Senator Iyiola Omisore, a former deputy governor of Osun State, was in the Senate from 2003-2011. He is eying the Osun State Government House again, this time as governor. In this interview, Omisore bares his mind on the 2014 governorship election in the state, his gubernatorial ambition, how the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may boycott the election if the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, fails to remove the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, the state as presently run by Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the late Bola Ige murder saga, among others. Excerpts:
You want to be the governor of Osun State. How prepared are you?
We are praying that Professor Jega will comply with the court ruling and he will not allow INEC to perpetuate electoral fraud, because we will not do any election under the current INEC in Osun State. As we are now, we have lost confidence completely in Osun State INEC and even in Professor Jega’s leadership of INEC. Our zonal representative is Professor Olorode, an Action Congress of Nigeria card-carrying member, he is a columnist in The Nation and he supports Senator Bola Tinubu all the time. So, we are in trouble; INEC must remove Professor Olorode, South West coordinator of INEC, and Ambassador Akeju, Osun State Resident Electoral Commissioner, for us to have an election that we can participate in, in the state.
Once an umpire is not trusted, what do you expect? Once the referee is deemed to have taken a position, of course he would just be awarding penalties anyhow for his favoured team to have cheap goals. We have seen this thing before, it isn’t as if we are crying wolf where there is none.
ACN is relying solely on rigging. Aregbesola has lost control and he is panicking already. I have said it that they spent about N1 billion on hotels’ bills on their Lagos guests, and the ACN replied by saying, is there any limit to the amount of money one can spend on hotel bills?
They spent N460 million on chartering of aircraft between Lagos and Ibadan alone; they admitted that they awarded contract to Samiya, an unknown name.
These are weighty allegations senator; do you have proof?
The Samiya they gave N19billion contract, I am a professional engineer, I haven’t seen them on any contract in the last 20 years in this country. They are putting Aregbesola’s billboards on federal highways, I haven’t seen that kind of thing before. Deliberately confusing the public! On Kwara-Ila-Odo boundary, you will see Aregebesola there. Even in my town, dualisation of Lagere—to Enuwa, Ilesa by pass, you will see ACN billboard, just to confuse the public.
There is no single tap running in Osun now. When I was in the Senate, I facilitated money to be released to repair the turbine; it is where I stopped that they have left it. That’s why we want to go on rescue mission in 2014 to save ourselves from this man: an engineer in Lagos for eight years and an Ogbeni in Osun for two years.
As you prepare for this rescue mission, there’s always been the issue of the murder of the former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, which you were charged with but acquitted. How do you intend to tackle this seeming encumbrance, the late Ige murder challenge?
Actually, what has been helping me is the sympathy from the people. In Yoruba land, in our culture, when you are framed up and you go through a horrendous trial, people sympathize with you; that has been the secret of my political success.
But the Action Congress of Nigeria has been latching on this and I have taken them to court for false prosecution and they are going to pay the price; they will go and explain what led them to the frame me. I have sued them, I am asking for N21billion, for inconvenience. The procedures are there. The moment you are discharged, you are qualified to sue them for malicious prosecution — that means they lied all through. Of course, they have kept quiet because they know it is all blatant lies and it isn’t working for them, because my people are enlightened.
So, it isn’t a campaign slogan for anybody anymore. Yoruba people are very wise. What I am just praying to God for and appealing to Professor Jega is to allow free and fair election: one man, one vote. That is what we are praying for in the PDP Osun State.
The National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, just concluded a reconciliation tour across the geo-political zones. Can you give us your individual assessment of the trouble- shooting effort as it affects the South-West? Again, at the Ibadan rally, the national chairman said he wasn’t happy that the ACN is in control in the zone. What is the PDP doing?
Well, PDP, as a national party, is a visible party with high democratic credentials; that is, there is internalization of democracy in PDP. And Nigerians, from where we were coming, from the time of military regime, democracy, to some of our members, are being misapplied, misunderstood, and misconstrued, basically leading to internal bickering, ego- bruising and ego massaging.
