By Banji Ayoola
A former Secretary to Ondo State Government, ex Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and former Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Mr Isaacs Kekemeke, believes that the risk of rejecting President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 16 election, far outweighs that of returning him.
He also spoke about restructuring, the economy and security of Nigeria under Buhari; and the real unification within the APC in Ondo State, among other issues. He spoke in this interview with Banji Ayoola of The Radiance.
As a former APC chairman in Ondo State, and a prominent chieftain of the party, what are you doing to ensure the victory of your party’s candidates in the coming elections
What we do is to sensitise the people around us; sensitise as many of the people as we can; explaining to them the need for us to continue to support this President.
Not because he has done everything; not because the country has been transformed so that everything is okay; not because we don’t have challenges; but because but for him and his methods, we would be unsure of where we would be by now.
In other words, we must continue to support him for another term of four years because he has been able to halt our descent to lawlessness and chaos so that we won’t be like countries like Venezuela; so that we won’t look like Yemen; so that we won’t be like Libya, even countries like Sudan.
He’s been able to control Boko Haram. They have not been eliminated. He has controlled them and so we have some security.
Some people would say no, but we still have Boko Haram. Yes. You have insurgency even in the United States. You have them in Britain, and in every other place. But he’s been able to contain them.
The economy. Yes. He’s been able to grow the economy in such a way that Nigerians have gone back to the farms, everybody trying to feed him or herself. Our dependence on foreign foods has been curtailed. And you now have Nigerians growing their rice and and food. That’s something I think we need to celebrate.
In the area of corruption, of course you and I know, and everybody does know that the times when you dip your hands into the public treasury without care, without caution, without fear of consequences appears to have gone.
People have spoken about selective anti corruption war. I don’t speak for the President. But what I have said is that a selective war against corruption is better than no war at all. And why do I say so. I say so because if you fight a selective war against corruption, you can’t be there forever. Times and tides change. And when times and tide change, the President’s own people would also be selectively dealt with.
And what most people have said is that it is those who have opportunities that are stealing. Most times, those who have the opportunities are aware that now or in the future, they would be called to order, and probably then we would have started to win the war against corruption.
If you look at all of these, I think the best thing is to give him another opportunity of four years so that he can finish what he has to finish. Besides that, looking at the pedigree of his main contender, you would know that that is not a choice at all; it’s better to stick to this President for him to finish what he’s doing so that after four years we can begin to have other Nigerians we can consider for this job.
But the opposition has been accusing the President of nepotism. They are saying that he has not been running the country the way he is expected to run it. And as such, he should not be reelected. They are talking of restructuring this country. But the President and the APC are opposed to it. What do you say to that?
The APC as a party has its programme, has its vision for our country – a truly federal state where the component parts are semi independent or even independent of the federal in the exercise of its constitutional powers. And that is why you hear people like the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, champion the call for a state police.
I am a true believer of a restructured country. Not restructuring in terms of breaking this country into small countries. No. restructuring in terms of making sure that Nigeria is run as a truly federal state. And I think the APC supports that.
Maybe much has not been done in that regards because of the no love lost between the executive and legislature; and because you would also need the legislature to push this restructuring agenda. You can’t do that in vacuum. There are institutions that would be saddled with functions.
I believe that in the next four years, the President would have a legislature that he would be able to work with to actualise this APC restructuring programme that is in our manifesto. I know that a lot of people have accused the President of nepotism. But we also have data that have been released by the presidency to rebut these allegations. All the senior offices of government have been tabulated and their holders also stated. That appears to me to be some response to this allegation.
Some critics are saying that there is so much poverty in the land; the infrastructure is not there; people are finding it difficult to eat three square meals a day. What’s your recipe for a better Nigeria?
Like I said, everything does not appear to be perfect; but I think there has been some significant movements. For the first time in about 20 years, there is increased spending on capital projects and infrastructural development. Nobody can take this away from the President.
The railways are back; our airports are starting to function. Road networks are being built. Electricity is not perfect, but it is getting stable. So infrastructure wise, even though it is not Eldorado yet, there is a movement from the times of President Jonathan and other presidents and now where we now have between 25 and 30 percent of government revenue being spent on capital projects. That’s some movement.
We are not there yet but that’s some movements. So I think in terms of capital projects in Transportation, the Highways, Water, Agriculture, there is some movements.
I also agree with you that there is hunger in the land because there is also a movement; the President is trying to ensure that there is a movement from dependence on free money to creation of wealth.
You can’t blame the Nigerian people for the situation they have found themselves. Things are really hard. But Nigerians must also realise that over times we did not save for the rainy day. We didn’t think that this type of time would come. We didn’t create sufficient wealth.
There was too much dependence on oil. There was too much free money. People were taking money without adding value. Now the President appears to have closed shop, closed the treasury and only releases money strictly for the things that we need to spend money on. The amount of free money available has reduced. And that is why everybody is crying.
I think what we need to do is to create wealth and then forget about the days of free money. Now elections are here. People cannot find free money. That’s an indication to you that even during elections, this President would not dip his hands into the public till and give that for people to vote for him.
