APC doesn’t need people like Ikimi, Sheriff – Ajayi Boroffice
Senator Ajayi Boroffice, a prominent member of the All Progressives Congress, represents Ondo North in the Senate. In this interview with JOHN AMEH, he says the likes of Chief Tom Ikimi and Ali Modu Sheriff were never genuine members of APC, arguing that their departure from the party would rather boost the chances of APC in 2015 election.
As a prominent member of the All Progressives Congress, how do you react to people who say there’s no difference between APC and the Peoples Democratic Party?
I have heard many Nigerians ask the difference between the APC and the PDP. There is a lot of difference. APC is a progressive party while PDP is a conservative party. In a broad sense, I can say that we are against every vice that has been exhibited by the PDP administration; especially corruption. And if we, as we are determined in APC, can reduce corruption by maybe, 70 per cent, this will give us a very healthy economy and also affect many aspects of Nigerians’ lives. It will promote a viable economy, political stability and social security. These are the three pillars we are bringing into government. We are going to tackle corruption and bring qualitative education that is highly subsidised. Recently, universities were closed for almost six months. This should not be happening in Nigeria. Recently also, medical doctors went on strike. The infrastructure in the country is very poor; almost non-existent. Yet, we have enough money to fix these things. The centre is too powerful and we intend to embark on devolution of power, remove certain things from the Exclusive Legislative List and put them in areas we believe they can be better managed.
Youth unemployment is one of the greatest problems confronting this country today. So, we are going to create an environment to enable individuals to find fulfilment in generating income for themselves. We are going to reform the civil service to ensure that it operates with integrity. We are bringing good governance with transparency, which the PDP is not doing.
But it is difficult to convince Nigerians because people still believe all the governors steal money, whether PDP or APC.
They are alleged or accused to have stolen money, right? There is no proof that they have stolen money. But one thing we should look at is the output of the governors. If you look at the APC-controlled states, you will agree that they have worked very hard. Go to Osun and see what the governor has done. Even in Ekiti that we have lost, Fayemi has worked very well in putting infrastructure in place and improving the educational system. I think what people said worked against him is the stomach infrastructure. If you go to Osun, it is the same thing; Aregbesola has worked very hard. If you go to Edo, of course, it is very apparent what Oshiomhole is doing; everybody knows it. If you go to Ogun, you will see what Amosun is doing. If you go to Oyo; I studied at the University of Ibadan. The last time I went to Ibadan, I had to engage a rider to take me to Premier Hotel because I could not find my way. The governor has done a network of roads. If you go to Lagos, of course, that one is a reference point for all. All these are APC states. So, if they are corrupt, where do they get money to do what they are doing? These are just allegations. As I said, every politician is corrupt in the assessment of Nigerians. Even some of us as legislators, they see us as corrupt. They see members of the National Assembly as corrupt; chairmen of councils are corrupt. That is the mindset of Nigerians. That is why we want to run a government that is transparent, that people will say is sincere and honest.
For example, in Kano State, Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso publishes on a weekly basis, the financial position of the state. And if you are challenging him that what he publishes is not correct, come out and prove him wrong. There is a marked difference between the performances of APC governors and those of PDP. The evidence is there, go through these states and you will be convinced.
But APC has problems everywhere as exemplified in Sokoto and Kano states. In Edo, people are even moving to PDP. Why?
No, APC is different from PDP. You see, PDP is a party that has been in existence for many years. APC is a new party brought about by the merger of legacy parties. Some people even came from PDP to join APC. In the formation process, you find that the template does not receive some of the people who want to come in. So, if the man coming doesn’t fit into the template, he bounces back. That is what we have seen. And like I have said, there is nothing strange about that in a party that is just going through formation. It is in PDP that you can say you have a lot of crises; for APC, it is still undergoing metamorphosis. What we are having now is a biological evolution, where the bad ones are eliminated and the good ones are retained and re-energised for the survival of this nation.
After the APC National Convention, it appears the party has not been getting things right.
