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A former spokesperson, Lere Olayinka, who is the House of Representatives candidate for Ekiti Central Federal Constituency 2 tells ABIODUN NEJO that the downward trend in all sectors witnessed in the country under the All Progressives Congress has made the PDP the beautiful bride in the 2023 elections
With the start of campaigns, what is your advice to party leaders?
Elections should not turn to war. It is a contest and I see everybody participating in the contest as winners because it is participation first. Then if you win, you accept, if you don’t, you also accept. I believe that in Ekiti, we are educated and enlightened; therefore, there should not be character assassination and abuses. The campaign should be purely based on issues.
What issues do you think the politicians should come up with?
We should be talking about good governance, we should be talking about what the political parties did, what the candidates did, what you feel that you can do, what ought to have been done and what was not done. For instance, in my federal constituency, the APC is the party representing it at present; we should be able to tell how well we have fared in the last four years under the party. We should be able to question what the lawmaker or her party was able to bring back to the people. As a person who had also been part of a government; I should be able to say what I was able to do when I was in government. This election in my constituency, in my opinion, is between two political parties, the PDP and APC. The APC candidate was Chief of Staff to the Ekiti State Governor for close to four years. He should be able to tell his achievements as former CoS. Those are the things that I believe we should be talking about.
But do you believe Nigerians look at this while voting? What advice do you have for voters on what to consider before voting?
The electorate should consider antecedents; they should look at political parties and their records, also the candidates and their antecedents. The PDP was in government for 16 years; by the time it left in 2015, a bag of rice was N7,000; a litre of petrol was N87; a dollar was N197; over $2bn was left in the Excess Crude Account. We now have another party, the APC, that has been in government since 2015. Today, a bag of rice is over N30,000; a dollar now exchanges for N735; there is nothing in the ECA now, and a litre of petrol is now N180. We should be able to place the two parties side by side.
When the PDP was in government, Ekiti had a Central Bank, Federal High Court, Appeal Court, Federal University etc. So, we should be able to ask what Ekiti State has benefited from the APC government since 2015. As I speak, all the federal roads in the state have collapsed. My attention was just called to the road between Itawure and my hometown, Okemesi. That road is now bad because traffic was diverted to it. People now pass through the road to different places because the road from Itawure to Aramoko – Igede has collapsed, the one from Ilawe has collapsed, likewise, the one from Akure to Ado Ekiti has collapsed, and the one from Ikole to Ado has collapsed, and we have a government headed by the APC in the state.
In 2018, when the PDP left the government in the state, the road linking Ado Ekiti to Igede to Aramoko to Itawure was motorable, and the road to Ijero was motorable; sadly, these roads are no longer motorable. These issues are what I believe the electorate should begin to ask. On insecurity, people can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed.
I am contesting on the platform of the PDP, my number one opponent is the APC candidate. He resigned as CoS to Governor Kayode Fayemi in April, so, he should be able to explain the failure that is associated with the government. We should be able to ask how the PDP did it then and ensure that the PDP comes back at the federal level and National Assembly to be able to restore Nigeria to what it was in 2015.
But the PDP is riddled with crisis, a number of your party leaders and governors are insisting that PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu must go and this is causing ripples. Do you think the PDP can make any headway without resolving the issue?
Political parties are about crisis and crisis resolution. I read that the APC National Chairman, Adamu wrote a letter to the party presidential candidate, complaining about the membership of the campaign council. You are also aware that people, including top APC members like former House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal are raising issues within the same APC, criticising the Muslim-Muslim ticket. There are issues in all political parties. I read recently that the African Democratic Congress presidential candidate was suspended from the party.
All that is happening in the PDP is the normal conflict and I can assure you that we’re resolving it. As I speak, the gladiators are talking. It is about people protecting their interests. Politics is about interest. The moment people are assured that their interests (group interest, state interest, regional interest) are adequately taken care of, all these issues will fizzle out and I can assure you that the one in the PDP will fizzle out. We’ve had greater issues before.
What is your view about Ayu, should he remain or go?
There are two sides to a coin. If you ask me, I will tell you that in the interest of balancing he should go. But nobody is saying Ayu should be removed, saying somebody should resign is different from saying he should be removed. Resign in the interest of balance, unity, and the interest of peace in the party. If I were to be in his shoes, I will weigh my options and ask myself – if I resign, will it increase the chances of the party in the election? If my resignation will enhance the chances of the party in the election, I will not wait a second before resigning. For instance, if people say if I drop my House of Representatives ticket, it will be easier to win the presidential election, then I will drop it.
Some people are saying the 2023 general elections will be a three-horse race between Tinubu of the APC, Atiku of the PDP and Obi of the Labour Party. Do you think the PDP has a bright chance?
The PDP is the only alternative to the APC. If you do not like the APC, the only alternative is the PDP. I don’t want to subscribe to the idea of a three-horse race. Former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, is also in the race and he is not a pushover. The next President of the country will be produced by either the PDP or APC.
Do you see the popularity of Peter Obi as a threat to your party?
Not at all. He is not a threat to the PDP.
Don’t you think the crisis will affect the chances of Ekiti PDP candidates in the National and State Assemblies elections?
Some of us are talking to one another; even we are talking to those who left for the Social Democratic Party. A lot of them have returned in principle and openly. As it is, one vote is important in any election.
How is your chance in the election, especially contesting against a former CoS to the governor?
The fact that I am contesting against a former CoS gives me a very good chance because people will now ask – as a former CoS, what has he done? How many people did he affect positively? It makes it easier for people to ask questions. It is glaring that between the two of us, I am more preferred. Put us on a scale of popularity, a scale of acceptability, and a scale of relationship with the people, I am far ahead of my closest contender, the APC candidate. Don’t forget that the election is coming up alongside that of the President, and Nigerians are tired of the APC. Even if it is to return us to how we were pre-2015, Nigeria will not mind. Nigerians will not mind returning to when a bag of rice was N7,000. Nigerians want a genuine change and the PDP will provide the change.
Again, there are fundamental issues in our federal constituency which I have assured our people that I would address when elected. For instance, Ijero Local Government, with many towns and villages, and one of the biggest in Ekiti State, has 12 wards. How come it has only one state constituency, meaning only one House of Assembly member? Was it like that before? What went wrong? That must be addressed and it is one of the issues I will spearhead.