Chief Clarance Olafemi is a former Governor of Kogi state. The elder statesman in this interview with OYIBO SALIHU spoke extensively on national issue and other sundry issues as it affect the state.
A new President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been sworn-in as the 16th President of Nigeria. What are your expectations and in which areas do you think he should focus to move the country forward?
I think Nigeria is a very large and complex country and our problems are also large and complex. The current president is a season and experience administrator. He is a man that has all what it takes to give the country good governance.
I have absolute confidence in him, however there are some problems that need a holistic solution and should not be approached partially, it has to be link up with other problems. There is what we called consequential effect of a decision. A decision been taken that you have a split over of other problems is not good for the country.
For instance, I learnt today that the transport fare which used to be ten thousand naira or less from Lokoja to Lagos is now twenty thousand naira , what has happened now is the deregulation of the petroleum sector which we all agreed is a necessary problem that need to be tackled. All the presidential aspirants and candidates promised to tackle it if giving the mandate.
So , what it mean is that whether it is Bola Ahmed Tinubu or Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi they all agreed uniformly that subsidy is a problem that need to be tackled in order to move the country forward.
But that does not mean that they don’t look at the consequential effect of it. It is a simple logic that in Nigeria nothing goes up and come down again. If you anticipated that it will take a year or six months to stabilize the deregulation, what happened to the ordinary man on the street.
What happen to the ordinary man who will not be able to withstand the high cost of this decision. Even panadol that used to be one hundred naira if the price jump to two thousand naira , how many people will be able to afford it.
You can imagine the hasty decision of Kwara state government for cutting down the number of working days in the state. Are we saying that the decision to work for five days a week is no longer valuable and we have to deregulate it also without considering the consequential effect on governance of the state.
If I had not been in a position of authority where decisions are taken, I will not have appreciated a decision taken to solve one problems and created multiples of problems in return. We should have set aside a little bid of a time , put in place a think-tank and set aside time to look into the subsidy issue. If I am the president of Nigeria that is what I will do .
To be honest what the government is spending on the subsidy is too much and people are saying that the subsidy has started encouraging corruption , but we can not because of anger throw away the baby and the water. Doing that nothing will remain for you.
Nigeria citizens are just coming of the cashless policy that had created enormous hardship and we have not recovered fully because the economic damage can best be imagine if put on the table for us to see. There are some of us by the special grace of God today no matter the hardship we will survive but what becomes of those who does not have the capacity to withstand the hardship.
Very soon the cost of education at all level will tripled and the resultant effect will be that the children of the less privilege will begin to drop out of school, this can pave room for criminal activities that can also give rise to insecurity.
What Is the way out ?
The decision has already been taken and announced and it has taken effect, the only way out right now is for government to rush for palliatives to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidy, but the irony of it is that even the palliative is another avenue for corruption to thrive as those in charge will convert or divert the resources for their personal gain, so government has to be serious and be proactive in providing palliative.
Government need to locate all the sector of our lives that need to be palliated and without that a good intended policy like the removal of subsidy may turn out to be a bitter pill for Nigerians to swallow and that is my candid fear right now.
Kogi governorship election is around the corner with various political parties ready to participate. In the western senatorial district there are four candidates contesting, seven from the eastern part of the state while central senatorial district has only one. What is the implication of this arrangement.
Well, unfortunately democracy gives a chance for parties participation and I used to label it participatory democracy, participatory democracy in the sense that the freedom of every body to contest is guaranteed . The freedom to vote for the candidate of your choice is equally guaranteed so whether one hundred people are contesting, there is no implication at all as far as I am concern.
Governor Yahaya Bello has proposed the establishment of a university in Kogi West, do you see him achieving this feat for the people?
This idea of people criticizing the propose university that the state can not afford to fund three universities is very wrong . Governor Bello has identified the one sided situation in Kogi state that is why he ensure that every senatorial district has its university that will be funded by the state since the Igalas had refused to decentralize the Kogi State University, Anyigba.
I am a former governor and I can tell you that with prudent management of resources of the state the government can conveniently funds the universities.
