Alhaji Ayelabegan Kayode Abdul, a Consultant in ICT, is the Kwara Central Senatorial Candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the forthcoming 2023 general elections. In this interview with Taiwo Ogunniyi the NNPP stalwart bares his mind on sundry issues which includes the chances of his party in the elections, his priorities if he wins the senatorial seat, assessment of the performance of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in the last three and half years, as well as the preparation of both the INEC and security agencies, among others: Excerpt:
As a prominent politician, why did you choose a relatively new and young party like the NNPP to contest instead of big parties like the APC and PDP?
My choice of the NNPP as the platform to contest is borne out of the fact that we have tested the two prominent parties in Kwara State and they have been found wanting. So, we need another party to contest against the two of them: APC and PDP. For 16 years, we had the PDP running the affairs of this state; it got to a stage when we, the youths, as well as the masses deemed it necessary to look for another platform to challenge the PDP thatwas why in 2011 the platform we used was the ACN. I was a contestant that time on the platform of the ACN for the House of Assembly seat in Ilorin West Local Government that is Ajikobi/Alanamu constituency. We went as far as having a rerun in my own election, though I wasn’t declared the winner in the end, it nevertheless marked the beginning of the challenge. I didn’t win in the first instance, it was an electoral fraud against us, and so we went to the tribunal, which ordered a rerun. The rerun was done, though it was fraud again because of the power of incumbency used against us. In 2015, we used the same ACN platform which later merged with others to form the APC. However, we had to leave the APC which we nurtured for the PDP when Dr. Bukola Saraki and his people migrated to the party.
So, those of us in ACN migrated to the PDP, using the platform to challenge them. But again because of the power of incumbency when Saraki still held sway in Kwara state, they won. Between 2015 and 2019, we went back to the APC because Saraki and his people had left the party for the PDP where they came from initially. It was the APC, using the ‘Otoge’ mantra that was used to dislodge Saraki and his PDP in 2019. However, we ended up having a misfit as the beneficiary of our governorship slot. Between 2019 and now, we discovered that he doesn’t have the competence, he doesn’t administer the government as expected to the benefits of the masses that actually struggled for the change. In that way, both APC and PDP have failed the people and there is the need for another platform that will bail out the masses in this state and that is whyour new platform would not be the APC or PDP. We chose NNPP because it is a party that has all the required philosophy, ideologies that we need to establish good governance for the masses of Kwara State and Nigeria as a whole.
What are your chances and that of your party in the 2023 elections?
Our Chances are very bright, because in Kwara state here, party is not the main consideration. The first consideration is the interest of the masses, which is why we can use APC today, use PDP tomorrow or any other platform. Any platform is acceptable to Kwarans if the operators are people they know and trust would give them the dividends of democracy. So, the platform one uses doesn’t really matter. More so, the crops of those of us that are now contesting under NNPP are products of the masses, they know us very well and they trust us too. So, all the candidates of the NNPP across the country are crops of people that have been identified with the grassroots. They are the kind of people that have invested towards assisting the masses; they have used their wealth, time and energy to create opportunities for the masses. Our governorship candidate in Kwara state is Prof. Shuaib Oba Abduraheem. He is somebody that has very good track records wherever he works. When he was just an ordinary lecturer at Bayero University, Kano, he facilitated admissions for thousands of Kwarans. Back home at the University of Ilorin as a two-term Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abdulraheem left an indelible mark in the memory of the people. Also, as the Chairman of the Federal Character Commission he facilitated employment for many Kwarans. Then those of us too like me have my own investments that I am doing for my people. That is why I can categorically tell you that my chances and that of our party in winning at the 2023 general elections are very high and bright. Aside from winning other offices, I can confidently tell you that the NNPP will form the government in Kwara state in 2023.
Do you have confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
As of today, I have a very high confidence in the INEC, very high confidence because the body under the present headship has been conducting free and fair elections across the country. We have seen situations, especially in Osun state, where the APC, even as the sitting government, lost the governorship election. INEC, as presently constituted, doesn’t dance to instructions from any quarter. Hence, the APC has been losing elections and also winning, PDP has also been winning and losing too, while even the less known parties have also won elections where least expected. As a computer expert, I have seen that the introduction of technology into our electoral process as championed by this headship of INEC has given a lot of credence to the system, particularly the introduction of BVAS. This has taken care of a lot of areas of fraud perpetrated in previous elections. The introduction of BVAS has actually sanitised the system. The BVAS is currently being tested at the tribunal in Osun State where the election that propped up Adeleke as governor is being contested by former Governor Oyetola and his party, the APC.
What’s your take on the security agencies, are you satisfied with their performance so far?
In the present dispensation, I have not recorded any area of suspect with the security agencies. We have not seen or heard of their involvement in helping any party or party candidates unlike in previous elections under the PDP where we even saw soldiers getting involved in helping the ruling party. It is kudos for President Muhammadu Buhari as this terrible scenario has never happened under his watch.
What’s your assessment of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s administration in the last three and half years?
