Femi Agagu is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Ondo State. He was also former Chief of Staff to a former governor, late Dr Olusegun Agagu, who was his brother. In this interview with TOPE FAYEHUN, He looks at the political climate in the state, ahead of the forthcoming governorship election.
As a stakeholder in the politics of Ondo State, can you x-ray the mood in the state?
Obviously the people of the state are aware that there is going to be an election, but maybe the mood has not been as electrifying as it should be and the reason for this is not far fetched. For example, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has what we can called intractable crisis. They are not even sure who their candidate is going to be. They have been factionalised and are not even sure which faction is authentic. In the case of APC the highly competitive primary election that took place brought about some disagreements. This is not unexpected in such a large party with energetic contenders who have the zeal and readiness to serve. Luckily, the party leadership moved in to resolve the matter as quickly as possible and I think we have made progress. These two parties being the major parties to this election, I think one has not seen the kind of election fever one would have expected. However, in spite of all these, I also know that the major contenders are working hard to ensure victory at the election.
You left PDP where you served as a chief of staff to your late brother, late Dr. Olusegun Agagu for almost six years, why did you opt for the APC?
Our decision to leave the PDP about two years ago wasn’t a difficult one at all. It was very clear to every discerning mind then that the way those in charge of PDP then were running the party, they will certainly run into trouble . There were no consultations, no internal democracy, grievances were not well attended to and a lot of strange elements were beginning to take over the party. By the time Dr Olusegun Mimiko crossed over to the PDP in a manner that was poorly handled by the leadership of the party , it was obvious that some of us do not have business any longer in the party and that was why we left. Even those who were still left behind, who thought they could patch up things, later found out that it was a mission impossible. Many of them had to leave immediately after the presidential election. Though you still find a few still swimming in the storm, many of them are still finding their ways out till date. Those of us who left at the right time then, knew that there was no way the PDP could win the national election.
Your party has been in the news for the crisis rocking it since September 3 primary election that produced Akeredolu as its guber candidate. Dont you think the crisis could jeopardise the party’s chances?
Let me just clarify this, there is no crisis rocking the APC in Ondo State. What is happening in our party is a disagreement that arose from a very competitive primaries. Initially, there were over 40 aspirants but there were only 22 of them that paid the mandatory fees and obtained the form. So when there is competition among such a number of people, there is likely to be disagreement. And I know that the disagreement is almost fully resolved because most of the aspirants have agreed to work with Rotimi Akeredolu SAN. Let me also let you know that sometime before the primaries, all the aspirants signed an undertaking that they will support whoever emerged. I am sure that very soon, apart from Chief Olusola Oke, who had left the party, all the other aspirants will work with the candidate.
What are the implications of Oke’s exit on the chances of the APC in the forthcoming poll?
When Oke was coming to the APC, he came with a number of people, most of who are probably with him now. Of course, the APC will lose a few people in this regard, but I think those who will support Oke now may still be those who are left of the old PDP. I mean our friends and colleagues who are still in the PDP. I don’t know of too many traditional members of the APC who will abandon a well established party for an experiment that is not likely to succeed. And those of us who came from the old PDP into the APC, essentially, we are still very much together and on ground here. Those who came when the Rt. Hon. Victor Olabimtan and I joined the party are one hundred per cent with the party. None went back and non went any where. Even in Oke’s group, I know that Alaba Isijola, former head of service, who came with him, has remained firmly in the APC and I know one or two key leaders in his group who came with him but have decided not to leave the APC for the AD, a party that is already dead and has long been forgotten. So, in the final analysis, you will discover that only about the handful people that came with Oke will probably go with him.
But don’t you foresee a situation where his exit may have far reaching implications for the result of the election?
There is a possibility of that in the sense that what should have been a straight fight between the PDP and the APC may now be a three corner fight among two strong parties and a small one. I think the critical issue is whether its impact is going to be positive or negative and I also think this is neither here nor there. If he depletes the PDP very much as he is likely to do, it will help the APC to beat the PDP easily. As I said, his probable direction of attracting supporters and followership will be the the PDP. The APC members are people who have been in the progressive line from the AD to the AC, the ACN to the APC, and they have remained there and those of us who have come to join them, are also still here.
Oke, Jegede and Akeredolu are the major contenders for the forthcoming poll and they are from 3 mutually exclusive senatorial districts of the state. Don’t you foresee a possibility of senatorial cleavage votes, considering their strengths in their respective domains?
I don’t think it is going to be exactly so, because the people of the state have been thoroughly impoverished. There is poverty and hunger in the land. Do you think poverty and hunger know or respect senatorial districts or local government areas? The people of the state are looking for a governor who will take them out of misery and take them to a land of hope that will usher in prosperity to our state. Wherever the candidate is coming from; whether from the North, South or Central district of the state, I am sure the people will gravitate more towards the candidate. No doubt, some candidates may do fairly well in their senatorial district because it is their catchment area, but largely, it may not be the final determinant. Again, you also have to know that this senatorial districts are just administrative delineations. What People looking for is a government that will make their lives better. It is going to be more of who can deliver.
What are the chances of your candidate?
Akeredolu is a man of achievements. He had become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria for almost 20 years. Almost one decade ago, he had become the president of Nigeria Bar Association and served so well that the NBA headquarters building in Abuja has been named after him. He has the right education, the right temperament and zeal for the job. Things are pretty bad in Ondo State now and you can see in Akeredolu the determination to turn things around. He knows what is good because on many occasions he had made reference to the Roadmap to Progress, a comprehensive development and action plan that was put in place during Agagu administration. There are no two ways to do well in government than to prepare ourselves to goven.These days you see a lot of people aspiring to positions just for the sake of being in power. But Akeredolu doesn’t come as one who is looking for this position so that people can just call him Mr. Governor. He believes that things can be done differently for the benefit of the people. Above all, he has integrity. Even his worst critics will agree that he is a man of integrity .
The Mimiko administration is winding up after 8 years in the saddle, what is your assessment of its performance in those years?
I think the verdict is obvious on the street now. A government that was not owing any worker, any contractor and any Bank a kobo as at its last day. And 8 years down the line, the civil servants are being owed 6 months salary, the infrastructures in the state have broken down completely. Nobody in the state needs to be told that things are very bad now and there is a yearning for a change now. During the Agagu era, we used to have a road map, which detailed what was to be done year by year.The budget each year was structured based on that road map. That was why things were flowing seamlessly and the government activities were within the quantum of revenue that the government could generate. There was even savings for the raining day. Since this government came in, that road map has been jettisoned and we are running a government of proposal. Nowadays, anybody can just bring a proposal for the construction of an event center, the government receives it and whimsically begins to spend on it. You don’t run a government like that. Government is supposed to run seamlessly year in year out and there ought to be projections as to what to do. When Agagu was there, there was a plan that all the primary schools should be rebuilt so that everyone of them will wear a modern look. Ditto for secondary schools and that programme was going on steadily…
Do you foresee any threats to the November 26 governorship election in the state?
Honestly, I am not apprehensive at all because the election is a singular election and not a general election. For a singular election like this, the INEC has more than enough capacity to deal with it. The security agencies will have enough men and logistics to handle it effectively. Look at the Edo election that has just been conducted, I think it is a far improvement over the previous ones. So in the final analysis, I don’t expect that there will be too many issues to deal with here in Ondo State.