody who comes there to also give an account of his stewardship and I want to say again that having an ambition and of course I am not only having an ambition I am also having an ambition of Mr President to come back for a second term and there is nothing, it is constitutional, I want to assure you that it is in the interest of Oyo State that people who have had proper antecedent, proper education, proper connections, proper exposure, to be at the helm of affairs of our state.
It’s just like you have a company, you must be diligent to recruit the best hands to run your company for you otherwise the company will be run aground. The Oyo State project is also our joint company for which we must get the best hands, I want to say this with all sense of humility I have said it many times. In fact, I get pissed off when people ask me are you interested in becoming governor? I thought it should not be a matter of course that if you have had one person who became a lawyer at 26, was in the House of Assembly for four years, I was a member of the Judicial Service Commission for four years, was two times a commissioner in the state and now a minister.
Not only just a minister but Minister of Communication which is the next and the most enabling subject matter to the transformation of every country which has developed and you have such person coming from Oyo State. I think it is in the interest of all of us to see that somebody like me become governor. By the grace of God, I will be, I have said this many times.
Can you clarify the statement where you said you don’t just have ambition but also for Mr President to come back as what?
I said I have an ambition for him to be president
Meaning that you are saying automatically that the President would have second term?
We would get him to re-contest
What is your relationship with the lawmakers from Oyo state at the National Assembly, don’t you think Oyo state need much more than what is on ground now?
With all humility I say this and people know me, I don’t start fights but I don’t run away from any fight. If I extend a hand of fellowship to you, and you are combative against me, of course I wont turn the other cheek, but I am not a violent person, I fight with my brain which God has graciously given to me. So I don’t have any problem with anybody in the house and I cannot guarantee he is not having any problem with me and I think the problem is about ija Ilara as Yoruba would say.
Since we have a confirmation already when you become governor, what will you do differently?
I will do everything differently, in tandem with what Chief Awolowo did, because of all aspirants for governorship in Oyo State today and I want to believe that we must be around 20 , I am the only one who has had direct training at the political feat of late Chief Obafemi Awololwo while alive, the greatest politician that ever lived in Nigeria. I sat with him, we formulated policies together, policies about free education, free, health services, policies about employment for all and polices about integrated infrastructural and rural development I have all of this in my brain and I assure the people of this state that my regime will be refreshingly different from every other government that has ever happened,
I am not kidding, for me if I had started politics at age 26 and I am now 64 and consistently, I have been in politics, nobody has such credentials. For me politics is the most important business, anybody can do because it is through politics that you can impact the greatest value into the life of the people so for me I am waiting for the appropriate time when I will formally declare and introduce my manifesto. If you have been following me, in 2011, I had the best manifesto at that time but people preferred the sentiments of more established parties at that time people do tell me, you have a good programme but this is not your time, but now nobody is saying that.
But some people are still talking about your religious affiliation, that it’s not Oke Ogun’s turn.
Lets be specific because we are communicating with people of Oyo State and people of Nigeria. I want to know the specific allegation.
At the just concluded youth summit in Iseyin something happened and it was reported that Aseyin said people should not vote for fanatics, stingy and useless politicians and at the end of the day you replied him. For traditional ruler in Oke Ogun, to be saying such against you, what is your relationship with other traditional rulers in the state because an aspirant mentioned some gatekeepers including traditional rulers and you are not on the same page with one of them?
Let me start from the so called allegation, everybody will say Shiitu is too religious and some say he is a fanatic. If you ask them to define what a fanatic is, they are shallow. I think that because God has helped me to do things right, to live a righteous and not to be wayward like other people who accuse me, they say I am a fanatic. I am a fanatic because I won’t drink, because I won’t womanize, because I won’t steal public money, because I won’t do so many of the social mischief and I tell them like we have criminal law which says to do things right, to want to leave a righteous live, to not to be wayward like other people who accuse me, they say I am a fanatic. If we have a law which says you should not steal, even the Bible says thou shall not steal. If you have somebody complying with that, how does that become a crime to be leveled against such person?
If other people are doing all the rot that they do and I don’t do it, why should anybody have any headache about that? It is the sense of criminality in a lot of people when they don’t see you joining the majority to do evil, they give you a bad name in other to hang you and I want to believe that in the past people have had leaders who have not been righteous, who have not been religious who have not been God fearing and we have seen the consequences. Let us try a godly man for a change and see what will happen.
About the outburst of Aseyin of Iseyin, the Yoruba say, if you see somebody say enikalahun, e yaa ma pe olokanjua lohun naa (greedy), The poor people in Oyo State know that I am not stingy and I try as much as possible within my means. I am not a PDP minister who has all the money at their disposal to spend corruptly and otherwise. I am a minister under Buhari it means that my life is patterned along with that of Buhari, that of honesty, incorruptibility and so on, what you don’t have, you don’t give. My salary a month is less than a million naira, there is no day I will come to weekend in Ibadan that I will not have more than 90 per cent of people who are looking for financial assistant. How much will I be able to give legitimately to be able to satisfy everybody?
