“He has reasons to be bitter,” a colleague of his hinted sometime ago. The opinion probably stemmed from what someone else also described as “raw deal” from the government of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. He is not, going by the way he fielded probing questions from the MEDIA HUB team in his- what can be called- ” The Situation Office” at the Iyaganku Quarters, Ibadan.
Looking chubby, the cerebral and savvy “former” Chairman, Oluyole Local Government, Idi- Ayunre, Ibadan, Prince Ayodeji Abass – Aleshinloye, made no pretense about his opinion on Makinde`s administration. ” The government has no regards for the rule of law. He holds the court in contempt, and he has no idea about how to even run a government. Makinde strives on experimentation,” Abass – Aleshinloye said.
Asked if he was bitter, Abass -Aleshinloye said he didn’t belong to that mould. ” I am not bitter at all. The struggle is not about Ayodeji Abass – Aleshinloye. It is about the people’s mandate. We were freely elected into office, – with tenure prescribed by the Constitution. And one day, someone in the name of been a governor said and I quote – ” I have sacked the chairmen,” who does that? That was an arrant nonsense in the face of the rule of law and democratic tenets,” he concluded.
If anybody or group of persons are losing in this gambit, it is the public while Makinde is enjoying his “executive recklessness.” Looking relaxed in his averagely tastefully furnished office, Abass – Aleshinloye said what shocked him most was the sheer unpreparedness with which Makinde`s government approached the crisis between his government and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Oyo State.
“Government had no position paper on the crisis. They made no bones about it. It’s shameful and most unfortunate. That Oyo State people would have this clueless team to govern them for the next two years is painful and sad,” said Abass – Aleshinloye.
On whether he has shut the doors on resolution of the crisis – Abass – Aleshinloye said; ” We have not. For transparency sake, I will not hold one – on – one meeting with this government, without my team. They can’t be trusted. I will not be stained. A government pressing ahead with plans to sideline a scheduled Supreme Court judgement can do anything to truncate the rule of law. I will not be part of that.”
It was vintage Ayodeji Abass – Aleshinloye in this interview.
Why are you up in arms against Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State?
We are not up in arms against him, rather he is the one up in arms against us and l will explain why. In Nigeria today, we have three tiers of government; Federal, State and Local, which is the grassroots. Governor Seyi Makinde came in when President Muhammadu Buhari was about starting his second term. If Buhari had come out and said l can’t with him, sack him. People like you would have come out to say, it is undemocratic. It is the same scenario for the governor, since we have three tiers of government. You will recalled that on the day he was sworn in, he came out to dissolve all democratically elected local governments in the state. If l were your brother with people’s mandate and l don’t fight for the mandate, won’t you call me a fool?
In all honesty, did late Governor Abiola Ajimobi handled the local government elections the way it should be handled?
Ajimobi had his own problems and l would say it anywhere, if the opposition had participated and didn’t boycott, and they had won, Ajimobi would have sworn in those who won irrespective of party divides. It was orderly. If they had not boycotted, any candidate in a local government or ward that won, may not be more than one or two would have been sworn in. You will recalled that the PDP was not even like this, Seyi Makinde was not even in PDP. The party was in coma, so that was what really happened. There was a control room where the elections were being monitored from OSIEC.
Earlier you said elections were held and that Ajimobi had his own problems, what were his problems?
Like any other human being, he was not perfect. For instance, some people had a discussion on radio recently where they were seeking forgiveness from God for the things they did to Ajimobi. One of them said, he talks too much. Yes, he can talk, and with that he ensured that no single bank robbery occured in Oyo State for eight years. The man is dead now, that is why many people refer to him as the architect of new Oyo State. He performed excellently well. When he came on board early 2011, robbery was the order of the day in Oyo State. He restored law and order in the state. The NUJ Press Centre in Iyaganku GRA was invaded by robbers in broad daylight. It was that bad before Ajimobi came in. We should not not forget that. That was why development became easy. It was the pervading peace that brought Shoprite Stores, Kamal, Oriental Foods and other companies to Ibadan. In the same vein, there was no state that could compete with Ibadan with regards to night life. What l am driving at is that as good as he was, there is no perfect human being.
