A former Senior Special Assistant on Political Matters to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Gbolade Oshinowo, in this interview with FEMI OGBONNIKAN, spoke on some of the trending political developments in Ogun State. Excerpts:
What is 2019 Ijebu Agenda all about?
Well, I don’t want to call it, ‘Ijebu Agenda’ because the term, Agenda connotes some sinister motives. But I think I know what you are talking about, because you would not be the first person to mention it to me. What has happened in the context of the 2019 is that, as you know, elections are due in 2019 but people are jockeying for who would take the position. Ordinarily, as an older politician, I would just wait and allow things to sort themselves out.
But I have found that I have been drawn into the fray by certain misconceptions, which are prevalent, largely, serialising around the view that it is the turn of the Yewa people to produce a governor. And some of our most respected politicians have trumpeted this position that the Yewas have never been governor in the 40 years of Ogun State’s existence and therefore, they should be given first consideration. I have nothing against that, but while I was taken aback was may be, the corollary, and are therefore, the Ijebu should not be allowed to participate and this was becoming an official position of the APC.
I was alarm-faced because, as a leader of the APC in this senatorial district in Ogun East, it has given an unnecessary advantage to the PDP, our opponent. If you look at the results of the last circle of elections around here, the PDP had an upper hand. They won the senatorial ticket. They won more of the House of Representatives offices and more of the States House of Assembly seats. So, already we are at a disadvantage. If two years to the next elections, you are now saying that, Ijebus can’t aspire to be governor and the PDP said they have zoned it to Ogun East, and this, we as leaders of the APC, our positions are untenable in Ogun East and I thought.
You cannot play politics like that, because it would put us at a disadvantage. And therefore, we wanted to find a way of asking the party leadership to moderate its position. Secondly, when I looked at the history of Ogun State and the evolution of the power dynamics in Ogun State, I found out, on a vantage position, that we have been very active participants since 1976, when the state was created. And the burden of history is staring all of us in the face. Ogun State is a creation of modern governance apparatus.
Does Ijebu Agenda really exist?
Well, I don’t know. Perception, they say, is reality. So, if you are talking about it, and people are talking about it, well, may be, you can see there is a phenomenon of which we used to call ‘Ijebu Agenda’. For me, what I see is a movement to try and prevent marginalisation of the Ijebus.
Are you worried that if care is not taken, APC might lose the 2019 governorship on account of not zoning to Ogun East?
I didn’t put it the way you have put it. What I am saying is that, Ogun East is already a stronghold of the PDP. Most of us in APC are in a battle ground situation here. And now, to alienate the Ijebus further by zoning the governorship out of their area, by not allowing them to participate makes the position of the leaders of APC in Ogun East very difficult, virtually untenable.
Recently, some Ijebu leaders sought audience with Governor Ibikunle Amosun to enable him have a rethink over the blanket ban placed on Ogun East producing governorship aspirants, come 2019. Were you part of the delegation?
Yes! I was part of the delegation?
What was the outcome of the parley?
Well, I think, it was a privileged meeting with the governor. We expressed our views. It was a very fine discussion of exchanges on both sides. And the dialogue, I believe is continuing.
You are insisting that the governorship ticket should not be zoned to Ogun West and rather, the Ogun East should also be allowed to join the fray. Are you taking it from the angle of the old dichotomy of the defunct divisions and whereas the country is operating 1999 constitution which recognises three senatorial districts per state? Isn’t unfair to now want to look at the next Ogun State governorship contest from the old four divisions?
You see, to say, that the old divisional arrangement has become obsolete is not true. In the traditional rulers’ council, the leadership is still rotated on a divisional basis. Have you ever heard what is used to call Remo, Ijebu, Yewa and Egba (RIYE)? It is done on that divisional basis.
But RIYE is not in the 1999 Constitution and instead, we have three senatorial districts per state?
What we are talking about is politics. Politics has to do with core values of the people. The 1999 Constitution is terribly flawed and that is why everybody is up in hands now, saying it has to be amended. It has to be restructured. Now, a constitution is an arrangement by people that would guide them. It is not written in stone. It is something, that is a work-in-progress, and that is why we have constitutional amendments. What I am saying is that, at least, we, the Ijebus, have been in existence before Nigeria. We have been in existence before any of the constitutions.