There are three federal constituency in Igala land, the Kogi state University was located at Anyigba , Dekina local government, State college of education was located at Ankpa federal constituency and the Federal Polytechnic was sited in Idah and as at the time these three tertiary institutions are in Igala land not single tertiary institution in Okun land that has three federal constituencies like them.
The Ebiras were lucky to have Federal College of Education. This is the problem so when I became the governor I hurriedly established College of Education Technical, Kabba to at least shows that the Okun people are not animals and they are entitle to needs of life .
The Okun people are still agitating for power rotation because of the unjust and one sided administration. The location of Federal University in Lokoja was as a result of being the state capital not on the basis of fairness of the state. The entire Okun land has nothing to show that the land belongs to Kogi state.
When I was in the State House of Assembly I struggled that power rotation between the three senatorial districts should be enshrined in the constitution, but for selfish interest some people rejected it so that the dominant group can continue to hold on to power.
Apparently , the propose university should be sited in Mopa-Moro local government area of the state because already Kabba has College of Education Technical, Yagba east has rice mill established by the state government while Yagba west Isanlu has a new hospital also established by the state.
So in the interest of fairness, justice and equity among the Okun speaking people , the university should be sited in Government Technical College, Mopa , the school has vast land and structures for the university to take off. We are appealing to the governor to consider us because Mopa has nothing for now.
The people of Kogi West were agitating for power rotation, what is your comment ?
In old Kwara we have a very powerful and dominant leader in the person of Dr Olusola Saraki and whatever he says in Kwara then after God Almighty is the final . I think Kogi should learn from the spirit of that man. Saraki is an Ilorin man and Ilorin has dominant votes that enable them to win whenever there is an election .
But he did not start picking the governorship candidate from Ilorin during the days of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that is 1979 elections instead he went to Ebira land and picked Adamu Attah after that he went to Lafiagi and picked Shaba , later he picked Adebayo from Kwara south. All these names mentioned has the support of Saraki to become Governor of Kwara.
They were all from minority tribes and it was after all these people that Lawal from Ilorin came and Saraki son Bukola also became governor of the state. So Saraki allow the minority to become Governor of the state before he picked from Ilorin.
Why must a tribe or a section of a state want to monopolize power , why should Igala believe that the position of governor of Kogi should be them and them and no other tribe and they knew that no senatorial district can do it alone, this mean that for Prince Abubakar Audu to become Governor during his first attempt he need the support of central and western senatorial district before he won the election.
But when it was the turn of Architect Olorunfemi , the Igala people betrayed him for another Igala man. If the Igalas have allowed Olorunfemi to become Governor that time, today there could have been no agitation from Okun people, but the Okun and Ebira people decided to wait until God intervened and brought Alhaji Yahaya Bello from central senatorial district.
The question is why must they be slapping other tribes directly on the face because of a position that ordinarily belongs to the entire tribes in the state. Since they believe that the other tribes have no power to retaliate, God Almighty had intervene at the right time.
There is unwritten arrangement that where the governor comes from, the deputy can not come from there. The arrangement is not written any where, even the SSG and the Speaker of Assembly can not come from there and why do we embrace that even when it was not written and neglect rotation of governorship position.
The best governor does not necessary mean it has to be from a particular section. I am not praising myself , the only three months I spent as governor of Kogi state shook the state and surpasses some governor that spent eight years or more in government.
The fairness with which I governed the state , the justice I applied , the equity that I shared are there. If there is good governance no body cares where you come from , but a situation where when they go there they make it tribalistic and every tribe want to be there. No tribe should think that they must continue to rule Kogi state all alone and forever .
If you govern the state for nineteen years and you don’t want other to rule where is justice and equity we all craved for. If you hold on to power and now another tribe has come to rule for sixteen years I think the Igalas has no justification to condemn that decision.
Who does not know that Prince Abubakar Audu an Igala man handover to Ibrahim Idris an Igala man and he Idris handed over to Captain. Idris Wada,who is all an Igala man, now what is wrong if Governor Yahaya Bello decided to handover to another Ebira man even if that person is of the same parent with the governor nothing is wrong.