What happened to the meeting between your group and the government?
It got to a stage that they said they would settle out of court. All we are saying is that we were duly elected we are ready for you to discuss. You want to discuss, fine, l was not there but l made sure that, we had a good team. Ajimobi was still alive then and he advised that we must have our position. I told him we have our position ready. When we got there, we asked why the meeting was called. Government had no position paper. Nothing from their side. Nothing, not a single paper, l swear to God Almighty. They were about five or seven, including the Attorney General of the state. No paper, nothing. They postponed the meeting again. We gave them our 12 – point Position Paper. What we have in the paper was that we should be allowed to serve our tenure, all of us are ready to work with him. Then Option B, he can also appoint some as Special Assistants to join us so that there would be synergy, since we are all working for the progress of the state. So, when they came with that position, they said they are not ready to shift. We said give us your position, they didn’t bring anything again, not even an alternative to our position. That was how the whole thing ended. There was a time they wanted to see me. For me, it will be very dangerous, l told them. I am ready for any discussion but whatever it is, my people must be in attendance because we need to be very careful. If not about anything, it is about integrity. My people are not being paid and the moment you do anything without them knowing, you will run into problem. Not just the leadership, the association itself.
What is the situation now, as at today, and what is the way out?
It is so pathetic. Yes, we are in court, we went to the Supreme Court. February 10, we were in court. OYSIEC that was being led by a SAN were party to the case. The case had been adjourned for judgement. Planning elections third or fifth day after, like preempting what the judgement would be, even you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that they have been disrespectful to the Supreme Court. I still have confidence in the Supreme Court. How will you having entered your case, having argued, having submitted your position to the court, having been part of the court processes, you now leave the court and start drawing timetable and guidelines for a fresh elections.
Why haven’t you written to put the state government on notice?
We have written several letters to them through our lawyers. This is a government that does not have any iota of respect for the judiciary. There was a judgement we got which they called kangaroo judgement. I will expose them to the whole world. It is highly disappointing that we have these kind of people. The Chairman of OYSIEC, who happened to be a SAN, and who ordinarily should even lecture them on the position of the law, as evidently joined on the assault. So, l think it is abnormal and l really sympathize with some of our friends who are working with this government, who cannot summon up the courage to opt out of this rubbish. It’s even telling politically!
How do you assess this government?
It is only about a year to elections that you see politicians decamping. Since after one year, Makinde has lost so many of his supporters and party chieftains. If not for the coalition made up of political bigwigs that brought him, Makinde could not have come second. It would have been Bayo Adelabu, followed by Femi Lanlehin. Even within the PDP, Olopoeniyan and Ladoja groups have left.
What do you think is responsible for this?
Makinde is not matured for the office and the man doesn’t listen to advice. When you come to the office, you should try not to bring the office down. It has been said in many quarters that the style of his party gave room for his emergence. I am not saying anybody is perfect. We had our own problems but the one you are seeing now is an abnormal problem. You can say anything about Ajimobi, honestly you can’t make a comparison between them. Ajimobi gave five local governments caretaker chairmen to Accord Party, he also gave them two commissioners. Not that they voted for us, not that they drop their candidates for us. Ladoja did not drop out of the contest, but because Ajimobi needed them to stabilize the government. It has never happened in the history of Oyo State, that you have a House of Assembly for four years but for eight years where there was no clear majority and the man survived it. It tells you about his management and administrative acumen, that is the truth! Whether you believe it or not, these are facts that are verifiable. If Ajimobi that you didn’t even step down for, that you contested with, gave out five local government chairmen, two commissioners, three or four Special Assistants, allowed Accord Party man to be Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and they worked together, then you can’t compare Makinde with Ajimobi.
The way things are now in Oyo State, how will you describe the security situation?
