Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele is a politician of note, she is a former Senator and former deputy governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2002 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Now a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview, Bucknor-Akerele speaks on issues as they affect Lagos State and the country.
Since the Supreme Court judgement that resolved the PDP leadership crisis, there have been efforts to reconcile the factional members, how far has the reconciliation been?
Well, I think the reconciliation is going quite well in Lagos State and I understand it is going on well in other states too, because we have decided that we have to come together to save the country because as you know the country is in a mess right now.
Is PDP ready to play the expected opposition role now?
We are ready to play the expected opposition role, but we are ready for 2019. We want to take over in 2019.
How prepared is your party for the 2019 general elections, because as you know it is not easy to remove an incumbent government. You are preparing for your convention and there are so many chairmanship aspirants, many are afraid that this may cause another crisis in the party. What is your opinion on this?
We know what is happening with all these people coming out to contest the national chairmanship election.
Most of them are being sponsored by the All Progressive Congress (APC) because they don’t want the best candidate to emerge. They want a candidate that is not strong to emerge so that they can have their own way during the election.
What are you, leaders of the party, doing to ensure that a strong candidate emerge as your National Chairman?
A strong candidate that we are backing is doing his work very well and we feel he is the best candidate for the job.
He is experienced and he had led an election campaign, a presidential election campaign for that matter to victory.
And we believe it is that kind person, with that experience that we need to lead the party right now.
Your convention will be coming up in December, what are your expectations from the convention?
What will come out of the convention is a new executive and once we have a new executive and we make amendment to the constitution, we will be able to forge ahead.
But we learnt that the caretaker National Chairman of your party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi is going for presidential race, don’t you think this may make many to believe that he is favouring a candidate that will support his ambition?
I don’t see that as far as I am concerned, I think he is trying to be fair to everybody.
People are saying his presidential ambition may even cause crisis in the party, you don’t think so?
Has he actually declared his presidential ambition, it is when he declares that we know he has presidential ambition.
President Muhammadu Buhari is almost two and half years in the saddle as the President of this country, how will you assess his performance?
Dismal, absolutely dismal. He has made the country poorer, he has made the country a laughing stock of the international community by some of his utterances.
And worse still, he has ruined the economy of the nation. He says he is fighting corruption, but I don’t know how corruption can be fighting corruption, because three quarter of his cabinet members are corrupt and everybody know that is true.
Are you calling for a change in his cabinet?
It is up to him if he wants to continue with those people or he wants to change them, he is the President afterall. It is his choice.
Many were not happy about the way he handled the crisis between the Managing Director of the NNPC and the Minister of State for Petroleum, what is your take on this?
He seems to be very silent on the issue and I think he should speak up and he should let us know what his position is on this problem.
You are a member of the pan- Yoruba group that has been in the forefront of the call for restructuring, how do you see the renewed interest in the restructuring of the country?
Well, I don’t think the call is renewed, the call has always been there for restructuring.
It is just that the people have not done anything about it until former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan decided to have a conference which of course I understand Buhari wants to put into the archives.
He wants to dump the reports of the conference into the archives.
But do you think the report of the conference will in any way stop various problems plaguing the country?
It will go a long way in solving many of the problems in the country, because the decisions at the conference were taken unanimously, we didn’t vote, because I was a member of that conference, it was done by consensus, there was no voting at all.
So what is your advice to President Muhammadu Buhari concerning the decision of the conference?
My advice is that he should bring out the document relating to that conference and let us have a dialogue on it, so that we can chart the way forward.
This is because right now, the country is in a precarious position, the rule of law has been abandoned, people are being detained for years without trial, people have been granted bail and they have not been released on bail,
the security situation is worse, there is kidnapping, Boko Haram are still bombing in the North East and on top of it all there is the herdsmen problem which has been rampaging throughout the country.
Do you think this government can tackle these problems you listed down before the 2019 general election?
As I said, I think this government is only an incompetent government and I don’t think it is capable of addressing the issues.
And that is why I think the PDP is doing its best to get its heart together so that it can come in and address the problems.
At least when the PDP was there, we didn’t have these problems. We had Boko Haram, yes, which was virtually contained before Jonathan left and then the whole thing came on an upsurge again.
But the Buhari administration and the ruling party, APC have been saying that the problems we have now were actually caused by PDP misrule of 16 years, how will you react to this?
PDP government was so bad that people were able to eat, which they are not able to do now.
The government was so bad that no one was detained without trial, the government was so bad that we did not have the herdsmen problem, the government was so bad that we didn’t have kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and all sorts of things in the magnitude we now have, that are now in place.
So, you judge for yourself, which one is bad and which one is good.
How do we tackle the problems of the economy bedevilling the country?
I don’t think we can tackle the economic problems of the country, because the government started off on a bad foot. The government created a situation of uncertainty.
And once people are not sure that their money is safe, they will take their money away and this is what has happened.
