Hon. Diran Iyantan is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. In this interview with LEKE AKEREDOLU, he says the party will form the next government in the state.
How prepared is your party for the coming governorship election?
Well, from all indications, we are fully prepared. Especially when we know that much is expected from us by the people of Ondo State. The people of Ondo State are desperately yarning for change. They want a messiah that will liberate them and take them out of Egypt. Like exactly how Moses took the Israelites out of Egypt. There is no alternative than the APC now, considering all the political indicators. So, we cannot afford to fail the people of the state and we have taken all these things into cognizance since the inception of this bad government that has given so many traumas to the people of the state. We believe that we need to come out and rescue the state from the jaw of oppression and under-development unleashed on the people by this incumbent government. So, we have been putting our house in order and we have done a lot of things that have endeared us to the people of the state. In our party, if you look at the record available, in the Presidential election, we did tremendously well despite our limited resources, and despite the hostility of the defunct federal government to us, we managed to marshal our limited resources to sensitize the state and embarked on very aggrieve campaign that convince the people to vote for our Presidential candidate. So that is an indicator that the people are ready, to align with our political party now. Although, we have a temporary setback during the State Assembly election, which is known to everybody of the state because of the desperation of Mr. Governor, and the fear of being impeached, he deployed all the resources of the state into the election and the election was over monitised and other political antics were employed to get the people to return some of this members of the House of Assembly for him. Everybody in the state now laments the outcome of that election, but we don’t want to cry over spill milk. We think the most important is to put our house together and which we are doing now, and prepare for the governorship election.
Do you think your party leadership has the strenghth to lead the party to victory?
Yes, especially with the reality that Ondo State is like a two party state. If you juxtapose, you will discover that the first eleven by political rating are in the APC. When you look at the leadership of the party in the state, you will know that they are not comparable to the team of the PDP. The team of PDP is amateurish but when you look at the caliber of people staring the affairs of APC in Ondo State, and the way the party is organised, you will be convinced that we have a very beautiful team. We have these teams that are products of very rigorous search for quality will be able to take the party to electoral victory. Mere looking at the activities in the secretariat of the APC, you will know that this is secretariat of a functional vibrant political party where there is life compare to the PDP own that is always a silent graveyard where is no activity. When you look at the structures of the APC, they break into committees, they sensitised the people, they have think-tank that are dishing out very useful ideas for the party to implement. When you look at the caliber of people that constitute the EXCO of the state, and the efforts they have put into the business, you will know that we are more prepare than the other party. The leadership of our party, that is the state Chairman and he happens to be a political veteran, who is so familiar with the state and which he demonstrated in the last election and yielded a lot of positive results for the party. If we go by that performance and leverage on it, it is obvious that we are going to overwhelm the PDP in the next election.
Don’t you think that Mimiko will come out with new ideas to defeat your party, thereby producing his successor?
Yes, he will definitely come out with some orthodox strategies because he is master of antics and we know that it is force but I want us to face certain reality about life that no matter how smart you are, a time is coming that you need to submit to the superiority and wisdom of God. Mimiko may have been playing God because God in his mercy gave him a long rope to make amend and repent from his evil ways, but if he refuses to repent, he will perish. He is very close to his political waterloo now, because by all indications, he has exhausted all his political antiques and the state is now wiser especially when he has depleted all his resources, and the wealth of the state to the detriment of an average man of the street. Ondo state supposed to be in the committee of leaders of states in the system because of the tremendous wealth deposit by God in this state. Such state has no place to be among the backward states in Nigeria. It is very ironical and unfortunate that Ondo State that supposed to be head is now being relegated to tail by the sheer greed, callousness and insatiable urge and wants for ill-gotten wealth led by Governor Olusegun Mimko. The people of the state have been pushed to the wall and they are ready to counter any unwanted orthodox tactics to be used again in the coming election. So, the best thing is for the people to submit to the will of God and play the games according to the rules of the game.
