Professor Joseph Adeniyi Olowofela is not new to the politics of Oyo State and Nigeria. He was one of the think -tank of the then, All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) at both the local and National levels of the party.
He later became the chairman of Ido Local Government in Oyo State, during which he was named the overall best performed local government chairman in Nigeria, on Works and education at the 10th Edition of all local governments merit award in 2012.
Also, as the chairman of Ido local government, he got the National award for excellence in Grassroots leadership. During his tenure as the Commissioner for Education in Oyo State, the state witnessed a tremendous improvement in education and it was his idea that brought about the establishment of the Technical University under Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
In this interview with Business Hallmark Olusesan Laoye, he talked about the last general elections as it affects the governorship in Oyo State and the presidential elections. He also highlighted the mistakes, which Gov. Makinde did in his first term that nearly cost him his second term. He said such made him to run from pillar to post to win a re-election.
The Oyo State governorship election has been held and surprisingly the incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde emerged the winner when he was not given a chance. How come?
Well, the opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) did well but the the winner’s emergence was in the hands of God. Honestly, Senator Teslim Folarin from all odds was favoured in that election and like I said, everything is in the hands of the Almighty. But let me say this, from all indications and calculations, Senator Folarin was to win the election based on the fact that the ability of the incumbent to govern and his best have been seen. The notion is that there should be someone else, who should be allowed to govern and who would do better and that person, of all the candidates in the election, is Teslim Folarin.
Whatever the case may be, I can applaud Governor Makinde for the fact that he was able to solve the problem of the inner crisis in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) on the educational sector and was able to complete the on- going projects of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, so I do applaud him for that.
However, I have something against him because the legacy that we put in place for our secondary education in Oyo State, he failed to maintain it.
During the tenure of late Governor Ajimobi when I was the commissioner for education, we insisted that time and followed the policy of no automatic promotion and that pupils should prove themselves worthy of being promoted. But Makinde abolished it, which gave the state a serious set back in secondary education.
I do agree that ability defers but there is nobody who can’t learn one thing or the other. The cases of schools caught for cheating during the period of Governor Seyi Makinde, was a sad development. These schools were good schools in the past and this I believed is a big minus on the part of Makinde’s government. Again the people were not happy with him on the issue of security and we all know that.
There is what we called body language in any system and putting Auxiliary as the chairman of Motor Parks, has shown that the government of Seyi Makinde is encouraging hooliganism. That is why the state has returned to the era of crisis that we always had in the time past.
During his first term, through the porous security system of the government, many people lost their lives.
Secondly, the government of Engineer Seyi Makinde has completely destroyed the Local Government administration, which is the closest to the people at the grassroots. People of the state have not forgotten his usual statements that he did not believe in the autonomy of the Local Government.
To me, this statement is far reaching and that is why he rendered the local government impotent. He gives stipends to them to just pay salaries and without executing any project. This is not what we had in our time when we were free to carry out projects, which made us to be closer to the people in our respective local governments.
His policy has made local government chairmen unpopular in his first term in office. To me, I think we have seen the best of Seyi Makinde and we may not expect much from him in his second term. We still have the belief that the APC candidate Teslim Folarin could do better. But our tomorrow is in the hands of God.
What do you have to say about the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the last election generally and the apathy of Nigerians?
As far as I am concerned, I think there should be a law to punish people, who refused to vote, because it is their civic responsibility to do so. Let us look at this scenario. In a situation where you have 10 registered voters, so to speak and you now have only four of them that voted, that means that somebody must win out of those four, which now determines the lives of those who refused to come out to vote. But if all the 10 had voted, then the result may be different. On the day of the election, people should be enforced to do their civil rights….
What if they say as well, that it is their fundamental rights claiming, they are free to choose whether to vote or not?
They have to understand that freedom is limited. For instance, if you say you have liberty, your liberty must not infringe on the liberty of others. Let us look at it this way, I can’t say that I have liberty and slap you, I would have assaulted you even with my liberty. You can as well say that I have the liberty to vote or not to vote but if it becomes a law, then it means it must be obeyed and it is an indication to show, who you will want to lead for the next four years.
