Ondo State Deputy Governor, Ali Olanusi, explains the issues he has with Governor Olusegun Mimiko and why he had to defect to APC few days before the last governorship election in this interview withOluwole Josiah
How have you fared so far in politics?
I never imagined I would be deputy governor. When I was the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, I hated cheating. I believed then that (Olusegun) Agagu, who was the governor was mistreating Olusegun Mimiko. At that time, if he (Agagu) called me to say that I should do something to Mimiko, I would tell him no. Since he had joined PDP and Agagu had made him Secretary to the Government, I felt he should be allowed to perform. I did not know that Dr. Agagu knew him well. I never worked with Mimiko before then politically. When I was in the UPN, he was not ripe enough to play politics. I was the chairman of a constituency at that time and I had grown politically. I bought vehicles for UPN and for late Papa Awolowo’s campaigns in 1979. In the Social Democratic Party, we were both in the same party but we supported different people. He supported Evangelist Olumilua while I was working with Dr. Olajide. Olumilua became the governor and when he appointed the members of his cabinet, he left out all those who did not back him during primaries. Most of his appointees were from Ekiti, so our people in Akoko South were not happy. Olumilua also sponsored a man I sponsored to become the Chairman of the Local Government to contest for the House of Representatives in the SDP, one Funso Babadele from Oka. At that time, I was not interested. I had even gone back to my business.
So why did you come back?
My people in Akoko South persuaded me to run against him. I had hesitated initially, but I gave in after much pressure. I earlier had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Constituent Assembly. I contested and won election overwhelmingly to the House of Representatives. I was appointed the Chairman of a viable committee known then as the House Committee on Federal Commissions and Agencies, which is now about almost eight committees in the House of Reps. But Abuja again flushed us out in 1993 and I simply returned to my business as usual. I returned again to politics during the period of what the late Bola Ige called the “five leprous fingers,” during (Sani) Abacha’s era. Those were the five parties he created. It was during that time again that I associated with some people. Unfortunately, Abacha did not allow that to see the light of the day. But in 1999, I joined the Peoples Democratic Party.
You became the Chairman of the PDP in Ondo State shortly after that?
I became the Chairman of the PDP in 2001. Remember that Agagu contested against late Adebayo Adefarati in 1999 and lost. As a result of the woeful result or performance of the party in Ondo State then, they came around again as they did before, especially the young elements, to beg me. I can remember some names of those who came to me in Lagos, I remember Mike Adeyeye, late Adedipe, who later became high chief in Akure, and some other young men. They came to me in Lagos that I should come home and head the party. I said I could not leave my family and business to return to Akure to lead the party on a full time basis. But they prevailed and then I succumbed to their pressure. This was in 2001. I made it a full time job.
We learnt your salary was enormous…
I had no salary. My wife was supervising my business and was sending money to me from Lagos. It was about three years later that my wife joined me in Akure. After Agagu won election, I was appointed as the Chairman of the Nigerian Shippers Council.
If you claim you helped Agagu to win the election, why did you leave him and the party you also claim you helped to build?
After Agagu had spent about three and half years, things were not going on well. The way he was treating Mimiko and doing other things was not satisfactory to me. After correcting him and he refused, I had to go to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and I told him that the way things were going, the PDP might not be able to win election in Ondo State. He asked why, I told him that the first two years was used for road plan. There was too much grammar. I told him the Exco would commence around 9 or 10 am and end at 11am. I told him nothing was happening in the state. I remember I went to see Obasanjo with my secretary, Boluwaji Kunlere. The late Agagu was very close to Obasanjo and so I thought the former president would be able to prevail on him to use the remaining one and half years of his term to come up with solutions. But unfortunately, Agagu kept the malice.
We learnt the major issue you had with Agagu was because he did not support your senatorial ambition?
When I decided to go to the Senate, Agagu welcomed the idea and encouraged me, only to turn around to urge Bode Olajumoke to run for the Senate. This was surprising because Olajumoke was the first person I told about my ambition in my senatorial district to run for the Senate. I even went to his house with my wife to spend the first day of the New Year with his family in 2006. Olajumoke, who had earlier supported me, told Agagu that he was not prepared to run unless he would bankroll his primaries, which Agagu did and he emerged the candidate. Although I had resigned as Chairman of the Nigerian Shippers Council and that of the PDP in the state, I was asked to return as chairman of the party, I refused, more so that Agagu was not disposed to that.
