Oyo APC, PDP already shipwrecked —Ilaka

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Chief Bisi Ilaka is the Ladilu of Oyo kingdom and one of the foremost chieftains and Oyo Central senatorial aspirant in Accord. In this interview with DARE ADEKANMBI, he speaks on supposed moves to lure Senator Rashidi Ladoja into the All Progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), among other issues.

Unlike in 2011 when your party was practically begging politicians to come and get the ticket of the party, the build up to the 2015 has been different as aspirants oversubscribed for Accord’s forms. What is the magic here?

The scenario in the build up to the 2015 elections has been totally different because we are living in a different time and people have realised that Accord has come to stay. From all indications, it is the party to beat in Oyo State. The quality of aspirants has improved tremendously and there is no party that can beat this in the state. The show of interest in Accord has been unprecedented and people still continue to troop into our party.

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The reason for this massive inflow of politicians into the party is the realisation by them that, contesting election is not a tea party, neither is it a joke. Therefore, they have seen that winning in the next election can only be achieved on the platform of Accord.

Of the three senatorial districts, Accord is still said to be relatively weak in Oyo North. Can the party win the three districts?

Accord is trying to win all the three senatorial districts in 2015. Our permutations assure us that we already have two of the districts in our bag and we are working hard to win the third, which is Oyo North. There are a number of variables that are working for us in Oyo North and in the fullness of time, before the elections, we shall add Oyo North to the two we’ve already got. We are going to present a formidable candidate in the senatorial district to be able to win it.

The leaderships of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are still interested in getting Senator Rashidi Ladoja to their fold. Are you not afraid that things might change for Accord if he agrees to join either of these parties?

Sometime in 2012, I was part of the people that asked Senator Ladoja to make an unambiguous statement that we were not joining either the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) then or the PDP and he did. We told the whole world then we would remain in Accord. And from that moment on, we have been on a party building exercise. We have built our party from where we were in 2011 to where we are now that the party has become the beautiful bride that everybody is interested in. I can confidently say that in all areas, in all wards, councils, Accord has improved by 100 per cent and in some local government councils more than 100 per cent.

Having done this yeoman’s job of positioning Accord as a winning Third Force in Oyo politics, it will be foolhardy to now jettison that and join either APC and PDP. The leaders of PDP and APC already know that neither of their parties is going anywhere in 2015 and so they want to re-populate their parties with Senator Ladoja. In our view and in the view of the electorate, Oyo APC and PDP are already shipwrecked. They want Ladoja to come and do a rescue operation. But, we will leave them with their wounds and woes and paddle our own canoe that is, Accord. We are very confident that Accord will lead us to the Promised Land. There is no point in us abandoning ship; APC and PDP are fractured and we have reaped a lot from them. If what we have done in Accord had not been successful, if they had not realised our sterling qualities in terms of party building and providing cohesion, operating in an atmosphere of integrity and transparency, they would not invite us to come and impart some of those skills and qualities in their parties. We are flattered. But we say ‘No, thanks’ to APC and PDP. We will remain in Accord and continue to show them how to run and build a party that is fit for the challenges of today and the future.

Ladoja is being touted as the strongman of not just Ibadan but Oyo State politics. However, some say he is not in the good books of some Ibadan elders because he is considered stubborn.

It is very true that Senator Ladoja is not just the strongman of Ibadan politics but also the strongman of Oyo State politics. In politics, we sell a product, a brand. The Ladoja brand has been tested and the people in their numbers identify with the Ladoja brand which has got stronger. He has shown is a man of conviction and he is a man for all seasons. The people of Oyo State identify with him because he has a common, humane touch. This is what the people of Oyo State currently think is lacking in our politics and they want Ladoja to bring back good governance with compassion for the masses and the workers. Governance is not rocket science and Senator Ladoja demonstrated this as governor. There were 30 pupils in a classroom, teachers and civil servants general were paid as and when due and he never owed arrears of anything. There was a vibrant judiciary in place during his time. He revitalised our industrial base, built enduring infrastructure and so on.

Ladoja remains the strongest brand politically in Oyo State today. The politics of today is about people resonating with brands. If your brand will not fly, he or she will not attract people. If any party presents a candidate that is a damaged brand, people will totally reject it.

