Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi is the Accord Party candidate for the July 16 governorship poll in Osun State. He tells BOLA BAMIGBOLA, on circumstances that led to his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party
Looking back at the PDP governorship primary in 2018, how did you lose the party’s ticket?
The year 2018 was actually the year I practically came into politics and so many things happened. Before I ventured into the Osun governorship quest, I consulted widely. I consulted people like (Uche) Secondus, who was the then national chairman of the party. I had a discussion with him and he gave me assurances that they did not have a candidate and I asked him, ‘If you do not have a candidate what about Ademola Adeleke’? He said Ademola (Adeleke) would not disturb me. My mentor and father in the person of General Aliyu Gusau (retd.). also had a meeting with Secondus and I and he (Secondus) still said that if I had the resources, I should go and use them in Osun.
So, we started and I had good acceptance with Osun citizens; we went round all the nooks and crannies. I popularised the PDP; I spent a lot of resources and truly the APC knew that someone had come on the platform of the PDP.
We were going on and we started with 27 aspirants and from 27, some dropped off and we had 11 aspirants left. As we got closer to the election time, six of the aspirants stepped down for me and three days to the primary election, we had a meeting at Dr Olu Alabi’s place, where all the delegates adopted me as the consensus candidate and that means the primary election would be between Ademola Adeleke and I. Before that time, I had the hint that they were going on with their plans to give the ticket to Senator Ademola Adeleke, but I was not touched at all because I knew I had got enough number that would fetch me the ticket and so, we went into the primary election.
The first thing that shocked me was when former Bayelsa State governor, (Seriake) Dickson came with a large number of policemen, who were armed. I asked him what was going on. I asked if there was going to be a war or something. He replied, ‘My brother don’t worry, we are all for you’. All of a sudden, I spotted my very good friend, the former governor of Niger State, Aliyu Babangida, and he asked me, ‘Is it your own Akin Ogunbiyi that is contesting’? and I said yes. He looked at me and said, ‘Wahala dey o’. He ran to meet Dickson, but I don’t know what they discussed.
When all the delegates were admitted into the venue, they said the aspirants should be coming out to address them. When it was my turn, everybody in the hall rose for me in acceptance and Dickson said, ‘Wahala dey o, we won’t be able to do this job’. I went to him and I said I know you came to do a job for Ademola Adeleke, it will be ideal for you to follow your conscience, don’t follow any other instruction. We cast our votes and I had 1,859 votes. During sorting and counting, the next thing was that they switched off the light and they packed my votes into Ademola Adeleke’s box. Then they said they should recount. People there said recount Dr Ogunbiyi own too, but they said no they won’t recount my own votes. So, after they had packed my votes, they now recounted Ademola’s own. The long and short of it was that they stole the primary from me.
What happened after the primary?
As if that wasn’t enough, I got a call by 3am on Sunday from Secondus telling me to come and see him in Abuja and I replied that I was in Osun and there was no flight and that I would come the following day I went on Monday and I got to his house, he took me to his inner chamber and I met the then NOS (National Organising Secretary) Colonel Akobondo (retd.). The two of them greeted me. The next thing I heard was, ‘Dr I am sorry we have to take this thing away from you. We instructed them that they should give it to Ademola Adeleke’. I asked them a simple question, ‘You told me that Ademola didn’t go to school’, but he said because the party didn’t have people, there was no other person; that was why they settled for Ademola.
You are the one who encouraged me to go and spend all the resources, so why will you take it away from me, why will you deny Osun people their rights?
I said I had prepared a petition for the party’s electoral panel and he said I shouldn’t submit it and I told him that I would submit it.
When I submitted the petition, we were all seated and Secondus came out and sat down. Then, I asked a gentleman sitting close to me at the PDP office, ‘Is Secondus part of this’? They said yes and I replied that it was unfortunate but I just left his house where he told me he took the ticket from me. How come he is the chairman of the appeal panel? They said that was the rule. I said what am I doing, let me go. Then national South-West vice chairman, Edward Olafeso, was a member of the panel. I said, ‘Eddy but you took my votes, how come you are part of the panel too’? For record purposes, I put my petition across, I discussed it and I left. So, that was the story of 2018, but I am happy that the entire world knew that the primary was stolen from me.
After the primary, the party still struggled with lots of crises. What was your involvement?
