Former Ogun State Deputy Governor, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, now of Social Democratic Party (SDP), represents Ogun East Senatorial zone in the Senate. In this interview with News Editor, Ajibola Abayomi, he speaks on his scorecard and why he fell out with the incumbent governor of the state, Ibikunle Amosun of All Progressives Congress (APC), the platform that elected him into the Senate in 2011. Excerpts:
You were part of APC that defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State in 2011, now you are in SDP, do you think your new party is strong enough to displace the ruling party in the coming general elections in the state?
Be rest assured that SDP is doing all that is necessary to win elections in Ogun State at all levels. During the last poll, we were in Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before the party metamorphosed into APC. The party won because we had the people on our side not because of influence of moneybags. SDP is aware of those who think their wealth can buy votes, but by the grace of God, they will be disappointed because our strength lies in the people. History will repeat itself again. People of like minds are reuniting in SDP.
So you are confident of wining the Ogun East Senatorial election again even as an opposition candidate?
I have worked conscientiously for the people. With the integrity, we have built in them over the years as their representative, I am sure of victory.
At what point did your group decided to quit APC?
The young democracy we are nursing is still evolving, as there is no clear-cut ideological political party yet. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in his last speech to the members of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) many years ago, predicted that a time would come when people of like minds would come together under the progressives’ banner and champion an ideology to rescue the country while those who are conservative would form their own party. He said that among the two groups, the electorate would have a choice to decide which party should lead them. Under the APC, we were very close to bringing the progressives together, however, some conservative elements were inadvertently brought into the party and they became the albatross of that process. Under the SDP, we are back at it again like we tried in 1993 under the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida when he annulled the result of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. As Awolowo said, a time will come when the thesis and antithesis will compete to ensure that all like minds are grouped under a particular political party. Right now, we are in the process of regrouping and reunifying the progressives to ensure that all the bad elements are shown the way out. By the time we stamp our authority in Ogun State, people will know that we have arrived because we are the fattest growing party in Nigeria as at today. However, we are dealing with human dynamics. To a large extent, you can’t predict the attitude of a man perfectly when you are not God. But what I can tell you is that with time, we will cross these dynamics.
What will you do differently if you are re-elected?
I can only improve on what I have done, which the people have acknowledged as near ideal performance, given the circumstances we found ourselves. You don’t change a winning team. Within the time I have represented the people of Ogun East, I have made an impact as member of the Constitution Review Committee. I have seven clear bills tabled before the Senate. Two of the bills have passed through the final reading and are awaiting the assent of Mr. President. Three others are in the third reading stage. Do I want to be Mr. Know All? If at the end of the day about 20 bills are passed by the Senate and I have two to my credit, I am fulfilled. I have over-stretched myself and my budget to execute several community projects. I have initiated projects to fill the missing gaps created by Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who misplaced the people’s priority by concentrating on a single sector and neglecting the rest. On health, I set up a mobile clinic, provided free drugs, and built primary health centres in several communities in my senatorial districts. On education, many of the classrooms in primary and secondary schools were either pulled down or reconstructed where were necessary. I also inculcated a maintenance culture in the schools in my senatorial zone. I also put in place a free loan scheme to empower traders. On road construction, I have three to my credit. I have also constructed bridges that link villages. I can only consolidate on what I have done because people have said that I have performed excellently.
When you were in APC, you once said that government at all levels had failed the nation, do you still hold that view?
Government at all levels, be it federal, state and local government have failed the people. The federal and state governments including my own state government have not achieved 50 per cent budgetary performance. Only two or three states have been able to do that under the current dispensation because money being voted for capital projects is less than the recurrent expenditure. Check the records, both the Federal Government and many states appropriated huge sums of money to themselves through recurrent expenditure. So when you hear them boasting that they have raised the standard of living of the masses and that several projects have been initiated, they are just deceiving the people because what they budgeted to take care of people’s need under capital projects is too small compared to what they pocket. If you think you have contrary statistics to prove me wrong then challenge me to a debate. I have said that all the governments and elected politicians, including myself, have failed the electorate. The only exception is that within my microscopic senatorial zone, I have partially done my best, which the people have rated as excellent. I am of the view that the electorate deserves more and we could do more if the environment is made conducive. I am not satisfied with the overall performance of the political class in this dispensation and I have no apology over that.
What do you consider to be the ideal needs of the people that the government is not addressing?
