Chief Ebenezer Babatope OFR, writer, journalist, historian and lawyer, is a disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and former Minister of Transport. He is now a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a member of its Board of Trustees (BOT). In this interview with BABAJIDE OKEOWO, Ebino Topsy as he is fondly called spoke on the crisis rocking his party and the way forward in the country. Excerpts:
How will you rate the one year in office of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration?
It has been bad, but I want to concede to him that he met some problems on ground that he never envisaged which he and his party have been battling with it. And, I must confess that I am not one of those that will jump to say that he has not done well. He has done well in the fight against corruption even though some of us believe that some that are being tried are being tried wrongly.
There was no basis to try Femi Fani Kayode, I am repeating it again, there is no basis to try Femi Fani Kayode; he was spokesperson for the PDP and he shouldn’t be expected to use leaves, palm leaves and stones to do his job. He was given money, even though he is accountable to the Nigerian public, he was working for the PDP, a major party in Nigeria, and so he must have funds. To go and now clam him into detention as far as I am concerned amounts to injustice of the worst order.
Having said that, Buhari has done fairly well, he has met problems here and there and I believe if that continues, it will play into our hands in 2019. He has done fairly well, let us wait for the announcement on those who have returned money to the country; so we are expecting to see the names and we expect Nigerians to judge that announcement on the basis of the fact that whether the announcement is based on fairness and justice. And I want to say this too with all energy at my command that: President Muhammadu Buhari contested elections in this country, did they use stones to contest the elections? They used money. What has happened to those elements within his party who gave the money? How come we are not talking about them? What has happened to somebody from Rivers State that we are told poured millions into that election? What has happened to somebody from Lagos State that we are told poured millions into that election? So, for President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war to be constructive and meaningful, it has to be all embracing.
Do you have belief in President Muhammadu Buhari’s ability to steer the affairs of this country?
I believe so, I believe President Muhammadu Buhari can do it; I only want to appeal to Nigerians to give him a chance, let us give him the benefit of the doubt. On integrity, everyone knows that President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of integrity and he is not a corrupt person at all, even though he jailed me for 21 months unjustly when he came in as military head of state; I want to say that I am impressed by his records that nobody has come out to say that all the years he served in public office that he embezzled public funds.
But, having said that, we of the PDP are getting ready, when we get rid of the crisis that we have, we are fully ready to ensure that we take back our place in the history of this country by defeating APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
With this recurring crisis in the party, how does the PDP hope to play the role of a credible opposition to the ruling party?
We are going to play a very credible role as an opposition party. First, we have conceded defeat, we were defeated at the elections and if you go into the analysis of why we were defeated, some of us know why we were defeated. The All Progressives Congress (APC) worked very well and cashed in on the problems in the party to wipe us out of power. Having said that, we will remain a very credible opposition, that we have problem in the party does not mean that we are not going to play our part to protect the right of the common people in Nigeria. And I can assure you that within the next 6 months, you are going to see a rejuvenated, reactivated PDP in the market providing credible representation to the people.
Where do you see the party in the next five years?
Oh!!! We will be strong, a very strong party and we will ensure that we play our role as an opposition party well and when we go for elections in 2019, we are sure that the Nigerian people will take us and vote us back into power.
Who are we likely to see as the rallying point for the party?
It is difficult to determine now because we are in the process of politicking, but by the time we approach 2018, the picture will be clearer on who and who will emerge as the rallying point of the party. But right now it is difficult to say.
What do you make of the recent increase in the price of petrol and the position of organised labour, do you suspect any foul play?
I do not suspect foul play, I will just say that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC are just lucky because what Nigerians did during the time of Jonathan, I never supported it, but then that was the opinion of the people and you cannot stifle the opinion of the people. I want to appeal to labour leaders to kindly put the common interest of average Nigerians at heart, and to ensure that they don’t worsen the economic conditions of Nigerians further, but, if they know that they have the interest of the Nigerian people at heart then they can go ahead. And, I want to advise the government N145 per litre may be too costly, too much for Nigerians to bear particularly at this time when the economic condition of the country is very bad. I want to advise government to revise it, I don’t know to how much, the marketers were there to explore the situation, and they should revise the petroleum price to arrive at a price that will not increase the suffering of the Nigerian people. I am also appealing to the labour leaders to kindly meet with government and come to basic terms, two wrongs can never make a right.
