Former civilian governor of Oyo State and leader of the Action Congress (AC) in the state, Alhaji Lam Adesina spoke to Journalists, including BAYO OHU as part of activities to mark his 70th birthday. He reminiscent on his political career since the First Republic and concluded that old politicians were better behaved and adhered strictly to the rule of the game. Lam added that Second Republic was the high point of politics in Nigeria when democratic values as sacred norms were observed and protected by the stakeholders. Excerpt:
Q: At 70, can you reminiscent on your political career since you joined active politics?
A: I joined and started participating in politics in the First Republic even though I did not contest any election at that time. First of all, I was a student politician at the University and secondly in the dark days of government in the old Western Region when I was at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, I founded the Action Group student wing in 1963 and I was the president even at the time you do so at the risk of your life, but I did it. I suffered some setbacks from my participating in politics in the sense that I was to be given a scholarship by the Western Region government but I was denied because of my activities as leader of the AG at the University. I also had the experience of having to be part of the people that took Balewa’s government to court in 1965 after the 1964 federal elections. So, when the federal elections were held in December 1964 and the United Progressive Grand Alliance party (UPGA) boycotted the election in the west, the Northern Nigeria Alliance (NNA) said they have conducted the election and the results came out but the UPGA refused to accept the result because it was massively rigged.
At this stage, we members of the students representative council of the UNN decided to take the federal government to court over the election and we did not want the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to call Tafawa Balewa to form a government and there was a constitutional crisis and political deadlock in Nigeria for 90 days because there was no government. But Zik eventually called Balewa to form a government and we filed a suit against the government but the case was not decided until the military struck in 1966.
Q: What happened to your political career after you left the University?
A: I came out of the University to take up a teaching job but I still participated actively in politics even when the military took over because I participated in the events leading to the take-over by the army in 1966 in Ibadan because we did not want the NNDP to stay since it was a very bad government. I did this because I knew that even if I lost my life, I must have done so justifiably for other people to enjoy later. However, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was released from prisons and my late uncle took me to him at his residence at Oke Bola where I met him for the first time in my life. We later came to know and work together and from there we formed the then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the Second Republic.
It was in 1979 that I contested a seat into the Federal House of Representatives on the platform of the UPN and that was the time I can say I became a full-fledged politician up to the time I was elected governor of Oyo State and I still remain in politics and I shall remain in it for ever till I die when I will become a reference point to the younger generations but I will not contest any election again.
Q: How will you compare the politics of old to what we have presently?
A: Politics and the way we play it today is quite different from the politics of yesteryears. For instance, in the First Republic, it was the spirit of nationalism that was driven our politicians at that time so that to the large extent those old politicians at that time rendered selfless services and even though the military came and accused them of corruption, but I can say that the level of corruption at that time was very minimal because politicians were generally revered to as ten percenters at the time.
Again, the leaders at that time were not corrupt. Go to Sokoto today and ask people to show you the house of the late Sardauna Ahmadu Bello who was the premier of the north, you will probably see something like a hut but not a mansion or castle. Also, in Ibadan here, the late Adegoke Adelabu has nothing tangible to point to as his house even though he was a popular opposition leader at that time or you go to Ikenne, Ibadan or Apapa to see what late Awolowo left as his house. The same thing with the late Zik, who was the first president of Nigeria, go and see his house in Nsukka and it was the same story with the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, go to Bauchi and ask people to take you to the house he lived in and left for his children and you will be surprised. The late Aminu Kano was the same, he has nothing in Kano.
But when the Second Republic came, it was the high point of democracy in this country and after that democracy died and there is nothing to call a democracy now. The highpoint of democracy was in the Second Republic and it was democracy per excellence when you find the ruling party being put on its toes by the opposition party. The then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) won the election but it was not a land slide and the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) had to support them in order to form the majority at the National Assembly, the UPN was very formidable as an opposition party and then you have the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP), also in the opposition. But today, politicians have corrupted every process with money and there is no service, commitment and discipline. There is even no respect for the laws they are making and the philosophy of politics today is everybody on to himself and God for us all.
Q: Do you have any regret that the values that were passed on to you by the politicians of old have not been imparted in the younger ones?
