Honourable Kazeem Adedeji, a former Commissioner for Trade, Cooperatives and Investment in Oyo State has disclosed that Governor Abiola Ajimobi agreed to a single term pact when he was chosen to fly the flag of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) ahead of the 2011 governorship election. He made it known while he was the guest on a radio programme in Ibadan recently. He addressed a number of issues including how he was sacked from Governor Ajimobi’s team, his relationship with the Governor and his wife as well as the 2015 governorship race.
Adedeji, who was a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly between 1991 and 1993, described politics as a call to service. “I was nurtured in the school of the progressives; you don’t have to be in power at all times. You know that power is transient”, he said.
In the former Commissioner’s opinion, “a progressive is a politician who believes that people should always count at all times. A progressive is one that believes that in any governmental action or policy, the welfare of the people must be paramount. In other words, progressive ideology is about the people. It is not really about the party, it is not the party that makes the progressives, it is the action, it is the tenet that we profess, so a person may claim to be a progressive before he comes to power, but with his action and inactions, he might have become something else. This is why many of us believe that it is necessary to redefine progressive ideology so that people will know what we stand for.” He continued that “today, you find many people saying that anybody that wants progress for others is a progressive. That is not what our ideology is all about. Our ideology entails so many things; it emphasises humility in governance, commitment to certain ideals and when those certain ideals are found wanting or lacking, then we must have deviated from progressive politics.
When the host asked what gave him the feeling that the All Progressive Congress is more progressive than others, he replied “from the manifesto. It appears to be a progressive party but time will tell. And that is why many of us are shouting at the top of our voices that we must make sure we let people know what we stand for, what makes us different from other political parties”.
Again the host asked, “was the ACN manifesto a progressive manifesto?” Adedeji answered in the affirmative and that prompted another question whether it was only progressive “on paper”. To that, the former Commissioner seemed to agree as he said “on paper, there is no doubt about it that it is a progressive ideology but in practice, so many things dropped off and unfortunately, that progressive family was infiltrtated by people who do not really share those ideologies but wanted to use those ideologies as a platform for acquiring power”.
When he was asked why he was fired as the Commissioner for Trade Investment and Co-operatives, his response was “I think that question should be reserved for the person that hired me in the first place. And I must tell you that when I was leaving, that was precisely November 5th 2012, what the Governor said was that there was just a need to make some changes and not that any of us had done anything wrong. We had done our best, he just felt it was necessary for him to make some changes and that was why he dropped three of us at the time.”
To the question on whether he took it in good faith, Adedeji said he did but went on that “there were some other developments later. I am sure most people are aware of my travail after leaving office. Some people came from the Special Fraud Unit, Lagos to come and arrest me and my wife at the instance of the Oyo State Government and when I got there, I learnt Oyo State Government wrote a petition against me that while I was the Commissioner for Trade and Investment and Co-operatives, that I moved government money, I lodged government money in an account without authorization, which was laughable anyway. What they accused me of doing is not possible”.
“Did you lodge the money into an account the Governor had no clue about?”, he was asked. “Not at all”, he responded. Continuing, Adedeji, a lawyer and former House of Reps member said “what they forgot was that there was a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank of Industry and I even came to this station to come and sensitize the people on the programme if you can recall. And that Memorandum of Understanding was meant to be a partnership between Oyo State Government and Bank of Industry to help small scale entrepreneurs. By the content of that, the money is to be managed by the Bank of Industry and it is not even possible for anybody to move government money without authorisation, not even the Governor.”
“Are you talking about the N 1 Billion?” the talk show host chipped in. Adedeji continued, “so it was the Bank of Industry that lodged the money in accordance with the MoU signed by the Governor himself and which was witnessed by me as the Commissioner for Trade, Investment and Co-operatives. It was recorded. Before I left office, I aired some views about the way things should be done.”
“Your views were critical?” the host asked, to which he responded that they were “very critical”. When asked whether he challenged the Governor in meetings, he said “it is not about the Governor. It is about what I believe is best for the state. I will not take sides. The essence of the executive meeting is for all of us to put our heads together to come out with the best policies for the state.
I may have some views and opinions that may not be popular, same with the Governor. Whether the Governor took those views in good faith or not is a different issue. But after leaving office, I felt certain things could be done in our party that those who worked for the party should be compensated”.