Well, unfortunately for PDP in Osun, with the then collaboration of National Working Committee. I was the one targeted; they wanted to get rid of me and they accused Soji Adagunodo, who was then the Chairman of the Osun PDP, of stealing money and all kinds of fake petitions were written against him. He was suspended, believing that once Adagunodo was removed, I won’t have relevance in the party again, but as God would have it, I stood with him and I made resources available to him. All the contacts that I have, I made them available to him to be able to stand firm against Deji Adeleke, because he (Adagunodo) was unjustly removed. He had the backing of our people and we were giving elders and BOT members of our party feedback about our activities.
That was what I was doing for the past two years. I positioned myself waiting for the new National Working Committee of the party, because I had good information that Secondus would not complete his tenure. I was doing that until Secondus was removed as predicted and a new National Working Committee came in. But if you ask me, unfortunately, this National Working Committee of the PDP is worse because I have a benefit of Senator (Iyorchia) Ayu if he was an appendage of Secondus or continuation of the Secondus era. But I am not surprised because if you put up somebody who has been in the cooler for the past 16 years, he didn’t contest, he didn’t spend a dime, and you made him the national chairman, maybe he was in a hurry to make money. I have it on good authority and I confronted him that a substantial amount of money was made available to them to support Ademola Adeleke’s candidature. I hate to discuss the PDP at this moment but you are asking questions.
We went for screening; the screening committee got petitions against Ademola Adeleke. They set up a screening appeal committee; they got five petitions against him and the appeals committee said in writing, ‘Please ensure that you cross check the credentials of Ademola Adeleke, that there is so much complicity inside it’. That was what the appeal committee wrote and Senator Ayu, in his wisdom, ignored that and said that he wasn’t going to disqualify anybody. We all had a meeting with him and we told him the truth. I told him point blank that leadership was about good results and I said in your case, the number of elections that you won was what they would judge you with.
What about the acceptance issue if you are insisting on Ademola Adeleke? The entire Nigeria knew that this guy sitting beside you has a lot of baggage and a lot of cases on his neck. So, how do you want to deal with the perception issue and he (Ayu) retorted and said what was in Osun? What about Osun, what about Ekiti, did Obasanjo win any South-West state before he became the President in 1999? I beg to forget it. That was why I had to pull out. But I had to wait until the last minute so that the whole world would see why I pulled out of the primary election. So, a day to the primary election, around 2pm, I addressed a press conference where I said I was pulling out of the PDP primary election, because there was no point where the umpire is so biased and he has even disclosed to us that he was biased and even told us the result of the election he was going to conduct. So there was no point staying back. I thank God that I pulled out. I am in Accord Party now. The reception has been so great; we got good encouragement from every nook and cranny of the state.
But no prominent PDP members defected with you to the Accord Party till now. Or do we have some of them who followed you to your new party, who are your foot soldiers?
How did you come to the conclusion that I didn’t pull a lot of my people out of the PDP? That will be a wrong conclusion. I tell you, more than 60 per cent of the PDP members have joined us.
There is also this belief that you are an elite politician, and not a grassroots politician. What is your take on this?
It is wrong for anybody to say that. I am a grassroots politician. Yes, I joined active politics six or seven years ago, but my antecedents speak for me. If you say I am not a grassroots politician, how come I won the first primary that they took from me? If I was the candidate that time, I would have won the governorship election and you still say that I am not a grassroots person.
But during the struggle between you and the Adeleke group, some of your supporters felt that you should have accepted the option of going for the Senate. Did you get that offer?
Why will I take the option of the Senate? I am not just in politics because I want anything; I want to serve my people. If I am in the Senate, what will I be doing? It may interest you that when they took that (governorship) ticket away from me, the APC came in their numbers. They came to this house, offered me money, offered me a position and one thing they offered me was the Senate and I said, ‘I am sorry, I wanted to serve my people where I will make the difference, not where I will be serving the entire country’.
I have to start from somewhere, yes and the Senate is good enough. I am not underrating it; it is a wonderful position to serve but I want to serve my people as the governor of the state. So, even when we had conciliation when I was in the PDP, they offered me the Senate ticket and I told them point blank that the Senate you offered me, I am giving it to someone else, though they didn’t eventually fulfil that promise. They are just full of deceit in the PDP. So, I am out of the place but I am a grassroots politician.
