Chief Femi Odufowokan is the immediate past Chairman of Ijebu North East Local Government, in this interview with AUGUSTINE ADAH; he spoke on the 2019 governorship election in Ogun State and other issues. Excerpts:
How would you assess the local government system since you left office in 2015?
Well, it will be difficult for me to do holistic assessment of local government administration since I left in 2015 whether in my state (Ogun State) or in Nigeria as a whole. When I was in office, it was like a circle in Local Government system in Nigeria, Ogun State in particular. The situation was not encouraging due to paucity of fund when I was in office and of course things had changed from what it was when I went as caretaker chairman. 1999 Constitution (as amended), had taken effect the second time I was the local government Chairman, so Local Governments have been under the direct control of state government. In fact, you can conclude safely that local councils are just administrative units or liaison offices of state government. The trend is still continuing since we left office even though we heard that National Assembly is doing something in respect of giving local government autonomy, but until that is done I don’t think any meaningful changes can be seen at the local government level.
Are you still in politics because much has not been heard from you since you left office?
I am still very much in politics. You know there was a Transition Committee that took charge of local governments in Ogun State when we left office. They were there for about a year and few months before another local government election took place in Ogun State. I did not participate actively in that election, but I was still participating outside elective or appointive politics. You know politicians are most active during election. Another set of elections will be held in 2019 and activities towards that will be low until probably when various aspirants will be declaring their interest.
Are you interested in running for any office in 2019?
For now, I don’t know. My style in running for political office or any other office for that matter is a little different. I don’t just wake up one day and say I am vying for this position or the other. It is my people around me, be it politics or even traditional chieftaincy titles that say they want me for this position or the other. Mostly when that is said, it is also subject to critical consideration and then I talk to God about it, and if it is his will, I throw my hat into the ring.
In Ogun state, there is this agitation that the next Governor should come from Yewa/Awori zone; since nobody has ever occupied the governorship position of the state from the zone since the creation of the state. Do you support this view?
Personally I am not a politician that believes in zoning. Yes, some people will tell you we have two divisions, some will also say four divisions, while some will tell you three senatorial districts. They are all right in terms of categorizations or classifications. While some take it from historical angle, others are looking at it from the current constitutional arrangement. There is a constant fact in all these. It is a fact that nobody has occupied the position of a Governor form Yewa axis. Personally, I don’t believe in zoning, but competency and capability. There is no area, zone or senatorial district that does not have competent people in abundance, and constitutionally there is no zone or senatorial district that is not entitled to be the next Governor of Ogun State. Political competency and capability are not the same, which is why Yewa/Awori Zone, otherwise called Ogun West Senatorial District is likely to be lucky this time around as they are closer to governorship than ever before with a particular aspirant.
Which of the governorship aspirants from Ogun West District are you referring to here?
I know and I can talk about only one aspirant, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola popularly called YAYI. He is the only aspirant that has consulted me. I think he has not declared formally but he is still doing consultations. In his interaction with me, I got to know his political philosophy, his personal outlook to life, his professional inclination. Above all, he was able to diagnose my local government. If somebody is consulting with me and he is telling me the major problems in my local government and those one to be prioritized, I think I have to give such person closer attention. His consultation is similar to that of Chief Segun Osoba in 1999. It was at consultation/campaign time that he told me that he would construct our main road from Erunwon to Ijebu Igbo. He not only did that, but did electrification of seventeen towns and other projects in my local government.
What was reported in some papers is that the Governor said those that have so far consulted him may not be Governor as they lack leadership qualities, is your candidate one of them and if he is one of them, why are you and others that served in his administration are still with him?
Let me start by telling you that I am not the governor’s spokesperson. Secondly, I doubt if Senator Adeola is one of the people His Excellency, Governor Amosun is referring to, if at all he said something like that. Personally I do not take what is reported in the dailies hook, line and stinker. Assuming without necessarily conceding that he said so, he is entitled to his own opinion like any other person, but what I know for sure is in Senator Amosun’s saying to the effect that whatever we say, God owns the final say. Also Tony Agenmonman, the present President of National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN), said in his book “Excellence is not by luck”, that “any position taken by a man, regardless of status, knowledge or expertise has a certain degree of probability with regard to the outcome. It is in this senses that we are considered finite beings- not God”. And lastly, why those of us that served in Senator Amosun’s Government during his first term are with Sen. Solomon Adeola, personally I do not believe in rumour I have not heard it from the Governor that he is not favorably disposed to Senator Solomon Adeola’s candidacy.
But there is insinuation that your candidate is not from Yewa, but from Lagos?
I have heard that too and I have been hearing such since the time I joined politics, and I will continue to hear such stories until our nation’s democracy get matured. When such insinuation was made, Senator Solomon Adeola family tree was published. He is from Ago Ishaga Pahayi in Ilaro. Those who are alleging that he’s not from Yewa did not bother to investigate the authenticity of their claims. From my experience, it is usually the candidate to beat that politicians, mostly opponents, insinuate or raised doubt as to where they come from or claim are not from the zone they perceive that the next office holder should come from. Have you not heard about it even in traditional title or kingship tussles, when all sort of stories emanate from opponents about the leading contenders not being an indigene or settler of a particular ruling house or town? I read one of such antagonist that claimed that Senator Adeola built a mansion in Ilaro about five years ago because he wanted to contest for senatorial seat from Yewa zone. Even such antagonist has confirmed that he has a house in Ilaro, Yewa, but he failed to investigate his family root. I know as a fact that over sixty percent of south west political office holders be it Governor, Senators, House of Rep Members, Commissioners, Ministers are based in Lagos. You tell me anybody that has been Governor in Ogun state that was not based in Lagos before becoming governor?
What is your opinion on the current state of the nation’s social-political-economy?
Well Nigeria is facing social, political and economic challenges right now. Like I have been saying recession is a cycle, it comes and it will go. We cannot be in recession in perpetuity. We should keep our fingers crossed and pray for our leaders to lead us right. There will be new dawn in Nigeria.