I’ll remain in APC to honour Buhari – Shittu

Chief Adebayo Shittu, Communications Minister and gubernatorial aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State, spoke with SOLA ADEYEMO in Ibadan on the state of affairs in the party as a result of recent defection of some members of the party to the African Democratic Congress (ADC), among other issues

You have remained silent since most members of the Unity Forum group of the APC in Oyo State, who you are their leader, defected to the ADC. Are you still a member of the APC?

My position has always been as constant as the northern star, and that is to the fact that as one of the founders of APC, having taken active part, including my participation in the Constitution Drafting Committee of APC, it is too late in the day for me to jump boat for whatever reason.

More importantly, God has provided the glue to bind me together with APC, and that is the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Recall that I was with him as a prominent member of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). We took decision to come into relationship with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which of course brought about the formation of APC. I have also had a good fortune of being appointed a minister. Yoruba do say that (a kii bonile je, ka bonile mu; ki o di ojo iku ki a yeri) meaning that a person does not wine and dine with a benefactor and in the time of travail, deserts him. And in any case, a day of death will never come for APC.

I concede to the fact that those who left for ADC had good reasons to do so, particularly because when the then leadership of the party messed us up as members of the Unity Forum then, one expected the leadership of the party to take a proactive step of bringing all of us together and discuss with us. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. So, those who left had good reasons to leave because of the clear injustices that were meted out to us. A lot of the people who left were members of the state and National Assembly. They still have aspirations and with what happened at that time, it seemed as if they were at the end of the road. Of course I too have my ambition, but I believe as a strong fighter, who will not run from fighting, I believe in fighting for justice within the system, and that was what took me to court to fight for justice.

So, I am still a member of the party and I will remain a member of the party under President Buhari. I am very confident that I and others who remain will triumph. I cannot but assure you that once I get the ticket of the party, for the governorship election, all these members who have left will certainly come back into the APC fold. And I think that I can conclude with all sense of responsibility and humility that as the APC stands today, I am the only aspirant who can win Oyo State for APC in the general elections.

But, the internal wrangling and lack of internal democracy has made many people to believe that APC has lost its status and people, especially in Oke Ogun area where you hail from are now looking for a better alternative in ADC. What is your reaction to that?

I can assure you that if I am able to get the ticket of the party like I have told our leaders, APC in Oyo State has only two options: either I get the ticket, and since I enjoy the confidence of the generality of our people in Oyo State, I will be able to win Oyo State over for the party. The only other option, I will say, although I stand to be corrected, by the election results when it comes is that if I don’t get the ticket, then APC can forget about Oyo State. It is clear. You see, our people especially in Oke Ogun of Oyo State, feel so cheated. When the 2015 election was held, the people of Ibadanland, who are the majority did not vote for Governor Abiola Ajimobi. They rather voted for Senator Rasidi Ladoja, my former boss. But we in Oke Ogun, of the 10 local governments, nine voted massively for Ajimobi, and in appreciation of that when he was going round on a thank-you tour, he did promise Oke Ogun that indeed it was now their turn because they did what was so unthinkable; that they showed patriotism; they showed commitment to the success of APC. Unfortunately, after he had won, it would appear that he is reneging on that commitment. All our people are waiting to see what will unfold and so consequently, I am restating that if get the ticket of APC for the governorship election, I am 90 per cent sure that APC will win Oyo State. If I don’t get the ticket, no other person of the current aspirants of the APC can deliver Oyo State for APC.

Considering the fact that delegates of the party will determine the choice of candidate, and there were parallel congresses last time, do you still think your group can have its way?

I have gone to court and we are still there. It is because of vacation that the case has not been decided. Once the vacation is over, we shall know where we are going.

What would you do if the court’s decision favours Governor Ajimobi?

There is no way to favour fraud; there is no way to favour corruption; there is no way to favour compromise. Let me use JAMB as an example: there is no way one can gain a university admission without obtaining JAMB form, writing the exam and passing. Is it possible for anybody to acquire or procure a letter of admission into a government university in Nigeria without paying for JAMB form? It is inconceivable. In the same vein, what happened to us during those congresses was that we in the Unity Forum paid for 11,700 or so forms in good time and we contested; we participated in the congresses, and we delivered. The other group led by Governor Ajimobi somehow refused or neglected to pay for forms. So, for you to now think that they will now bring any result and that result will be acceptable by the national body of the party is what we are putting to test in the court. So, I can assure you that there is no way they can defeat us in court. There is no way. But more importantly, it is in the interest of anybody who claims to be a member of APC that if we want to win, it is better for us to be together than for the PDP or the ADC to win. I mean that it is inconceivable. And so the option is there for our party people to take the path of honour, so that the APC can remain the party in government.