The developments you are seeing with APC is the best thing to happen to us. It is allowing us to sieve out the bad from the good. Let those who want to leave, leave us. We are very happy. Some of us even said we should have a thanksgiving service that people like Tom Ikimi and Modu Sheriff left. Look at the statement of Davies, the Australian negotiator, that Sheriff is behind Boko Haram. Imagine if he was still in APC, you can imagine what the likes of Fani-Kayode would have been saying by now. Now that he is a part of PDP, they are trying to shield him. You see, the convention provided a turning point where those who really believe in the ideology of the APC will stay, as opposed to those who are just gold-diggers. Ikimi wanted to be chairman and when you look at his antecedents, there is no place for him in APC. There is no place for somebody like Sheriff in APC. And you can see down the line. So, for us, we are very happy that some of these people are leaving voluntarily. The more of them that leave, the better for the APC. We want to present a party that will bring a change to this country in terms of administration, in terms of transparency. Not people that have been soiled and stained. Once you have a bad individual in the assembly, it is possible that he can corrupt more and more people. We don’t want that to happen. We want to sanitise the system and we can only accommodate people with honour, people with integrity, people who are very serious. That is what that convention has done for us. The party still has internal cohesion in the leadership at all levels.
What do you think the Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, should have done better in the last six years? Or, what could you have done better if you were the governor?
Of course, there are a lot of things that I would have done better. The problem that Mimiko created for himself ab initio was that he surrounded himself with mediocrities; people who cannot tell him the truth or bold enough to advise him correctly; people who cannot come to him and tell him, no, Oga, what you are doing is wrong. So, when you have yes men around you, you become the almighty one. When you are wrong, nobody is there to correct you. And because of that, he misrules in such a way that budgets are not implemented, projects are not executed; no employment. Well, if I were the governor in the past six years, the first thing I would do is to improve on the revenue generated by government. This is to ensure that we don’t completely depend on what comes from the Federal Government. Secondly, in order to create employment, I will revive all the industries that were created by our revered father, late Adekunle Ajasin. We will create other industries; for instance, we have large deposit of coal in Ore, the Southern part of Ondo-North Senatorial District. Around there, you can create a cluster of industries, generate power and do a lot more. We only have a token of roads from Mimiko in three major towns, including Akure. But, we need massive infrastructure development in the whole state. There should be good roads in each local government. Now, instead of building mega schools, I will spread the cost across the state. With N10m, you can build a block of classrooms, and you are spending N350m to build one mega school, where you have less than 20 classrooms. In my own place, a school was completely shut down in order to provide way for this mega school. There are only about six of these mega schools in the whole state.
But a lot of people believe the governor’s Mother and Child Hospital project is very successful
The ordinary man cannot afford the cost of going to Mother and Child. To me, it is just an elephant project to attract the World Health Organisation award. The local government system is completely non-existent. The councils cannot construct one kilometre of road because the local governments are paralysed and starved of funds. Their money was utilised for the building of market stalls that the ordinary market women cannot afford.
Shortly before the last governorship election in Ondo State, the APC leader, Bola Tinubu, allegedly anointed Rotimi Akeredolu instead of allowing the aspirants to test their popularity at the primaries. What is your view on the imposition?
No, I don’t share that view. Every political party has its own mechanism of choosing the flagbearer in accordance with the Electoral Law. I think this was followed. I didn’t see Akeredolu as being imposed on us. And I didn’t see the hand of Bola Tinubu in the emergence of Akeredolu. We all participated; we held a series of meetings and consultations. The primary was held in Akure and INEC was present; the leaders of the party were present too. So, I don’t know how people can now say that Bola Tinubu imposed a candidate on us. The candidate emerged from consultations and also from the primaries held. So, it is a wrong notion to say that it was as a result of imposition, no. Of course, if the main election were to be free and fair, Akeredolu could have won. We know that the election was not free and fair. It was full of shortcomings, fraud and all that. We know that as Nigerians, these are not far-fetched in our system.
Some people thought APC would win that election. Are you saying that your party came a distant third because of the claim of fraud?
