Interview: Kekemeke to Akeredolu: You don’t deserve second term
The immediate past Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State, Mr Isaacs Kekemeke, is also a governorship aspirant on the platform of the party. He says Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu does not deserve a second term, among other issues
Why has it been difficult to resolve the crisis in the Ondo APC?
To tell you the truth, since Governor Rotimi Akeredolu won the election and was inaugurated, we have never been one. I don’t like to criticise him but the bucks stop at his table. His inability to put all of us together after he won is the foundation of the crisis. He ran the government exclusively. I think he just realised that even after victory, as governor you need everyone.
It is obvious that Akeredolu is eyeing a second term in office. Has he made any move to bring all the aggrieved stakeholders together?
I think with the intervention of the leadership of the National and South-West leadership of the party, he realised that it would be great if we can put our party together so that we can continue to win elections. But a lot of people are reluctant thinking that such disposition is an attempt to use them to the win second term election. My own attitude is different, my disposition is that Governor Akeredolu has a four-year term and that the party is available for all of us to use for the actualisation of our aspirations. So, for me, the party is more important than any individual’s aspiration because whatever aspirations you have, you still need the platform of the party. And I say look, let us come together but I do not think that Governor Akeredolu deserves second term, I can do it better.
You seem to have stopped attending the meetings of the Unity Forum now. Is it because they don’t support your aspiration or what?
Before the intervention of the South-West leadership for the reconciliation of the party, nobody invited me there. Most of the people who say they invited me were not there. We put them together. Alhaji Ali Olanusi and I put that together. But I believe that we must continually work towards achieving oneness. I want us to have a strong party. And let individuals who have aspirations to pursue within the framework of a one-party (do so). If you break down the house, what platform are you going to use for elections? If you don’t work towards uniting the house what happens after the primaries? So, we must have one united house. In that united house, we can agree, we can disagree. We can pursue interests within that united house and that is what I’m doing. I am working for a united party, at the same time I am also pursuing my aspiration within a party, I think must be united.
What is your relationship with other chieftains of the party, particularly those who belong to the Unity Forum, are they in your support?
I’m consulting, I’m sensitising, I’m recruiting for ‘Lekeleke Movement’ and I’m an advocate of tolerance within the party. Most of us relate as friends, as associates, and as party people so, I don’t have a problem.
The last time when the South-West leaders of the party came to Ondo State, concerning the crisis in the party, some resolutions were made. How far have the resolutions to in ending the crisis?
We have moved very slowly but we have moved a step and I believe that in the not too distant future, may be in matter of weeks, we will move again and take another step. It is not easy putting together something that has fallen apart in the last three-four years. So, it is going to take some time but it is slow. I admit but I think we will get there because all of us need to understand that we are first of all APC members before our aspirations.
What has been the role of the national secretariat on the division in the party? Are they comfortable with the crisis in the state?
Hopefully, I believe there will be an effort on the part of the national leadership. I know that they have set up a committee to go round and try to mend the cracks where they exist. There is a difference between interest groups within a party and divisions. What I’m saying that we should cancel are divisions not interest groups. The interest groups are there to promote aspirations within the bloc, which is in the party. So, you cannot remove interest groups from a political party. It doesn’t happen anywhere. For instance, if you go to Lagos, as seemingly united as Lagos is, you have ‘Justice Forum’ and ‘Mandate Group’. They are not on each other’s neck. That is what I’m saying. I have founded the ‘Lekeleke Movement’ to pursue my aspiration. Others can form their own, but we should remove divisions in the party and that is what the South-West leadership is saying and that is what I agree with and that is what I think the national wants to say. At least let us have a forum called a party in which all of us belong. If there is disagreement, sort it out there, not remove interest groups within the party.
What is the level of your preparation as someone aspiring to be governor?
Let me say that in the last one year, precisely, 11 months, I have been doing what I called CSR, Consultation, Sensitisation, and Recruitment. And I can report that we have overwhelming support for our aspiration. Even though, there are hiccups, threats, and noticeable weaknesses. The encouragement, the reception, the enthusiasm of the masses of Ondo State is what I thank God for. I never knew that the people of this state knew me as much as I found out. Apparently, they had watched me. Apparently, it is not in vain that I have stayed here in Akure for 28 years uninterrupted. The interesting aspect of it is that those little things we did that we didn’t know were anything are the things that they think I have imparted.
