‘Why Ondo South must produce next APC guber candidate’

Former Special Assistant on Oil and Gas to the late Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Dr Benson Enikuomehin, in this interview with selected journalists, spoke on why major political parties zoned their governorship ticket to Ondo South Senatorial District and counseled on how the zone can maximise opportunities from the zoning arrangement. KEHINDE OLATUNJI was there.

Ondo governorship election is coming up on November 16. What is your assessment of the two major parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ahead of the primaries?
The two major political parties, namely APC and PDP, have chosen the pattern of their primary. For the APC, it is going to be direct primary while PDP prefers indirect option. But APC needs to put its house in order. I hope that they will do it well and ensure that a reliable person is elected. We cannot afford to make mistakes because for now, Ondo State is not getting its best from the resources available to the state. So, we must look for a credible, reliable and dependable individual.

The events happening in the state necessitate that we should speak out. We cannot keep quiet and watch events go awry because if you keep quiet when you need to speak, you may have to speak when you ought not to. But when you speak at the right time, things may be averted. We cannot allow the state to drift.

What qualities do you expect from the candidates of the major parties?
One is the antecedent of the individuals, who are coming out. Secondly, we must look at their integrity, we should check how reliable they are, if this person says A, does he mean A? If he says B, does it mean B? If he says good morning, do we need to look at the sky to be sure that it is morning and not night? We also need to look at their minimum qualifications to be sure that the person we are projecting can go to the comity of nations or comity of states and represent us well.

We will also look at his acceptability in the state and how acceptable he is to win the election. His he trustworthy? Can the people in the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo State trust this person? How much have we committed to his hand before? What has he done? Is he a green horn? We cannot at this stage afford to vote for a neophyte. No, Ondo State is of age. These and many others are the things we need to consider when we make a choice.

Is it by design that both APC and PDP zoned their ticket to Ondo South?
The two political parties have done well, firstly, in zoning their governorship candidate to Ondo South. We have three senatorial districts, Ondo North, Ondo Central, and Ondo South. In this dispensation, that is from 1999 till date, the following persons have governed the state, our late father, Chief Adebayo Adefarati, from the North spent four years. OlusegunAgagu from the South took over from Adefarati, he completed his first term and was doing a second before he was removed by the court. Dr Olusegun Mimiko from the Central took over. Mimiko was the first person, who established that a governor could rule the state for two terms, it had never happened before in Ondo State.

After his eight years, Mimiko tried to anoint another candidate from Ondo Central to succeed him but the people of the state revolted and voted for Rotimi Akeredolu from the North. He completed his first term and was elected for a second term, sadly, death took him away so, he couldn’t complete the eight years, but he spent a total of almost seven years or thereabout. Now, everyone in the state feels that since the Northern Senatorial district had it for almost 11 years between Adefarati and Akeredolu, Central had eight unbroken years under Mimiko it would be wise and reasonable to zone it to Ondo South. So, that is why virtually all the political parties agreed on that.

How will you assess aspirants on the platforms of APC and PDP?
The calibre of aspirants that came out this season in the two political parties are largely men of credibility, sound education, and men whose integrity may not be doubted. However, when you take an examination, some people will have a third class, they have passed. Some will have second-class lower division, they have passed. Some will have second-class upper division, they passed, and yet, some will have first class. Even among the first class, some will still top the class. If we assess these men and look at who they are, what they have done, what they have achieved, what people say about them, which of them can we ask to go for us? The people of Ondo need to ask, among these men that have come up in APC and PDP, who shall we send?

You talk as if you have a preferred aspirant in mind?
In 2012, when Mimiko, Akeredolu and Chief Olusola Oke came for a debate as to who should be the governor of the state, the debate was tough but due to sentiment of allowing Mimiko to complete two terms, the people voted for Mimiko. When Mimiko left office, people decided it should be the turn of Akeredolu and he was voted for two terms. Now, only one man is left among that trio, and that is Chief Oke. He holds an LLM, not only that, he is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He has contested this position three times before. I think this will be the fourth time now that he will be contesting.

Why do you think Oke is the best person for the position?
If I were contesting for the position of the governor of Ondo State, which I’m eminently qualified for, and Oke and I were to go into the race, if I’m sincere with myself, I should step down for him, but I’m not contesting. Of all these aspirants who have shown interest in contesting for the governorship seat of Ondo State, Oke is the only one not holding government office. Every other person has to fall back on the state resources to do it.

Oke has risen to the peak of his career and is eminently qualified. But looking at it critically, if the North has had it for 11 years under Adefarati and Akeredolu, the Central had it for eight years under Mimiko and the South for six years under Agagu, now that it has come back to the South, morality and moral adoration can be used to plead, and say, gentlemen when your son was coming on board, we supported him, why not allow us?

The incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, is also from the South. Mr Aiyedatiwa is a gentleman, he has what it takes to continue in the office, but will this serve the best interest of the people of the South, will the South not be short-changed? And that is fundamental, and that necessitates why we must educate our people. If Ondo South is to have eight years of unbroken governorship going by the convention already established from Mimiko to Akeredolu, then we must support Olusola Oke.

But, the people of Ondo Central are playing games; their game is to support the incumbent, Aiyedatiwa, why? Aiyedatiwa by the constitution of Nigeria can only contest one more governorship election, he has been sworn in. The law is that when you are sworn in to take over the remainder of the tenure of your boss, you can only contest for one more election. That’s why you see a good number of them coming out and canvassing for Aiyedatiwa, it is not because of their love for the man but because they feel the governorship seat will return to them sooner than later. So, for the APC, the banana peel is on the ground that could enable the PDP to say, we are available, we can get you the eight years, and our people can be very sentimental.

The choice of the incumbent governor would only afford the Ondo South Senatorial District a single term as the constitution does not permit him to run for another term. The decision would favour the PDP or Ondo Central Senatorial District, which is next in line in the zoning arrangement. Ondo South if allowed to take charge is to have eight years unbroken by the convention of Mimiko to Akeredolu and now, but Ondo Central is playing a game to support the incumbent and this is because Ayedatiwa by the constitution of Nigeria as of now can only contest one more election. And by the law, when you are sworn in to take over the remainder of the tenure of your boss, you can only contest for one more election and therefore if he is supported and wins, then Ondo Central will say it is now our turn. So, that means four years is shortchanged and gone.

What are the chances of Oke at the primary?
Oke has the courage and ability to deliver as governor of the state. Let us remove sentiment, we are looking for somebody who will do a good job. We are talking about the person who has the age and the temerity. Of all these persons, Olusola Oke is the only one who is not holding government office. He has been financing his project and financing it well. Every other person has to fall back on the resources of the state.

One of the ways APC could throw away the baby they have been nursing for over the years is to shortchange Ondo South. And I tell you, make no mistake about it, I will mobilise people and friends to say we are not slaves. At least someone has taken power for one year. Agagu was the one who opened us up.

We were a people forgotten and not to be considered. He constructed roads. I did not deride anybody, everyone is qualified but we need to bring life to our people. I urge the ruling APC to follow its guidelines and ensure that a credible, reliable and dependable primary is conducted for the aspirants for the guber ticket.

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