•EKITI APC Chairman, Chief JIDE AWE Tells CityPeople
Chief Jide Awe is the chairman of Ekiti APC. In this interview with DEOLA CityPeople ONDO/EKITI Correspondent, he talks about h is partys plan for the forthcoming elections in Ekiti State. Below are excerpts of the interview.
There are agitations that the candidate for the forthcoming governorship election should be picked from the south senatorial district. Is your party zoning the ticket to the south?
It’s capital No; I have said this often that there was no zoning in the APC for the forthcoming governorship election. Zoning is not in the party constitution either. The mere mentioning of zoning in the constitution is that we must spread the positions across board. Even when the state was created and I was one of the architects, I served, as a member of the committee that facilitated the creation of Ekiti State in 1996 and even before then, we did not discuss it that the position of governors should be rotated in the state whenever there is vacancy, people are allowed to come out and contest from the 3 senatorial districts (Central, South and North) and that has been the situation till now. We cannot shift the goal post mid of a match.
You see, what I have been telling my people is that if we are going to resolve and change the present policy of open contest, let us allow the present contest to hold. If we are lucky and the position goes to the South, so be it, but if it goes to either of the two senatorial central district, or the north so be it.
After this, we can now sit down together and try as much as possible to do the arrangement in a way that the 3 senatorial districts would benefit from it. To a very large extent, I will say we are lucky in Ekiti state. I have travelled to most states in Nigeria, there is no state as homogenous as Ekiti. We speak the same dialect, in fact, no division within us, I don’t need an interpreter when I visit other local government areas in the state unlike the reality in other states.
Our greeting pattern “I kun, I rura” has been our age-long inheritance and it has made us a united force and we won’t allow position, politics or anything to shatter our unity.
But nevertheless, I’m not ruling out zoning, but when we decide to do it, we will do it. Like I said, we have zoning arrangement, which we have been observing since the beginning of this political dispensation, but what our people want is to limit their work, in the sense that if the position is zoned to a particular senatorial district, it would prevent people to contest and aspirants from other two senatorial districts would not come out.
Though, we are not zoning, but inside us (APC) we know we have zoning arrangement, that will cut across the 3 senatorial districts. So, by and large, we are not ruling out zoning, but for this game that is on, I will say it’s too late for people to say there should be zoning. The primary election is about 2 months away and shifting the goal post when the game is on is not a good political idea as some people would be badly affected and that would not be good for the party.
APC is known for its imposition style of candidates during elections. Going by the number of aspirants in your party, do you see your party conducting a free and fair primary election?
We don’t impose candidates on members. If you talk of the PDP, I would say that has been their style, but APC has done it before and I will say it requires a gradual process, which we will let our people know how to follow it. You see, the party has a set of rules on party electoral forms. It has been stated there the people, who are going to vote. We have 177 wards in Ekiti State, out of which 12 wards executive are automatic delegates, former governors, former chairmen, all local government EXCO, former deputy governors, lawmakers are delegates.
We all know that a day is earmarked for this set of people to come out in their numbers and queue behind their choice aspirants, provided they have paid the proscribed nomination form fees.
The national working committee would soon release the price of the form. Payment for the form automatically makes them qualified aspirants to participate in the primary election. The party’s standard bearer will emerge after the primary election. Again we should not be deceived by the numbers of aspirants because some of these aspirants know they can’t cross the Rubicon. We are all politicians and have been in the business for a long time.
So, we know those who are ready for the race and those who just want to test waters ahead of the 2022 election, that’s politics for you. These set of aspirants just want to register their presence and their names. We know ourselves; we know those who have enough chests to do it. You see, the only thing I owe the people of Ekiti state, particularly my party, APC, is for me to conduct a free and fair primary election that will produce the next governor of Ekiti state.
On the number of aspirants contesting in our party, I will say it’s a welcome development. If we have 67 political parties contesting a seat and we have over 30 aspirants jostling for our ticket compare to a party that imposes candidate on his members, it means our party is valuable and very strong in the state. So, we are not afraid of the number and I will use this medium to say we will not impose anybody on the party
What are the steps you intend to take to ensure the party standard-bearer emerge without a crisis?
There is no way there won’t be internal crisis. As I said, I will ensure that the forthcoming primary election is free and fair, so that my conscience will be clear that I have done my best. Some weeks back, I was at the party headquarters in Abuja and one of the reasons for my visit was to verify the delegates list to know, if there is any alteration in the list used in the 2014, so that on the day of the primary election, there won’t be issue of one person bearing another person’s name or issue of having two persons bearing the same name.
All this is to do away with human errors, and I believe we will do our best to ensure a credible primary. So, there would be fewer crises and all the aspirants would immediately team up to support whoever emerged the standard bearer, but when you are defeated unjustly, you would react and this would take some time to resolve.
As the party chairman, many believe you have a favourite aspirant and you are ready to do everything possible to ensure he emerges, how true is this?
They are talking like human beings. You see, even God, who created heaven and earth had a favourite. We all remember the story of Abel and Cain in the Bible, one found favour in the face of his father. That’s the biblical way. Naturally, if you have 2 or 3 children, you would have a favorite among them. But in a political palace, you try as much as possible to conceal your interest as the party chairman and try as much as possible to look for the best among aspirants in terms of their output. You see, if a candidate or an aspirant is not capable, you would know.
Like I said earlier we have 177 wards in Ekiti, all are at the tips of my fingers, I can say categorically that we have some aspirants whose presence have cut across all the wards. They have their coordinators on ground with a functioning offices at the senatorial, local government and state levels. They know what is going on easily, but the second set of aspirants are those who appear on the pages of newspaper and social media.