In America a civilized country a father rule and his son also rule , no issue was made out of it. Sometime we are educated , but not enlightened. Sometimes we turn the formular of politics up-side down because of selfish interest.
What is your take on alleged attack on Governor Yahaya Bello while returning from Abuja to Lokoja few days ago?
Muritala Ajaka knows very well that the convoy coming behind him is the Executive Governor of the state and the Chief Security Officer of the state. In fact I don’t believe that the governor’s security details attack Ajaka as some people claimed because as a Chief Security Officer of the state he can not attack the people he sworn to protect .
I am sure there must be a demonstration of who is this coming , and no governor in this country can take that. This particular scenario happened between me and Prince Abubakar Audu when I was the governor of the state.
I was going to my village and immediately after I passed Obajana I saw a convoy of Prince Audu in front of me and my convoy was moving at a faster speed and he did not allow me to pass. In fact from that Obajana bridge till Oshokoshoko community he did not allow me to pass. So I picked my phone and called the then Inspector General of Police and explained to him and I told him that I am giving Audu five minutes to let me pass or I will order my security men to clear the road for me to pass and in clearing the road it means that there will be exchange of fire and people can sustain injuries or even died.
The IGP who knew the implication of what I am saying immediately called Audu and I saw him packed for me to pass , but he has already exhibited arrogant behaviour that even him can not take from any body.
This recent one has been given political colouration and tribal sentiment. Muri Ajaka is my personal friend and Governor Bello is my Governor in my party , so I gain nothing if I can not speak the truth over this skirmish. As an elder statesman that had laboured for the unity and progress of this state I have nothing to fear when it comes to speaking the truth.
The act as I was told resulted in exchange of gun shot and we are approaching election , the consequence of such incidence is much. Let us be practical about it, the east will be tense during election because they have introduced ethnicity in the forthcoming general election.
It does not cost any body to give peace a chance , but it cost a lot not to allow peace to reign. If peradventure the governor is on the road and you are also on the road, protocol demand that you pack and allow him to pass peacefully. Ajaka is contesting for the governorship of the state, I don’t think that he suppose to have allowed this issue to crop up when he knows the rules. Well, may God Almighty help Kogi state.
APC has chosen Ahmed Usman Ododo as its candidate for November 11 governorship election in Kogi state what are his chances of winning the election?
Let me tell you that there are a lot of things working in favour of Ododo, you either take it or leave it. They said the way Ododo was chosen was imposition , but the way and manner Dino was chosen for PDP was also imposition.
Some politicians forgot that the law permits candidates of political parties to emerge either by consensus , direct or indirect primaries. Every party chose the model of primary election they believe suit them . Also there is internal politics of a primary election which of course is still part of democracy.
The effect of all these is the stability of the party after primary election. Today I can tell you authoritatively that PDP in Kogi state is gone and gone for worse. The candidate of the party is from Okun I could have wish that he win the general election , but the big names in PDP have left with anger as a result of the way the primary election of the party was handled.
Two strong members of PDP from Lokoja and Koton- Karfe have picked deputy governorship candidate of other political parties, these are prominent members of the People Democratic Party (PDP). Those that remain that suppose to add value to the party are defecting to APC on daily basis.
But I am happy because what happened to PDP is to the advantage of my party APC. So when you subjected a process to nitty-gritty and the members are not satisfy they should go to court , if they don’t do that,it shows that they accepted the out come of the process and forge ahead to ensure the party and the candidate win the election.
I can say it any where that Ododo has a better chance of winning the November 11, 2023 governorship election in Kogi state.
What will be your assessment of Governor Yahaya Bello’s led administration in the last seven years ?
Governor Bello has done his best for the people of Kogi state, that was why the people gave him the second mandate to serve for another four years. People should forget about few negative comments coming from few people because there is no government that is 100 percent perfect. We can only be praying to God to make the incoming administration to be better than the one that is going whether at state, federal or even local government level.