On the menace of the Fulani herdsmen, there are insinuations in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari is not doing enough to combat it, what do you have to say on this?
I have always been very afraid of the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari used to be the spokesperson of the herdsmen sometimes ago before he got into power. I want to give you a very vivid example; When my friend, Alhaji Lam Adesina was governor of Oyo State, our president led a delegation to him to complain about the way some Fulani herdsmen were being treated at Oke Ogun in the state. It happened, it was reported in the media. But, I give a benefit of the doubt to the president that he is a good Fulani man, and no matter the case, before you can be a good Nigerian citizen you must first be a good Fulani man, a good Yoruba man and a good Ibo man.
But, I believe that President Muhammadu Buhari was elected by Nigerians, he belongs to the APC, I belong to the PDP, but I must confess to you that there are some policies of the president that I will support and have been supporting despite the fact that we do not belong to the same party. And again, President Muhammadu Buhari and I are of the same generation, he is only one month and nine days older than me and I want to concede to him that as a ruler, he must have some problems before him and I support him when I support him, but I must confess that what has happened in the case of the Hausa Fulani herdsmen and that it took the President 10 months to react is very unfortunate.
A lot of people had being killed, why did we allow that to happen, even some people have told me that the Fulani’s along the west coast of Africa are being led by President Muhammadu Buhari at one time, but he has since said that he is fully committed to ensuring that the Hausa Fulani herdsmen exploits are caged and something is being done to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of all the carnage that we have seen in Nigeria all these months.
What do you have to say concerning the level of corruption that took place under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan? How does it make you feel?
I don’t want to disturb Buhari, in the fight against corruption. But, you know that no case has been successfully tried and completed in this process; I am very keen to hear the result of the proceedings. Apart from being a lawyer, I am a public spirited person and I want to see facts of the matter tabled before Nigerians showing that these people took the money. Like I said in the Femi Fani Kayode’s case, he took money to execute his job as PDP spokesperson in a vital national election, but when you have people who took money and cannot account for the money they took and don’t have a definitive function that warranted the money that they took, they should for goodness sake be tried and prosecuted by the government, they have my support on that. But like I said, I am waiting to listen to the proceedings and waiting for the reports.
There are insinuations in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari might be the last president of Nigeria, do you think so?
I do not believe in the break-up of Nigeria, I do not and will never not support anybody canvassing for the break-up of Nigeria; if Nigeria must break, then all of us must be made to account for what must have being responsible. By the grace of God, Nigeria will have problems, will continue to have problems but will solve the problems in a way that our country will continue to be unified. You cannot solve all the problems in the country overnight. It was a famous author who said that the society must be in a permanent state of crisis, in a permanent state of conflict but any society that allows conflict and crisis to destroy it does not have any reasons to stand as a society. There will always be conflicts but, by the grace of God, we will always solve our conflicts without any recourse to the break-up of the country.
What do you make of statements credited to Great Britain that Nigeria is fantastically corrupt?
I am not offended by what David Cameron said because it is a statement of fact that Nigeria is a corrupt country, but the question I want to ask David Cameron is this, who started the corruption in this country? It is the British, the political system they brought into the country was wrong, the role they played as the colonial master was wrong and they encouraged the emergence of people who are corrupt. So David Cameron should have sat down and reflected on that before coming out to say we are corrupt. So, he and all his look-alikes should kindly know that what we need is not retribution; it is support so that we can come out of the mess we are in.
On the issue of the Chibok girls, what is your take on this?
I think Gooduck Ebele Jonathan did his best in trying to find the Chibok girls and all those who were screaming then that they would have performed miracles now knows where the shoe pinches and now knows that it is not as easy as they thought.