You have to know that it is a man that has always been capitalizing on the romance he has with centre. He has always been using that advantage to impoverish his own people here but now that the centre belongs to the more refined party. The man at the centre now, it is man that is neutral, it is a man that will not conduct any lawlessness or any other thing. This man, we allow the game to be played according to the rules. I can tell you that if there is a level playing ground, Mimiko will be humiliated going by the old Parlance he will lose is town.
Are you saying the monitisation of election and stomach infrastructure will not determine the next governor of the state?
Yes, money will not determine the election. That is one of Mimiko’s antiques where he deliberately impoverish the state so that people will become beggars and desperate. You know when a person is in need, little gratification may sway his mind and conscience. He has move to the extent that he has de-humanized the people of Ondo State. These people have made up their mind that they will restrict him and all antics of stomach infrastructure won’t work this time. We have interacted to the people of the state and we have gone round the state and discovered that the people have made up their minds and that it is an insult for somebody to come to them and starts giving them peanut in exchange for your future and for the future of their children and generation yet unborn. So, I want to assure you that out of conviction that people of the state have made up their mind that no any antic employ by the incumbent governor that will sway them to vote for his candidate in the coming governorship election.
If Mimiko has his way and produce his own successor, does it has any implication for the state?
God forbid because the implication is unimaginable. It is going to be palatable and unimaginable because it is going to be catastrophy if it happens, because if you look at what is on the ground in the state today, there is no any visible developmental project i.e Infrastructural development project. If you look, the state is dotted by poverty despite the state supposed to be among the committee of rich state considering the tremendous resources. We are the fifth largest oil producer in Nigeria; we have access to substantial derivation. They are other means of wealth in the state. So, Mimiko cannot harness all these to development of the state especially the time we can call the time of oil boom, the time he came in, there was almost and oil boom, the earning was very high. There was a time Ondo State earned so much that I can’t say the specific figure but it will be in the region of N50billlion and all these cannot be used for the development of the state. The hen that lay the golden egg, i.e the riverine area of the state, the people there are being de-huminised. If you go to the place you will see the index of poverty over there. You will discover that people can so thirsty in the midst of water. It is unfortunate and unrighteous that Mimiko is just laundering the money with some unpatriotic people from that area. So, there is no single project Mimiko has completed in the six and half years. There is no one single road that he has started and commissioned. So it is catastrophy, it is unfortunate that Mimiko who much was expected off could so much undeveloped the state because of greed and insatiable lost for wealth. I know that the resources of the state are being plundered and that they are not throwing to the sea but a certain pocket.
But, you once served in the Mimiko’s administration. Why are you saying the government has performed badly?
A:If you look at the take-off that precedence the tremendous acceptance of the man, you will know that it is was a little bit complimentary at the beginning. He started well, and that was probably the response to the revolution that brought him in because when he wanted to come in, his popularity swore to the highest level. Many people gave him unconditional support because he has no money, no godfather, and the only thing he has was the people of Ondo State, giving him consolidated solidarity. When he came in, we felt that we have succeeded in ushering in a government of the people that will restore hope, built a state and will bestow on us an egalitarian society that we work for. In the first two years he came in, he was doing marvelously well on the projects and programmes he embarked on. Some of us contributed to the rating then because of this saying that power corrupt, absolute power corrupt absolutely. By the time he was getting more consolidating, it was then that he started derailed. It is not that he didn’t start well, he started very well. For example when he came in, he awarded several contracts, Oba-Ile, Oyemekun, roads, Dome, he started Owo road, Ondo dualization he started so much projects simultaneously. So these gave the people hope in the government then, but along the line, something went wrong, suddenly there was a black out and things came to stand still.
We thought there was a hiccup. That is was just a momentary setback but unfortunately it persistence and instead of improvement we started since this in all ramifications in the state. That was when the reality down on the people of the state that this man has defrauded us that he only started well just to consolidate so that he will be able to unleash his evil intention on the people of the state and some of us parted ways from him because of this reasons.
Many aspirants may likely struggle for the ticket of your party, do you think the party will still be a formidable force after the emergence of a candidate?
