A governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, speaks withPETER DADA on the party crisis and the governorship poll
The judgment of Justice Abang delivered on October 15, 2016, recognised Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. Are you not worried by this development?
Firstly, I am not a party to the suit that led to the judgment of Justice Abang. I was not named there as a defendant and I do know, and stand to be corrected, that Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim was not a party to that suit. But then, there was a judgment that has to do with the state executive committee in the South-West. I know as a matter of fact, and you can confirm this, that that judgment of June 29, 2016 is in respect of the 2019 general elections. Again, there was no mention of Ondo State election 2016 in the entire judgment. So, I ask this question: How would those judgments affect the Ondo State governorship election, in which I remain the governorship candidate? I am aware that an application was made subsequently in the same court to amend the judgment. This is a matter that is now a subject of further proceedings. I would want to say less about this for now and allow the court to again have a look at what has happened. But there are some facts that cannot be discountenanced.
But the Ali Modu Sheriff faction is insisting that your name must be removed.
Go and look at the first and second judgments and check whether you will find Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) written in that judgment as a person whose name must be removed. I do know that there are some vague references. Try and confirm whether there was a specific reference to Eyitayo Jegede whose name has been published as the PDP candidate, whose name was accepted as PDP candidate. Also check again whether you will find the name of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as one of those who instituted the case, especially when he appeared as the beneficiary of the judgment. So, let’s wait and see.
Is Jimoh Ibrahim sponsored to ruin the party’s chances?
Well, I read an interview that Jimoh Ibrahim granted this year to Trace Magazine. In the interview, he said he belonged to Accord Party. He spoke on why he joined Accord Party and why he wanted to contest on the platform of Accord Party. So, honestly, I do not know. I say it frankly that I don’t know if he is a member of our party. I do not know at what point again that he became a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. From what I have seen and by his own clear admission, he represented to the whole world that he is in Accord Party but if now he claims to be a member of PDP, it is left for people to draw their conclusion.
Ibrahim said you are not popular in Ondo State?
In fairness, I don’t think he is in a position to determine who is popular or not. I am sure that the people of Ondo State will know and decide who is popular at the appropriate time. I don’t want to be joining issues with Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim. Honestly, I am focused and I don’t want to be distracted. I don’t want to be cleverly persuaded to shift my eyes from the goal that I want to achieve.
In the next few days, INEC will announce the names of the candidates of political parties that will participate in the November governorship election, how confident are you that your name would be announced as the PDP candidate?
I have always been confident. I believe that INEC would do the right thing. I know INEC will be guided appropriately by precedence and by the provisions of the statute and the decisions of the apex court on this matter, giving the fact that I, Eyitayo Jegede, is not one of the parties to the judgment. There are also processes that have been put in place to legally straighten this thing out.
If INEC accepts Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate, what will be your next line of action?
I can tell you by the grace of God that INEC will do what is right. I know that INEC has gone ahead to collect my form. INEC has gone ahead to publish my name. INEC has gone ahead to display my form and my name and I know that there are time limits for all those steps and God willing, Eyitayo Jegede is the PDP candidate in the governorship election.
Don’t you think this internal crisis will affect the PDP’s chance of victory at the poll?
This is politics; this is about election, this is about individuals and people looking for space and relevance. This is a distraction that is aimed at taking off the candidate’s eye from the goal and from the obvious objective of an election. In politics, you come across this. People are in politics for different reasons. There are people who are also there to create some bit of distraction. I believe that genuine members of the PDP are focused. I believe that those who are real PDP members are also focused and I believe that our people, the electorate, would be able to know at the end of the day who the candidate is.
We are ready for the election. I believe that the November 26, 2016 date for the governorship election in Ondo State is sacrosanct. I believe also that the processes leading to the identification of candidates has been settled. I believe that there were primaries held for each of the political parties. I know as a matter of fact that the PDP primary for the governorship seat in Ondo State took place here in Akure on August 22, 2016. An INEC official was present. The security apparatus of the state was also on the ground. I know that the leadership of the party at the national level came and conducted the primary. It was organised successfully. At the end of the primary, I emerged as the governorship candidate. My very good friend and party loyalist conceded defeat and we agreed to work together. So, from that point on, there was no dispute as to who is the candidate of the PDP in Ondo State. It was transmitted live. I also believe that there was a report written by INEC officials, who were on the ground in line with INEC’s statutory functions. The report confirmed the fact the I remain the candidate of the PDP. So, I do not see why issues will come up later. Whatever is happening is a mere distraction, contrived by those who do not wish the PDP well.