You know, something surprised me. I have an uncle who is one of the chieftains of Labour Party. He told me before the election that APC was going to be distant third. I couldn’t believe it because I thought he was joking. He told me and he was very confident that APC would be distant third and that was what happened. So, you see, all these things are pre-planned. I don’t have the details, but we believe that the election was not free. That was why we went to court to contest it. Unfortunately, some of the issues raised were thrown out by the court. If an investigation is properly made with INEC’s cooperation, you will discover that the result returned for LP was incorrect. The calculation and arithmetic were even done in such a way that if there was going to be a run-off, it was going to be between LP and PDP.
Is it not true that the party lost because you withdrew your support for Akeredolu soon after the primaries?
That is not true. I am a loyal party man. I come from the local government where we have the deputy governor, we have the deputy speaker of the House and we also have a member of the House of Representatives. We have two commissioners also in that single local government. APC won the local government; I won my unit and I won my ward. So, how can you say that I withdrew my support for Akeredolu? I gave Akeredolu full support and it manifested in the result of the election.
So, why are people saying that your defection from LP to APC made the fortunes of the latter to nose-dive in Ondo?
No. If you say LP has not been dong well, yes, I will say I share a blame, for distabilising LP, not to say that APC has not been doing well. That is not correct. Don’t forget that I defected to ACN from LP and ACN metamorphosed into APC. Just like a child, it learns to walk and there will be some problems. But, I can tell you that if there is going to be any election in Ondo State today, APC is going to win. I think Mimiko has infuriated many people so much now that we have hundreds of people defecting from LP to APC. That is what I have been doing for the past two weeks; receiving people from LP. So, there are people who also want to leave PDP because they are aggrieved. So, we are harvesting from LP and the PDP. That is a very exciting experience for us as politicians.
What about this allegation that the money the APC released to execute the campaign programmes was embezzled by party stalwarts, including yourself?
Let me say this. The electorate in Nigeria generally don’t trust leaders, whether it is in PDP or APC. And PDP has even monetised politics to the extent that everybody believes that things can only happen when there is money. And when they don’t see but there is an appearance of somebody receiving money, they will conclude that the person has received a lot of money. But, let me tell you, there is this saying that people go to party leaders to take money to run elections. Of course, we don’t have a governor; so the money must come from somewhere. Party leaders put a lot of money in the parties. But, the money was not misappropriated. It is just that it didn’t go through the right channels in most cases. It didn’t get down to the units where the actual work is needed. Nobody can accuse me of embezzlement and I am saying it categorically; I never received one kobo during this election. I spent my own money and it is well known to the APC leadership. I spent my energy and I campaigned vigorously for the election. What I am saying is that, the leadership of the APC saw it as a responsibility to fund the election and they did that adequately. However, along the line in the chain of distributing the money, it did not reach the units where it was actually needed. I don’t think that people embezzled money. For what? But, as I said earlier, the electorate are always looking for a scapegoat when there is a failure. I insist that nobody has mentioned my name anywhere.
Your former colleague, Mimiko, is being wooed by the PDP; have you been approached to cross over to another party?
There are people who are in politics because they want to make money. So, such people, you can get with money. I don’t belong there. When I left LP, they wanted me back at all cost. They spoke to the royal fathers, they spoke to everybody. The PDP also wanted me to come to the party. But I found it difficult to go to PDP. I don’t want Nigerians to see me in that light. I believe I have something to contribute to the development of Nigeria and I believe that ACN and now APC, provides me that platform in terms of ideology and in terms of the people; the progressives. You have people who have put down their lives for the sake of democracy in this country. I believe that that is where I can contribute my own quota and not any other party. That is why I find it difficult to join the PDP or to go back to LP.
In other words, no juicy offer can make you to move to another party?
I have had so many juicy offers before and I have rejected them. So, don’t worry yourself.
Nigerians easily recall your performance when you headed the space agency. But, they still say that you should have done more, considering the huge funds spent during your tenure. Did some of the money go into private pockets?
