…. let me declare to you today, I have not seen a remarkable departure from the past… Power is still personalized; there is still no democracy… We should be able to tell the people that this is perhaps a one-man or one-family government and, that we are not part of it.

 On the first anniversary of the O to Ge movement, we did an expose on the tenor and direction of the APC rainbow coalition which put an end to the Saraki’s four decades hold on governance in Kwara State. We wrote then about the coterie of strange bedfellows that were united by a common enemy. As we postulated, it does appear the fragile strands holding together the leading lights of the opposition movement are loose and floundering, bringing to the public domain the disquiet within the ruling party in the state. In this interview and subsequent ones you will read on this platform, we went out to find out how a so-called family disagreement within the party became the current public spat in the market place?

In this first in the series, we bring you Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, former Chief Whip of the Kwara State House of Assembly, and arguably, the leading light of the O To Ge Movement.  In this frank discourse, Oyedepo spoke about hopes in the aftermath of the Movement’s victory in 2019, and of despair, now that the hopes appear fading from the political horizon. In his estimation, the difference between his old foe, Saraki, and his own man, AbdulRazaq AbdulRahaman in the way they run government is like the difference between six and half a dozen. This perhaps, explains his tinkering with the idea of alignments with like-minded elements from both the APC and PDP to form a Third Force that will bring the desired governance to the people of Kwara State. Enjoy your reading.

People believe that the APC in Kwara State is a house divided against itself. Why has it been so impossible for the party to manage its O to ge victory?

  You know that I won’t just cover anything; there is a crisis, but the genesis is long and deep. The way APC in Kwara State was brought together, unless we have a very serious, political craftsman as the leader, what we have now should be expected. I want to remind you that before the first of August, 2018, I was the Chairman of PDP in Kwara State. It was because a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki decided to shift political party from APC to PDP that made me and members of my group to leave APC.

 When we were in PDP, we were in two basic political divides; two factions. We used to call one, Akogun faction, the other was Fagbemi faction. Incidentally, the Akogun faction which I headed was the stronger of the two because we went into election with Fagbemi faction on three different occasions and my faction of PDP won on different occasions. So, as at the time we were to leave PDP, I was firmly recognized as the Kwara State Chairman of the party. But the two were negotiating on how to quit the PDP for APC at the same time-that is, Fagbemi faction and Akogun faction.

 So, on the 1st of August, 2018, the two factions of PDP met with the factions of APC, Adams Oshiomhole. We met at the headquarters of the party in Abuja. On the day we met with Adams Oshiomhhole, two factions of APC met with the two factions of PDP. The two factions of APC then was the one called “Legacy” which is under Alhaji Lai Mohammed. The other was for Gbemi. They call it “GRS”. On the 1st of August, 2018, four different factions came together to be part of APC-Akogun faction, Fagbemi faction, GRS faction and Lai Muhammed faction. Those were the four groups that formed APC on the 1st of August, 2018. The first caretaker committee of the party as at that day had nine members- two from each faction, making eight members with Alhaji Bashiru Bolarinwa as the ninth, who was made the chairman. That is the genesis of our crisis.

 Four groups came together in the same party with four identifiable leaders. That is why I said it is only when we have a leader with ample craftsmanship, who can glue the four groups together, that is only when we’ll come out of this crisis.

 Where is the State Governor in all these?   

The state governor was part of Fagbemi faction. He was even the leader, the sponsor, the financier of Fagbemi faction, while we were in PDP. Now that we are in APC, he is still for that faction. But the question is this: if somebody, by an act of chance, luck or providence has been made the governor of Kwara State, I think he should be able to wedge together these four factions to be one political party and one family. We have not been able to do that.

 And why has it been so impossible for the leaders to come together?

Well, if we are to work together, it would be entirely at the discretion of the Governor. It is the Governor that will beckon on one, two three or four and say come, let us discuss on how to move the state forward. It is his responsibility. We, on our part, we have been telling him, saying, let’s do it this way. Why he has not done it that way, you can go and ask him.

 Recently, we saw you with the Governor at the Government House. The public believe that that must have been part of the reconciliation efforts?

Oh yes. It was.  

What then happened after that encounter?