A: I feel highly disappointed and it saddened me any time I remember and unfortunately, the man who created the whole problem for Nigeria is Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and make it impossible for the younger ones to want to learn from the elders. He introduced money politics and indiscipline into the political life of Nigeria by creating the then National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and went further to say that there will be no founder and there will be no joiner.
So, he has already caused the problem to the extent that the youths do not respect the elders in politics again and when he was in power, he tried to ban the old politicians. Therefore, he has overthrown all the good values in politics and this is what has caused the problem till today that anybody can just come up and say he has money and try to take over the organ of the party and if you did not allow it, he can work against the interest of the party and this is also why it is very difficult to settle rift arising from the various contests within the party. In those days, the late Awolowo will not allow you to conduct any shadow or primary election to pick party candidates. That time, it was simply the matter for the elders and leaders of the party to seat and pick those members that they have found to be committed and dedicated to the party as candidates for the elections and they will go all out to work very hard to ensure that their candidates win the elections.
A: This is the problem we are confronting today and that is why we cannot get people who can readily serve today. We have to reorganise the party right from the grassroot so that we can get people who can serve selflessly. This is a pity and it is the dilemma in which many of us party leaders are in today. In the past, money is nothing in politics but today it has become a force to reckon with. But fortunately what I know is that the late Awolowo had already foreclosed the running of politics with money in Yorubaland so much so that it is the masses that will decide in a free and fair election. It is only the middlemen who shared the money in politics but when it comes to the people who will vote you into office, provided there is going to be free and fair election, you can be sure that the best party will always be elected into power in the west here.
Q: Do you think that the multi-party system we have on the ground now is good for Nigeria especially when the ruling PDP has vowed to rule for the next sixty years?
A: The PDP prides itself to be the largest political party in Africa but I can say that they are only daydreaming. If actually they are the largest party, they will not behave the way they have been doing. The PDP never won any free and fair election in this country and people should go to Ghana to see and experience the example of a free and fair election. In Nigeria, when you talk of the INEC, you mean PDP and that is why they are boasting that they will rule Nigeria for sixty years. So, in a free and fair election in this country, PDP cannot win more than five states and I do believe that President Yar’Adua will be bold enough to accept the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee whereby we shall have a free and fair election so that a government that is elected will be able to claim to be the government of the people.
But since 2003, no government of the people has been elected in Nigeria because the PDP has been electing themselves into power. Therefore, there is no problem with too many opposition political parties because Nigeria is suppose to be a multi-party democracy. So, we can have as many political parties as possible in a place that is multi-ethnic, lingua and religious like Nigeria and that is the beauty of democracy. But when it comes to election, you will see how the people will vote to elect the ones that they wanted. Apart from these many opposition parties that are on the ground, they have opposition inside the PDP itself that will tear the party into pieces whether anybody likes it or not because to me the PDP will fall down and break into pieces one day. The self-contradictions within the PDP will break it to pieces and instead of lasting for sixty years it may eventually last for only sixty days.
Q: Do you think the Action Congress (AC) is better organised and strong enough to make a meaningful impact in the next election in Oyo State?
A: The AC has always been better and properly organised in Nigeria but our obstacle has always been the rigging of election in Oyo State and that is what is happening in the entire country. So, without rigging by the ruling party, I can assure you that the AC will sweep the polls in the whole of the South West any day if there will be no incidence of rigging. But let me assure you that we are not going to take anything lying low this coming election in 2011 and the ruling party should be told this. If it is death they will discover that we are ready to die.
I am using this opportunity to let them know that I will lead the crusade in Oyo State to take over the state from the PDP back to AC and where that administration rightly belongs. Honestly, this is what will happen because enough is enough. If they want to use force to remain in power, we are going to apply equally the force more than they apply because we are no fools in Oyo State and other parts of Yorubaland. We want our people to enjoy and Yoruba people are going behind and are suffering. Many of our children have dropped out of schools for no just cause; we are not going to accept that any longer. So, it is not a question of whether we are better organised or not because we have always been the better side. The only thing is that we have not been able to meet force with force in Oyo State because we don’t want any problem here. But we have warned them now that we will not allow rigging to take place again in the state.