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June 25, 2024
State News

Why governorship primary should solidify APC in Ondo State – Jamiu Ekungba |

Chief Jamiu Ekungba is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party. Ekungba, a renowned accountant, who holds the traditional title of EkonOdoAgbara of Owo as well as religious title of Baba Adin of Owo land, exclusively spoke with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO on issues surrounding the recent governorship primary of the party in the state. He urged all the contestants to close ranks and work for the success of Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who has now become the flag-bearer of the party in the forthcoming November 16, 2024 gubernatorial election, stressing that “the party is big enough to take all of us.” He also spoke on the efforts of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration to fix the problems of the country, pointing out its successes so far and areas that require improvement going forward.

You are a strong stakeholder in theAll Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State and also at the national level. How would you comment on the recent Ondo governorship primary conducted by your party?My take is multi-dimensional because it was the first time direct primary would be conducted in Ondo State by the party. It entails that every registered member of the party, whose membership was revalidated by the national body when they came for that purpose, is expected to vote. It was during the revalidation that I got to know that you have to be a financial member to be able to partake in the primary election.A lot of people didn’t know; there were members who were not allowed to vote and they were crying. It’s the first time it was done in Ondo State and that’s the first dimension that came in.
By and large, when you compare it with the Nigerian electioneering system, handled by a party and witnessed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I think the party did well.
Secondly, the system of voting was Option A4, which was used in those days. Option A4 entails that you accredit the people who are eligible to vote and when it is time for voting they queue behind the candidate of their choice.
So, those two dimensions are not just only new to the electorate; a lot of people were caught unaware. In my local council, Owo, I went round all the wards to the extent that I wasn’t even able to vote because I wanted to see what was happening.
The only thing that happened was that a lot of people, who were not financial members, came out with their membership cards to vote and were not allowed to vote. Some of them wanted to cause trouble but we told them, ‘come, when they called for revalidation recently, you stayed in your house. Some people went to revalidate their membership and it was discovered that they have been members for the last six, seven or eight years and had not paid any dues. They were asked to pay even if it’s one year and they did and got their receipts.’ That is the first thing every Nigerian must take into consideration while criticising what happened in Ondo State. A lot of people were caught unaware; a lot of people were shocked because what they were used to in primaries was not what happened.

From my observation in my local council, the election was peaceful. But I understood that there were crises in parts of Akure, Odigbo, Ondo and one other place. If there were pockets of crises in four out of 18 local councils, will you therefore say that the election was not good enough with all the things I have spoken about?
Some of the aspirants alleged that they were not privy to the distribution of election materials, saying it was part of the plot by the committee to rig the election in favour of Governor Aiyedatiwa who eventually won?I have said one thing – what is the election material for Option A4? It is just paper to record the result. Then you have the electoral officer for the ward and the INEC official to witness the election. In my local council, Owo, we waited for them and they came and brought the paper. We asked if that was the election material and they said yes. They also came with the accredited membership register. In my ward, there are about 700 members of the party but those who were revalidated were just about 500.
With that register, they asked those who were not financial members to move aside and that caused some shouting. But those of us who are elders explained that if you are a member of an organisation and you are not paying your annual dues, you are not competent to vote when the organisation is electing its officers. That was what calmed the situation and only those who were financial members were accredited to vote.
So, I don’t know the election materials they are talking about. There was no voters’ card, card reader or what have you. We had only the INEC officials to witness the election, the electoral officer that was sent by the national body, security officers and the papers they brought for recording the result.As I said, it’s an innovation by the APC. I hope whatever they have learnt from this one can be perfected going forward.
Let me put it this way; most of the people that contested are my friends. We have always been in the field together for a long time. I want to appeal to everybody; let’s not discredit this good job. Let’s take our loss in good faith and work together. This is a contest between brothers in the same room of a family; one person will get it. So, those of us who lost should not discredit the exercise.
Whatever minor lapses were observed will be reviewed at the national level for the next one until we are able to perfect it.
If you are advising the contestants that lost to accept the outcome in good faith, what steps do you think Aiyedatiwa, who won, should take to calm frayed nerves?Let me put it this way; what advice do I have for all APC members? Now the winner of this primary election is APC. Somebody has been given a ticket; that person wants to win the main election. So, he must stoop to conquer; he must come down to the level of everybody that is pained.
Listen to me; the amount of money spent by these people is huge because of the method adopted by the party. I told you it was a new method in the state. The campaign was as if they were going for the general election. They visited the local councils and brought people out as if they were campaigning for the general election. These people spent a lot of money.

