Like Awolowo, Aregbesola Is a Pacesetter - Shittu [interview]
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Comrade Amitolu Shittu was a close associate of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi during his life time. He rose through the ranks to become the Deputy National Chairman of the National Conscience Party (PDP), a party formed by Fawehinmi. In early 2013, Shittu stepped aside from his position in NCP and accepted to be the Director General of De Raufs Volunteer Group, a political movement propagating the leadership qualities of State of Osun Governor, Rauf Aregbesola. In this interview with some journalists in Lagos, including SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, TUNDE OPESEITAN, Shittu revealed that Fawehinmi, during his life time, once asked him to support Aregbesola in future. Shittu also spoke on other issues. Excerpts... Last Sunday, there was a violent clash in Ekiti in which a life was lost. Is this not a sign that elections in Nigeria are still a matter of do or die?
Without mincing words, I think what we are seeing is part of the desperate attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over the state, but one thing is sure, they cannot succeed because the power of the people is far greater and higher than that of the Federal Government. What happened on Sunday in Ekiti was an attempt to intimidate the people. It was a direct attack on Governor Kayode Fayemi, who by all standard, has performed creditably well since assuming office. In the history of the state, Fayemi was the first governor to embark on social security policy where people are paid monthly salary. In all areas, Governor Fayemi has transformed the state, and the PDP knows that they can't win the state in a free, fair and credible election, hence the antics of intimidating the people. I sympathize with the family that lost their loved one and hope and pray that the police will rise above partisan politics and do their job professionally, especially as we approach 2015.
In Osun, most of the people campaigning for Rauf Aregbesola are now harping on the assassination of Chief Bola Ige, and they even planned to have a candle light procession to remember him, but all these they were not doing in the past. Why the sudden development?
You should realise that Nigerians have short memories, but in advanced countries where rule of law is allowed to thrive they don't joke with diplomacy, particularly the one that has to do with crime of the highest order. On this particular issue, a former Attorney General of a country, a society builder, a strong builder of education, was murdered in his bedroom, and the suspected killers were left off the hook, and they decided to politicise everything. There is no nation that encourages this type of lawlessness that progresses, how do you expect his loved ones and admirers to keep quiet on the issue, considering his contributions to the advancement of the country, but his suspected killers are allowed to walk free on the street. Whether those suspects know anything about his death or not, all I know is that there can't be an action without an actor. Chief Ige was harassed in Ile -Ife and an individual claimed to be responsible for it, and few weeks after, the man was assassinated. What do you think will happen? As the Yoruba will say, a witch cried a day before and the child died, so it is obvious it is the witch that cried earlier that was responsible for the death of the child, so you don't need to look further. What the people are doing is to bring the memory of Bola Ige alive, and anybody can read meanings to it. This issue of allowing criminals to go scot free encourages crime and it gave birth to Boko Haram insurgents, because they believe that killing is an unfinished assignment, so I pity Nigerians, I sympathize a lot with Nigerians because we have short memory and politicise everything. For instance, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in his open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan said snippers were already on the prowl, but rather than address the issue raised, he chose to attack Chief Obasanjo.
You are the Director General of De Raufs volunteer group, what qualities are in Rauf Aregbesola that make you stick your neck out for him?
He is a phenomenon; he represents a generation that stands out, to wipe out poverty in Nigeria. As an individual, he represents the likes of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who toiled day and night finding solution to the myriads of problems facing the country. Awolowo was noted as a man who will be busy trying to solve Nigeria's problems while others are enjoying themselves at social gathering. Rauf represents the ideal of Wilson Churchill, he represents the ideals of Kwame Nkrumah, a pan-Africanist, who believes in an egalitarian society, he believes so much in the ideology of Fidel Castro, he believes in the ideology of Abraham Lincoln, those that do not attach importance to the vanity people see as a way of life. Before I agreed to champion his re-election, I had investigated him for more than two years, he is unlike other politicians that whenever they have opportunity to hold public office, they will create a barrier between them and the people that elected them, they detach themselves from the people and attach too much importance to the office, to the extent that, they see themselves as more important than the people that elected them, they want people to worship them and create the impression that they have the key to the existence of the electorate, and behave as if they are deputy to God. The impression some politicians have is that of using the electorate to get what they want, and once they get it, that is the end. Some of the bad attributes inherited from the military, we carry on with them: they blare siren to scare those that elected them off the road, and keep oppressing them, but Aregbesola never indulges in any such extravagant lifestyle. One thing he did that enticed me much is providing social security for the aged ones, which I have been clamouring for all my life, that the best way to reduce insecurity is to provide security for the citizenry, and that will reduce crime rate. Most of you struggle to attend higher institutions; what has the Federal Government given you in return. Nigeria has the greatest potential to move forward, but those driven by devil won't allow the country to move forward. Aregbesola does not use siren and he won my heart by doing that. When Awolowo was the Premier of the Western Region, he was setting the pace, and that is what governance should be about. Then there was competition. Aregbesola has also started in that line; the computer tablet given to students was the first to be recorded in Nigeria, if not Africa.