And if hundred people come to you for assistant and you are able to satisfy 95 of them those five you are not able to satisfy would say you are stingy, they won’t contest the fact that you have done even more than the average of what anybody is supposed to do. I want to assure you that ever since Aseyin’s outburst which I want to believe is a minority outburst, more important traditional rulers in Oyo State have been calling to support me.
I am saying this on my honour as a Muslim. A lot of important people have been calling me to ignore Aseyin, and his outburst. I don’t owe him any money, if he claims that other people have been ministers and have been giving them money, that is their own business. It is not obligatory on me when its not about paying a debt or commitment or obligation, it is not obligatory, I am happy that he did that and I am happy that the people of Oke Ogun loved me, I have been part of them since 1978 and they love me and they know that I am the best thing that will happen to them politically.
Shortly after 2011 election which you lost to Governor Ajimobi after which you started to pick some holes in his style of administration. Since that time you have sustained your criticism some people say you are doing this to rise to fame or to win public sympathy, do you consider your criticism as substance or mere political?
If you want to be sincere to you own conscience, I will pick up a few things before the contest of 2011 when Ajimobi first contested under ANPP, I was the Attorney General of Oyo State then, it was Ladoja who gave him all the support including announcing to all his supporters to vote for Ajimobi and that was what made Governor Ajimobi to get all that he got at that time because by then he was little known and you recall that PDP was believed to have rigged that election. It was whom Ladoja called to say go and set up a legal team to argue Ajimobi’s case at the tribunal and I have the honour of recruiting Niyi Akintola and other lawyers for that case. We paid N20 million for that case, for every single day that the case came up at the tribunal or at the court of appeal I was physically and personally present with Niyi Akintola and others to give them support, so my relationship with Ajimobi didn’t start in 2011, it started in 2007 and with what I had done you would appreciate that we didn’t start to be enemies. The problem I think started in 2011 when I wanted to contest under the platform of CPC and he under the platform of AC N after that election when he won, I physically and personally visited him in his house, that day Aregbesola also came to visit him, at least if I was his enemy or envious of his election, I wouldn’t have visited him.
The problem started when the merger was coming into force, after the merger one of the requirements was that in composing executives of the party at all levels, ACN and CPC should form the executive members of the party, that was where it started because he disallowed us in CPC to have people in the executive apparently because he felt that if I had a foot hold in APC and from my body language which shows that I am still interested in the race, in 2015 I might pose a problem so he manipulated us out of the executives and I had to challenge him. I thought of going to court to get things right before the late Ocholi, former Minister came to reconcile us and pleaded with me that since proper congress would soon be done I should leave things as they were and I conceded. Then 2015 was coming and I was still telling people that I will contest and congresses came and again manipulation continued. It was that manipulation which was geared towards ensuring that I am not in a strong position to contest primaries for 2015, that led me to take the matter to the Federal High Court and I know that but eventually I was appointed as the Federal Minister, the case would have run its full course, and I was convinced that his nomination would have been thrown out that is one aspect.
So how he feels towards me not letting me go, trying to fight for a right you can imagine it, on the said criticism, how will you feel if you were in my shoes?Leader of one legacy party which formed APC, for our party to be holding APC elders forum and for me to be excluded, how will you feel? How will you feel if you see a lot of things been done to decapitate you politically, because somebody does not want competition? The so called criticism which was pronounced was with regards to local government election.
You recall that the parties where making arrangements for local government elections and you recall also that those interested should obtain forms fill them for the purpose of primaries, after people have paid to collect forms , the leaders and people of the parties said there won’t be primaries. He was working towards getting people who would nominate people to contest elections and I had to oppose it. Won’t you be surprised if you are in my shoes, and you find that peoples right is about to be trampled upon? You collect form and some people are trying to say Egbe ni o yannyan (Party will choose) is that in the constitution of our party? So my criticism has been very constructive.
To start with, it is not moral for a governor to control not only the state government, but also the 33 local government areas because money comes from the federation accounts to the state. Money also comes from the Federation account to the 33 local government and somebody stands as gate keeper and decides how much goes to each local government because they refuse to conduct local government election. If he chooses to run the place with caretaker, that means local governments are neither local nor government they are not local because the local people did not participate in selecting people who govern them and they are not government because this so called local government are apron strings of the state executive. He dictates who they are, how long they stay in office, how much they have, even the contract they can award. That cannot be the right way for progressive party like APC to run government, so it is a risk on me that when all others are complacent, my own conscience would not allow me to keep quiet because we are in the same party. I won’t do that! It is in that spirit that I want you to see my so called critics, it is to make things better, because if we claim that PDP was running the party with impunity why should we be doing the same thing?
