Dr. Kola Ademujimi was the Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Olusegun Mimiko, and now the Director-General of the Agoola/Gboye Governorship Campaign Organisation. He spoke with ADEWALE MOMOH on the readiness of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) for the poll. Excerpts…
How prepared is ZLP for Ondo governorship election?
We are very ready. We are the party to beat. We want to thank God that everywhere you go in Ondo State today, people will tell you that the vote is for Agboola Alfred Ajayi and Gboye Adegenro. People are saying that in Ondo State, we need a politician; we need an indigene, not just an indigene but also a resident that is particularly based in Ondo State. That is why people are saying that this is the time for Ajayi and Adegbenro. Another reason is age. When you look at Ajayi, he’s 51 while Gboye is about 48. They are energetic, resourceful and are professionals. In particular, the majority of people in Ondo State are saying that they want grassroots politicians who must have gone through the ranks. When you look at the profile of Ajayi, he started as Secretary to a political party in his ward. Later he became Supervisory Councilor and later Caretaker Chairman. At a stage, he was chairman of his party, later he became elected Chairman of Council in 2004. In 2007, he went to the House of Representatives and in 2016; he was elected the Deputy Governor. In all these positions, he has been impactful by helping the people. If you have not been in such a position before, it will be difficult to know whether you are tested and maybe you can be trusted. So Ajayi has been tested and trusted. People have absolute trust in him.
Being a new party, do you think ZLP has what it takes to confront APC at the poll?
The candidate of APC who is the incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, is a nice man but he is not a politician, he is particularly unfriendly with the people. He’s a brilliant lawyer but he’s not people oriented. He does not have grassroots interest. He looks down on people. Once you are not a lawyer like himself, he thinks you are useless. He’s not humble. He abuses his colleagues, traditional rulers and our father in the Lord. So, the people are apprehensive.
If he has all these negative attributes, how did he become the governor?
He was given the first four years because he was never tested in any public position. He was never Chairman of Council, member of state or National Assembly. He just came and served under the military. So, he has that military orientation that once you are in a place and you are the head, you must bully people. So, he’s like a dictator. More than 70 percent of his cabinet members are not supporting him. In fact, those who are still moving around with him now are working with us. The people have rejected him. The people want somebody that is humble and humane, just like Agboola Ajayi. In Ondo State, we don’t want to make another mistake for another four years of somebody that will not listen to the people. We are a very tough people, so we need a leader that will be humble and humane, that will respect the views of the majority of people within and outside the party. When you see Agboola Ajayi, he’s simple, humble and humane. If we accuse him of any wrongdoing, without hesitation he will say I’m sorry. But these other candidates, they will want to prove that they are Senior Advocates of Nigeria. The society may be in trouble if you allow such people to be in government. We need somebody that is simple, that is approachable and humane. We don’t want someone that will be in government and turn himself into an enemy.
Don’t you agree that it is not yet the turn of the Southern Senatorial District where Ajayi hails from?
We believe in Ondo State that the issue of governorship should be rotational. We don’t feel that a zone should be cheated. When we started in 1999, naturally the thing went to the Northern Senatorial District with the late Baba Adebayo Adefarati becoming the governor. I served under him. For his second term bid, Baba did well but people were saying he was old at above 70. So, Baba Adefarati spent four years there. The late Dr. Olusegun Agagu from the South won the election but he also spent four years because people were not too happy with him; they said he was not relating as expected. He contested and he lost to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko who is from Central. So, it was North, South and Central. After Mimiko spent eight years, he wanted it to remain at the Central but the people rejected the move. They said it was the turn of the North because Baba Adefarati spent only four years, so the North should be allowed to spend four years to complete their eight years. That was why Akeredolu won. So, Akeredolu’s four years plus Baba Adefarati’s four years is eight years, we have satisfied the North. Mimiko spent eight years, that means we have satisfied the Central. The South was cheated; they didn’t allow Agagu to finish eight years. People are now saying it is the turn of the South. After the South, it will go to the Central. Ondo people naturally are saying it is the turn of the South.
What is the evidence that people are clamouring for the South?
In PDP, seven aspirants came out from the South because they knew it was their turn. One person came from the Central and from the North. And they said Eyitayo Jegede won the election, so, reconciling the seven people that contested with him is still a problem today. Majority of people that contested with Jegede are working against him. There is no single person that contested with Jegede that is visibly with him today, because they know it’s not yet his turn. He can wait till after the turn of the South. In APC, about six aspirants came out from the South but none of them got the ticket. The electorate will teach both the APC and PDP some sense on October 10. The mistake will surely be corrected. When Ajayi came out through ZLP, the people of South were very happy because they know that this is an opportunity for them to correct the mistakes earlier done by PDP and APC. Agboola Ajayi is the person to beat today because everybody knows that it’s the turn of the South to produce the next governor in the state and they are working towards that. One of the important reasons that Ajayi will win is that former Governor Olusegun Mimiko who was the first governor to spend eight years, has so many legacies. Even when the incumbent governor came, he acknowledged his performances and his legacies.