In the last three and half years, it has been a period of sadness for those of us that invested our time and energy in securing change from the old hegemony of Dr. Bukola Saraki, using the ‘Otoge’ mantra. While some of us were in the field during the primaries, the incumbent Governor was busy lobbying to secure the governorship ticket, which we all conceded to him in good faith. But the unfortunate thing was that he ended up not running the system as expected. He didn’t appoint the right people to man the ministries. Even up till now he has not been able to commission a single project. For instance, in Imo state where their election was conducted many months after our own, their Governor has commissioned between eight and 10 projects. By and large, he has not performed as expected. Even the masses have not seen any benefit of their struggle for the Otoge which they all voted for. So, it’s the pressure from the downtrodden, the masses of the state that is now making us to look for another platform to ensure we don’t have any bad dream of having him again for the second tenure
What will be your priorities if elected Senator for Kwara Central in 2023?
If I am elected a Senator in 2023, my priorities will be different from the pursuits of most Senators who always say they will do roads for their constituents, provide water, and so on. This is not the primary responsibility of a Senator. Senators are supposed to legislate to bring up acts that will translate to laws for the benefits of the people. We have a lot of problems, especially in Kwara which only Legislative Acts can rectify. Like now, we have insecurity. One of the solutions to insecurity is for us to make sure that the local governments are functioning well by conducting elections to make sure that the local governments have chairmen and councilors as constitutionally stipulated. If elections are conducted at the local governments in Kwara state, we will have more than 300 people in a dispensation holding political offices. This will make the villagers go back to the villages. Sadly, the villagers have deserted the villages for the centre in search of greener pastures. That is why there is insecurity because the hoodlums or terrorists coming to any village will not meet any young man on ground to resist them. They are all in the cities doing Okada business, while some of them are engaged in Yahoo-yahoo. So, making local governments work will reduce insecurity. The governors are not conducting local government elections because it suits them to maintain the status quo to the detriment of the people. They rebuffed President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to conduct local government elections. The Senate and House of Representatives have passed the Act for the local governments to be autonomous, but for it to become a law, two thirds of all the Houses of Assembly in the Federation will have to adhere to it. Incidentally, only about 10 states have annexed it, while Kwara state is one of the states that have not annexed it. But if I win this election come 2023, I will relate with other senators so that they can interact with their respective Houses of Assembly Speakers and members with a view to ensuring that the Act is translated into law. That is one of the things I am going there to do.
Secondly we have serious unemployment, not only in Kwara, but also the country. To tackle this menace, our education has to be restructured. So, I’m going to the senate to propagate technical change and technology transfer. That is one of the Acts that I will bring to the floor of the senate because the government alone cannot employ everybody. With technical education, our youths can become employers of labour and self reliant. In Kwara state, we have to make sure that we revive our technical colleges so that even if a child will be an artisan he will be an artisan that will be able to refine the mineral resources we have in our state, not just doing something that is not related with what we have. For technology transfer, we have to select our good students, youths and send them abroad to places like China where they will go and learn how to use technology to explore the resources we have in our state and when they return, whatever they learnt they will teach others.
Pockets of thuggery and billboard vandalization are being witnessed in the state, what’s your reaction to this unsavoury development?
On this, I will say the sitting government of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is guilty of that. The Governor looks like a gentleman, but all these actions are taking place under his watch. There was a time he went to Kwara South and on their way his men destroyed or defaced the billboards of other parties. They now go as far as using the power of incumbency to oppress other parties. Look at this signboard here, what you have there is a billboard of the APC. I’m the one that instructed that this billboard should be put here in 2011 when we started ACN. But I’m in SDP now and so hosting any rival political party signage here in my premises is contradictory and offensive. I therefore asked for its removal since the land belongs to me. But the next thing they did was to come and host APC signage in front of my office and that is why I can’t brand my office. It will be contradictory, that is what APC is doing, and they are the ones that are guilty of all the thuggery and the signage destructions.
What is your advice to the political parties?
My advice is that they should know that Ilorin and Kwara state as a whole have been known to be a state of peace and harmony. So, my advice to all the parties, especially the APC and PDP that are always at loggerheads and they are the people that have tasted power before, is that there is no need to be too agitated or violent about winning or losing. I will implore everybody to conduct their affairs and campaigns with decorum because thuggery or any muzzling will not help any party this time around. Votes are going to count; they should concentrate their energy on campaigning and canvassing for votes. They can’t force people again and they can’t influence the outcome of elections again. It is better to live as a loser than to die as a winner.
What is your advice to the youths who are always ready tools for thuggery in the hands of some unscrupulous politicians?
My advice to the youths is for them to look inward to see that the future is bright for them. They have also been at the receiving end of maladministration and so they are the ones that bear the brunt all the time without employment. Unfortunately, however, most of these parties that everybody is running after, the APC and PDP don’t have solutions to their problems. The solutions to their problems are with us in the NNPP. All they need is to be patient and calm; they should not go into thuggery. We are not talking of empowering them with Okada or giving them grinding machines. We in the NNPP have the strategy that will make them employers of labour and so they should desist from making themselves ready tools for thuggery and destruction as it destroys their own future.
What is your advice to the Kwara electorate?
The Kwara electorates are the beneficiaries; they are the major stakeholders when governance is productive. I will therefore implore them to look very well because the election now is neither by party nor by noise making. They should not allow themselves to be deceived by cosmetics and by fake candidates that will be spraying money here and there. That money will not last them for one week, it may not even last them for two days, and they will be suffering for another four years. They should look for candidates that have the fear of God, candidates that have the competence, they should vote right, they should vote for NNPP. That is my candid advice to them.