I told the Governor that the politicians are making noise. But the Governor asked me: “What is the meaning of O to ge” He told me that all that were happening in the past was that only the politicians were concentrated upon while they neglected the populace. He said that era is gone. He’s not saying that they are not entitled to something, but what will go to the generality of the people would be of benefit to all and not just to we politicians. So, he said, enu eyin politicians le gbe (politicians could go hungry)
One name that comes up in nearly every discussion about the crisis within the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kwara state, is that of Prince Sunday Fagbemi. He is a confidant of Governor Abdukrazaq Abdulrahaman, having been leader of the governor's faction that merged with the APC along with three others in the days preceding the momentous 2019 general election. Although he acknowledged that politicians are not being taken care of in the way they expected despite the fact that they worked to bring the government on board, Fagbemi believes that the complaints are coming largely because the complainants have been unable to pocket the governor, contrary to their expectations. In this interview with the Midlandpost, he bares all in the factional scrimmage within the party while insisting there is no crisis.
Sir, we are looking at the skirmishes within your party, the APC. We have spoken with some key stakeholders and they mentioned your role in the political formation and the forces that brought the political liberty to Kwara through the O to ge Movement. Looking back to the almost one and a half years after this struggle, are you satisfied with the level of development in the state or, are there areas that are of concern to you?
By and large and by human nature, we are insatiable lots and we are always very impatient, forgetting that any wound, except by miracle, will heal gradually. So, I think we are doing well. But there will always be room for improvement.
There is no doubt that all is not well within the APC in Kwara state for now. What is the problem?
Well, I will say there are multi-dimensional angles to it. Don’t forget that we are all from different backgrounds. There were tendencies that brought up the APC. At least, four clear ones were identified by the national headquarters then. We all came together into the party with different ideologies but with the same focus of changing the status-quo then, which we achieved by God’s grace. So, you cannot expect that all would mingle and rhyme together immediately. It will take some time to understand each other. I believe that what is happening now is common to all political parties, especially when they are getting newly into government. There would be lots and lots of expectations. People would not look at the limitations that are there.
We have not been in government before. This is why you should give it to the people in government because they would have met lots and lots of problems that may not even be known to even the party stakeholders, not to talk of the generality of the populace. From what we have seen, the decadence that had been in place, which we fought to take off is enormous and I believe that people should understand that, given a little time, things would be well within the party. I believe that what is happening now is just share impatience.
Based on our discussions with others, the impression is created that your faction within the party has this winner-takes-all attitude, that you are not consulting other stakeholders within the party. For example, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo expressed the opinion that there is hardly any difference between the present government and the one you chased away.
Well, I think he is entitled to his opinion, likewise every other persons. But give and take, I believe it would be wrong to say that it is winner takes all. One, as the head of the political grouping they are referring to, I am not holding any position in government. Then, talking about consultation, the perception I see of our people is that people have bloated ideas about themselves; that the moment they are not consulted, even if hundreds other people are consulted it means non-consultation to them, which should not be so. I believe that when we are in government is different from when we are playing political game. No! It is a different ball-game entirely. So, I believe that everyone of us, if we have any piece of advice-after all, everyone has access to the Governor- Of recent, even Akogun that you have talked about was with the Governor. He had the opportunity of telling him what he feels should be done. Ditto the other people. B.O.B is the chairman of the party. He has access to the government. I believe that along the line, some of us have withdrawn to the background; to the fact that we are in government now. This is not the time to play politics. We are thinking of the development of the state and we should not term that to be exclusive right of the politicians. What is the population of the politicians compared to the generality of the public?
So, when some people are saying that government is not consulting, referring to a Governor, who has exclusive ways of doing things by himself like every other persons you know they are not saying the truth. I believe that he is consulting very very well. Then, when we are talking about winner-takes-all, I challenge any of them to name the members of the old group that are in government now.
Virtually, I can say without fear of being contradicted that the people that are in government now- and this, I believe is one of their grouses- that the people were not those that were in politics. Some of these people are new graduates, they are youths that have not really participated in party politics. Some of them are technocrats that are brought, may be through consultants but there is no place that any group sat down to say these are our people that we want in government. If anybody has information to that let them bring it out. You people are investigative journalists, you can easily find out. Kwara is a very small place. You can find out the background of all those people that are in government. I believe that may be, one, two or three or so, of the commissioners and SAs have been in government, but I as a person have not met some of them. But the fact that I’m not referred to in everything does not mean there is no consultation. But again, I believe that there is none of them that has not had one input or the other. I think this is just calling the dog a bad name in order to hang it.
APC rode to power on the basis of the ills of the past- One-man government. Your people are saying this is still one man government
Well, I believe that when somebody or a party is in government, one person will take the decisions based on adequate consultations. I have said this before. We are about four or so, here now. If I have spoken to two of you on an issue, it would be wrong for Biodun to say that I have not consulted before I took my decision. Did he know whether I have consulted with the two of you that are here? Then, in some instances, I might feel that I need somebody that can give me genuine advice without the biases of politicians who want to bring in either their families, friends or something of sorts. I should look for somebody who is an expert in that field. If I call the person and he gives me advice and I take to it that is not non-consultation. These people want to be the centrepiece of the people that will pocket the Governor and he will be dancing to their tunes. That time I believe, is gone.
