The lawmaker representing Osun East Senatorial District in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, shares with BOLA BAMIGBOLA his assessment of the recently held governorship election in Osun State
Did you know your party, the Peoples Democratic Party, would win the recently held governorship election in Osun State?
Yes, our party was confident of victory before the July 16 governorship election. We won this same governorship election in 2018 but it was manipulated and the All Progressives Congress snatched that victory away from us. We went to the tribunal and from there to the Supreme Court but we all know how it went. There was even a threat to the life of our candidate in that election, Senator Ademola Adeleke, who is now the governor-elect. He eventually left Nigeria to study abroad. So, this time round, we knew he would win again. He is a very popular candidate, he is well accepted by the people and he is a big-hearted individual. We also know that the family has the capability to support him. Also, the failure of the APC government to deliver on its promises to the people of our state contributed to Adeleke’s victory. People were fed up with the government’s lacklustre performance. They believe in sharing money, but it was too late; people already made up their minds and you could see that the people persevered. If you compare what we had during (former governor Olagunsoye) Oyinlola’s tenure and what the APC did in the past 11 years, in terms of roads and the educational system alone, it’s obvious how far the APC mismanaged our state. When Oyinlola wanted to borrow N18.5bn, he made sure the developmental projects would cover the entire state, but when my junior brother, former governor Rauf Aregbesola, came in, he stopped everything and took another loan of N25bn. That was when we started having a huge debt profile.
You alleged that the APC believed in sharing money but the APC and some persons also accused your party of paying for votes during the election, how would you defend that?
I was actually referring to the fact that the APC believes in giving people succour when they are dying. Many of our people realised that the future was bleak if they continued under that government. That was why they rejected the APC government.
Vote-buying has become a monster, how can the country get rid of this menace?
For now, politics is highly monetised in Nigeria and it’s something we have to address. We should however not shy away from issues like lack of jobs, poor power supply, which affects small and big businesses, and these have made commercial motorcycling the go-to job for our young people. That was why people wanted a change in government and that made it easy for the PDP to win that election. If INEC had announced any result contrary to what was transmitted to its servers, none of us would go out of that collation centre. How many people would the police and soldiers kill? That was the magic.
It’s not easy to defeat an incumbent government, what would you say your party did differently that led it to victory?
As of today, I am the highest political office holder in Osun PDP. What we did was to ensure that all our leaders went to their respective zones to canvass for votes and monitor the exercise. Before the APC realised what was happening, they were already in trouble. The level of corruption has been much, there was no development and we made the people to see all of these. The final magic was when the governor made that mistake of preventing us from using the government facilities we applied for to hold our mega rally. I’m talking about the township stadium, the Freedom Park and Osun Technical College playing ground. Most of these public facilities were built by the PDP government for Osun State, but the governor locked us out instead of giving us access for us to hold our rally. That same day, the government didn’t allow the mini commercial buses, known as Korope to function. These are drivers that rely on daily income. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, the public sympathy was with the PDP. They did that to us on Thursday and it was too late for the governor to correct the error before the election. It was after that he was distributing expired foodstuff and money to buy the conscience of the people.
Your party also distributed some items.
People like us have taken it upon ourselves to be feeding the needy. If you check our records, you will see it. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we gave people many things. During the festivities, like the Eid, we gave out food items and rams. However, for the purpose of election, we didn’t have the capacity like the government, backed by the Jagaban, (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu). Their governors came here en masse, but the God of the masses brought them down. Man cannot equate himself with God. The masses made up their minds to seize their tomorrow.
There are fears that the PDP may not be able to manage this victory because of some intra-party issues. What are you doing about this?
What are the issues? There will always be issues in an association but they are resolved and everybody moves on. Now that we have won, no PDP member will raise an eyebrow or any objection. The other camp was headed by Dotun Babayemi. People like me advised him because there is hope for him tomorrow. Babayemi contributed lots of money during the election. He gave money to all wards across the state for campaigns just to show that he supported us. God wants us to intervene in the affairs of this state at this time and that was why he made us win the election. There are issues in the state now. The Chinese have already damaged our land through mining. You know we are agrarians. The Chinese have damaged all the rivers because of gold mining, (allegedly) supervised by the state government. So, it is only God who can assist us. Regarding our capability to manage issues, definitely, the PDP will do that.
You predicted recently that Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will start from Ife-Ijesha and a few weeks after, your party’s candidate was elected as the governor, are you optimistic PDP will win the presidential election?
Atiku is more grounded than Tinubu (APC presidential candidate). Tinubu is believed to be from Iragbiji and he has no single building in the town. He has the whole of Lagos to himself. In fact, he claims Lagos but he installed two governors in Osun State. The first one tried, but there was a huge debt. This last one had no resources to do anything. Even if he has the resources, we know the APC. They are very stingy with performance as a political party. Atiku’s first wife (Titi) is from here (Osun State) and his first set of children are from the woman. They are all from Ilesa. His wife was my classmate. Remember when we (Nigeria) owed about $35bn, Atiku was the Chairman of the National Economic Council. That debt was paid in two years and there was debt forgiveness. People like us had to go and advise him to come. Tinubu only has the experience of Lagos State. He brought all sorts of people together to work for him. He posted them to their states of origin to be governors. I don’t think you can compare Tinubu with Atiku. Secondly, remember Atiku is from the North-East. The North-East has not produced the president before. Now, it is the turn of the North-East. Yoruba are the ones who have a large heart and can be thinking about quota and allowing others.