But there is this impression that most of the things done by Aregbesola were at high cost, and as such, the governor has plunged the state into heavy indebtedness. What's your reaction to that? Even, let's assume it was so, despite the 12 billion dollar realised by Ibrahim Babangida, he still approached the International Monetary Fund to collect loan to build the Third Mainland Bridge, the bridge is still useful to Nigerians till date. When Colonel Leo Ajiborisha was the military governor of the state, he was accused of using tax payer's money to buy broadcasting equipment, since then has the debt profile of the state reduced. The immediate past governor of the state was accused of collecting N18.3 Billion loan from the bank, just to build six stadia, what have the stadia add to the economy of the state. You are now complaining of somebody who is upgrading and adding to the state infrastructure. When Aregbesola came, Osun State was like a state with no plan, any state without any plan can never grow. Osun had no plan, the state capital then was just like a glorified local government headquarters.
Are you trying to say Aregbesola is not corrupt?
No, that is not correct, I have even invited EFCC on my own to investigate him, the man is transparent. The question people need to ask is, if at all he has taken loan, has he used it to address the problems facing the state, in terms of upgrading the schools, fixing the roads and providing employment opportunities?
How will you then react to this impression that most of the achievements of Aregbesola are propaganda, and even that the computer tablets could not go round the students, and that some of the opon imo is being withdrawn from the students?
Why are people behaving like this? Why do they find it difficult to appreciate what is good? Those who are saying this say it because they hate the governor, like Yoruba will put it, there is no way your enemy can kill a fat grasshopper, they will say the person can't even kill a mouse. When Awolowo built the cocoa house in Ibadan, some people criticised him. Though politicians are not all that trustworthy, I have never worked with a politician like Aregbesola in my life, I believe that this young man is transparent, and have a future.
What are his chances in this election?
Bad people who have no credibility, who have rubbished their credibility, tell me what they will do when they have the opportunity? Tell me what people who have corruption charges against them will say about somebody who introduced computer tablet; who introduced social security to our aged parents, what you think about somebody who used his initiative to link up every part of the state together with good roads. Is that propaganda? Part of Aregbesola's achievements is to improve the education and agricultural sector. The foodstuff people eat in Osun State now are grown in the state, and that was the plan Awolowo had to improve the agriculture sector. So, to answer your question, Aregbesola's chances are very bright.
But most people in Osun State do not reckon with what you call his achievements. Some bear grudges against him for pulling down their buildings, and what do you have to say about this?
What you refer to as demolition of building is not demolition, it is separation of setback. Everybody knows what is happening in Nigeria, do you want to encourage shanties where kiosk take over the major roads, and you have to struggle among street traders to find your way. Street trading has been abolished all over the world, why should we encourage it in Nigeria? So, by demolishing such structures is even in the interest of the traders, so as to prevent them from being exposed to unnecessary hazard and untimely death. The question to ask is that is there any crime in removing illegal structures? Well, I believe most people in Osun are happy with the transformation going on in the state, it would have been suicidal for Aregbesola to take the steps he took, if all the works he embarked on are not at 85 percent completion. Consider the short period he has spent in office, and for the short period he has tarred over 650 kilometres of road.
Some communities that never had tarred road linking them with parts of the state now have tarred roads. Even the students now have buses taking them to their schools. He has also done much in ensuring security of lives and property, the armoured tank with camera that he has bought as at today is 35 in number, and these are sophisticated armoured vehicles, which have greatly helped in reducing crime rate.
Don't you think that the emergence of Senator Iyiola Omisore as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer has created much fear in Aregbesola's camp?
I don't know why people give too much attention to Omisore. Aregbesola has no rival in Osun, some of these aspirants you are talking about are only seeking prominence, so that they will get appointment from the Federal Government. But as far as the Osun election is concerned, others are not in the race; they are only seeking recognition so that they will be remembered. As one of those that was groomed for activism by late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, do you think you are doing his memory any good by abandoning his party, National Conscience Party (NCP) and supporting an APC candidate. Do you think he will be happy with you anywhere he is right now?
I was with Chief Fawehinmi before he was flown out of the country for treatment, at that time he asked me which state did Aregbesola come from, and insisted on knowing the part of the state he is from, and I told him that he was from Ilesha, Osun State. He requested to know if I knew him, I told him I knew him during the struggle and he was party agent during the second term election of Tinubu. He (Aregbesola) caught my friendship during the collation of election result in 2003 when he spoke to us reasonably and intelligently on the need not to refuse to sign the INEC report sheet. *************After I have told Gani Fawehinmi all this, he said if he (Aregbesola) wanted to contest election in Osun State in future, we should support him.************* What I know is that a fraudulent politician will never like Aregbesola's idea. It is an idea that thrives, even if they wage press war against him, he has succeeded in planting himself in the heart of the people, and it is the greatest way a politician can immortalise himself. No matter the media war waged against him, people won't believe it, because people have understood that he is a man that cares about the welfare of the people. I have watched him closely, I am not a registered member of any political party, but leaders that have passion and are honest must not be discouraged. If the likes of him are discouraged, to get good people into government will become difficult in Nigeria. We just want to use Aregbesola as a template for good governance that good people can do it better, genuine activist should be encouraged. All the lies against him are ways of discouraging him. Can I mortgage my credibility for just a mere politician? That cannot be possible, but I can tell you the reason for supporting him. I respect him for one thing and I will continue to respect him for it, the day he drops that thing, which is absolute fear of God, I will stop respecting him. It is very rare for a politician to have it. Also whenever he makes a promise it is rare for him to renege. What Awolowo did was to put God first, that was what Mohamad Gandi did in India. When you see politicians that put God first, they will all do things with the fear of God.
Copyright Daily Independent. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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