There is one thing I have learnt about Nigeria democracy, Nigerians want to express their democratic rights no matter the condition attach to it. By the time you give them the opportunity in a very free and fair environment, the participants will accept the outcome of such exercise, they will fill fulfill that they have tried their best, probably their best is not good but by the time you prevent them from doing so, you now build up a kind of anger in them that will lead to serious agitation and that agitation may result into division and that may resulting to failure. We have learnt our lesson with what demostrated in the last Presidential election. We have adopted primary as our own culture, it is an issue that is in integral part of our policy that in every contest there should be a free and fair primary. In the Presidential primary, we make it so beautiful that the whole world has the opportunity to watch live and it was so transparent, rancourless and aspirants were giving a level playing ground. About five people contested in the primary and there was so much speculation, especially in the camp of our opponent then, that the primary will divide us but by the grace of God and because of the transparency of the primary, everybody accepted and the other contestants congratulated the winner and also give their supports. So I am convince in Ondo state that no matter the numbers, if they are allowed to participate in a free and fair primary, they will all agreed with the outcome and deploy all their resources and structures to help the candidate. Characteristically, there is going to be a family undertaken that all of us are going to abide by the result and work for the candidate of the party.
At the end, don’t you think money bag politicians may likely have their way?
In our party, there is no such precedent. If you look at the presidential primary election, the poorest man among the aspirants emerged. Going back understand of every Nigerians about the contestants, we know that the man that emerged was the poorest person among them, in terms of money not in the term of wisdom. That is the indication that a revolution started that very day in Nigeria that it is not about money that this translated in the Presidential election when Jonathan opened the treasury of Nigeria for the election and yet lost the election. He was taken millions of dollars to the Obas, moving round the country like father Christmas and he was even empowering militants and some miscreants. He empowered them to the extent of having private jets, having millions in their account just because of his desperation to win the election but all this boomerang and he lost the election to a man that has no money but has the people behind him. So, this will become a conspicuous norm in other elections within the polity. Coming down to Ondo State have since the sign of what happen in the central, happening in the state here. I have interacted with the people of the state, I have seen their determination, I have gaged their mind sets and preparedness to go for somebody that will be able to do good things for them. So, if there are any money bag politicians coming to participate in the primary, they are welcome, because they have their own role to play. They will come to stimulate actions, to contribute their own quotas by raising a little on the standard of living of the party members that have been impoverished by the incumbent government but I am very sure that will not change the minds of the delegates because they want somebody who can teach them how to fish not giving them fish.
In the last governorship election in the state, Mimiko’s camp particularly used a political propaganda that the APC leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is desperate to add the state to one of his cronies, what if the governor also use the same propaganda again, don’t you think that will make the people to also reject the candidate of APC?
It is unfortunate that he bit the fingers that fed him, because he is on characteristic of the people of Ondo state not to be appreciative of their benefactors. That may open some kind of controversy about the paternal origin of some people and I am not advocating for a DNA analysis but I know that certain behavior can betray origin of some people. A Yoruba man is a grateful person. A Yoruba man is a highly appreciative person, rich in culture, there is this saying “that an ingrate is like an armbed robber” it is a very wide hostile comparison and that is mindset of a Yoruba man. It is very ironical that somebody that was helped to regain his mandate, somebody that was abandoned like a motherless baby was rescue by the magnanimity of somebody who was trying to rejuvenate his own race. I don’t want to call anybody a Messiah because it is Jesus Christ who is the Messiah but Tinubu a kind of person that personified the love that the bible preaches. When you demostrate love for your neigbour you have already permeated the mind of God. This is man that has given so much to mind kind. This is a man that has stood for his race when the Yoruba race was grossly marginalized; the man was the only man that stood to fight with his resources even exposing his life to danger to fight the cause of Yoruba race and succeeded in brings the Yoruba to rightful place in Nigeria politics. He succeeded in making the Yoruba the kingmakers in Nigeria again. In the Jonatan’s administration, the