But Mimiko has been accused of abandoning many projects and not sustaining those legacies. Isn’t that true?
In health, the Mother and Child Hospital where pregnancy was no longer a death sentence, Akeredolu cancelled it. During Mimiko’s time, from antenatal to delivery, it was free. People were no more dying. That’s why the mantra was that pregnancy would never be a death sentence in Ondo State. Today, pregnancy has come back as a death sentence. People now pay at Mother and Child. The facilities are no longer maintained. Caesarean section and blood transfusion, which used to be free, now require a huge payment. A relation of mine went to Mother and Child; she was forced to pay N239, 000. It pained me because as a doctor, I know what we did there. Another major thing is the bus shuttle, which was the brainchild of Mimiko, which has so many advantages. You don’t have to be a pupil of mega school before you can access the bus. It was an avenue for children from various backgrounds to mix and relate. It was a sort of democratised education in the state. The mega schools built by Mimiko were free. The facilities in the mega schools were much more than those of many of the private schools. They were equipped with ICT, E-library, and sickbay among others. Look at the streetlights… And for some major reasons, the streetlights were installed. It was done for beautification at night, for security and the economy. If not for the streetlights, people would have closed their market around 6 pm. But now, the only time that the streetlights get switched on is when there are dignitaries in the state. Once they are gone, there won’t be light again. We need somebody that can sustain these legacies. That is why the people want Agboola Ajayi because they know that Mimiko is supporting him, he will resuscitate all these facilities. Even our women are not happy. They don’t have a good relationship with the wife of the governor, maybe for cultural rea-sons. The wife of the governor is an Igbo person. The allegation is that the First Lady prefers women from her tribe. Our women cannot enter Government House like before. This is one of the reasons women are clamouring for Ajayi whose wife is a princess of Ilaje here in Ondo State. If you look at the other contestants, their wives are not from here. It is good to have people from other tribes into position, but when you have five people from Ondo State in positions and you have three people from the South East in positions, the ratio is five to three in Ondo State, whereas it is not the same in any state in the South East. So, people are complaining and that is why we want one of our own.
What is your reaction to the allegation that ZLP is made up of betrayals?
This is one of the reasons Governor Akeredolu SAN will never come back as the governor of Ondo State; a governor that will be abusing everybody on the street. We are not like that in Ondo State. Akeredolu and Mimiko were friends in the university and during the struggle he was our friend. He was one of the lawyers that supported us. What is the meaning of the betrayal? He’s one of the lawyers that helped our case in 2009; and by 2011 he was contesting against that same person. What do you call that? And again, it was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that brought him to Ondo State. It was Tinubu that said Akeredolu would be the governor of Ondo State. After one year, he started abusing him. Is that one not a betrayer? When he said Mimiko has betrayed, how do you betray? Mimiko was in Adefarati’s government. The preponderance of opinions in the state was that Baba Adefarati was elderly. He was about 73 then, people asked whether the old man could continue. People advised Mimiko to support Agagu. Agagu too was a little bit distant from the people and he left. That is not betrayal. He said Mimiko betrayed Eyitayo Jegede. How did Mimiko betray Jegede? It was Mimiko that told Jegede to come and become governor, not that Jegede approached Mimiko. And immediately after the election because Jegede lost, some people were abusing Mimiko. What is betrayal about that? If I help you to get to a place and you cannot get there immediately and you start abusing me and you still want me to continue to support that person? I have never seen Mimiko betraying anybody.
Do you think it is right to call Ajayi a political neophyte?
On the issue of neophyte, probably the governor did not check the meaning of neophyte. If we put Ajayi and Akeredolu in the same place, in political parlance who is a neophyte? I think the coming of Akeredolu satisfies the meaning of neophyte much better than that of Agboola Ajayi. Ajayi has been in the politics of this state since 1988. He was a member of SDP. I was in Ondo State House of Assembly as an SDP member. At that time, Ajayi was a member of the EXCO in his own local government. So, from 1988 to date, for about 32 years, Ajayi had been in the politics of Ondo State. But our governor came to the politics of this state in 2011. So, who is a neophyte? If you know that somebody is a neophyte coupled with other derogatory words used why did he make him his deputy? It means the governor is indicting himself. If somebody has been a deputy or Vice President, that means he’s qualified to move to the next level.