So I know things are tight but these are things that have piled up over the years. All we need to do is to tighten our belts and overcome this so that subsequently, we would be a country that produces, not a country that consumes.
Another observation by critics: That warm connection between those in power and the people does not seem to be there. It appears that it is only those in power, those in government or their relatives who are having a good time, while the people generally suffer. They do not seem to put the people in the centre of their activities…
What we find: Lack of commitment to the people between the governors and the governed. President Buhari alone does not make government.
I think there are a number of people who are around the President and a number of people are governors of states who don’t understand their responsibility, the burden they carry, the enormity of the challenge placed on them by the positions of responsibility that they occupy.
Their policies, actions and inactions are not people driven. So the gap between the people and their leaders continues to widen. Of course President Buhari has his own blame because I think he has not sufficiently reined in some of his aides and the governors of states who are members of his political party; because we have a dangerous tendency in our country today where governors have become obas, kabioosi in their domains.
They are doing whatever they like. That’s not an acceptable thing. Once the President has been acknowledged widely as a man of integrity, he has a duty to make sure that everybody who works with him in his party and who has some positions of responsibility in government, imbibes the need to connect with the people, to make the people the centre of their activities, So I think you are right.
There is this fad within your party. Everything that is wrong in this country is heaped on the PDP as if the PDP was not a Nigerian party. Your party often accuses that party of ruining this country. Yet most of these accusers in your party were former office holders in PDP who have now ran to APC. Do you see a sense in condemning that party; though the accusers are worse?
I think the President started it, and I think it was because he was overwhelmed by the level of rot that he saw when he assumed office. I didn’t think that the President and our party leadership knew that things were so badly done. They didn’t imagine that our country had been so mal-administered.
So I think it was a shock. Could this have ever happened. Did they do this to our country. And I think gradually we are getting over the shock and getting the place fixed up. It was a shock. It was shocking to the President and when they entered government, the rot was unimaginable.
What they were talking about during campaigns was bad enough, was nothing to compare with what’s on ground. So I think they had shock. They were overwhelmed everywhere and they talked about it. But I think we’ve moved from that.
Give us your picture of a new Nigeria.
My picture for a new Nigeria is a country where those in charge of our affairs would be competent people, would be committed to the Nigerian people in their hearts and not by words of mouth: those who would have character, and by character I mean those who would be fair to all the people and would be altruistic citizens.
I believe that the problem of this country is leadership. And I believe that we cannot have development unless we have good governance. And I also know you cannot have good governance unless you have the right leaders with the right frame of mind. My vision of this country is a country that would be governed and ruled by competent people, committed people and people with high modicum of character.
Coming to Ondo State, how do you think that real unification can be achieved within your party?
What I tell people is that our party is disunited in unity. This is a party where you have various tendencies not harmonised, not put together, yet they remain committed to the good of the party; yet they remain committed to the electoral victory of the party.
Though there are some people who have partial commitment to other parties. A good number of our party people believe that they would be loyal, committed and do other things for the success of the party.
We have a Governor who believes that to be a good party man you have to worship at his altar. And for as many people like me, who do not find the need to worship at any altar, we are deemed outsiders. But it doesn’t matter. We still remain committed to our party, work for our party in our own way, using our own goodwill, using whatever resources we have and using our intellectual capital to promote the party and work for its victory at elections.
Senator Ajayi Boroffice alleged yesterday (Sunday) that some AA members were threatening violence in the coming elections; that if they see that he is winning, that they would destroy the votes. What do you say about this AA and its alleged threat?
The truth of the matter is and it is public knowledge that high ranking government officials in the APC government of Ondo State are neck deep in promoting the AA in five federal constituencies of this state. Those are Ondo North Senatorial District seat, Ondo South Senatorial District seat, Akoko North West/ North East House of Representatives seat, Akoko South East/ South West House of Representatives seat and Idanre/ Ifedore federal seat.
It’s shameful that some people who are in charge of the party are also in this, and they are doing all that they can do under cover to promote this kind of a thing. And what I see is simple. Either way, we lose. In other words, those in government that are doing this would lose. If they win, shame unto them. And if they lose, shame still.
It is unfortunate that people do not understand that in this world, you win and you lose; and particularly in politics, inclusivity is better than exclusivity. They don’t understand, and it’s sad. I don’t know how Prof Boroffice comes about that fact.
But sure I know that so many people in government and leaders of this party in this state, who are into anti party activities in five federal constituencies that I have mentioned,
And what’s the way out?
Sincerely I don’t know. We believe that at the end of the day, there would be enough loyal party men to push through our candidates in all the elections.
Do you have any advice for the people of the state?
My advice to the people of this state is that the risk of not voting for President Buhari is far higher than the risk of voting for Atiku; and the lesser risk in this business is voting President Buhari.
This is because we know Atiku’s antecedents. We knew what he did as Vice President. We know that he is a businessman; and we also know all of those surrounding him. We don’t need to go back to Egypt so soon. Let us give President Buhari another four years. He may not have been perfect. I believe that he is trying his best. I believe that we can move on from here; and I believe that he is a better alternative still.
Are there any further comments?