When gold is getting rust what will the other metals be doing? I want to assure you that by the grace of God, if I become governor in hundred days, local government election will be done in a free and fair atmosphere so that there would be competition among councils so that chairmen of local government will also be competitive in the way they run local governments areas. For us to be in power for six years without local government election, how will you justify that?
Some people are of the opinion that you rely so much on the federal might that is why you don’t fraternize much with local politicians for the coming election.
Which Federal might? Which election?
No, that that is why I am the only aspirant talking of primary elections. Which other aspirant is talking of primary election? I was not a minister when I took the party and the governor to court, I was not a minister! Please check your records of all the aspirants. All other aspirants are relying on Governor Ajimobi to back them to be the candidate. I am the only one talking about primaries because I know that in primary elections you have meritorious selection process so nobody can say I relied on federal might. So if tomorrow I am dropped as a minister, will I drop the ambition to become governor? Of course not. I have my day in the government, I am still having it, if I leave the cabinet tomorrow, I will say Alhamudulilahi and I will concentrate.
What is your relationship with the executives and leaders of APC in Oyo State?
I don’t have problems with any of them, they know that I am the one liberating them.
APC government claims to be progressives and they always pattern their programs and policies as Awolowo planned it and its on record that when Awolowo was in government the budget was also more than 30 per cent today in Oyo State, it is not so, do you think the government of APC in Oyo state is truely progressives!
I want to remind you of the fact that APC is of various backgrounds and so on, and if you have a father who has 10 children of the same mother and if you give each of them at the same time N100,000,00 each , in three months if you invite them to come and give account of the money will the account of all of them be the same, its not possible. One would have multiplied the money by doing good business, some would have kept the money because they don’t have idea of what to do with it and they don’t want it to get lost, some will try their luck and get into the hands of 419, some will also do business and lose. You have also to look at it that different people would do things differently. The APC is a platform for people to contest elections when they get there they realize that they do have their own ideas I have said it to you that the privilege that I had most other people don’t have it in fact there is no other active politician in Oyo State who has had the privilege of training under chief Awolowo which I had, living now. Hardly anybody. You can deduce that the party’s ideas can be seen or deducted from the manifesto and the constitution of the party but the essence of the application varies from one member to the other.
For instance, when It comes to education, my plan when I become governor by the grace of God is to spend 40 per cent on education and to re-orientate other things we are doing which are not priority and yet we spend too much on them. A lot of governance spending are hardly relevant to the everyday living of the citizens in many states, I will do things differently.
How will you assess Governor Ajimobi’s six years of administration in Oyo State?
I think it will be unfair to expect me to do this because there is no assessment that I will give that I will be seen as been altruistic, you are a journalist, you are living in Oyo State you must be able to do that because people read from you.
Is there any basis for comparison between Awolowo and the present crop of political leaders?
My response to the question about different people looking at things differently will also apply. What is important is Awolowo has been the greatest political leader in Nigeria. He was not only the political leader, but he was also an intellectual, a type of philosophy king. I think the greatest undoing for Nigeria is because Awolowo was never the president because if he had been president at that time, By now Nigeria would be ranking in the list of Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia and so on.
I am happy that today we have our president, General Buhari who is trying to lay a solid moral foundation for the subsequent development of Nigeria because when the moral foundation is wrong every other thing cannot stand, it collapses. Over the last 30-40 years Nigeria has had invasions of very corrupt leaders who have compromised the best interest of the people of this country and who had only been obsessed with acquiring selfish material gains to the detriment of the people and that is why over the years you never see anybody talking about free education again.
It is free education that made the Yorubas leaders in this country. Leaders in the legal, accountant and other professions. So why should we abandon it. Today we still have so many children roaming the streets hawking pure water, If I didn’t have education, I won’t be here before you so we must make every child of Oyo State have assess to the best education. You see a lot of people when you talk to them you see the potentials of being a professor in them but the opportunities have been lost. I have been talking to our people to demand from those who come to seek for their votes, demand not money but what are the specific things they will do when they get to office a lot of people are in this profession without mission, if they have any mission, the only mission is to have money and become big men and when they have the money, they are become scared of people that are superior to them intellectually, experience and exposure and that is why you have all this complains going on all over the place.
I want to appeal to you journalists to start asking questions give us tasks let people tell us concrete things they want to do. If somebody tells you he will do ABC and he lied about it four years would soon come and then you will be able to confront him with the same promise but when the journalists be like every other person, the society will be in trouble, because you are in the best position to ask questions and anybody who fails, you let the public know that such person is a liar.