Kunle Oyatomi, the Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State of Osun speaks on the 2018 governorship election in the state and why its governorship aspirants were directed to temporarily put their ambitions on hold.
There are insinuations that Governor Rauf Aregbesola is planning to impose a candidate as the APC flag-bearer in the forthcoming governorship election. How far is this true?
Every incumbent head of government anywhere in the world where elective democracy operates usually has an interest in who succeeds him, and this is so for two reasons. One: a successor can destroy everything an incumbent government or governor stood for, or even achieved. And two; a successor could well continue with the achievements of his predecessor. I leave the rest to your judgement as to what a rational incumbent will choose to do. And by the way, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a very rational person and a strategic thinker.
Some concerned stakeholders are of the view that it would be difficult for anybody that emerges as governor after Aregbesola, regardless of his party to cope in governing Osun, considering its high debt profile. What is your take on this?
Yes. There are no two individuals who are equally endowed to manage crisis situation. In the case of the financial crisis in Osun, the people have been exceptionally lucky to have the person of Aregbesola as their governor. There could be a possibility of someone emerging that could be as good as Aregbesola, but the approaches would be dissimilar. If the crisis worsens than it is today, God forbid, we would be thinking of a miracle worker. To answer your question directly, a person familiar with the approach of Aregbesola and the APC government is the best possible hand Osun could hope to have to mitigate the impact of the crisis and make significant progress that will tide the state over its current economic storm. That person is most likely to emerge from the APC than from any other political party. The debt profile of Osun is only a small fraction of the humongous debt overhang of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If the Federal Government remains in debt and the economy continues to suffer depression, Osun will also struggle, just like any other state in the federation.
What informed the recent directive by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun State to members who have governorship ambition to put on hold such aspiration?
Discipline, party discipline. Nigeria’s political scene is beginning to look much like a gold rush scenario where many politicians act like uncontrollable gold diggers. There is a significant deterioration in party discipline in virtually all the political parties in the country. The way politicians scramble for position has turned the political scene into a gold digger’s affair. The primary motive here (the scramble) is self interest, not public interest. This unfortunate situation is overheating the Nigerian political space and is already creating chaos within the party. If some kind of order must be restored, then the political parties must insist on a modicum of discipline. That is what the APC intended to achieve with that order.
There appears to be some ripples among your members ahead of 2018 governorship poll…
Yes, there is discontent everywhere in Nigeria and on virtually everything that you speak about. So, it is not news if there is discontent in the APC in the state.
Does APC in Osun still enjoy massive appeal among the electorate, when compared to previous years of the party in power?
Massive appeal for the APC in Osun did not happen overnight. It was incremental and it escalated when the positive results of the unique programmes of the party began to impact the people’s lives until the economic collapse or if you like, the recession. Osun State took a massive heat from that collapse to the extent that the economy of the state, that depended heavily on federal allocation, plummeted by over 300 per cent. That was enough to crush any state in a similar position like Osun.
But the good news is that, although the magnificent progress which the APC government in Osun was making came to a near screeching halt, in terms of cash allocation from Abuja, the state continues to move on in an inexplicable fashion. With the exception of salary of civil servant which was massively impacted by the recession, major projects that were on before the crisis continued to be implemented, in spite of the recession.
The pain that the recession brought on the people was enough to affect what you called the massive popularity of the party. However, no other political party in the state is anywhere near as popular as the APC still is in the state. Even if we do not have the massiveness at the time of the peak of our popularity, we are still the most popular party by a long shot in the hearts and minds of the people of Osun State.
The leadership of the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently said they would explore the seeming cracks in the APC to their advantage come 2018. How do you hope your party can nip this in the bud?
There is a tendency in the media to downplay the defeat of the PDP in the governorship election of 2014. In spite of the massive deployment of federal might and financial resources to Senator Iyiola Omisore and the PDP to snatch power in Osun, Aregbesola comprehensively defeated Omisore and decisively ended his governorship ambition in the state. There is no way any other political party, including the fractured PDP, can summon the kind of resources and might that Omisore got in 2014. So come 2018, and in spite of hallucinations of critics about a supposed crack in the APC, no party can stand up in contest with the APC and win. APC is a solid house in Osun and, as long as human beings occupy that house, there is bound to be one form of disagreement or another. But that can’t put down the house. There is no political structure standing today in Osun, except the APC that is in the hearts and minds of Osun citizens. So, it will be baloney for anybody to think that there is a political party today or a combination of them that can defeat the APC in a political contest.
Is there any hope for some civil servants in the state to receive the balance of their half salaries since July 2015 before Aregbesola hands over to a new administration in 2018?
Hope is elastic and faith secures hope. So, there is an elastic possibility that, by the time Aregbesola is leaving, the economy of the state and that of Nigeria would have significantly improved to secure that possibility.