But in your party, former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, and some others are insisting that Dr Ifeanyi Okowa should not have been chosen as the vice-presidential candidate. Is that not going to have an effect on the chances of your political party?
No, it won’t have any negative effect. Okowa is from the South-South. Delta has huge population too. The man they picked is a very humble man. Atiku said he has picked a man who is a president-in-waiting. With Okowa, Atiku’s mind will be at rest. That has sent some messages to the people. When Atiku was the vice-president, he worked with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and they were able to achieve economic recovery. Atiku said he sat with the elders and after painstaking scrutiny, chose a man who is a president-in-waiting, who could succeed him. He is a man who would do well. Nigeria’s debt is approaching N50tn now and we will still borrow more. But, as an international business man, Atiku has to pick someone who could manage the economy without any difficulty.
The candidate of your party who won the Osun governorship election will inherit debts and that would come with its challenges, won’t this dampen the momentum and goodwill your party is currently riding on?
We are not new to governance. During the tenure of a former governor, Osun State owed up to N174bn. The statistics are there. For now, I don’t know how much he (Adegboyega Oyetola) has borrowed. That time, we reached the limit. We have reached the limit of borrowing. We don’t have the economic capability to pay back. Now that we are going to inherit it, the management of the economy depends on a group of people and not a single man. These are people who must be avid listeners. They must make the right projections and attract investment to the state. They have to attract foreigners to come and invest. People like us will not allow them to rest until we see the youths being employed. The only factory we have is in Ilesa. The only steel mill in Osogbo has been closed down for over 20 years. Nobody is ready to reopen it. So, we will encourage industrialisation and agriculture. Agro-based industries must come on board. That is how to generate revenue.
In the 2023 election, you are also contesting against the person you defeated last time, how confident are you that you would win your reelection to the Senate?
Contesting in an election is a serious business. With this victory at the governorship election already in the bag, I don’t know any governor that will dip his hands in the state treasury and sponsor either a senator or member of the House of Representatives to face people like me. I am a sitting senator. The person coming to challenge me was in the House of Representatives for eight years without anything to show for it. That is where we are different. I’m significantly older than him and I’m not looking for anything other than to benefit mankind; to pay back what I have benefited from the system. If you look at the empowerment we did, has any government done it here? Nobody! If I return to the Senate, there will be more service to our people. People are hopeful and nothing is preventing me from serving the downtrodden. I have come to emancipate the youths and empower them.
Your party lost in Ife East, Ife Central and Ife South and had a narrow lead in Ife North in the last governorship election. Isn’t that something to worry about in future elections?
Why we lost like that was because Senator Iyiola Omisore (APC National Secretary) was able to reach out to people. I told you that when someone is hungry every time, you can attract such a person with just N10. Just let him eat. Tomorrow, if he’s able to wake up, he will look elsewhere for what to eat. We already have a governor in place, God spare his life; there is no one that will give money to my opponents again, and those people they used money to lure themselves know that the money will soon finish. In politics, if the money is not flowing, people will return to wherever they can get money because they must eat. God spare our lives, you will see what will happen.
As a sitting senator, what should Nigerians expect from you and your colleagues before the end of Buhari’s tenure?
The people should expect that the majority in the Senate will soon become the minority. So, they will get the right treatment so they would know that it is good to be good. You should allow the opposition to thrive, but when the opposition is dead, there will be no life. When Bukola Saraki was there as the Senate President, he didn’t maltreat anybody. David Mark was there for a long time, he didn’t maltreat anybody either. Everyone was treated equally and with respect. But to this set now, the opposition must die. But God, who is in charge of the affairs of human beings, has injected a new blood in politics and everyone saw the mass movement as soon as Atiku got the presidential ticket. The narrative will change and the era in which we will make several borrowings without any meaningful development will stop. There are some laws and bills we passed that could be reviewed.
Could you give us examples of that?
Most of these bills are government sponsored bills and in accordance with the dictates of the mind of Mr. President, not what the people want. Look at what changed recently in the Electoral Act. It is the electronic transmission of results that changed the narrative and prevented them from rigging. That instant transmission helped. By the time you get to the collation centre, you see what is transmitted with what they are reading; you will see that the whole equation is balanced. I give kudos to the Chairman of INEC (Prof Mahmood Yakubu) who has made up his mind to deliver to Nigeria a better democracy. If not for that initiative, they will rely on rigging. You will see that with the emergence of Senator Ademola Adeleke, more young people will emerge in various local government areas as members of the Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives and very soon, they will meet us at the Senate and we will teach them how to have a large heart.