We play destructive politics in Oyo –Folarin

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Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin, the immediate-past Senate Leader, is one of the governorship aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State. In this interview with journalists, including Correspondent OLADELE OGUNSOLA, he said the party will not move forward should the members continue to dwell on the past. Excerpts

To some people, your 2015 governorship ambition is under the realm of speculation because of non-public declaration as some of your co-aspirants have done. How real is Folarin 2015 project?

That’s not correct. I have made it crystal clear that I intend to contest the governorship of Oyo State on the platform of my great party, the PDP. And we have been doing a lot. We have been consulting, moving over the local government councils in the state, talk to the people.

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There’s nowhere in the constitution of the PDP where it is says you have to declare, nowhere. You may choose to declare or not to declare; and the sort of guy I am, I’m not going to do things because other people are doing it. I have my own style. The race starts when PDP National Headquarters in Wadata Plaza rings the bell and says ‘If you are interested, come and pick up the form’. You may declare and not pick the form. But, I can assure you, from the responses we have been getting from across the state, it is mostly likely we will be among the few that will pick up the form.

To some of the people out there, not much could be said about your impact on the people while in the Senate for eight years, four of which you served as the Senate Leader. How would you react to this?

I think you members of the press also have a job to do in educating the public to moderate their expectations from the office of a Senator. Who is a Senator? A Senator is just a legislator, a Senator is a glorified councillor. That’s what you are, you don’t have vote. So, where do you expect me to get the money to build hospitals and build schools? I think you are not doing enough to educate people and they now compare a Senator to governor. You cannot, you can’t even compare a Senator to a local government chairman, because, a local government chairman has vote to spend. Having said that, you can attract projects; you can complement the efforts of the state and the local government councils. And it makes me laugh when people say we have not done anything. During the time I was in office, we had three health centres, one in Olode in Oluyole Local Government, one in Pade (Akinyele LG) and the other one in Oyo West.

When you look at the road construction, the road network at Olubadan Estate in Egbeda Local Government, we facilitated it. We didn’t do it; we told the Federal Government to come and help them do it and they did it. Over 150 boreholes were sunk. Even though I don’t believe in sinking boreholes, I think that’s too pedestrian, I believe we should move on, that’s my personal opinion. If you look at the rehabilitation of Lagos-Ibadan road, we did a lot to get the Federal Government to do something and then they came over to tell us that there’s this Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) with Bi-Courtney. There was nothing we could do and when we saw that Bi-Courtney were having challenges, the approach changed. The rehabilitation of Ibadan/Ijebu road, also, we did it. Look at the rehabilitation going on at the Ibadan Airport. It was during our tenure that we did all these. So, when people say we didn’t do anything, I don’t understand. I think the people saying this are just out to make political mischief. We did our best and I think our best was good enough. I think you have to let people understand the differences between the senatorial districts. I have heard people saying he didn’t do anything at Ojaagbo, his father’s house. I didn’t represent Ojaagbo, I represented Oyo Central Senatorial District. People don’t understand all these things. I think you also have a role to play.

Don’t you think your inability to making the public know about these projects by organising their commissioning with funfare, as its being done by one of the Senators representing the state now, Senator Hosea Agboola, robbed you of the credit and gave room for the public perception?

I agree with you. We could have done that. But, you knew the security situation in the state at that time. There was no way the last administration would allow us to do that and that’s the reason we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it to avoid bloodshed.

How would you react to the insinuation that you were boasting that you had been endorsed by the national body of the party and that the forthcoming primary election in the state would just be for the fun of it?

No one has been endorsed. There is nowhere in the PDP constitution that talks about endorsement. What it says is that there will be primary election and we look forward to  November 29 and we will also participate and we think it will be okay. No one has endorsed anybody and no one has been endorsed.

Considering the large number of aspirants jostling for the governorship ticket of the party, don’t you think of a consensus arrangement ahead the primary election to avoid post-primary crisis?

I don’t understand why people talk of post-primary election crisis. The primary election will be free and fair. The primary election will be conducted on the existing structure of the party. If we win, we expect people to accept the result and work with us. If we lose, we will do the same; we will work with others so far there’s no violence as it used to be in the past. We will support anybody who wins and expect them to the same if we win.