On this note, the National Chairman went round the zones, starting from the South-West precisely and, from our own experience in the South-West, we admitted that there are some few areas that we need to actually reconcile. But most of the issues that were brought to the fore were issues bothering on the last congresses in the states and, unlike many other states outside the zone where there were actually no congresses at all, in about five of the states in the South West, there were misgivings about the congresses.
So, we already asked a committee to look into it. So, the issues are actually not irreconcilable. But Osun State, particularly, is rancor free. We went for congresses and we have now reconciled ourselves and came out with a formidable united party.
Other states and zones have same semblance of crises here and there, but PDP, from experience in the last 13-14 years, has developed an internal machinery with which it resolves its crisis, to surprise onlookers, who are looking for the fall of the PDP.
You can see that during the last president’s administration, that there were disagreements leading to the national convention, but within three, four days, the party leaders came to a consensus. So, those are the things you see with large parties anyway: large parties, large interest, large and big people as well.
If you compare this with the attempts by the ACN and its allies to form All Progressive Congress (APC), as small as they are, they started with crisis. So, in comparison, they are dead on arrival. Can you now compare them with a long standing PDP, with its democratic credentials? That’s to show that PDP can stand out as a national party in this country and it has internal machinery to resolve its matters.
If you compare the attempts by the ACN and others to form APC with what has happened to PDP since its inception and APC’s crisis at infancy, the difference is clear. If you compare the governance of the PDP in South-West and governance of ACN in South-West, you can see why people are complaining about ACN. Violence has become the order of the day, attacking, maiming innocent people and then they run to the media to start making noise, afraid of their eventual failure.
But the ACN is the party that has been accusing the PDP of perpetrating violence?
Taking a cursory look at these accusations and counter-accusations, where precisely, as journalists in Nigeria, have you seen any PDP person being pointedly accused besides the general accusation? In my state for instance, when there was an attempt by ACN supporters to defect to PDP in Atakumosa local government about a month ago, a member of the party was alleged to have physically assaulted some young people. They are in court now.
During the last election, they allegedly attacked more than 70 members of the PDP in different parts of the state; the cases are in court. The last one that broke the camel’s back was the internal crisis between some ACNleaders in Ife. They now attempted to implicate some PDP stalwarts and they mentioned one Adebowale Adedotun and Wale Ojo, who are PDP members close to me.
These are clear evidences of violence of the ACN and justice miscarriage. In Ilesa, Ejigbo, Ila, they attacked members of the PDP and hounded them to prison. There is a way they do that: all the suspects would be released in one day or two; the governor would be phoning frantically all over the place.
How do you mean that INEC is conniving with ACN to rig elections? Can you substantiate this?
One, the last National Assembly elections in Osun State, the Federal High Court in Osogbo established that the state INEC commissioner was a card carrying member of the ACN and, by the Nigerian constitution, he wasn’t eligible to conduct elections. The court gave instruction that he must not be allowed to conduct the elections, but Professor Jega didn’t abide by the court pronouncement.
After the elections, the court now said anything done by Ambassador Akeju was a nullity. Up till today, Professor Jega is still keeping Akeju in Osun State. So, we don’t have confidence in INEC in Osun State.
Have you complained to the INEC national secretariat?
We have written a letter to Professor Jega; we served him the court papers. He should come and tell us why he is keeping Ambassador Akeju in Osun State. We are in court now and they are frustrating all the court procedures. So, we don’t know which role Professor Jega is playing in Osun State.
Concerning the REC, have you also petitioned the Presidency?
Petition? When there is a court declaration. What is more weighty than a court order? So, what would a petition do when there is a court order? So, we are in serious crisis in Osun State and INEC is conniving with ACN. They rigged the last election, they want to connive to rig the next election in 2014 and they are desperate.
With the picture you have painted, even the Action Congress of Nigeria is alleging that it is PDP that is planning to rig?
But you can see the facts, let them come up with their own facts. They had done it before. What has PDP done to show that we are planning to rig election?