Having said that, I want to say that it has been widely reported that President Muhammadu Buhari has not bought a single pin in the fight against Boko Haram. On the issue of the Chibok girls, they raised our hopes that the girls were coming home, the governor of Borno State said they will soon come home, we are still waiting, and the girls are still far away from home. I want to appeal to President Buhari to ensure that he did everything in his power to not only bring the girls back but to ensure that no child of ours, no Nigerian child is sacrificed on the altar of indecision of the federal government or on the altar of religious bigotry.
Politics Monday page 4 pix- Olabimtan.
I‘ll maximize Ondo resources for good of all, says APC governorship aspirant
Hon. Victor Adekanye Olabimtan is one of the governorship aspirants of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), in Ondo State. A politician and union leader, Olabimtan has held various political appointments both in the state and federal levels. He was a-one time Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Chairman of the State’s Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) and in 2009, Commissioner representing Ondo, Edo and Ekiti states in the Federal Civil Service Commission. In this interview with LATEEF IBRAHIM, he gave reasons why he is aspiring to govern the Sunshine State. Excerpts:
Why did you leave your former political platform, PDP, for APC?
I believe in fairness, equity and justice. And also strongly in internal democracy; All these three were lost in the PDP. PDP started losing ground since 2007, when Obasanjo handed over power. It was a gradual process. People can say all manner of things about Obasanjo but when it comes to the issue of party supremacy and internal democracy, Obasanjo stands tall among all the PDP chieftains. If he sees that anyone is being oppressed he will stand by the person. Not supporting the person but making sure that the principles of Fairness, Justice and Equity is applied. The likes of Governor Akpabio, Fayose (in his first term) and many others are direct beneficiary of these principles from Obasanjo. These principles became lost in the party, and to make matters worse, the incumbent Governor of Ondo State came to the party and took over the party we used our sweat, money and time to build. The PDP became self-glorified and started worshiping people in power against the wish of the masses to the extent that some of us could no longer talk. So, when it was time to choose candidates for the party, those candidates were handpicked by one man. The era of one man politics had long gone centuries ago. So I couldn’t submit myself to a situation like that anymore.
What disappeared in the PDP then – Equity, Fairness and Justice was found in the APC. In the APC today, everybody can attest to the fact that internal democracy, rules of natural justice, and the rule of equity reign supreme. Those were the foundation upon which APC was formed. If you look at all the primaries conducted in APC so far, you will understand my point. And for as long as these principles are found in my party the APC, I remain.
Why are you running for governorship of Ondo State?
I am running for many reasons. I want to run a government that is classically transparent and good, a government where the principle of fairness, equity and justice will always apply. The leaders of tomorrow are the youths. At the end of every election, they are always neglected and/or given insignificant positions like Special Assistants or Personal Assistants. They should be Commissioners, Chairmen of Boards and Parastatals, they should be everything, even deputy governor. The same goes for women. That is why we have made it succinctly clear that our government is going to be 50-50. 50% for those who are 50 years and above and the other 50% for those who are 49 years and below. And in all position of our government, 40% shall go to our women.
I also want to prove to doubting Thomases that not all politicians are liars. That is one of the main reasons we (VOICE-Victor Olabimtan Initiative for Change Emancipation,) timely produced our manifesto, christened “My pact and contract with the good people of Ondo State.” So that people can see something to hold on to as a bond between us and them. This is a clear departure from the usual norm where politicians merely talk about their aspirations without telling the people what they can or hope to do in government. We have a blueprint on how to make the sun shine brightly again in Ondo State.
At this critical moment, Ondo state needs a bridge builder as a governor. Can this be found in Olabimtan?
A bridge builder is someone who can work his way across people, across diverse purposes and bring everybody together for the good of all. As far as this race is concerned, I am not being proud or immodest but I think if you are looking for a candidate that cuts across all bridges, that candidate is Olabimtan. The youths, women and elders love me. In my dealings with everybody during my journey so far, despite my imperfections, I have being fair to everybody and they know and love me.