Well, I like Nigerians. What I think we lack is investigation. We now have freedom of information law that gives you that power to go to any institution and request any kind of information. So, when people come out and make all sorts of allegations, we investigate and find out the true position. We really struggled to get to where we were when I was in charge of affairs there. People opposed us, including top people in government because they believed that the space projects were elitist. The money was not even coming. But, I thank God that we had the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was a visionary. He was able to see beyond what others were seeing; he supported us. I can tell you that some of the funding came from foreign loans, not even internal resources. And the loans were given by a government that provided the technology. So, there is no way you can ask them to give you the money, which they have loaned you, which they are supposed to use in their country, to provide you with satellite and other infrastructure; it is not possible. I think it is the usual stereotyped allegation that people level against a very successful person. Of course, I have never been invited one day by the EFCC or the ICPC or any other anti-corruption agency in the country to come and give account of anything.
People still think that beyond your achievements at the space agency, you have not really grown much in terms of becoming a political force, at least on the floor of the Senate.
Well, I cannot define myself in that concept. I think I like people to define me. When you understand the way our orders are in the Senate for instance, some individuals may become paralysed. You can only talk when the President (Presiding Officer) calls you to talk. So, if he doesn’t call you, there is nothing you can do. That is very important. But, then the debate in the chambers is not the only thing that you do as a legislator. There are oversight functions; there is the constituency project. I think in those two areas, I have excelled. In the chambers, I am not the only one that has found it difficult to express himself. You cannot because of that let things bother you. When you are in the opposition, you know that these are the things you have to face, unless you want to be unruly. So, you just go there, you watch them; you raise your hand and if you are not recognised, so be it.
So, it is not by choice that you are not very active in the chambers?
No, it is not by choice. It is a political atmosphere where the side of the divide where I belong does not allow me.
Is the jumbo pay of senators justified then, looking at what you have just admitted? Nigerian senators are said to be the highest paid in the world and the pay is even kept secret.
I know what I collect; if my ipad was here I would have shown you the details of what I collect every month.
No, Senator, you are the one collecting and spending the money; so you should know the total figure off hand without your ipad.
I collect about N936,000 monthly. That is it.
Senator, you are talking about the salary only?
Yes, that is the salary. What else am I being paid? It ends there.
You mean to tell Nigerians that a Senator earns only N936,000 per month?
Yes. There is a body that fixes our salary. You can go and ask the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. Go and find out from them what a senator earns. People sit down, manufacture information and propagate it as if it is the correct thing. That is why I say that investigation is very good.
Why do you always rubber-stamp executive bills in the Senate?
Well, let me tell you. We are not a rubber-stamp. There are many bills in which both the opposition and the majority do agree. In such cases, you do not have any problem. Look at the gay issue; the homosexual bill. Everybody agreed that it should go. There are so many bills coming from the executive, which we believe are very good bills. So, no problem. But, when a bill comes and it seems there are some colourations, it generates a lot of debate. Politics is a game of number. Even if you all don’t agree, once the required number is in support of the bill, it passes and there is nothing anyone can do about that. So, we are not a rubber-stamp; some bills have been turned down outright even after first reading. But, because we do not make noise in the Senate like the lower chamber, there is this wrong notion. In the lower chamber, there is youthful exuberance, there is the excitement that they want to talk; we don’t do that in the Senate. Some of us are former governors, retired military officers, retired professors; so, we have seen it all. We are no longer playing to the gallery. That is the difference.
What is your next political destination? Are you looking beyond the Senate in 2015?
I would love to go back to the Senate, hoping that my party will be in control. There are some people in the APC that if they come back, we all believe they can do better. I would want to go back to the Senate if my constituency says I should go back and my party says I should go back. But, I would love a situation where the APC would be the party in control of the majority.
But, we hear that your party is considering you as a likely presidential running mate.
You see, I have read something about it. But, you know that the constitution is very clear about this. It is not a position that you contest for. It is the person who is the candidate that will decide who will be his running mate. Up till now, we do not have a presidential candidate in APC. So how can one say that I am the running mate? What is before me is Senate and that is what I am fighting for. But, if my party says I have done well and the presidential candidate expresses his intention, of course, I will agree. That will afford me a better opportunity to offer my service to this country. But, I think people are just speculating.