Yorubas were so grossly marginalized that among the first 50 big positions in Nigeria, there were only two Yoruba in inconsequential places. So, if Yoruba by the magnanimity of God was used to produce Jonathan that make him President and if they can be so much marginalised in his government, what would have been the faith of Yoruba if they have not struggle to put an end to that? So, at that time, Mimiko was unfairly treated by power that be, he won an election which was a revolution in the state because people were going to his rallies with pure waters, frying meat pie and others but at the end he disappointed them. When that mandate was stolen by the conservative horse, it was the responsibility of a Yoruba leader of Tinubu to rescue such mandate and restore it back to the legitimate owner. Tinubu was helping Mimiko not because he meant anything to him but because it was Yoruba issue and mandate and he Tinubu came in as proper Oduduwa descendant to rescue the mandate for Mimiko. But at the end, the response of Mimiko was unyorubaic. His response was alien to Yoruba culture. Ordinary the first thing is for you to be appreciateful but not to blackmail him. So he behave like a Jew of those times that will find excuse to destroy their best material. When Moses rescued a Jew that was being humiliated in Egypt and the cause of rescuing him, he accidentally killed the Egyptian and by the time he wanted to settle a Jew dispute after event, the people who were disputing agreed that nobody made him ruler over Israel that he should not kill them the way he killed the Egyptian. That was why he became a fugitive and ran away. That what was Mimiko did to Tinubu. The same helping hand Tinubu used to help Mimiko was that particular hand Mimiko use to blackmail him. Tinubu is a very content person, and Tinubu is a man that relates with both the rich and the poor, a man that you can enter is room freely. He is man that is on a mission to serve human kind. For you to have blackmailed such person vengeance is of the God and I know that all these things are his nemesis and he will soon meet his political waterloo in the next elections. He won’t survive it. So such things cannot happen again because the people of the state have seen the truth and they are very better about it that Mimiko deliberately blackmail Tinubu because he wanted to clinch on to power. In Yoruba states all the governors are giving testimonies that Tinubu has never asked them for a dime that even when they are in serious problem he will come to their aids and assistance. If Tinubu has been selfish, he would have preferred people like Atiku than Buhari as the Presidential candidate of APC and if he supported Atiku, Atiku would have won. If Tinubu is so greed, he would have preferred business as usual man like Atiku. So, such thing will not work again in Ondo State and if he says it people will mob him. If he goes to any rally and says anything about Tinubu people will mob him from that rally.
You are from the Southern senatorial district of state and this place is known as PDP stronghold, do you think your party has the strength to break the PDP jinx in that area?
We are doing a lot but the scenario will be better understand if we rewind a little chronology of this consolidation of PDP in that area. It was late Governor Olusegun Agagu, who started the whole thing. When Agagu came out powerfully in that area and the felt that he was fairy doing well and even he lost the first election to late Adebayo Adefarati in 1999, former President Obasanjo rehabilitated him with a powerful ministerial position and when he got that ministerial position, he came back to that area to established the party for his own gubernatorial ambition. So when he was in government he built so many people from that district, people like Olusola Oke, Kingsley Kuku, Femi Agagu, Kekemeke and these are young people that he built from that and these people by extension were working in their various places because of people patronage and that was why the party was strong in that area. You know for such planting of such tap root, you need a lot of efforts to be able to uproot the foundation and that is what we have been doing.
Are you saying for APC to break the political strength of PDP in that district, APC chieftains in the area must be considered for top position in APC government in the centre?
Yes we need political patronage, because it is obvious that in the whole senatorial areas of the state, it is only that place that we don’t have a major political officeholders in our own party. As at now, we don’t have a member of House of Assembly, House of Representative, a senator and we don’t have any serious political officeholders that will be able to galvanize and stimulate the party for electoral victory there. So, strategically, it should be expedient for the party to place political strategy in that place to be able to get that place. That is a very sensitive place because apart from being the food basket of the state, is also the second largest in terms of voters population and they are a lot of other sensitive issues because of the terrain. So such place should not be left in the hands of opposition to maneuver as they like. If you go by the last general election results, you will see that we have been bridging the gap and we know that if they are little impetus and push we will overtake the ruling party.
BY LEKE AKEREDOLU, NATION