But we learnt you left the party because of that…
I actually turned my sympathy to Olusegun Mimiko who is now harassing me because of what was going on in the PDP. He was lovely, lively and respectful. When I was Chairman of the PDP, in fairness to him, including Agagu, they respected me. I was a no-nonsense chairman and you can ask anybody in the party then. It was during that time that I and some principal officers of the party including my secretary suggested Mimiko should contest against the governor. But as the Chairman of the party, I knew that if Mimiko contested the primaries in the PDP, he would not win even though the people of Ondo State liked him and wanted him to contest. So we joined hands with my colleagues, at least, 11 members of the central working committee, joined me to form Labour Party. I resigned my appointment as the Chairman of the PDP.
Since you formed the party, why did you choose the position of just a deputy governor?
After forming Labour Party, Mimiko called me and asked me to recommend three persons from Akoko as his running mate. I recommended late Clement Adebambo from Ogbagi Akoko and Saka Lawal, from Afin Akoko. I said these two gentlemen could work with him. After about a week or two, he phoned me. I was at my office at the Nigerian Shippers Council at Apapa. He said he wanted to come to Apapa to meet me. He said he didn’t know how he would put it but he actually wanted me to be his running mate. I told him that I was too old for that position and that he should consider the people that I recommended to him. He went to persuade my wife in Akure and when I came home, my wife persuaded me to accept the offer.
But didn’t you think you were too old for the position of a deputy governor?
I insisted that I was too old for the position. But Mimiko promised (which he kept to some extent, before he showed his true colour) that I would not be put under immense pressure. But I told my wife that the humiliation and insults that came with that position was much. I told her she shouldn’t complain whenever such arose. And she agreed. That was why she had to bear all we went through and that was why we were able to tolerate him and his wife up till this time before we decided to leave them.
Would you mention some of the maltreatments you suffered, specifically as deputy governor?
Immediately we were sworn in, Mimiko had his own plan from day one which was unknown to me. This was why many members of the party left after forming the government. What he introduced was very alien to the practice we met in the Western Region and in Ondo State. He was not the first governor anyway. He took over everything. He single-handedly selected the 22 commissioners. When I saw this, I was annoyed. But he pleaded with me and promised he would create the Local Government and Chieftaincy Ministry. He decided to create it in conjunction with the former chairman of LP, Olaiya Oni. I pleaded to be excused. I said I wouldn’t want to leave office and be going to Abuja to be reporting in the office of EFCC and ICPC. Eighty per cent of the accusations levelled against the last administration were about the money diverted from the local governments. He promised that he would put me in charge of a very powerful agency where a lot of money would be spent on power generation and that was better than the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. But I told him he should do what he wanted because I was not in the job for money. The prestige in that office was alright. I had a means of living. Within six months, all the responsibilities I had, as the chairman of State Tender’s Board and Joint Allocation Committee, where I presided over the monies coming from the federation account to the local governments, he went to the House of Assembly and got a bill to revoke the order where the deputy governor was chairman of JAC. I did not bother. He decided to select occasional members of the cabinet or chose any person he wanted to take over the job. There was no official pronouncement on that. This he did to render me completely non-functional. So, I came to the office, I read papers and so on.
Was that what led you to part ways with the governor?
Yes. After enduring the maltreatment, I had to leave. He had been unfair to me. I had endured hardship, but I did not count it as hardship. I am satisfied with my salary. It was clear that Mimiko did not value me. So for him to value me, I decided to leave 48 hours to the election. There were many things he did against me. It came to a point that even when I phoned him, he would not pick my call. When I complained, he said I should not call him directly, that I had to call his ADC, since he was permanently in Aso Rock Villa. It was only when he came back that he would be approving files. I actually asked him if he really said I should be calling his ADC when I needed his attention and he said yes. I just felt this was too much for me to bear.
We learnt you were also not happy with him because of the appointments he made…
Yes. I was not happy with the way he distributed his appointments. In my local government, he appointed just four commissioners in the last six years, whereas other local governments still have the ones he appointed in 2009. He has changed four commissioners, appointing them without my knowledge. He never consults me in any decision he makes. He said since they are going to be working with him directly, he has the right to pick them. What annoyed me was during this election, while we were preparing for it, he decided to pick the person who would represent my constituency. I considered that to be too much. If you say you can nominate candidates from other constituencies, it is wrong of him to go ahead to nominate a candidate in my own constituency; a candidate who has spent eight years in the House of Reps, to return for the third term to represent a constituency of four towns.
Since you said you started having issues with the governor right from the first day, why did it take you this long to defect and why did you even wait till the eve of the election to defect?