Expatiating on what he means by compensation, Adedeji said “why was it that all of us decided to be in ACN and not PDP? It was discussed that if we come to power in 2011, this is how we would run Oyo State”.
“Did you plan that with (Governor) Ajimobi?” the host asked. Honourable Adedeji simply replied that “all of us had that. That was why we found ourselves in the same political party. It was not that Governor Ajimobi invited us to come and join the party. He even came to join us in the party. He was in the ANPP before; he later came to join us.”
Answering a question on whether he has resolved the N 1 billion issue, Adedeji disclosed that “I am still waiting for the report of the police. I want to see what I have really done wrong. The Bank of Industry had the authority to lodge the money and it lodged it in a bank of our choice. I am not even a signatory to the account. The account is being managed by the Bank of Industry. BOI is even the sole signatory.”
“Why would the BOI be the sole signatory after the state had contributed N 1 billion?”, the former Commissioner was asked. “You have to see it in the context of the MoU that was signed by the state”, he replied.
On whether he clarified with the Governor about the new account opened by the Bank of Industry, Adedeji stated that “it was even the Governor that instructed that money should be released. All I had to do as the Commissioner was to issue the memo to the Commissioner for Finance that based on the instruction of the Governor, and that is very important and the discussion of the executive council.”
He went on to disclose that the Bank of Industry paid the money into the account which the money should be paid. So for now, we should keep our fingers crossed because it is going to be interesting.”
“Why do you think the Governor is after you?” he was asked. The former Commissioner chose to respond that “I think the Governor would be in the position to say. But I want to suspect that it may have to do with the membership of a group called the Reformation Group.”
And when it was put to Kazeem Adedeji that the group was opposed to the Governor’s second term ambition, he denied, saying “the group is not opposed to the second term ambition of anybody. Rather, the group is committed to the equality of members within the party. That was when we were in ACN. What the group was fighting for was that things should be done properly; the government should be the government of the people and not the government of an individual or a group of individuals. What we are for, is that the common definition of democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people should be allowed to stand. We believe everything in government should be done after due consultation with all the stakeholders who voted for the government.”
Adedeji also claimed that he was not fired for being disloyal to the Governor “I wanted to mention an instance where I was opposed to the Governor. It is about what is best for the state; it is not about an individual. It is important for us to recognise the fact that this state, this country, Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all owe it a duty to do what we consider best for our state and our nation. So our approach may differ but that is the essence of democracy. Democracy is about building consensus.”
When asked if he was still bitter about the fact that he was forced to step down for Ajimobi in 2011, Kazeem Adedeji said he would have done what most of the other governorship aspirants did if he was bitter. “Many of us contested primaries under ACN, have you bothered to ask where the others are? Some left the party because of the circumstance of the Governor’s nomination”, he said.
Speaking on Governor Ajimobi’s emergence and the question on whether he was imposed by Lam Adesina, Adeleke said “he emerged, not from consensus or if you call it imposition, you will not be far from the truth”
Since former Governor Lam Adesina was also instrumental to Adeleke’s emergence as Commissioner, he was also asked whether Lam forced him on Governor Ajimobi. “It couldn’t have been,” he said. “It is not about forcing anybody on anybody. This is not a company, this is a political party. Have you bothered to ask why would people leave paid employment to come and join a political party if they do not expect some recompense. Not necessarily in terms of money but in terms of what they could contribute. So we were in a political party, let us take this station for instance, can anybody just walk into your studio to say oh, I am a journalist I want to do a program?”
Adeleke also agreed to the fact that the Governor brought in some strangers who were not members of the party. “They did not hijack the party but they hijacked the government and they tried to use the government to hijack the party. That was exactly what many of us were fighting against. We are saying no, the party should be separated from the government. It is the party that gave birth to the government and the government must be used in such a way to put the interest of the generality of the people who are conversant with the manifesto of the party.”
Speaking further, he said he suspects that the government is behind the people trying to hijack the party.
“Who is running the affairs of the APC in Oyo State?” the host asked. The response elicited was “the question may not be ripe yet because nobody is running the APC at the moment.” Also answering questions on whether the APC in Oyo State is a divided house, the former Commissioner said “the APC is not divided yet. What I am saying is that there is a guideline from the national headquarters of the APC on how the state exco should be constituted and that has not been done yet.”