Pathetic! If l had not lived in this state before this government, before Ajimobi, during Ajimobi and post Ajimobi era, may be it would not have surprised me this much. Ajimobi came, he met very serious challenges in terms of security. Just before he was elected, they killed a medical student at Iwo Road area of Ibadan. Eleweomo, Tokyo and some of these elements actually worked for Ajimobi during the elections. Immediately he came in, Tokyo said l worked for you, l want to be Chairman of NURTW and Ajimobi said you can’t be Chairman. That is Ajimobi for you. He told Tokyo “we can help you, we will help you.” A governor must be firm. Now compare, a governor went to where people were rioting and they killed two policemen. One of them happened to be one of the four policemen that were attached to me during the heat of our crisis. They were burnt at Iwo Road. This governor was there. During the Ajimobi era, you heard of the One Million Boys. When he wanted to deal with them, he brought in Operation Burst. On the day he wanted to launch it, he launched it at their base in Idi – Arere.
If you are not ready to offend the people you can never be a good manager, you can never be. For me, the security situation in the state is so terrible, the most sophisticated robbery that we use to have is bank robbery. Ajimobi was in this state for eight years and no single incident during his era.
What is your view about Park Management in Oyo State?
There was a time we said something about this. You can’t build something on nothing, and he was honest enough to show his dishonesty. How do l mean? On his inauguration day, Makinde said the flyover at the Secretariat would be opened now, it will become Freedom Bridge, as if he was just commissioning a new bridge. The bridge has been there for decades, it was only the Boko Haram scare and the PDP/ Accord fracas that shut it down. It discouraged evil men from throwing bombs into the Secretariat – security men thought. He has no information on anything! The schools where they collect N1,000, the money for the maintenance of the schools and their security. Now , security has broken down. You were taken to court and you lost. You have usurped the functions of local government. What he was doing was very wrong. It is not only wrong that he has taken over the functions of the local governments, but it is worse that a known criminal, an ex – convict for that matter, was made to head such an illegality. Tokyo was never a convict, but because his name was mentioned among the people who have been causing trouble in the state, Ajimobi rejected him. There is a glaring difference between the former governor and this one. Again, he made another mistake. He directed that all local governments should issue the illegal Park Manager operatives letters to collect money for local governments. It is a case of one illegality to another.
Will the Supreme Court not cause a lacuna?
For me, l believe in the rule of law and anybody that comes in through democracy should have respect for judiciary. So, all they have been doing were not about that office.
When is your tenure supposed to end?
If not for what happened, it should end this May. You know the governor used the word “sack”, for us our tenure is guaranteed by the Constitution. We want this case to serve as deterrent to all other governors. That was what our lawyers said at the Supreme Court.
If the judgement favours ALGON on May 7, and the Supreme Court did not make make any declaration, what happens?
Nothing will happen. They are even saying they were ready to pay us and l said how can you pay me for work l have not done. That is corruption and l can’t be part of that. It is not about the money, it is about the mandate that the people gave to us. The moment we get judgement, we will move to our respective secretariats. January to February, we moved. I was with the Inspector General of Police, IGP. They gave us policemen. The Attorney General wrote all the governors on why they should not remove us. All other governors complied, except Oyo State Governor. I was in Kano for the ALGON meeting. Ekiti returned them and they were there until they finished their tenure. Ogun them for two months, remaining two months, ditto for Kwara and other states in the north. It was only in Oyo State and l felt so ashamed. So, if the judgement is in our favour, it will not be a new thing
You think getting the judgement and moving to the Secretariat will not lead to chaos?
Well, if it does, it won’t lead to chaos. We are not trouble makers. Ask the governor, he will tell you that the most trying period of his administration was this local government thing. He said it in an interview which I listened to.
So, you are waiting on the Supreme Court now?
Yes, we are waiting.
Whether ALGON wins or not and they decided to go on with the elections, will your party be represented?
Of course, there is no way our party will be represented. We won’t be part of the illegality. We are in court. Our party have candidates who have gone to court, and the court is yet to decide. So, we will now go and be part of that, that would be a serious contradictions, we are not going to be part of it.
If you see Governor Makinde one on one, what will you tell him, about the state of affairs in the local government?
I will tell him to listen to genuine advice. I will let him know that things are not going in the right direction.