Concerning the comment on being stubborn, some people in Ibadan or probably in the media probably use the wrong word. If being principled is being interpreted as being stubborn, I will say long may Ladoja be stubborn. The Ladoja I know is a very principled man. His word is his bond. He is a different kind of politician. He stands for integrity, honour and dignity, which qualities are lacking among the players in our polity today. Some Ibadan elders truly have an exaggerated opinion of themselves because they do not live the same life as the teeming masses in the state. They do not use the failing schools in the state. They do not use the totally comatose health facilities in the state. They represent an infinitesimal segment of the society. And governance is about providing good governance for the largest number of citizens and that is what Ladoja stands for.

In Oyo where you hail from, there are rumours that the Alaafin may be supporting Senator Teslim Folarin and therefore the PDp. Will this not affect your chances of becoming a senator for Oyo Central?

As of today, the Alaafin has not come out to say he is backing Folarin. When I checked last, he was tilting towards APC. He is free to support any party of his choice. In the sphere of ideals, vision, in terms of articulating what my candidature represents, I think in that arena, we are miles ahead. In Oyo that I come from, more than 70 per cent of the people who reside there are under-30s and the election is about them, about their future, about creating an agenda that will create wealth, job, opportunities and re-engineer the society as a whole. In Oyo town, I think I can take anybody on on these. All the opinion polls conducted suggest that we are mile ahead of other parties. But we are not complacent and we are still working very hard.In 2011, we were a very new party, pretty naïve like an innocent toddler. But now Accord is like a fully grown adult with muscles and all kinds of tools to defend our interest and victory.

If in 2015 there is a replay of 2011 in terms of Ajimobi flying APC flag and Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala running as PDP governorship candidate. What happens to Accord if it fields Senator Ladoja?

At times when we speak as a party, it sounds as if we are a little bit cocky. But part of the tool of a politician is self-confidence without which the game cannot be played. In 2011, there was a certain coalition that brought Ajimobi in as governor. And if you look around him now, that coalition does not exist anymore. The players are not there with him anymore. He stands alone and he is shorn of his fur and stands naked. That coalition has now found its way into our camp and this had made Accord a church of all kinds of denominations. We have those who used to preach the creed of APC, PDP, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, Labour Party all now in Accord. With Alao-Akala as PDP candidate, Accord will thoroughly defeat PDP. As a sitting governor, he lost an election. Members of the opposition don’t win an election; governors lose elections. Alao-Akala lost in 2011 and I don’t know what has changed in him in the intervening period to make him even more popular and a more viable candidate as an ex-governor than when he was the governor. Is he a new Alao-Akala? Has he recanted of his sins? When he declared in Ibadan, there were no politicians of note at the event. The notable politicians in the state were at Ladoja’s mother’s eight day prayer the day Alao-Akala declared. Because of the kind of gravita that Ladoja is, every notable politician in the state gravitated in the direction of the burial ceremonies for his mother.Alao-Akala’s Secretary to the State Government, Chief LasisiOlakojo; Governor Ayo Fayose; Chief Gbenga Daniel; Senator Folarin; Chief LekanBalogun; Senator Adeseun; and many more were with Ladoja the day Alao-Akala declared his ambition in Ibadan. This tells you, more than anything, that the pendulum has indeed swung to Ladoja’s side. He is the next governor of Oyo State.

What are you going to be doing differently if he wins the election?

There is a lot to do in Oyo State because we have a lot of challenges, particularly on the front of engaging our youths in a meaningful enterprise. We have a lot of them roaming our streets without working. Senator Ladoja has a blueprint that will provide jobs for them, particularly in terms of agriculture revolution in the state with a whole value chain that will also provide all kinds of linkages from production to processing. In 2015, the whole industrial dimension will come back on stream and there will be industrial park to get people to work. We have an education sector that is actually failing. The last WAEC result put us shamefully at number 24 out of 36 states, with just 19 per cent pass. In truth, the 19 per cent was achieved by the private schools because Oyo State has the largest amount private school outside Lagos. There is agenda for reforms in our education, health system as well the civil service in the state.

Because he will have only four years as governor, Ladoja’s administration will be an administration with a sense of urgency. Rather than urban renewal, we will concentrate more on rural integration and development so that the ceaseless migration to the urban centres will be halted and the facilities in those urban areas will last longer. We will connect the people to the economic grid of the state by giving the rural dwellers water, good roads, schools and good health facilities. Ibadan is sprawling in an unstructured manner and we are going to correct this.

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