We all worked for the party. I was in prison sometime because of the liberation struggle. I spent my money. I built this house before coming into government. I don’t have mansions in the G.R.As. So many of these people have ridden on the back of Saraki they are now talking about. Some of us are not like that. I doubt if there is any of them that has not passed through Saraki. There are some of us, who have so much decency that if we had participated with Saraki would not be hobnobbing with this government.
This is a struggle we started about 20 years ago and it was just God that crowned our effort this time. We’re less than two years into government. So, why so much hullaballoo about things that are happening? It must mean that people are thinking about selves and not the state. So, if we, at the forefront of the struggle are here up till now and I’m not complaining; when there’s no member of my family in government, what’s their complaint?
If the Governor finds me worthy of my opinion about an issue, I should think of the larger interests and give him the best that I have as an advice. If he takes to it, good. If he feels that it is not good enough and he rejects I don’t have to complain about it. Ditto, all others.
Are you comfortable with the last visit of the former Senate president to Ilorin taking into consideration the large crowd and his declaration that Kwarans should compare your party performance and the previous governments?
You see, what happened is unusual. Let’s take the benefit of hindsight and let’s look at what happened late Governor Mohammed Lawal lost power and the Sarakis came onboard. They closed the space and took it out on every other persons that were in the opposition. Governor Abdulrahman is not doing that. That is what has given room to Bukola to do all that he had done, notwithstanding what we suffered in his hand. It shows the large mindedness of the Governor and the focus that he has. He doesn’t want distractions. There is no action he has taken against them. I’ve never heard or seen him comment about the government of the Sarakis, that they did things badly or anything as such. But when people talk you hear all sorts. For me, there is no party that does not have issues. Go to the PDP and others. Even when we were there in the PDP, there were lots of crises. This one that is happening in Kwara APC is self-created. People want and craving attention; they are seeking recognition, whether it is by negative or positive publicity, they don’t care. All they want is for them to be the focus. This will not augur well for Kwarans. For me, I don’t believe that what is happening within the party is a crisis.
From the scenario painted by all, one believes that there is certainly a crisis within the party
No. it is not a crisis. There are only groupings misunderstandings.
As an elder of the party, what efforts are on for reconciliation?
We are making efforts. About two weeks ago, elders of the party from the Kwara South Senatorial district, from different camps met under the auspices of Senator Ashiru. I was there. Iyiola Oyedepo was there, and many other people-about 37 of us met in Kwara Hotel. We were there to look at happenings within the party with a view to moving forward. We identified that there should be better relationship. I believe that this is happening in the other two senatorial districts.
At the APC National Secretariat in Abuja where BOB was to be sworn in as state Caretaker committee chairman, it was said that the Governor and your camp were not well disposed to his emergence. Why this stance?
There is nothing like camp in this issue. Let’s get this straight. I have a personal and good relationship with Iyiola and B.O.B and every other person. Then, let us get something very, very clear. From the inception when we came into APC, we never went through congress. The four tendencies, that is, Gbemi, Lai Mohammed, Iyiola and my humble self were asked to bring people from our groups together. We did that successfully at the ward level. At the local government level, there were some misunderstandings when lists were being swapped because of the election that was coming. We managed and packaged ourselves. Then at the state, people were brought together. B.O.B was appointed as the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee. There was no congress to ratify all these. These people were not elected by congress. Then came an issue. Balogun Fulani went to court. The case ran as far as the Supreme Court. What the Supreme Court said was that the National Working Committee had the power to constitute or appoint BOB as the Caretaker Chairman. You don’t appoint a chairman for a party, you elect a chairman. So, in Kwara State there is no executive committee of the party. So, when the Buni-led National Caretaker Committee said they dissolved all the excos from the ward to the national and, were returning those elected executives as caretaker committees, it can be rightly presumed that Kwara was not part of those set-ups. I don’t see where this issue concerns the Governor. This is my personal opinion. What concerns the Governor about this? Was it the Governor that nominated somebody for the position? It is within the power of the present national caretaker committee. Whether they wanted to re-appoint him as caretaker chairman or somebody else is there prerogative. But since that time I don’t think anybody has heard anything from the Governor.
As far as we are concerned, there is nothing like groupings again. In every party there is nowhere where there are no different camps because of interests. It is in all parties all over the world. It is not peculiar to Kwara. So, if there is anything that is happening now, it might be an abracadabra; something more than that which meet the eyes. As far as we are concerned, since we said things are not alright, we are making all efforts to ensure that everything work out smoothly. For the caretaker issue, I don’t think they are being fair to the Governor. And they have not come out with the name he submitted in Abuja. I was in Lagos for a funeral when I heard that I was in Abuja for swearing in as this or that. I just laughed it off. As I said earlier, I don’t think there is any reason for this negative publicity that would not move us forward. It has always been about Fagbemi. When Abdulrahman is doing well, Fagbemi is excluded but when it is something that is negative they will bring Fagbemi to the fore.