My advice is this – the governor of the state, who is currently the leader of the party in the state must work hard to make sure that strained veins are quickly healed by reaching out to people. We are going to do that. I’m a leader of the party. Although our constitution no longer recognises the Board of Trustees as an organ of the party, legally we are the owners of the party. I am a member of the BoT; I will not allow the party to fail. So, we are going to move around and ensure that we bridge all gaps and heal all wounds. Look, this house is big enough for all of us. So, let those people that lost wait for another time. There will be another opportunity. Not only that; APC is ruling at the state and national levels. If it is a matter of ‘what can I get?’ there is room for us to be compensated. So, let us come together as a family and heal the wounds quickly.
APC is a party that must not be allowed to have problems because of a governorship primary. So, His Excellency, the Governor must stand out and reach out. Number two, all the 15 other aspirants must be ready to accommodate reconciliation; they must be ready to contribute to rebuilding our party to become stronger so that each one of us will continue to be part of the party and render service to our people. If I’m in a party to render service to the state and I want to render it in a particular way today and they say I should wait till another time, why shouldn’t I wait? And the structure now is good enough to give all of us an opportunity to provide service to the state. That is exactly what the sitting governor should emphasise. He should reassure everybody that there wouldn’t be you and me syndrome but that it’s our own. The party is big enough to take all of us.
The primaries conducted by your party in Edo and Ondo states indicated that internal democracy has not taken root in the party…(Cuts in) No, no, no! The difference between Edo and Ondo primaries is wide. In Edo, there were crises that produced two different results of the primary. The team set up by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party provided two different results and that was the crisis. But here, the team that was sent to come and conduct this primary was together and did the work. The only problem that I saw, which needs to be corrected, is this – it is not their job to conduct elections. You can’t compare them with INEC; the people in INEC are trained, re-trained and they sit down and plan elections. But these people were just put together within two or three weeks and asked to go and conduct an election.
And INEC officials that are sent are not there to supervise but to witness the election. Even in INEC-conducted elections in Nigeria, are there not crises not to talk about an election conducted by non-professionals?
So, there is an improvement from what happened in Edo when you look at Ondo primary. However, there are some ‘Ts’ that need to be crossed and some ‘Is’ that need to be dotted. So, let us look at those things so that we can improve them. Like we improved on Edo, we can improve on Ondo in the next place we are going.

The Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje-led NWC of the party conducted this primary. Ganduje is currently facing some issues in the state that has resulted in court orders and counter court orders regarding his suspension from the party. Don’t you think the development will harm the candidacy of Aiyedatiwa in the end?One thing that I tell people when we were campaigning for the President is that he is an astute politician. He knows how to handle political issues. That’s number one.
Number two; he is also a financial expert; so, he knows how to handle financial matters. Lastly, he has courage. He knows when to say stop. He also knows when to say ‘despite the bullets you are throwing at me I am going ahead’.  Those were what I used to campaign for him. He has that courage; I know he will handle the Kano matter properly.
Let me also say that the way it happened to Adams Oshiomhole when he was the national chairman of the party is exactly what they are trying to recreate in Kano. But the situation now is different. Then, our president, who is the leader of our party, was apolitical. But now the president is a politician. He will handle it properly and ensure that it doesn’t bring any setback to the party. The way he will handle it, I don’t know. What I know is that when he finishes handling it, all of us are going to be satisfied. I trust him and what happens when you trust your leader is that you sleep well.
You vigorously campaigned for President Tinubu. At a point you were even quoted as saying that he would normalise things within three months of his administration. But Nigerians are very disenchanted with his administration given the prevailing economic situation of the country. Are you satisfied with the way things are in the country today?What I told people then (and you can check the record) was that within three months, he would be properly on the seat and become the driver of the nation. Has he achieved that or not? He has! The difference between what happened to Nigeria and what we are seeing is that at the time he took over, which is also a credit to him, the economic situation in Nigeria was not understood by anybody.
Nobody knew. I, as an accountant, knew that we were in trouble but the magnitude of what I was thinking is less than one per cent of what actually came out when he took over; and that is another thing about him. He saw it, he threw it out so that everybody would see it and said ‘look, as bad as it is, we are going to work towards resolving it’. And the resolution is coming gradually. At least now, when you are looking at the foreign exchange dynamics, it’s no more a fire-fighting approach. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is relaxing and facing the issues strategically. You can now see that the actions being taken by the CBN are predictable and everybody knows where we are.