As a matter of fact, this would help to encourage large turn out of accredited voters and it would have greater reflection on votes cast that would determine, who the people actually wants to leads them.
When you go further the issue of BEVAS actually helped in the last election and to a large extent, it eliminated the problems of people hijacking ballot boxes which was rampant in the past.
On the candidate of the APC in the governorship election, in person of Senator Teslim Folarin, it was believed that throughout his position as the Senate leader, he was accused of not bringing any meaningful project to Oyo State, what is your take on this?
Anybody can say anything, it is just a matter of perception. Most of the time when you don’t carry the press to commission projects and make noise about it to showcase your activities, it is believed that you have done nothing. People think whatever is not reported, is not an achievement and they see it as if you have not done anything. It is not everybody that likes to show off and make noise about their activities.
In recent past during and when he was out of the Senate, Senator Folarin carried out many tangible projects and facilitated many as well. It is not possible to be in that kind of position as a Senate leader, and not to have facilitated or carried out any project in your constituency….
You were saying something about Governor Makinde which you did not complete, can you shed light on this?
You see, I told you that one of the problems of Governor Makinde in his first term was lack of previous experience in political positions.
People who supported him to become governor the other time were neglected. How come he could not manage them. Don’t forget that Barrister Sarafadeen Ali, who is now Senator-elect under the platform of the APC for Oyo South Senatorial District, was with him, Chief Femi Lanlehin was with him; they both left him.
Getting to the peak and becoming successful is one thing and managing the success is another thing. He was unable to manage those prominent, great and highly respected politicians, who stood by him to win the first term. Otherwise, his campaign for second term would have been a clean and clear overall for him. But because of his attitude towards those people, he had to keep running helter skelter. This also would not have been necessary.
Again the fact remains that nobody can become the governor or win any election by his own popularity, one needs people, who would stand by you. That was what Governor Makinde realised at the last minutes and he had to run back to people like Olopoeyan and others he had offended at the last minute for assistance before the day of the election.
Honestly no one expected that he would bury his pride and what we expected was that he would say I have arrived and called the bluff of everybody. I just hope he must have realised his mistakes, learnt his lessons in dealing with people and not misbehave the way he did last time, to those he had appeased and now back with him again.
Those people would keep a close watch on him now. I believe that those people will be more careful now as well and not put absolute trust in him as they did earlier.
What do you say about the agitation and cry that the President- Elect Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu rigged the Presidential election?
As far as I am concerned, that election was perfect, free and fair.Though nothing in this world can be 100% perfect. If you say a candidate rigged the election and has the ability to rig, to me, that candidate must be a fool not to rig in his domain, which is Lagos. Everybody is aware that Lagos has been his domain all this while and if there is that tendency to rig, he would have rigged about 1.5mllion votes in Lagos and people would have agreed that it was normal that Lagos has been his strong hold.
He lost Lagos to the Labour party, which nobody expected. Again to prove that the election was free and fair, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari lost his Katsina base, Mallam El-Rufai, who is the most vociferous among the Northern leaders, lost. his Kaduna base as well. So if there were opportunities to rig, you would have to rig in places, where nobody would suspect and that must be your base and strong hold.
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For those people to have lost in their strong holds in this last election, shows that INEC chairman did his best and I would say he is courageous. It is a common thing here in Nigeria that when you lose an election you blame it on something. Let me say that the Obedient movement if they actually won and had the results, they would have published it. At least, every political party had agents in pooling units across the country.
They ought to have by now, compiled it and show the world that this is the score card of so and so. We are all politicians and in order not to lose their followers, I think the gimmick that they are going to court is a tactics to keep their followers..We all accept that Peter Obi for the first time tried but his followers should be careful not to paint his first outing with ethnicity, capable of spoiling the inroad he has made into the presidential journey of Nigeria, which is not easy.