Chief Tunde Akindehin, the Caretaker Committee chairman of the Kwara State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was brought in to steady the ship that was being troubled by the storm arising from crisis that had rocked the party. But how far has he gone in his mission? He speaks with HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM about the journey so far and the party’s expectations for 2019 and the forthcoming council election in the state among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
You were brought to Kwara by the national leadership of the party to stabilise and mobilised the PDP after its prolonged crisis. Where are you so far on that assignment?
In every human endeavour, there will always be challenges and Kwara PDP is not different which was why the national leadership set up this caretaker committee and made me the chairman. When I resumed duty here, we met a polarised and dysfunctional party even though the structures were there. There has been a kind of gulf permeating all the segments, divided on factions. We believed that the only way to bring sanity to the party is to rally round all the leaders and ensure they are on the same page. When we resumed, we hit the ground running by calling meeting of the stakeholders which was promptly and well attended. We spoke to one another and preached peace and assured them that everybody will be given free opportunity and a level playing ground so that one will not feel marginalised and oppressed. It is in the atmosphere of love and unity that our desire and hope of taking the reins of power in all segment and structures of the party at all level of government can be realisable. And that there was the need for everybody to work hard, forget about the past or whatever might have happened to anybody so that we can come together with a united mission to be able to get our bearing right. That we have been able to do.
Why do you think you were considered for this job?
My desire and those who sent me here know that I am equipped and competent to bring peace and tranquillity to this party and my antecedents speak volume for me. I have been in charge of party activities for so long and I think this should not be an exception. I have been saddled with this kind of party responsibility in the past since 2001 but not as a caretaker chairman rather in other capacity. I was the Deputy State Chairman of the party in Ondo state. I am not a neophyte neither is this a new thing to me and with God on our side, we are going to be successful.
Even as a non-indigene?
I don’t think that is a problem because the state caretaker committee is peopled by persons from each of the local government, then one other person representing each of the three senatorial district making 19, its only the chairman and secretary that are not from here in order not to be biased, unfair and give equity to everybody. Since we came, this is the first time I will be asked this question. We have been doing our work seamlessly and God has been helping us. I have met all the stakeholders for the second time now attended by all the elders, leaders and supporters.
But how have you fared in that course?
I can say we have fared very well and have been able to bring all the leaders on the same page. A couple of weeks ago, the Iyiola Oyedepo and Sunday Fagbemi group both went on air where each one of them spoke with the generality of the people and addressed the state. So it was obvious, if there have not been love between these two gladiators, they wouldn’t have been able to come together and speak with one voice. It is not only limited to them, other stakeholders in the party have been able to contribute their quota eminently as well.
But some of your members are still in court arising from bickering of the crisis in the party then, what is the situation now?
After the Supreme Court judgment, it was agreed that things of the past should go with the past and if there is anybody in court, he should withdraw such case. We are in the process of getting all litigations out of court. We don’t support it and those who went to court have pledged to withdraw it and I doubt if they have not done so.
The issue of lack of funding has been a recurring decimal for the party before now and since you came on board, how have you tried to resolve this problem?
We are coping and I will say God has been very fair to us because even the Nigeria government that has the oil and resources went into recession. The leadership and other well-meaning members of the party have rallied round the party. We feel that their little quota matters and we have been able to get our bearing with that. No doubt because of the way and manner they feel they were marginalised, everybody wants to put in his widows mite to ensure it will be good at the end of the day.
The local government election is close and some PDP members have accused KWSEIC of deliberately denying them their right to contest?
In any case, whatever KWSIEC has on their sleeve will not help them because Nigerians know that the history of state electoral commission has not been smooth running. Government in each of these states always ensure they don’t lost election. So it doesn’t really bother us, what we are after is how to mobilise our people towards ensuring electoral value where your votes counts. Manipulation or not, what we are saying is that people should be mobilised to go and vote, ensure their votes count and monitor it and whoever is announced is okay because we know that is the choice of the people. But we will not accept a situation where we win at the polling centres but lose at the announcement centres and that is why we are telling our people that they should let their vote counts. We are not saying we are gullible or most unscrupulous, but that people should decide who is going to be their leader and true representation should come through balloting for there to be accountability. As at the time our money was going to the bank, the bank said they have closed and if we don’t obtain their teller, KWSIEC will not give the form. So we are ready in all the wards and local government in Kwara and we fielded candidates. It’s because of their bureaucracy and technicalities, but we will cross the bridge when we get there.