So, he is going to do that in other spheres and I trust him. Somebody asked me about two or three weeks ago whether I was not over trusting this man. I told the person that I worked with him during the MKO Abiola campaign and I saw how he came with ideas. I was not a politician then; I was only a friend to MKO. When he became governor of Lagos State, I saw him. And after being governor, seeing what Lagos is today, I saw him. I think the man is a good politician, a good financial analyst, a good economist and a good Nigerian that we should support.
See what happened in the country during Ramadan. He would call a group of people to Aso Rock, break the fast with them, explain the problems of Nigeria to them and tell them, ‘don’t be afraid; I did not get here by accident; I asked for this job. I’m going to work to solve them’. He has been giving us reassurance upon reassurance. If he doesn’t see light in the tunnel, he won’t be bold enough to be doing that.
What I am therefore saying is this: I see Tinubu as somebody who has taken the driver’s seat of the nation and he is in control of the steering. I think what we need to do is to pray for him so that he will be able to drive us to the safe location we are going to.
Aside from taking firm control of the driver’s seat, what else would you say he has achieved barely one year in office, especially in view of the level of despondency in the land?There were crises all over the place, especially insecurity, before he came; the intensity of insecurity has reduced under his watch. You will tell that hundreds of students were kidnapped in Kaduna State. When hundreds of students were kidnapped in Borno State, what happened? Till now we have not been able to completely recue them. These students have been rescued. That’s the president being in charge of the driver’s seat.
Nigeria is a country that is not only big but also has different types of human beings. We have the good, the very good, the very bad and those on the average. For a president to be able to handle the very bad ones, it takes time because it’s not by carrot and stick alone, it’s also by reorientation. Reorientation is not a thing you achieve in two or three minutes. That’s number one.
When people are caught napping in corrupt practices, the way he has handled it is different from the past governments that I know. You can’t say because you are close to Tinubu and you are caught in a corrupt act and you think he will protect you. No, he will ask you to go and face the law.
Number three; he has been able to allow us to see the depth of our problems. He took over a government that said the Foreign Reserve was $37 billion. And more than $32 billion of that reserve was used as security for loans taken and nobody knew when those loans were taken; not even the Senate. We now know that this is our situation; we didn’t know before. We didn’t know the amount of Ways and Means before; now we know the amount.

You see, when a building has a structural problem, when you want to repair it, you don’t start from the roof. You have to go to the foundation to unearth the problem; it is when you know the problem that you decide whether you are going to amend it or demolish and rebuild. At least now we know the extent of the economic problem of Nigeria. We know how much we owe and we know how much we require to be able to sustain the economy.
Politicians are already fighting for the next election. That is why they will criticise whatever he is doing. But those of us who love Nigeria and want Nigeria to grow and develop must look at these criticisms on a fair level and compare likes with likes. That is exactly what Nigerians should do to be able to know if Tinubu is doing well or not. For me, he has done very well in the last one year.
Looking at the outcry of Nigerians against the policies of his government that are hurting them, what do you think he should do in the immediate term to at least make the ordinary Nigerian smile?
Let me start by saying that I listened to the music by Ebenezer Obe during the time of Shagari. He sang about how the town was hot. I listened to KollingtonAyinla when he sang that the town is hard. So, town being hard is not new.
Having said that, let me proceed to say that the governors are the nearest to the people. The governors are getting huge sums of money from the Federal Government. Whatever he needs to do to beg these governors to ensure that they do what will make things easier for the people they govern should be done.
I got to know that Ogun State is about starting a market for civil servants that would be subsidised by the government.  I don’t know how it’s going to work but I learnt that Lagos State did something similar. But who are those that will be in charge of the market? That is what I am saying about Nigerians.
Many politicians that are complaining are not really complaining about hardship but about the fact that they don’t have an opportunity to be there to corrupt the system. They criticise the economic policies of the government, which they don’t even study, so that people can hate the government and pave the way for them to come and take over.

So, who are these people put in charge of these markets by these state governments? I hope they are not people who will see that as an opportunity to amass wealth so that the intention of these governors won’t work.
If there is a market for civil servants in Ogun State, where they can buy products at cheaper rates, then there will be less pressure on the conventional markets. Now those conventional market people who are raising their prices arbitrarily will discover that demand and supply will affect them and bring the price down.
Secondly, we are now in April. By May, the President should set up his team to start doing what I call zero-based budgeting for the nation. What I mean is that they are not going to take up the current budget and say ‘we spent N10 here last year, we have to increase it to N15 this year’. No, they have to sit down with communities and talk to them on what they think should be in the federal budget. That done, the next budget will be a budget prepared by Nigerians, because you and I will have input there. That means he has to refortify the budgeting system of the Federal Government.

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