Hon Adedeji also took time to react to rumours that he and the Commissioner of Information that was fired did not support the Governor during the “critical period” when rumours flew that his wife was allegedly arrested for money laundering. He said “we were not accused. The person that was accused was in a better position to defend herself better. So if somebody says I did something, it is for me to defend myself. Like the current case with the Bank of Industry, I should not expect any other person to come and defend me. I should be in a position to defend myself. If it was reported that somebody was arrested in London and she was not arrested, what is the big deal?”
“Is it not true that some of you did not like the First Lady of Oyo State, Florence Ajimobi?” the reporter fired again. And in response, Adedeji stated that “the issue does not even arise at all. Nobody elected the First Lady, so the respect we accord to her is borne out of the fact that she is the wife of the Governor of Oyo State.”
And to insinuations that the First Lady was becoming overtly powerful, Adedeji’s answer was “when we were in government, I must confess that I never had any problem with the First Lady. But I must say that I believe that wives of Governors and Presidents should be less visible in public life and I am being frank about this. It doesn’t matter who is the Governor. Even if I were to become the Governor, I do not want a situation where my wife will take up a position that the constitution does not give to her. As an Awoist, Awo said it in plain language; the role and roles of the wives of those in public office. They should be barely seen and heard.”
When asked if it is true that the displacement of traders made him unhappy, Adedeji said “I support the fact that we need to keep our environment sane, but it is just a matter of approach. What I believe is that we could engage these people and look for alternative places for them. When you look at this state, you know this is a trading society. Most people are petty traders and when you want to remove them, there are ways of doing it. I have discussed it with so many people.”
Speaking further, he said “we could have asked people that okay, we want to remove people from Dugbe and the rest of them, but the government does not have the resources to build markets for all of them at the centre. Why can’t we vote for a palliative? For instance, we can build weekend markets. We find this all over the world, even in London, go to Liverpool on Sunday, almost all the roads are taken over by traders. We can do something like that. At least people will know that we can trade at the centre at certain periods of time.”
“Did you put that on the table as the Commissioner for Trade, Investment and Cooperatives?” Hon Adedeji’s response was a straight one, “you can only do that when you are engaged”, he said. To drive home his point, he said “did anybody tell me before they started pulling peoples shops down? It was in the pipeline; okay we should float neighbourhood markets. But what I would have expected was that those places would have been put up before removing them.”
While stressing the claim that he was not informed about the government policy to remove traders as Commissioner of Trade, Investment and Cooperatives, he said “any Commissioner that tells you otherwise may be economical with the truth.”
On his 2015 plans, Adedeji, who has stated that he still has the intention of governing Oyo State said “the people will decide.” Though he declined comments on whether he would work against Senator Ajimobi in the 2015 elections, Adedeji said “let me even say this and I want to be challenged by anybody, even at the time the present Governor was picked or was nominated, there was an unwritten pact that whoever was picked was going to serve only one term.”
Emphasising that he was there when the agreement was reached, he went on that “the leaders told us. Lam (Adesina) told all of us. You can ask other governorship aspirants. It was said that whoever we pick will only serve one term. And everybody agreed.”
“So is the Governor betraying the agreement?,” he was asked again. “It was not a written pact, it was a gentleman’s agreement,” he said. Shedding more light on what seemed to be his grievance, Adedeji said “I am saying that even if that is going to change, there must be a consensus. We must go back to say okay, no problem, this man has done so well, he has accommodated all interests, he deserves to continue.
So rather than hounding people all about, rather than saying this person is not for me, you are aware of all these groupings coming up all over the place, SENACO, Integrity Parliament and all the rest. I even learnt there is a new initiative by PDP returnees campaigning for second term. All these things are not necessary and that is the essence of political party. As a real political party, we should be able to sit down and decide that this person is going to run for 2015 election. And I must say that I will never agree with any arrangement that will not give the people a right to choose whoever they want to lead them.”
Though he disclosed that he remains a member of the APC and is not thinking of leaving, he however left an indication as he closed his answer with the phrase “but, never say never.”