Don’t you think you would have been in a better stead to emerge as ADC’s flag bearer if you had joined the party?

I would be if I were to be a desperate person. If I don’t believe in honour, I would have crossed over. If I don’t believe in showing appreciation to somebody who has honoured me with a ministerial appointment, I would have crossed over. How many Nigerians can be minister in their life time? So, if someone has honoured me with that, he deserves honour; he deserves gratitude. He deserves to be shown that one appreciates the wonderful opportunity he has given me. Certainly, life can never be the same.

Many political office holders rode on the goodwill of President Buhari to win elections, but to the opposition, the goodwill is no longer there, and in fact, many of them do not want the President to seek re-election. Are you still sure that APC can win in 2019?

I am as confident as anybody could be. To start with, if you will recall what made Buhari the doyen of the people, it is the fact of his integrity. As an incorruptible leader; as a passionately patriotic leader; as a leader who represents change for the better in Nigeria, what has reduced from all of these attributes in Buhari? Is it his integrity that has now been compromised? Is it his compassion for the less-privileged that has reduced? Or is it his patriotism? A lot of people when shown mercy and have benefited from a system, easily forget the ladder with which they climbed up. I pray that we shall all be alive to see what will happen in 2019.

One of the interesting things that  have happened is in Sokoto State, when Governor Aminu Tambuwal decided to cross carpet, but in one fell swoop, 250 grassroots politicians, who were his aides, resigned from his government. These were the people who assisted him to be there. If they were not of value, they would not have been appointed as aides to him. One day, they all left because they considered the action too desperate and too senseless. In Misau and Bauchi generally, all the senators that left have been put on danger list by the ordinary people. We don’t welcome that type of thing. But that is the reality as they now find it difficult to go to their homes. In Kano, because of Rabiu Kwankwaso’s disagreement with Governor Ganduje, he has not been able to go to Kano in the last three years because Ganduje is very loyal to the government and to President Buhari. This is because people are incensed with him.

In every place where this is happening, you find this situation. If you want to compare this with Oyo State; it is different because there was an injustice that was so glaring to be over-looked. But like I told you, if I get ticket, all of them will come back. If I don’t get ticket, believe you me, all of them have promised that they will all come together and vote for Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. In Kwara State, when the people in PDP saw that Bukula Saraki was coming to PDP, they decided to come and replace him in APC. Come to also think of it, in the South-East, in the last election, the APC got less than five per cent of votes and that was despite that the past government controlled the states, but refused to do anything of note for the development of the eastern states. Today, every federal road in the five eastern states is being repaired with more than N16 billion provided by the federal government. So, the Igbo have decided that this time around, the equation must change and that is what is happening all over the country.

Unfortunately, I must say that if there would be any serious negative impact on the fortunes of APC, it will be in Yorubaland because of a number of factors which are known to you. On the whole, I must say that I don’t have any doubt in my mind that President Buhari will win by a greater margin on the basis of the region he comes from; on the basis of the hero worship of his action by the poor in the society. People who are less-privileged know that most of those leaving the party are leaving because of their selfish interest. It is not because of the interest of the masses. This is because from the various positions that these people are leaving, it can be seen that they have not added anything to the plight of the common man in the society.

What then is your message to Nigerians?

My clear message is that Nigerians should shine their eyes because 2019 is the year that a lot of people would want Buhari to leave because they know that if he stays, he will be more strict against corruption; he will be more committed; he will put all in place to ensure that this fight against corruption which has been sustained in the last three years is further strengthened to ensure that we have the needed change in the area of anti-corruption; in the area of transparency in governance; in the area of people being accountable in their responsibilities.

There are some policies of the APC government in Oyo State that many Nigerians are complaining about, for example the demolition of the Fresh FM Music House of Evang. Yinka Ayefele. Don’t you think that this perception will affect your party in the 2019 elections?

I think people should start differentiating from party and individuals. I belong to the APC in Oyo, but what is happening is not new. Even, my own property was demolished in Saki by this same Ajimobi government. I was building a CBT centre, and it was demolished. The case was in court before the demolition and it is still in court. That is to show you that while the head of a government may act in a way, it does not mean that such is the policy of the party. When some people tell me ‘Ajimobi ti ba egbe je’ (Ajimobi has destroyed the party), I tell them he has not. A