How do we reconcile the feelings of some of the PDP members that you were part of the forces that in 20122, you contributed to the failure of the same party you are now out to contest on its platform with this your current ambition?

I have been trying to address this issue and I will do the same now. Politics needs not be about violence, it should be about building a consensus. It is about inclusiveness, not about excluding people; and people who talk about all these, like I keep saying, that there are two parts to the movie. It is very convenient for them to play Part Two and ignore Part One where Teslim Folarin was humiliated, was locked up for something I knew nothing about, and I asked them the question, ‘If they were in my shoes, what would they do?’ I was also the Senate Leader and I enjoyed that office, they took that ticket off me. I wasn’t allowed to participate in the primaries. I think I have addressed this issue enough. I think our people should move on. I believe people who said this are people I believe are still aggrieved and I asked them, ‘Where were they when I was being maltreated?’ They could have put in a word to say ‘No, this is wrong, this is right’, you know, they never said anything. It was okay, get rid of Teslim Folarin, but, now, they can’t get rid of me. I’m here. So, we have to manage each other and I believe that as a party, we should draw a line and move on.

In the view of some people, the politics of acrimony both you and the former Governor Alao-Akala played during pre-2011 election is just being played out, what do you say to this?

I have no score against the former governor. I don’t play politics of personality. I play issues-oriented politics.

So, what’s your relationship with him, Alao-Akala?

If you witnessed occasions where we met, you would see that we are very cordial. We greet each other and don’t forget that he’s very much older than me and as a Yoruba man, I have to respect him and I do that.

With what happened in the past when you were taken to court….?

(Cuts in) They didn’t take me to court. They locked me up unjustly.

Will you still support that same person who orchestrated your ordeal if he emerges the party’s candidate?

Absolutely, because it is a process, there hasn’t been any violence in the process. We have all been playing politics the way it should be played. So, if I’m outwitted, yes, why not? It is when you prevent people from participating, it is when you exclude people, when you exclude me; don’t forget I also have my followers. People are talking about people in government, what about my own followers that have aspirations? They are all frustrated. I think as a party, we should just draw a line and move on, because if they want to talk about Part Two, I also will talk about Part One and it will get us nowhere. So, let’s just draw a line and move on.

How far have you gone in reconciling with those in the opposing camp who felt you shortchanged them in 2011?

I didn’t shortchange anybody. They shortchanged me. If you listened to my own account, I was shortchanged. I was locked up; I was humiliated. They tried to bring trumped up charges against me. Do you know what it means for a serving Senate Leader to be so treated? I don’t want to talk about it. I think the best thing is just to draw a line and move on. They shortchanged me; but, I think I have drawn a line and I have moved on. So, you have to ask them whether they also have the courage to draw the line and move on. I don’t know.

Anybody conversant with your camp will observe that some former loyalists of the former Governor Akala are back with you. How did you do it?

You may be lucky that those people being referred to met you here. You can ask them, I don’t know.

There is this general feeling that you are too disconnected from the people at the grassroots and that may cost you victory at the end of the day. Do you nurse such fear?

What do you mean by disconnect with the people? You have been here since morning. I have been attending to people. You see, the politics we play in Nigeria, especially in this Oyo State, is very destructive. You know this ‘pull him down’ syndrome. When they cannot get to you, if they don’t call you a murderer, they will say you are stingy. If they don’t say that, they will say they cannot move near you and that you are far away from the people. I don’t know what they mean. I am accessible to people. Lots of people are there waiting to see me. They will be here till night. I see them, they see me. I don’t know what they are talking about. I will want you people to reflect in your report what you have seen here.

How then do you react to the general impression about you that you are a tightfisted person?

If people say that, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know. But, I know EFCC will not come and arrest you for being stingy. They won’t. I don’t think it is a prerequisite of Electorate Act, I can only give what I have, may be people think I have more than what I have. I am not Arisekola, the late Chief Arisekola. I am not in that category, I wish I have, if I am in that category, I will spend it.

Politics is about consultation, Have you for once told the former Governor Otunba Alao-Akala of your ambition?

Why should I tell him?

He is a leader of your party. Isn’t he?

He is a leader and I am also a leader of the party too. A leader of a party should not be an aspirant. Why should I tell him? He can’t be a leader and aspirant at the same time.

But, as a former governor?