It was not me that booked for that appointment. It was the Governor that sent for me; that we should meet- which was good, very good; perfect. When I met him I told him why we must work together. I suggested the people he should call so that he would glue the factions together. I suggested that there should be a critical stakeholders meeting where people will be able to tell him what they don’t like and he’ll be able to tell others what he does not also like among whoever are representing the warring factions and we’ll move on. The Governor agreed with me and even went further that I should do a paper to him on my suggestion. So, apparently, with that meeting I also thought there would be no problem again.

 What’s the position of things now?

Why the problem has persisted is this: After the meeting, we were moving to have a follow up to that discussion and concretize it in reality, but the Governor’s moves destroyed that understanding.

 The Governor’s moves? What are those things he did?

The moves are these:  There was a national meeting of the party at Abuja, where it was decided that all Excos from the local government council to state and apparently, to the national level (because of Oshiomhole’s issue) should be dissolved. It was then decided that the dissolved executive should be converted to a caretaker committee. I hope you understand that? To us, it was okay. That decision didn’t in any way affect my meeting with the governor. But the Governor now went to Abuja that even if all states chapters of APC allowed for that decision of the national executive, it should not be implemented in Kwara State. Therefore, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa executive, which now should be a caretaker committee should not be allowed. He went straight with a replacement for Bolarinwa, saying this is the man you should swear in, don’t swear in BOB.

 Now, imagine this. Number one, you spoke with me and I told you this is what can bring peace; this is the way forward, you now took another decision without reference to me again; that what you discussed with me can no more work. You now went to Abuja to implement another agenda. I’m not that kind of person. If you have deviated from what I thought was a genuine reconciliatory effort, then I cannot no more follow that path.

 But why has it been so difficult for the Governor to work with the same leaders, especially the chairman he won an election with?

I don’t know. You see, the Governor is always of the view that the man worked against him; that he didn’t help him during the campaign. He was always alleging that they were given some money during the campaign; that they were given cars and motorcycles, which they distributed outside his knowledge.

 You were part of the campaign team. Are these allegations true?

You see, I was not part of the executive. I wouldn’t know how they got cars. I know there were cars and there were motorcycles

And there was money? 

I don’t know. You know nobody would tell me if he received money from A, B or C but, at least I could see cars and motorcycles but I didn’t see any money. It was between the two of them. In fact, in any case, they were working together at the time. They would know all those things. But the question is this: If even all those things were true, even if all those things took place and you still won an election- and this is what I told him- even if those things happened- that they didn’t allow you to know how the cars, motorcycles and even if there was money, distributed outside your knowledge and nevertheless you still won the election, why can’t you allow us to throw all these away and then focus on the future. That has been the grouse. No other things.

 People are speculating that these could be a fight towards 2023. Could this be true?

I don’t think so. You see, if it is a fight towards 2023, it wouldn’t start at the time it did. When I started this discussion, I said the crisis started long time ago. How could the Governor start a crisis just when he was made a candidate? The crisis started immediately he was made a candidate. Why and how could a fight for 2023 start in 2018? It doesn’t appear reasonable. You were not yet a Governor, you were a candidate and there was a crisis between you and those leaders, would he have started to struggle for 2023 when he was not yet a governor? That’s why I said it goes beyond 2023.

 You were in the vanguard of O to ge Movement and you know the people’s aspirations. Are you satisfied with the spate of development since your party took over the rein of governance in Kwara State?

No. No. I am not satisfied. In fact, let me declare to you today, I have not seen a remarkable departure from the past. We accused the former set-up of personalizing governance. We accused them of not having a pan-Kwara agenda. We accused the former governors of misplaced priorities- Everything we accused them of.

 Are you saying the present administration is not living up to people’s aspirations?

I have not seen a remarkable departure from the past. I’ve said it. Power is still personalized; there is still no democracy. How can I and along with many others laid down our lives to fight this O to ge war and then we are now in government and I am now not consulted and others are also not consulted? I am not saying that I have not been reached out to for monetary consideration but, I will say that I am not looking for anybody’s money. I am not. Without anybody’s money, I am surviving. But I have the right to participate effectively in governance. I have the right to know our government’s policy on education and make my contribution. I have the right to know our policy on health, good governance and make my contribution. That is why I keep saying that I’m not part of it.

 Now, considering the present situation, via-a-vis the performance of your party, the grievances of the gladiators that scrambled for power with the present governor, what is your vision of APC’s chances in Kwara in 2023, given the present situation?  