What gives you the confidence of getting the APC’s governorship ticket at the expense of Governor Akeredolu?
My vision, my message, my mission are too compelling. Our vision is clearly to create a prosperous and a peaceful state where citizens will be productively engaged to enable them live meaningful. We have clearly stated our mission in the last one year, engaging with the citizens of this state, which is with the aide of information, science, and technology, maximally impact government revenue on the human and natural resources of this state, to create wealth and it resonated with the people. Our objective is to fight hunger, fight poverty, fight unemployment, fight insecurity and rescue our decaying basic infrastructure. It resonates with the people.
Are you saying the incumbent is not doing anything in that regard?
I will say it again that Governor Akeredolu has done his best but his vision is different from mine. What I want to do is that it is time that government tackles the personal challenges of individual citizens, how to make citizens happier and live decent life is the core of my vision, wipe away tears because I’m here, a lot of our people are hungry in the state. A lot of our people are poverty-stricken. Our youths and able-bodied people are unemployed. This is a contemporary challenge that I want to tackle. Governor Akeredolu, once he constructs road, he believes he is doing his best.
You seem not to be happy with the way things are being run in the state. What do you think is fundamentally wrong?
Sincerely, I keep emphasising that I’m not bitter but what I am saying is that things can be done better. I have a vision and I have a mission to transform Ondo State to a prosperous and peaceful state and irrespective of what had happened between the governor and I and other individuals, I have moved on. I have no reason to bitter. So, that is key. I’m not bitter. I just feel that things can be better.
There is a belief that you came from the minority part of the state, don’t you think that can impede your aspiration?
The important thing is, am I a citizen of this state? Do I have the constitutional right and requirements to aspire? Do I have the competence, the experience, the commitment, and the character? If the answer is yes, then the next thing is when did I start to become a minority? Is it a sin to belong to the minority group? I think the answer is no. The other thing is when did this become an issue? Why was it not an issue when I was in the House of Assembly? Why was it not an issue when I was the Commissioner for Works? Why was it not an issue when I was Secretary to the State Government? Why was it not an issue when I was the state Chairman of the APC? It was never an issue. Now it is an issue because people are intimidated by my profile, by my competence, by the vision and the programme that we have laid out. So, they have nothing to hold on to, except such petty and uncivilised points and I really not bothered. Do you know why? It is because when hunger comes, it doesn’t ask if you are in the minority or majority. When kidnappers come, they don’t ask you whether you belong to the majority or minority. When poverty strikes, it is irrespective of where a man comes from. So, those things don’t bother me. And interestingly, the people of this state have solved that problem. The people of this state want the best irrespective of where the person comes from.
Is there any plan by the aspirants to come together and pick one to face the incumbent at the primary poll because it’s always difficult contesting against the incumbent?
One thing is that our aspirations are divinely orchestrated and we believe that all things will work together for good for me to emerge. But whatever politics that will make this possible, we will play it. Whatever consultations we need to do, we will do it. Whatever dialogue and interface we need to be involved in, we will do it. But the key is that the people must be allowed to speak and people must choose who leads them. Our party members must be allowed to speak or decide who fly their flag and the people of this state must be allowed to decide who they want to hire as their chief executive.
Has the governor called you on how to resolve the matter?
No, the governor has yet to speak to me about his desire to run for a second term and I have yet to inform him about mine as well. The point at which the governor and I agreed, I think the governor is excited when I say I’m not bitter and when I say I want bygone to be bygone and when I say I will work with anyone to bring about a single party. It has nothing to do with individual’s aspirations. The governor and I are on the same page in respect to that.
If he calls tomorrow and tells you to drop your aspiration and join him in his second term journey, will you respond?
If he does that I will also plead with him that he has got a chance, that it is like I can do this better and that he should also join me, hand over to me so that I continue from where he is stopping. Punch