I am not in the office because of money. I am from a family background that respects constituted authority. My father was a traditional chief. With my age, I am not in a rush for money. With my age, I am contented with what I have. I have every cause to thank God. God gave me three children. They are doing fine. Even as deputy governor, my daughter still sends me money for cow and ram for Sallah. I told her not to bother, that I have enough, but she said she knew I was doing same for my father and that she would be doing it for me too. So I said alright. So, it is not money. I enjoy the love the Ondo State people have for me. I also respect eminent persons in the state.
But you haven’t told us why you chose to defect few hours to election day…
When Mimiko wanted to defect to PDP, I was here in Akure. He had been in Abuja for two weeks at the time. Early in the morning around 4am, the governor called me and asked where I was, I told him I was on my bed, he said alright and that he just wanted to hear from me. About three hours later, that should be around 7 or 8am, the Chief of Staff called me. I asked where he was calling from and he said he was in Lokoja. I asked what was happening, he said he thought the governor had sent for me, that he was on his way to Abuja to go and defect to PDP. Defect? That was what I wanted to do since last year. February last year, I wanted to return to the PDP, Mimiko pleaded with me that I should not. I stayed back. He went there, he defected with his commissioners. I only heard of it in the news. When he came back, I thought he would give reasons why he did not consult me but he did not say anything or mention it at all. I called him and complained to him. I told him what he did wasn’t right. I asked him why he would go to Abuja to defect to PDP without letting me know. One of the party officials even said I was not a member of PDP because when Mimiko defected with his commissioners, I was not there. It dawned on me that this action was not by mistake; it was deliberate. He said I was no more useful or relevant. I gave him 48 hours. After all the maltreatment he had given me, I said alright, I defected to APC since he did not even want me in PDP. He defected from LP to PDP while I defected to the APC. I don’t know why he is annoyed.
But we learnt you worked against PDP even when you were in the party…
How did I work against the PDP? Let people substantiate the allegation. After messing up the primaries, he asked me to head a reconciliation committee. He did not give me any role to play during the primaries. I went round the 18 local governments and I submitted my report that as a result of imposition of candidates, it did not allow democracy to work. I said that was what created the crisis in the party and that such things should not be allowed to happen again in the party. We recommended that all those who paid as much as N1m, N2m to obtain nomination forms should have their monies refunded to them as a way of pacifying them. But the governor refused. He said he would not give any money to anybody.
How would you describe the last election where APC emerged victorious in the presidential election and lost the House of Assembly election to PDP?
The only election we held peacefully here was the presidential election. The House of Assembly election saw the carting away of ballot boxes instigated by the governor. There is record that they carted away many ballot boxes during election. People were killed during the House of Assembly election in the governor’s town, Ondo East. So don’t regard that as an election. See the way they released the results. That result has nothing to do with the people of Ondo State.
Would you advise your party, APC, to go to court to challenge the results?
Even though we are a product of the judiciary, Mimiko does not respect the judiciary. The party can go to court to challenge it, but that is a decision it will have to take. The election was nothing to write home about. Ondo came second in the INEC’s rating of areas that witnessed violence. Why didn’t the governor use the style he adopted in the House of Assembly election for the presidential election? He was doling out dollars or naira to people who filed in the queue. Mimiko is self-centred. He said the House of Assembly election was his own election; he did not spend the money meant for the presidential election and now he was dolling it out to those who had been impoverished for the past six years. He was giving N1,000 to each of them. Is that election? Vote and show and collect N1,000, or N2,000, it depends on the degree of the people living in that area. In some areas, they were not given more than N1,000. There are some areas in Owo where they gave them N5,000.
We heard the House of Assembly wants to impeach you soon.
No one has told me that the House wants to impeach me.
What about the protest by students calling for your impeachment?
That was organised by Mimiko, the governor. Is that the way of doing things? Is it when Ondo State people go out to protest in Abuja that they don’t want somebody that they will take action? He has gone back to Abacha era, when people will say do this, or do that, in the pretense that people were mounting pressure before action will be taken. As the Chief Executive of the state, does he need to be told by students who have not tasted life? They are still in school, that they gave him seven days ultimatum to impeach me. Let him start his impeachment and let us see how it will sail through. I don’t have any function. If I have committed any offence, let them bring it out. I am not aware that the House of Assembly wants to impeach me. Maybe it is hearsay.
You still have up till 2017 to remain in office. How do you intend to manage your relationship with the governor through this period?
I will do it like other deputy governors who defected from their party to other parties. As they are managing their own, we will manage our own here. Go to Nasarawa, go to Niger, go to Ogun, they are many.