Some of your candidates didn’t finally get to register?
We are not satisfied with that conduct. The state electoral commission gave only four days for which they opened the nomination. And in an era of recession where people will have to struggle to look for money, what they have done in the first place to us is an absurdity demanding a councillorship and chairmanship candidates to pay N50,000 and N250,000 respectively, it’s not done anywhere. Then to add more insult to injury, there is this discriminatory tax regime where councillor will have to pay a tax of N105,000 and same thing for another amount of money for chairmanship candidate for a man who is not working. If he had gotten that money, he would have veered into business. There shouldn’t be any inhibition for anybody to serve their people, let that people decide who to govern them. It’s not required and necessary for people to pay for nomination fee because KWSIEC is an agency of government where they are taken care of in the budget. I don’t see why they should now be looking for money from candidates at all cost in order to obtain nomination, it’s absurd.
Are you saying this is unlawful?
Well, I don’t know maybe in the act of the state assembly that set up KWSIEC, the issue will be gleaned better but I think it runs foul of our electoral and national laws.
Are you challenging that decision in court?
Ehm, we will address you on that later, that is some of our weapon, we cannot sleep on our right and we should know them as address by our legal team. We will do the needful.
Some have said all your reconciliation efforts is not about this council election but about 2019?
If we are not concerned about it, we wouldn’t have paid money or conducted primary, or go into lengthy marathon meetings in order to come up with consensus candidates for the election. And we would not have been taking our protest to KWSIEC while some of our candidates have not been rejected. That is a strategy upon us by not making noises but we are making preparation and by the time we are done… we are going on explosive mobilisation, orientation and recruitment. There are so many programmes lined up for Kwara PDP to execute. Anybody saying we are not ready is a talk from the pit of hell. We are more than ready than ever before for this and subsequent elections.
Your committee, what is its term of reference?
As from next week, there will be caretaker committee at ward and local government levels. Thereafter, we will begin to put the structure of the party back to base by conducting congress to the local government and ward levels ultimately to the state exco. By the time the executive of the state would have emerged, our job would have been over.
When is the time for state congress?
We will get back to you soonest on that
There this talk about moles already infiltrating your party in this midst of reconciliation efforts, what do you make of that.
We don’t believe in that and it’s either you are here or there. So let them send the moles and by the time they are here and convinced that this is the right place to be, such person(s) will become part of us and even become a mole to them. It’s going to be an advantage because we have nothing to hide and we are popular with the people. There is no big deal about mole, we are comfortable with anybody.
What equation will be there for Iyiola Oyedepo and Prince Sunday Fagbemi in the new reconciliation effort? Are we likely to see any of them still emerged as the party chairman?
They remain both senior party members and we cannot do away with them. The people will decide who is going to be their chairman next, it’s not in me and I am not going to vote. If the Kwara PDP like any of them, they can return them. It could be another person; the pendulum can swing to anybody’s side. It’s a futuristic thing which only God can decide.
Some members of the party are facing corruption charges at the EFCC, don’t you think this will rob off on the chances of the party.
The matter is still before the court and I don’t want to speak on it. But thus far, all the EFCC corruption cases relating to election money and campaign are being hyped. The court will decide who is guilty or not if anybody has evidence. For us, as far as there are not guilty yet, they are very innocent and we will treat them as innocent and very reasonable human beings.
What are your plans for 2019?
That is in the hands of God. But as a party, ours is to put the party on course and that is what we have come to do. Before we get to 2019, we would have gotten a perfect, virile and united PDP in Kwara State where the focus would be to mobilise and orientate the people for election to make the party attractive.
Will you go into alliance with any party in Kwara in this mission?
Yes, because the more the merrier. The door is open for anybody that sees our political ideology and principle to join us in moving the state forward. It’s not as if we cannot do it alone but our door is quite open.
Message for the party and electorate
We wish the party the best of luck and what is important is for them to forget all the rigmarole of the past. Everybody should come together and ensure the messages of the party is preached in the nook and crannies of the state and ensure we do more recruitment and strengthen all the segment in the party, ensure it becomes a winning machine where we can contest and win all the election. For Kwarans, they should believe what PDP can do and we have done it in the past and we can do it again. Lots of reengineering is taking place. I intend to take the party back to the people for them to have a say on who governs them. Kwarans should have confidence in our party.