May be it’s because you’re the chairman of his group!
Perhaps. But I will say I’m just an elder of the party now, though I believe that I’ve paid my dues to the liberation struggle.
Sir, let’s go back to the issue of the party caretaker chairman. We discovered that Prof Abdulraheem, Senator Gbemisola and Alhaji Lai Mohammed all came in support of BOB when your group kicked against his nomination to the extent that they held a press conference. Many would believe that this is perhaps a fight towards 2023. What would you say to this?
Well, it depends on the people precipitating the problem. They must have an aim. May be that could be their aim. I’m not in a position to know. Our own concentration is on how there would be good governance in Kwara so that people would not start to say that there is no difference between this government and others. So, sustaining good governance is our aim. We want Abdulrahman to succeed.
Since you seem to be the closest to the governor politically, how would you assess his performance so far?
I see development in every aspect of governance. Is it the health sector? The education sector? Is it in terms of infrastructure? What we have not seen in the past is what is happening now. Let’s take the North as an example. It is as if the North has not been part of this state, hitherto. You cannot say you are going to Kaiama or Baruten and hope to get there at any good time, in good condition, not to talk of going and coming back. The road had been abandoned for years. The healthcare facilities there now is a different thing entirely. Look at the educational infrastructure there. They are experiencing total transformation. Then come to the central. All the nooks and crannies of the central are being touched. Even the central where they have been holding power for years, they are the ones that are worst off. The water reticulation that has been on for years, within a month water started coming out where they had no water for the past 15 or more years. Then the hospitals, dispensaries and so on. They are all undergoing reconstruction and also being equipped. Go to the South. In Offa there, the roads, the general hospital are being touched. Go to Omuaran. The General Hospital, the primary health centres in all the local governments. Ditto, primary schools. Even last week, we had a special Christmas gift when the road leading to my town was awarded for construction. We normally pass through Ekiti before we could assess our town. This is a road that had been awarded since George Innih’s regime before the civilian administration. Day in day out, years in years out it would be in the budget but we won’t know what happened to it. But this time around, it is coming for real.
If you’re saying all these, why are people complaining of Enu-gbe?
Yes, people might complain. Even personally, to confess, I told the Governor that the politicians are making noise. But the Governor asked me: “What is the meaning of O to ge” He told me that all that were happening in the past was that only the politicians were concentrated upon while they neglected the populace. He said that era is gone. He’s not saying that they are not entitled to something, but what will go to the generality of the people would be of benefit to all and not just to we politicians. So, he said, enu eyin politicians le gbe (politicians could go hungry) But I’m praying for the Governor that he would just at least for once do something that would appease we politicians and that we should also not be too self-centred.
What I want you people to understand, and you can investigate it, is that what is happening is as a result of the primaries that brought up the Governor. People find it difficult to come to terms with the reality. They underestimated him. They saw him as an underdog. So, when it did not fall on them, they are still finding it difficult to come to terms.
But they are saying he lost…
Thank God. Even with the little difference between BOB and the Governor, BOB swore that there was nothing he did to enhance his emergence. What happened was that we didn’t run a conventional pre-primary campaign. We did a strategic and adopted very new tactics. We decentralized every ways that we organized our campaign. People were concentrating on taking gigantic buildings and structures for campaign headquarters, we decentralized ours. We concentrated on the local government and senatorial districts. Another thing. In their camps, they had up to ten aspirants. We were able to prune down our own to one and we had structures in all the 193 wards in the state. We were not making noise. What this means is that they were restricted in the pond in which they were fishing. Ten fishermen were fishing in the same pond, so, the number of fishes in that pond would be shared by the ten.
There is nothing that they want to accuse Abdulrahman of that they are not guilty of. Everybody tabled the influence they had; the finances they had. He also did his. So, when he came out successful, it was difficult for them to face the reality. They wished they had done it differently. If some people had surrendered for another, perhaps, it would have been a different story. But it was too late. So, he won the primary free and fair because I was involved from the beginning till the end.
So, what’s your message to the aggrieved within the fold?
There is always time. God makes everything beautiful at His own time. They should believe that their own time would come if they are destined to be. And it is only God that installs. But if they cannot come to terms with the divine will of God, it is unfortunate. And the moment this one came up, I was thinking that the best thing for them is to rally round him and not to now be grandstanding, that he would come cap in hand to beg them. What for?
We would think this is the area of conflict. One would expect that he would have gone to them…
He has gone to them; in humility. There is none of them that he did not visit. None of them. Let one of them come out to say that he did not come. He is an epitome of humility.
Do you suspect an external influence in all these?
Well, it might be external but it depends on who is pushing who. They know. They should know. The question should go to them. Perhaps their backers are somewhere, maybe there are some calculations they are making somewhere and believe that it is through their discrediting him that they can achieve their aim.
Are you talking about 2023?
2023 is in the hand of God.
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