What is your relationship with an ex-governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinunu? Did you work for him to destabilise the Osun PDP as being insinuated?
Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is a complete gentleman. He is an achiever and somebody who has done so much to project the image of the Yoruba, but I tell you as a businessman, I never had to sit down with him to discuss, even my business. He is a wonderful man, but to say Asiwaju was the one sponsoring me was just political gimmicks, because they couldn’t get anything to link me with him. The woman who actually brought that idea (that I was working for Tinubu) came to this house to apologise to him after everything was done. She said it just occurred to her that let’s use this (gimmick against him). The fact that they associated me with Tinubu does not take away anything from me and neither does it take away anything from Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. He belongs to a different party and I belong to the Accord Party, but if it will interest you, our paths have not crossed to the point of sitting down like this. He is 70 and I am in my 60s. I have not sat down with Tinubu like this to discuss anything and you are going to publish this so that he will see it. It is just mere political talk to smear me, but we have gone beyond that.
What is your relationship with ex-governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Erelu Olusola Obada, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun and other prominent PDP leaders now that you left the PDP?
It is very cordial. There is no amount of disagreement that I will have with anybody in politics that will affect my personal relationship with the person. Because these are people with their positions, who made Akin Ogunbiyi. So, why will I allow disagreement on politics to affect our personal relationship? I called Alhaji Suhaib Oyedokun a couple of days ago. Likewise Dr Olu Alabi. I was with my mentor and he called Oyinlola and asked why he allowed Akin to leave the PDP. So, political differences have nothing to do with my personal relationship with them. No matter what happens, Oyinlola will always be my leader, uncle, brother and father, and also, whatever happens, Dr Suhaib Oyedokun will always be there as my mentor. Erelu Obada will always be my aunt and just like that, there is no amount of disagreement and in any case they were all helpless. I can see they were all helpless in this case (that led to my leaving the PDP). Just like in 2018, they all supported me in 2022 but the powers that be did something else. So, why should that be an issue with them?
Even with a good relationship with those you just mentioned, they still preferred Dr Dotun Babayemi as the candidate during the last governorship primary. What led to that development?
I don’t want to talk about Dotun Babayemi, because again I am privileged to work closely with him and I find him to be a gentleman to the core. I won’t say more than that. Whatever it is, I wasn’t part of his emergence. I pulled out of the PDP primary election against Ademola Adeleke.
Are you aware that some people said you pulled out of the PDP primary because you were afraid of being defeated the second time by Adeleke?
Scared? I fought the battle in 2018. In fact, Deji Adeleke acknowledged it to Senator Ayu, because he had a meeting with our leaders in Senator Ayu’s house and we queried Ayu on why he would leave five other aspirants and go to hold a meeting with the brother of one aspirant. So why will you say that? Was I afraid of him in 2018? I matched him. One thing I will say is, I may not have the kind of free money that they are giving out, but I am Akin Ogunbiyi; I am who I am.
Since 2017, I have matched them money for money, resources for resources, connection for connection. I have matched them and they even acknowledged it. Everywhere they go, Akin was there before them, but he (Dr Deji Adeleke) has a kind of resources that I don’t have. I can’t deny it and if he is convinced that that’s how he should spend his money, then good luck to him. How can I be scared of somebody that has all the baggage? You will see what will happen to Ademola Adeleke eventually. I am out of the PDP, I don’t want to comment about it. So, ask me questions about the Accord party.
You picked a retired broadcast journalist, Kunle Jimoh, who is also an Islamic cleric as your running mate. What informed that decision?
I will say Kunle Jimoh’s choice as my running mate is the Lord’s doing. I will say God himself chose him for us. I will say it is a divine coincidence that brought him to us. We knew this would happen and we had been on it since January. It is not something that happened overnight. We have all kinds of individuals. First, we made up our minds that we wanted to choose someone from Osogbo. We said the Central Senatorial District and specifically from Osogbo. We started screening and we prayed. I think Kunle Jimoh’s name came up around early February. There are all kinds of individuals, who are notable and prominent men and women that we considered, but like I said, Kunle Jimoh came up divinely and I tell you, we didn’t make a mistake
With your experience, can you win the governorship poll with a platform like the Accord Party?
I am the candidate to beat. Accord has structure in 27 local government areas in Osun State. The Accord Party has been among the top three political parties in Osun State for some time.