Nigeria has experimented about 10 or 11 constitutions now. We would continue to be in existence. And what we call the 1999 constitution is a transient arrangement. But even since 1999, certain things that are not in the constitution have remained and have become very, very important to the people.
Who is to blame for the problem of the Yewa people not to have produced a governor?
Okay, let us examine the fact. Four divisions, three have had it. On the fourth occasion, where the fourth would have had it, what happened? It was not the main beneficiary of the deprivation of the Yewas, it was not the Ijebus. And if that thing continues, may God help us, because the slogan has always been, Yewa l’okan, Egba l’oma se, (meaning it is the turn of the Yewa people but the Egbas would walk their way through to government). And we have been looking, what is the meaning of this? And to our surprise, it happened. And when we examined the minutes, the details of what happened, how did the two Yewa candidates emerge in 2011? Did it tally? Did it bear scrutiny? If you look at it closely, you could draw your inferences.
Have you had governorship aspirants of Ogun East extraction emerging, ahead of the 2019 contest?
Are you talking from the PDP point of view or APC?
Yes! But in the APC situation, it is difficult because of this so-called ban on aspirants from Ogun East district, because when a governor says, no Ogun East candidate must come out and you know, the governor is the leader of the party. And that must act as a disincentive to such aspiration. So, one of the requests we placed before his Excellency is, let the powers-that-be, let the leadership of the party, maintain a level-playing field. Let them give effects to the constitutional rights of every member to participate. As far as the ban is lifted today, aspirants would emerge. We have seen people who have shown the ambition to serve. We need people, who we feel are very qualified and who we want to draft into the race, whether they want to serve or not.
Recently, Chief Olusegun Osoba, a leader of the APC, about a week ago said the APC has not zoned the governorship seat to any district. Isn’t this a leeway or a relief for aspirants from other districts to now come out and slug it out during the contest?
Chief Osoba’s statement gives a lot of comfort to us in Ogun East, but is that an official position? Yes, I am happy that he said so. The state chairman and the National Treasurer, I think, Alhaji Tajudeen Bello, visited Ijebu last week and he also said something like that, but what we are asking, is this official? Because Chief Osoba, even if he is the governor, we can take it to the bank but now, he is a leader of the party. And I have read the counter statement from the official side that “is Osoba still in APC? Has he not gone to SDP? Has he come back”?
Politics can be murky and we know ourselves, and we know Nigerians. So, if that is the official position, then, I welcome it. I am also told that, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who I have the greatest respect for also said that, while he supports Ogun West candidacy, and he has told the governor that Ogun East can’t be disqualified from contesting the governor. Yes, if he said so, very good and that is the kind of things that we expect from leaders to say.
But what is the official position? The governor has stated it, and I was an eyewitness to it on two different occasions. On one occasion, he did say that, though he would not support Ogun East but they are free to run. But in another occasion, he moderated that and said their candidates should not be allowed by the party leadership, and that has created a lot of anxiety in the minds of the ranks and file of the APC leadership in Ogun East. But we have been very loyal to him, as the leader of the party.
Why is the PDP seemingly strong in Ogun East?
I am happy that you asked this question, because this is a question that has often agitated my mind. And I think, the reason is because the average Ijebu and I will include Remo, doesn’t feel that the APC is really a party for him. There is a great disaffection in this area with the APC. And the reason is because our people tend to see that the APC favours the former Abeokuta Province, to the detriment of the former Ijebu Province, in terms of patronage, in terms of appointments, in terms of the age-old practices, that created equity and justice.
After all, politics should be authoritative resources of allocation of ‘where and how’. But when you look at the practices in Ogun State, in the past, things used to be shared along divisional lines. If the governor came from one part, the state chairman should come from another part, the speaker should come from another part, the Secretary to the State Government should come from another part.
But see, what is happening today, everything seems to be gravitating towards the former Abeokuta Province, and that leads to a feeling of marginalisation, the feeling of alienation, the feeling of disempowerment. And because of that, people do not feel any incentives to embrace APC or vote for its candidates, and that is why, we, the leaders of APC in Ogun East are constrained to draw the attention of the leadership of the party to this, that you are increasingly losing support in Ogun East. (Culled from THIS DAY Newspaper)