Jimoh Ibrahim described the Mimiko administration, in which you served for over seven years, as a total failure owing to the state government’s failure to pay workers’ salaries?
I think the man you referred to (Ibrahim) is in this country. He lives here. I believe he must have heard the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, say that Nigeria is in an economic recession. I am sure he heard from the pronouncement of the Federal Government that the economy is down and that they are trying to resuscitate the economy. I am sure he is also aware that over 30 states in the country cannot pay salaries. I am also sure that he is aware that the National Assembly cannot pay some of its workers. He is aware that the banks are retrenching while some of industries are folding up. He is aware of the exchange rate, especially the naira against the dollar. He is aware of the challenges resurfacing in the energy sector and others. Having said that, I also believe that whatever is happening now about the economy is not the fault of the Ondo State Government . We all know where the faults lie.
It is on record that the Mimiko government is the most celebrated in the history of our dear state, as far as achievements are concerned. It is also on record that the achievements of the government are so pronounced locally and internationally that other states have been coming to learn from it while international bodies have recommended some of the programmes that make the government a success to other African countries. And these achievements are in various sectors. And it is on the basis of these achievements that the people of the state are clamouring for continuity which they know that I am capable of sustaining.
You are going to inherit a backlog of unpaid salaries and debt. How do you hope to handle this?
One of the reasons that I am contesting this election is to ensure that we address the burning issues. There is a need to take a second look at our economic structure and grow the economy of Ondo State. Part of the reasons I am contesting for election is to boost commerce in Ondo and look again at our moribund industries, resuscitate them and partner genuine private investors. We would have the funds and skill to set up new industries. One of the reasons I am contesting the election is to leverage on our mineral resources, the agriculture sector and the geographical location of the state to bring in new bold ideas to grow the economy. Specifically, we need to ensure that we do everything possible to develop a deep seaport in the southern part of Ondo State. This will increase the income of our farmers and ensure they have higher output. I have detailed plans on how we are going to do this.
We will take steps to look again at the tourism sector and see how we can leverage on the fine potential in our state. The plan is to increase revenue accruing to the state and create a platform for the employment of our people. Again, we will develop our infrastructure in a way that will make it possible for those states around us to come in and learn one or two things from Ondo State.
Each and every part of Ondo State has a comparative advantage, knowing fully well that the public sector cannot do it alone, and realising the huge potential that is within the domain of the private sector. A partnership of both private and public sector will translate to very credible and significant economic growth. There is an urgent need to look at new ways of growing our economy. The idea is to basically attract more revenue to the state government so that it can fulfil its obligations—to provide an opportunity for employment for the people and also grow the economy of the state. Once these things are done, it becomes easier to tackle those demanding challenges of providing infrastructural facilities for the benefit of the Ondo people state and thereby improve their welfare. We need funds to do this. Once we are able to tackle that, the minimal efforts that would translate to delivering these objectives would scale through.
As a leader of the party, what are you going to do to get the support of the other aggrieved members in order to achieve victory at the poll?
We will continue to appeal to them in the interest of the state and the party. They should come in and join hands with us so that together, we can develop the state.We continue to urge them to help the party by not creating further distraction, especially when they know that the PDP is a party to beat. They should not allow themselves to be used to create a crisis where none exists. I hope and pray that, at one point, they will realise that there is nothing to be gained by destroying the party. Let me also say that as I speak with you, a legal step has also been taken to straighten whatever appears to be a legal confusion in the polity.
Jimoh Ibrahim said even if the two factions reconcile, he will not step down for you?
I have said that I don’t want to join issues with Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, but very soon everything will be sorted out.
It was gathered that some of your members are being wooed by the All Progressives Congress and the Alliance for Democracy. The opposition parties are capitalising on the crisis within your party. What are you doing to address this?
I don’t think so. Just this evening, I had a meeting with the members of the APC, AD and SDP who are ready to work for us. So, the point I am making is that in PDP, we remain focused and we will continue to campaign. If you go and check, I am the only one campaigning. I have not seen any other person out there campaigning for the PDP.