Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Desperate politicians insensitive to Akeredolu’s predicament –PDP chieftain


Dr Bakita Bello is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly. He speaks with PETER DADA on the political state of the Sunshine State in this interview

You were once a member of the state Assembly, but you seem to have been out of the political space in recent times. What is happening?

Sure I was. Yes, I have been quiet but still active. I have not contested any elective post in recent times. After serving a one-term legislative session in the Ondo State House of Assembly, I went to improve myself academically by going for a doctorate at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. I later served as the Executive Chairman of the Ondo State Teaching Service Commission.

Is that not a sign of retirement from politics?

No. I am not retiring from politics. For me, politics is a calling. I see it as an option to further serve humanity in general, with particular attention devoted to the community, the state and the country. Indeed, I see politics as a very veritable way of giving back. Such giving must however be honest in its entirety. Politics provides an enviable opportunity for one to commit our God-given endowments to improving our society as well as the quality of life of others around us.

You are one of the elders in the state. What is your view about the political crisis that rocked the state some months ago?

It is common knowledge that the crisis was caused by the failure to comply with the bidding of the 1999 Constitution as Amended (2011), which demands the transmission of power by a governor to his deputy, as and when necessary, for the smooth running of government. Fortunately, the needful was done and the acting governor has now become the substantive governor.

The worst aspect of the sad situation, however, is the role of some individuals and groups in exploiting the matters for their selfish ends.

It was gathered that the reason the crisis lingered for so long is due to the 2024 governorship election. Do you believe that?

Some have reasoned that the race and interests for the next governorship contest may be the root cause. Yes, it could be true, but the political actors engaged in the logjam had exhibited crass opportunism, insubordination, and total disrespect for constituted authority and the rule of law. They didn’t show enough love and respect for the late governor’s predicament.

Now that Aiyedatiwa has been made the substantive governor what do you expect from him and his administration, considering the previous crisis?

First, allow me to congratulate Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa for surmounting the unwarranted political imbroglio with a high-level display of humility, strength of character, and dignifying poise. I also wish to acknowledge his wish in the maiden speech (during the swearing-in) to serve the state as the governor. His humble pledge of open-hearted, fair-minded and inclusive developmental government is welcomed by us.

While I pray God to grant the late Governor Akeredolu eternal rest and give his family and the state the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss, I will also pray God to continue to be with the current governor, grant him the strength and courage to do what is right for the good people of Ondo State, and in serving humanity.

In light of our wish for his success and positive impact on the lives of our people, I wish to encourage him to ensure that the 2024 budget estimates ( which he just passed into law) are realistic, open, participatory, and all-involving. He should also review all recent questionable policies of the state government, supplementary and or re-ordered budget estimates, the LCDAs law, and its attendant caretaker’s committees, necessarily for broader inclusion, respect for the rule of law, and obedience to the courts.

I also wish he could immediately appoint a deputy governor that he would be able to work with. He should be able to attend to the well-being of the people, students’ bursaries, and support the market women, traders, artisans, and other private sector interests.

He should please attend, with dispatch, to the welfare and payment of arrears of the civil/public servants and pensioners, to cushion their plights in the face of the current economic hardships.

Concerning the allegations of the forged signatures of the late governor on various documents, it is exigent that the government must order banks warehousing state funds for an immediate revalidation of all the state government cheques sent to them, and a quick audit of all MDAs and the state government accounts as well as financial records/files.

These interventions are urgent and necessary for the sanctity and running of the affairs of government and for safeguarding the overall image of late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s administration in Ondo State.

 The governor must be prudent and avoid any waste of resources in governance. He must also be magnanimous to all stakeholders and provide expected critical leadership within the government and across the state.

Ayedatiwa with firmness and fairness to all in the demonstration of his authority should continue to be humble, honest, loyal, and committed to the good people of Ondo State.

Moreso, I advise that henceforth, he must be increasingly, consistently visible, and accessible to people with an open heart and all sincerity.

