Former Ondo State Deputy Governor Ali Olanusi is the leader of Unity Forum, a group within the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke with reporters on the grievances of the group against Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), reconciliation and preparations of the governorship election. Excerpts:
Ondo State chapter of the APC has been in crisis for some years. What actually is the problem?
These hydra-headed problems started shortly after the emergence of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as governor of the state. He pushed aside those who did not belong to his Aketi Team and hijacked the party structure by positioning members of his team as exco members from the state to the wards level.
He practically left leaders and members who laboured tirelessly for the victory of the party in the cold. He runs the government of the state for the benefit of himself, his wife and his children, while others are left to struggle for crumbs. It is a style of governance that is alien to us in Ondo State.
In fact, in the choice of officers of the party, I mean exco members, from state to the wards, the governor just sat down with his team members and handpicked his loyalists to fill the positions.
As I speak with you, there is an ongoing court case instituted by Idowu Otetubi to challenge the process.
As progressives, we believe in transparent process, but the approach the governor employed further plunged the party into crises.
Again, the anti-party activities of the governor and his team during the last National Assembly and presidential elections further deepened the problems.
We all know the outcome as we lost many National Assembly seats and unbelievably, Mr President, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari also lost here in Ondo State. It’s a disgrace.
All these and many other factors are the build-up to the present ordeal.
You supported Akeredolu to emerge as governor, but now, you are the leader of the Unity Forum. What’s the Unity Forum up to?
The Unity Forum is the soul of APC in Ondo State. But, for the group, the party would have been totally destroyed. Could you believe that no ward meetings hold in our state.
All we have is Aketi for second term meetings. The Unity Forum consists of aggrieved members and leaders of the party who constitute about eighty percent of party faithful.
As I speak with you, we have some of our party members who have to express their interest in running for the office of the governor.
Some have said that you are throwing your support for one of the aspirants from the southern senatorial district…
Not me. Who among them? I say this loud and clear today, I am a father to all of them. They all have my blessings. They are members of the group. I have no preferred one among them. They will all go through the process and the best qill emerge.
But, I can assure you that there will be no loser among them because the next government in Ondo State will be a government of the people. The true owners of the party who are the members will have their party back.
We are looking forward to an all- Inclusive government with room enough for all. We cannot have two governors. But, all of us can be involved in governance.
That is true party politics. On the issue of support for a particular aspirant, it is nothing but a blatant lie. It will never happen. I’m only here as leader, not an impostor. When the time comes, the people will decide.
What are the steps taken so far to resolve the crises in your party?
Well, we need to thank Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and Aremo Olusegun Osoba, who took the initiative in July 2019 and attempted to broker peace and reconcile the factions.
Unfortunately; none of the recommendations at the meeting has been attended to by the governor. He failed to call meetings for committes to be constituted to carry out assignments and steps that may bring lasting solutions.
The governor was quoted to have said in Abuja that, if the APC fails to give him the ticket for a second term, the party will lose. What is your take?
This is laughable. It is nothing better than a mere beer parlour joke. It is ordinary outburst and empty-threat. We are on ground here and the reality is that close to 80 per cent of party members are disenchanted with Governor Akeredolu and his government.
The Unity Forum meets regularly in my house and I can tell you authoritatively that that is where the strength of the party lies in Ondo State as at present. Maybe, I should invite you for our next meeting to see for yourself.
I said it in a recent interview that, if he leaves APC, we will not miss him at all. The APC of today in Ondo State is in the hands of the leaders and members, not the pocket of the governor. He leads an imaginary army.
About leaving the party, he is free to do that. After all, our constitution allows for freedom of association.
But, a Yoruba adage says, ‘won o so wipe ki omode ma d’ete to ba ti le ma da gbe inu igbo‘, that is, any child that develops leprosy should be ready to be quarantined to the leprosorium. I describe the statement as an overestimation of self and very illusory.
It is on record that other leaders and you attended a meeting with Governor Akeredolu on February 1. What is it all about? It is true that you attended a meeting at with him at Heritage Hotel, Ijapo, Akure, at the instance of Chief Pius Akinyelure? What were the principal issues discussed?
The issue of non-consultation with party leaders.
The illegal constitution of exco from state to ward level. Be informed that the July meeting of last year recommended the dissolution of the exco and constitution of a caretaker committee.
It is in the public domain that, at the meeting with Governor Akeredolu, you endorsed him for a second term in office.
Second what? That’s not true. It is a gross misrepresentation of the whole exercise. We did not discuss anything about election or re-election. I was surprised to hear after the meeting that what took place was endorsement for second term.
It was never part of our discussion. In fairness to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, in his welcome address at the meeting, he said categorically that the meeting was not to discuss the candidacy of governorship election.
So, we neither adopted nor endorsed Akeredolu. We only met in the party’s interest. I urge all our people and the general public to discoutenance the misleading reports.
Are you expecting the Senate President-led reconciliation committee in Ondo State?
Why Not? That is what we are waiting for? The meeting that held few days ago was just a follow up to a previous meeting with Asiwaju Tinubu and other leaders.
It does not stop the committe constituted by the party to do their job. The committe is coming here and the members are men of integrity.
I think the Ahmed Lawan- led committee would be the only panacea to the crises bedevilling the party. We need help here and we are anxiously waiting for them.