You heard what I said. For me, you can’t be an aspirant and be a leader. I am an aspirant. I am not a leader. You don’t expect me to go to a fellow aspirant and be telling him I want to contest. Where is that done?

It is on record that you played a significant role in the efforts to install the present administration of Governor Ajimobi. How do you now feel to contest against him, assuming you are given the ticket and he is chosen as his own party’s (APC) candidate in the 2015 governorship election, much more so, when it is said you are cousins?

When you say I played a role, I don’t know what you mean. I keep saying it, there is what I will call Ibadan agenda that snowballed into Oyo State agenda against the former governor. You will now go and ask a lot of them. Some of them are dead; some are still alive. Go and ask them what happened. Go and ask all the traditional rulers. Alaafin is still alive; Soun is still there. Olubadan is still alive. Go and ask them. How can only me, ordinary me, do such a thing and when you talk about family, this is not a family affair.

Talking about Ibadan agenda in 2011, do we still expect another Ibadan, Oyo or Ogbomoso agenda in 2015?

I don’t know. But, why I say Ibadan agenda; rightly or wrongly, that is what they believe in. Whether that will also play out in this election, I don’t know.

How much of the belief that Senator Ajimobi administration has performed do you share?

If you look at the definition of democracy, it is government of the people by the people and for the people. I think they got it wrong; they haven’t got the parlance right. To me, all they are doing is just beautification and you have to strike a balance between beautification and developmental projects. Their so-called flagship bridge in Mokola, a lot has been said about the cost, but I will not go into that because I am not an engineer. But, you tell me, what is developmental about that? Nothing. It has even caused more hardship. Go and ask anybody who leaves around that area; and when you destroyed peoples means of livelihood in the name of beautification, it doesn’t make sense to me. We run what I call micro economy in Oyo State where people go, like a woman selling bread, to cooperative, and you say give me N5,000 bread and then they sell up to N3,000. If you pay back the money, you get more bread and if you don’t allow such a woman to sell bread in two days, you’ve destroyed her. So, there are lots of dead people walking on the streets now in this state. That is the truth of the matter.

Though, you are just approaching the primary election. What should the people of the state expect from your governorship?

Yes, what we would do! You see, I have a different background. While I was in England, I had civil service background, where people, people, people is what we think about. My bottom line is people. That is my background, not profit. So, when you work to formulate a policy, it makes sense for you to run assessment impact of the policy to see how it works and if it is going to cause too much hardship, you don’t do it. Any responsible government will provide an alternative or pay compensation. This government is doing neither. That is the truth of the matter and if they say they are doing it, I challenge them to publish it. Let them tell us the number of houses that were destroyed and how much compensation they paid or the alternative they provided. You can’t do it. It is irresponsible. It should be government for the people. You are driving people away from their livelihood and you are planting flowers, it doesn’t make sense to me. And so, whatever we do, we must have the stakeholders to be part of it, I can guarantee you that.

The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan means different things to different people. What’s your own assessment of it?

The administration is doing fine, the man has done wonderfully well.

Even, in the face of the security challenges?

Let us be honest with ourselves. I lived in England during the period of IIRA and we knew what the agenda was. Some people called them terrorists group. Some people called them freedom fighters. In the Middle East, we know what the agenda is. What is the agenda of Boko Haram? So, I have come to the conclusion that it will appear that there is more political motive that anything. It is just a ploy to stop Jonathan from contesting. Even, I think that is the more reason why Jonathan should be voted in for the second term; or what would happen next time is that some cowboys will just pick up guns and start killing people and say that is the only way to stop people from contesting and we shouldn’t allow that. The man has done well. Transformation agenda, the railways are working, power supply has improved. We need to improve the more, but it has improved, except you guys don’t want to face the fact. Really, it has improved. I think he has done well. Lagos~Ibadan expressway has been neglected for how many years? He is doing it. I think he deserves another term. Let me also make a point. I think I am in a very good position to assess President Jonathan. Why? I am not a government minister. If you go and ask my friend, Obanikoro, he will say things as a minister and he has to protect his job, I am not a minister. I have nothing to protect. So, I can say otherwise. I am telling you, the man deserves a second term and he will get it. I think the PDP was right to have endorsed him as the party’s sole presidential candidate.

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