It was gathered that the intervention of the elders prompted the meeting with President Bola Tinubu and some of the gladiators that ended the crisis. In what other ways did the elders intervene to ensure that such crises do not reoccur in the state?

The Ondo State Elders and Leaders, under the auspices of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, were not relenting in their efforts until the political stalemate was resolved completely. Conciliation efforts that were initiated since September, and have since been vigorously pursued by the elders and leaders, will not cease until true rapprochements are achieved and good governance thrives once again in the state. Other than efforts on conciliation, the elders and leaders have insisted on absolute respect for the rule of law and its enforcement. Their conviction is that everyone is guaranteed deserved protection by the provisions of the laws and the Constitution of Nigeria

Do you have a forum of former lawmakers irrespective of party affiliation?

 Yes, we do.

What roles did you play when the crisis was intense?

I am aware that the All Progressives Congress flank of the forum in September this year, made a public call on the stakeholders, to be mindful of the heavy toll their negative actions would take on the public. Yet, some of the gladiators were recalcitrant, but members of the forum were not relenting.

Do you still have political ambition and what is your next move politically?

As I said earlier, I have taken politics as a calling, an opportunity to serve my people and humanity honestly, and as such, I certainly still have political plans. In the meantime, I am praying for enduring good health and political goodwill to enable me to continue to be politically active and relevant. My next political move by the grace of God, should be at a higher level of calling.

Many political parties are engulfed in one crisis or the other, as a politician, what do you think is wrong with our party system in Nigeria?

The political landscape in Nigeria currently is so unimpressive. First, there are too many parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, such that you cannot easily remember the names of some of the parties. Yet, you cannot blame INEC. It is merely following the dictate of the constitution and the various court orders.

Today, it is very unlikely you find a political party operating on a clear-cut ideology or well-known philosophy. Whereas, successful political plans and strategies, growth, and development, should be fundamentally hinged on tested and helpful philosophies. The Action Group, the Unity Party of Nigeria, as well as the Alliance for Democracy, were all founded on the philosophy of social welfare while their political leadership acted on the core principle of Afenifere or life more abundant for all.

These three successive parties had been generally very successful because they each had an ideological roadmap to guide them every centimetre of the way. Those parties were genuinely committed to participatory democracy, unlike now that the political climate is shrouded in political absolutism, where most leaders are not only autocratic but majorly act as sole administrators. Until we become politically disciplined, and our parties are ideologically/philosophically rooted and managed, our democracy may continue to be incoherent and endangered.

With both political and economic crises everywhere in the country, are you not worried that Nigerian democracy is under threat?

I am certainly worried. Any right-thinking and honest Nigerian should be worried about the political upheavals and economic downturn that continue to becloud our country. When political leaders in office openly profess preferences, hegemonic agendas and demonstrative indifferences, where is the hope of the commoners? Citizens become highly disillusioned and feel dismembered, not just politically, but socio-economically too.

What do you think is the way forward?

We need a political rethink towards genuine, comprehensive and political restructuring of the country. The people of Nigeria are yet to become fully involved in or participate actively in decision-making, particularly where the constitution that governs them is concerned. What we have today is a quasi-military constitution, that smells suffocatingly of military unitarianism, and is therefore largely incapable of being generally acceptable to the generality of Nigerians.

Can you tell us about your political antecedents?

I started as a youth and student leader in the Unity Party of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983. I was also a member of the Alliance for Democracy from 1999 to 2006. I however contested for the Ondo State House of Assembly representing the Akoko North West Constituency 1, in 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. I was elected Speaker ODHA by my colleagues, and this allowed me to be a member of the Presiding Officers of the Legislative Houses of Nigeria. After my term in the House, I was appointed to the Ondo State Teaching Service Commission, as the Executive Chairman, in 2013 by Governor Olusegun Mimiko. I am currently the Secretary of the Ondo State Branch of Afenifere and was also graciously offered the post of Secretary of the Ondo State Elders and Leaders, by Papa Chief Reuben Fasoranti.


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