 The APC’s chances are still bright, very, very bright indeed. The only thing is that, at the appropriate time, if things don’t change- and there is room for changes- but if it doesn’t change we should be able to tell the whole world the type of APC that is in government and, the type of APC that is not in government. We should be able to distinguish between those people operating the government and those of us that are side- tracked. We should be able to tell the people that this is perhaps a one -family government and, that we are not part of it. Why I say it is still bright is that men of yesterday may claim that these people are not better  but what was done then is still in the memory of people. It will now depend on the forces coming together to fight for an alternative. Am talking on an alignment here. Even with some of them that have now seen the green light who are in the PDP. We had an agenda but we have torn ourselves apart. We are now to sieve the bad ones in PDP and APC, and the good ones in APC and PDP can now come together to provide for a credible alternative.

Are you envisaging another party?

Well, it might be another party and it might not necessarily be. It might be another party if the soul of PDP is in the hands of people we cannot work with and the soul of APC is in the hands of people we cannot work with. There is nothing that can make the road to be entirely blocked to people that want to do something that is better, greater and unique.

 Recently the former Senate President, a man you all fought and defeated came calling and we saw the pomp and pageantry with which he was received. Again, with what we saw, and what he said, is your party not allowing him to take back Kwara State?  

You see, in politics it depends on our preparations. I don’t expect the people of Kwara to welcome yesterday unsieved. I don’t expect the people of Kwara to welcome yesterday uninterrogated, as if it was the best. What it was expected as I said earlier, is that those that are related between the two may come together. If they have related and subscribed to the same goals and agenda, they can come together. But coming together when they are related is different from a Saraki of yesterday, where he would be lord of everybody. That is if there must be anything like understanding. It is a possibility. Another possibility, is to rest A & B and a third force will emerge. Believe me, it depends on whether we are related or not.

Awolowo once said that there will be a thesis and anti-thesis. The thesis and anti-thesis will come together to form a synthesis. And he said the good ones in A will join the good ones in B and become one. It is a possibility. His coming to town and people jubilating, why not? Politicians have their ways. We were defeated out of government by the same Saraki group in 2003. When Mohammed Lawal came to Kwara State thereafter, the government of Saraki was shaken. So, there is nothing so spectacular about coming to town and people jubilating.

 We’ve always known Chief Akogun to be a politician and a lawyer but what we saw as we came in to this premises is quite different. What is this Nation and Leadership Institute you are operating?     

Well, that is my new passion; Nation, Leadership Institute. It is nonpartisan.  I have been in politics for more than 31 years and I have identified that the major problem of politics is leadership. Simpliciter! Leadership, effective leadership, leadership that cannot pick our values from the ground to anywhere. We have been voting for wrong people as counsellors, as house of assembly members, as national assembly members, as governors, and as presidents. There is a need to cultivate new approach to leadership.

So, how would this Institute impact on the nation’s politics, in any way?  

We conduct a lot of trainings here. In fact, there is a specific training on how to be a politician. Many people believe that once you decide one day, that you don’t have anywhere else to go, you just jump into politics to be a politician. Some go into politics and they are instantly appointed into one big office or the other. In such situation, the people suffer.

Our belief is that if you what to go into politics you need to acquire some rudiments of knowledge, tactics, and strategies on how to be successful politician. Or, talk of the issue of leadership. We have seen so many failures of leadership in Nigeria where you see somebody into the House of Representatives or Senate without certificate; people that don’t have integrity and character. We teach integrity and character here.

 Tell us more about this Institute 

We have five schools under the Institute; there is a School of Party Organization and Election Management. That school teaches how to organize viable and vibrant political party. We also teach would-be contestant, aspirant on how to win election. If you want to go into digital electioneering, grassroots mobilization, training your campaign team etc.

I have gone to leadership institute in America to learn a lot about these and we have so many manuals on these. –strategies on different modes, communication strategies, marketing yourself etc.

So, what has been the response of Nigerians since you started?

The response has been encouraging. The school was unveiled on the 31st of January, 2020, then Covid-19 came. Recently, one of our schools, the Institute of Legislative Studies organized a training for Senator Lola Ashiru and Hon Ganiyu Cook Olododo. These individuals, gave us their legislative aides to train. If you asked them, they will tell you they are far better than what they used to be, because we have taught them their duties, including time management issue and so on. We have also organized a few other trainings this year. We could have done more but for the COVID. We believe that the coming year would be more robust.    

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