We are not having investors, in fairness when Jonathan was there I think the Minister for Commerce, Mr Aganga had brought in so many people who wanted to do business in Nigeria, who were ready to start up companies. But they are all gone because they were not sure of the situation of the country.
So how will a PDP government at the federal level improve the situation?
We will have an economic platform which we would sell to the country and it will be based on that, that we shall progress. Not only that we shall have competent people, we are not going to have nepotism or tribalism or sacred cows.
We are going to make sure that instead of mediocrity that we are seeing now, we are going to have competence, and those who are capable of doing the jobs. Compare what were being done before to what are being done now.
You were once a deputy governor in Lagos State, how will you assess the present administration in the state led by Mr Akinwunmi Ambode?
At least, Ambode is not planting flowers as Fashola did. I am not against flower, in fact I love flowers as you can see in my compound.
I think he is trying, although he is not in my party, but he is trying as far as road construction is concerned.
You are in PDP and for most times the other party has been winning election here in Lagos State, what can be done to ensure your party win the election in the state?
Don’t say the other party has been winning elections, the other party has been writing list and handing them over to INEC to read out and the INEC has been doing the bidding of the other party.
And I think it is up to INEC now if they don’t want an uprising on their hands to start conducting proper elections instead of announcing winners when people have not won election, but they have been given list to announce.
With what you are saying now, you are saying INEC could be bias and remember we are having elections coming up in Anambra very soon, what do you then expect from INEC?
INEC is bias and partisan I have told you. We once went to somebody who used to finance the party, and we said please we need some finances, but he said no I don’t want to finance you because they will just write it.
Even the people when we were canvassing to come out and vote, they said what are we coming out for, the ones we voted what was the outcome, because they just wrote the results. What are we going to stand in the sun and the rain for?
Then how do we have a truly independent electoral commission in the country?
I think it is up to the voters and of course some of the NGOs should start presurising INEC to conduct free and fair election.
Do you think the women have been living up to their expected role in politics?
Those women that have been in politics I think have been performing creditably, although they have many of us that are in politics, the numbers are increasing and we should push to ensure that more women get into politics.
We were trying to get the gender balance bill through which was shut down in the assembly
Is it possible to have a female governor or female president so soon?
I certainly believe that Nigeria can produce a female governor, that is if the monetarisation of the election is not as high as it is now, because the problem women have in politics is money.
Most women do not have access to the kind of money that men have and so this in fact hampers their progress in the political space.
We recall that you came first in the governorship primaries of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), beating two men, how did you do it at that time?
At that time, money did not play a part in politics. Although it played some part but it was not too phenomena. But now it is like a market, the highest bidder gets it.
How do we stop such attitude of money playing major part in our electoral process?
I think it needs education. First of all, we need voters education, because the voters have to be educated that your suffering is a result of your own action.
If you take money and vote for somebody who you know might not be able to perform but because he has given you money, then you should expect the kind of government he gives you.
What is your advice for women in politics?
My advice for women in politics is to go there and stay there, don’t let the men try and intimidate you or drive you away.
Stand your ground because I won my senatorial during the AD because I stood my ground. All the men ran away and they were fighting themselves but I stood my ground.
How has Yoruba fare under Buhari’s government?
I don’t think Yoruba has fared well at all. We said we got the vice presidency, but truly is the vice president everything in government.
When you look at the ministerial list and all the appointments that have been made, ask yourself how many Yoruba has gotten into such positions.
What are you, leaders, doing to ensure that Yoruba got its rightful place in the nation’s governance?
That is why we want restructuring, when we have restructuring then we have our rights.
But some people are saying that lack of unity among the Yoruba is the cause of their problem, how true is this?
What has lack of unity got to do with appointments? Nothing whatsoever.
Do you remember what happened during the Jonathan administration when the Yoruba members in the House of Representatives moved against Mulikat Akande becoming the speaker of the House of Representatives and they supported Aminu Tambuwal despite PDP zoning the post to the South West…..
That was an unfortunate situation, because I think really and truly it was because people felt Mulikat was being imposed by a certain person and it was a rebellion against imposition.
As a member of the Yoruba Unity Forum, how do you think we can achieve unity among the Yoruba?
I think the Yoruba Unity Forum formed by Late Chief H.I.D Awolowo was an umbrella body of all the Yoruba organisations and I think the Yoruba speak with one voice under that umbrella.
I don’t think there is any Yoruba or very few Yoruba who are not on that page. And those who are not on that page are not on that page because they are looking for the political positions.
What is your advice to the electorate as we approach the next election?
My advice to the electorates generally is stop taking money from the people who want you to vote for them. Make sure you look at their background, who they are, what they have done.
Vote for people with integrity; don’t vote according to money, but vote according to your conscience.
We know what is happening with all these people coming out to contest the national chairmanship election. Most of them are being sponsored by the All Progressive Congress (APC) because they don’t want the best candidate to emerge. They want a candidate that is not strong to emerge so that they can have their own way during the election.