Looking at Ondo State as a whole, I can say that I am a candidate (I won’t say I am the only one) that all the parties can trust. Be you APC, AP, PDP, SDP, LP……..anybody. The civil servants in Ondo State consider me as one of them and they relate with me as such. The youths understand what God has used me to do for some of them. The elders appreciate my humble contributions to the betterment of our society. All sectors of the society are accessible to me and I am equally accessible to all. We have a shoreline that has not been tapped in Ondo State. We cannot do it alone, we need Lagos, we need Ogun, and we need the Federal government. We need to liaise with Lagos State Chambers of Commerce and Industry if we must develop our seaport. That is the issue we have.
In a case where we have a governor who has an axe to grind with someone who can help him, such a governor will rather remain helpless than go to his “enemy” for help. I can connect Ondo State with the federal and any state government. I have worked with both Ondo State and the federal governments, and I know where we need solutions to our problems.
The race for the governorship of any state, no doubt, requires a lot of money and it is generally believed that you don’t have such financial muscle. How do you intend to handle this matter?
A: It is known worldwide that deprived people are the ones who think more, plan more and act development more. Take the nation of Israel for instance, they are on an Island. And this Island is a desert and yet, they export food to almost all the great nations of the world. Because you are deprived, it makes you to use your initiative to the maximum.
By the grace of God, we will sit down and consider ideas and we use our initiative. We sit down and plan on how to use the little we have to get better results like those people spending millions. That is why we are ahead of them. That is the secret and that is what governance is about. Managing and using scarce resources to its maximum potential for the good of all. Governance the world over is not about abundance, but about using the available resources for the good, betterment and satisfaction of all. And that is the advantage we are placing before the people of Ondo State. That, if given the mandate, we have what it takes to manage the affairs of Ondo State for the betterment of all, despite the present economic reality.
Our sponsors are the good people of Ondo State. Their goodwill is what is sponsoring and engendering us to make judicious use of the available resources. The people trust us, therefore our desire not to let them down is our driving force. They ask us daily to move on with their encouraging words, saying “don’t worry, the Lord is on the throne” and we are behind you. That is what keeps us going. Anyone who has the people, has everything. They support us with their money, prayers and above all they stand by us. If you have all the money and you don’t have the people, your money is useless. We have God and the people, and they are our sponsors.
Some people are of the opinion that you will favour PDP members above APC members if eventually you clinch the ticket and elected governor. What is your opinion about this?
When I joined the APC, I didn’t see anything called PDP anymore. All of us are APC members and since we are APC members, we will share whatever we have among the APC family.
Secondly, there is a party, the All Progressives Congress. That is the party on whose crest we are going to rise to power. I am an apostle of party unity and supremacy. As a party man I will submit myself to the party. Once that is done, their fears is already allayed. Therefore, the party (APC) will have a voice in our government. The voice will be very loud and clear, that appointments to be made will be made between the party and the governor. Those of us who came from the PDP to join the APC are not in the executive of the APC. And when it is time for appointments to be made, it is the APC executives that will choose who to be appointed. So I don’t see how PDP members will be favoured over APC.
My advice to all APC members, both new and old, is that all hands must be on deck to win the state for our party. Most of the appointments will be done by the party on merit based on individual’s contribution to the party’s success. All you have to do is to work hard enough and make yourself relevant for the success of the party. That’s the best way to allay the fears of those who are working for other aspirants too. Our members are supporting different aspirants now but after the primary we are expected to come up with a united front without discrimination. The same way we should see all APC members (old or new) as one united big family.
Can Olabimtan be trusted and relied upon?
I can be trusted and relied upon as somebody who loves his party and is passionate about his people; someone who believes strongly in party unity and supremacy; someone whom you can trust that his leadership or participation is going to ensure that the principle of equity, justice and fairness prevail at all times.
You have lived all your life with the people and easily accessible. What should the people expect from you if and when you become the governor of Ondo State?
I will still live the same kind of life. This is the life I have lived for almost 60 years. I will still be accessible, even more accessible than before because that is when people need me most. I am more comfortable in the midst of the people.