So, do you expect me to adopt such a person? It won’t work. You see, to what extent does an aspirant has connection with the leadership of the party? To what extent is their connection to the 177 wards or to what extent are they moving the party forward? What contributions have they made? All this and many more are questions to ask. But as far as Ekiti governorship election is concern, I’m neutral and I have no favourite aspirant, rather I want to present a sellable candidate, who would bring development to the state. As the chairman, I have less power. The delegates will make their decision.
With your years of leadership in Ekiti politics, how do you identify promising aspirants in a race?
This year marks 12 years that I have been in the saddle of leadership of my party in Ekiti State and I will say I have come across various characters in politics. So, I know them when I see them. You see, in politics, we have two different kinds of people. We have the politicians and the contestants. These two set of people are different. A contestant is someone, who always contest for a position at all times, but a politician looks into the structure of the party’s and cares for the party structure.
He would listen to people and visit them. They cannot be compared to someone, who just wants to contest for contesting sake. Someone you have not seen before, who just came with money, you know this kind of person would snatch ballot box and run away.
Again, how many of them pay tax in the state? These are part of what make up promising aspirants. So, as chairman, we need to study very well and at the same time, I would carry my immediate constituency along, which is my EXCO, so as not to lead the party astray and support wrong aspirant. We also consider if an aspirant is sellable and also listen to street talks, this comprises the market women, Okada rider’s among others. Street talk is a new method in politics. It helps form an opinion.
The society also matters a lot. The people help in identifying a promising aspirant because they have a lot to play on. Who you are and if an aspirants can score 7 out of 10 marks. However, public opinion makes up a society, such a person would emerge, but at the same time, don’t forget that election is not that Saturday.
What you do on Saturday is to actualised your interest by thumb-printing, but you must have taken your decision before that Saturday and on Sunday you would get the result. So, those, who are truly in the race, know themselves and those, who just want to register their names also know themselves.
Ahead of the election, do you see Gov. Fayose and the PDP as threats to your party, come July 14th, 2018?
You see, Fayose is an abnegation, abnegation in the sense that he shouldn’t have contested at all, not to talk of him becoming the governor, but who are we to blame God because we attributed whatever happens to God. So Fayose coming for the second term was an abnegation and that is left for history to judge despite all, I would say Fayose and his PDP are no threats to us in the APC.
You see, going by what is happening in the state, I will say that Ekiti has been drawn back for almost 15 years and it would take Ekiti another 15 years to clear the mess on ground. Before now, when you say you are from Ekiti, you feel proud, but now we are known for stomach infrastructure. A state where a governor would be sharing a measure of Rice to the people on the street.
So, it will take us another 15 good years to re-orient our people to embrace substance and reject shadows. When you look at the body composition and structure of their party in the state, you will agree that they are no threat to us, but we still need to be very careful, so as not to allow what happened in 2014 to repeat itself. That is “the more you look, the less you see” and the federal might thing. So, we must be on guard and be vigilant because there is a saying that vigilance is a price of freedom, so, we have to be vigilant, which is what we are doing now.
The election is around the corner, has your party been able to correct the mistakes of 2014?
I will say to some extent, we have been able to correct the mistakes we made in 2014. Though, what our people might tag our mistakes. would not have been because I want to believe something went wrong, which led to our losing the election in 2014. You see, then when we were preparing for the election, our opponents were preparing for a warfare. Warfare in the sense that about 12,000 uniform men were deployed to a state with fewer than 2 million people.
72 hours to election, we all knew we were in trouble. The APC was preparing for election, but the PDP was preparing for a warfare. You see, in our case, we did our best in the areas of mobilisation, we mobilised our party members. When you talk of governance, our party distributed what we call 21st century modern democratic dividends for 4 years. We didn’t owe salaries, the civil servants were paid as at when due.
We brought in some programmes that were very noble in the history of governance in Nigeria, but you see, “if a woman does not experience 2 worlds, she will not know the better out of the two” I want to believe our people were deceived then because I can even bet it that Ekiti people could not do what happened in 2014, but our people decided to push a lot of things aside and fell for lies and deceit, which were sold to them by the personnel of the opposition party. You see, most of the project done by our administration have been abandoned and those that need maintenance have been left without being touched.
Among them are: pavilion along NTA road and the multi-million naira city mall. Besides, there were over 25,000 elderly people, who were collecting stipend of 5,000 naira each every month, which had been stop, there was care for the infant and widows, but our people said all those things had no meaning. Education during our administration was free because most of us benefited from the Awolowo free education policy, then but today in Ekiti, nothing like free education, rather parents now pay one thousand naira per term per child or ward, so parents with five children will pay five thousand naira fee. But you see, I will say we have cut our Ts and dotted our.
Is because we know where we had faults. Some of the best legacies which we believed would be bestowed on Ekiti that we started like the Ikogosi Resort have since been stopped. So, I believe what our people believed to be our faults, at the end of the day, might not be our fault at all, because we meant well for them, but we got the other side of it.
Since the last 3 ½ years when your party lost the 2014 election, it was gathered that you only visited the state once in a while. They say your deputy plays your role. How true is this and how cordial is your relationship with your EXCO?
You may not know our operational system. I will concede it to you that I have not been physical present in office for 24 hours, but I will say we are doing the work and I have an able deputy, who is discharging the necessary official duties in my absence. We were both elected on the same ticket, so if I’m not physically present, my deputy would discharge the duties and I want to say that I’m in touch with her every minute.
If you move round the 177 wards in Ekiti state, works are going on and the 16 local governments are working, so there is no job left undone and I do meet with the stakeholders of the party (caucus of party), we met recently at Iyin Ekiti, the home town of Otunba Niyi Adebayo, because the party constitution says the meeting should hold once in three months and wherever the party chairman is, the party is there. So, I’m in touch with my EXCO members and I have a very cordial relationship with them.