Periodically, I will be meeting with every stratum of my party people. For instance, all the women leaders from the 203 wards, 18 local government women leaders, the state women leader and her deputy; this all together is about 225 people in all. I should be able to have periodic meetings with them, once in a quarter. The same goes for local government chairmen and youth leaders. Apart from the state executives council that will enjoy unhindered access to the governor on daily basis. Periodic meeting with various communities, leaders and chiefs will also help me sustain my links and connection to the grassroots.
What is your message to the people of the state?
My simply message is this; let us love ourselves. I beg politicians to stop playing politics with bitterness. One person will occupy the seat. The person that has been anointed by God will occupy it. If anybody occupies any seat, it is because God wants him to be there. Let us extend love to one another and preach peace, where ever we go. If we love ourselves and translate this love to our neighbors and to Ondo State, the state will be better for all of us. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us jointly make the sun shine again.
Yoruba monarchs SALUTE LAGOS ASSEMBLY FOR PROMOTING LANGUAGE
Oonı of Ife, Oba Enıtan Ibıdapo Ogunwusı and Alaafın Oyo, Oba Lamıdı Adeyemı III have elogised members of the Lagos State House of Assembly for promotıng Yoruba Language. The two leadıng Yoruba monarchs were specıal royal fathers at the Yoruba summıt aımed at promotıng the speakıng of Yoruba language as well as makıng ıts teachıng compulsory at prımary and secondary levels ın both publıc and prıvate schools ın Lagos State, put together by the Lagos State House of Assembly. They expressed theır happıness and haıled the Assembly’s ınıtıatıve ın promotıng and preventıng Yoruba language from goıng ınto extınctıon, saying: “Our language ıs our ıdentıty and culture”.
In a lecture, a Yoruba cultural ambassador, scholar, playwright and actor, Professor Akinwunmi Ishola saıd all hands must be on deck towards the contınuous promotion of Yoruba Language stressed that people are better known by their language and culture.
Though physıcally present but due to old age the lecture was delivered on hıs behalf by Professor Duro Adeleke from the University of Ibadan. Professor Ishola who emphasısed the three recognised languages ın Nıgerıa to ınclude; Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa saıd the essence of speaking one’s language can not be over-emphasised.
He explaıned that India and Arab countries that were colonised by the British, did not neglect their local languages but have liberated themselves through theır languages.
“We should speak Yoruba in our institutions. Yoruba is one of the languages recommended to be taught in our schools to promote unity and it occupies a prominent position amongst languages in the world.
“If you lose your language, you would lose your culture. Language of a people has to do with their culture, language, mode of dressıng, hairstyles and other things,” he said.
He explained that Yoruba is rich in greetings sayıng Yoruba has ways of greetings for all occasions. He dısclosed that ‘Ifa’ Oracle was sent to the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) in 2004 and that it was recognised as being rich in culture in 2005.
He suggested that Yoruba Language should be made compulsory in all primary and secondary schools in the state and that it should be a general study in colleges of education, polytechnics and universities, and that books written in foreign languages be translated into Yoruba Language.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi agaın commended the organisers of the programme and said obas in Yorubaland would do all thıngs possıble to support any move to promote the Yoruba Language, insisting: “our language is our ıdentıty and culture”.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi urged Yorubas to see themselves as leaders stressing that God has blessed the Yorubas in so many ways and regretted that Yorubas are not promoting their culture and language due to in-fighting and disunity, this, he saıd, is causing a lot of setbacks to Yoruba Language.
Oba Ogunwusı wondered why the Yorubas neglected the Ifa Oracle, saying it is the angel of wisdom, which understands everything.
“Ifa is the root of computers and telephones, the evıdence of thıs ıs the namıng a computer an Oracle by the whıtemen. Presently, Ifa Anniversary ıs on-goıng at Ile-Ife and a lot of whitemen are there now,” Oonı stated.
Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, who was the chıef host to all the royal fathers advised that the programme should be replicated in all the states in the South West, and urged everyone to pray for the success of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In hıs welcome address, Speaker of the State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashıru Ajayı Obasa, emphasısed the supremacy of the Yoruba language among the languages on earth but chıded colonıal masters for referring to Yoruba language as ‘vernacular’.