The needs of our people in Ogun State and, by extension, in Nigeria include good roads in all the rural areas. That will serve a lot of purposes and will help to curb rural urban migration. The mediocre administrators are over-emphasising development of urban areas, forgetting that the real urban renewal should start from rural communities. Most of the goods that we export for foreign currency earnings to enhance economy are in the rural communities. All these will not come if government continues to shun those areas. Basic needs of life like water, food and electricity are not made available to my people in Ogun East and there’s nothing like primary health care courtesy of the state government. By neglecting the rural areas, I can tell you that the future is not certain because the raw materials that will serve as alternative to crude oil are in those areas.
Your senatorial zone is a victim of all you have pointed out; to what extent have you championed the cause of your people at the National Assembly?
I was at the forefront of those who believe we have no subsidy remaining on our crude oil. I refused to not support subsidy removal because it was a fraud against Nigerians. It is actually the poor people on the streets that are subsidising the inefficiency of government; the inefficiency created by having crude oil on our shores and the government’s refusal to add value. We have the crude oil on our shores; all we needed was value addition. Take out the cost of transportation, insurance and fretting of crude oil, which the government hides under to deceive the people, so what are we subsidising? In 1999, when the crude oil price was between $10 and $20, I called for the diversification of the economy through agriculture. I wrote a personal letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and nothing was done. I even resuscitated the agitation at the Senate. I said then that the price of crude oil that was around $110 to $125 per barrel was capable of falling back to the same $10 if we don’t develop other sources of income. The oil dropped from $110 to $50. If really, Okonjo-Iweala, as coordinating minister of the economy, is subjecting our economy to open market, by now, the price of petrol should have been further reduced below the current N87 per litre. The crude oil is the main issue, and if its price has fallen by more than 50 per cent, then President Goodluck Jonathan is fooling Nigerians with N87 per litre. I am praying that the crude oil price should fall to an abysmal level so that we will be forced to seek alternative to oil money and work hard to embrace dignity of labour, so that the pseudo entrepreneurs in Port Harcourt and Abuja stealing our crude oil will vanish. The bill I initiated tackles cybercrime and will help to stem the menace of Internet fraud popularised by yahoo yahoo boys. I thank my colleges in the Senate for their support. I also initiated a bill on agriculture value addition, which seeks to enhance development in the rural communities by compelling those in charge to do so. Not only that, it also helps farmers to earn hard currency from their farm produce. Well, I have done mine in the area of legislation; it is for those in the executive to implement those bills. Don’t forget that I also have a bill on animal science, which gives support to animal science institution.
You filed a suit to challenge Governor Amosun’s decision to scrap some higher institutions in Ogun State sometimes ago; do you have any regrets over that?
Two institutions were to be scrapped from my constituency. Out of the 36 states in the federation, Ogun State has the highest concentration of tertiary institutions when you talk of both public and private schools. Despite that, not up to 35 per cent of our indigenes looking for tertiary admission get it. That means that the demand is more than supply. If that is the case, it is only reasonable for you to add more supply to take care of the demand so that there won’t be inflation. Rather than doing that, without any consultation with anybody, not even with me as a senator representing a sizable population in the state, the governor announced that he was going to scrap those institutions. For God sake, I was not defying him but I was fulfilling the expectation of my people because it will be foolish of me to allow him to scrap the institutions without even passing through the state House of Assembly that instituted the law that established those schools. Therefore, the only institution that was left for me to approach to stop him was the court. I never hesitated to stop the illegal act. I have no regrets or whatsoever, for my action, even if the opportunity presents itself again and similar action is taken, I will even do so with greater enthusiasm.
You are not in the ruling party in the state, how do you intend to muster support to guard your votes against any likely attempt to rig the election?
My absolute reliance is on God and the people. It is God that gives power. If you have been following my antecedents in politics, I have never hired thugs or policemen to follow me around. If I am given security details by the government, I will take because it is my right, but for reasons best known to the institution in charge of that, they have not extended such a gesture to me. I am not bothered about that because I have greater security in almighty Allah. All along, people that have been defending my mandate at the poll, with the kind of enlighten society we have in Ogun State, will always defend their votes. Whoever does not want to incur the wrath of God and that of the people should not attempt to rig the election because the consequences will be too grave.
So, what joker is SDP banking on to win Ogun State?
The joker is hard work and more hard work to win the confidence of the electorate. SDP is ready to do the bidding of the people. What we stand for is integrity, credibility and reliability on the people.
When you were deputy governor, you were always in Ijebu-Igbo attending to your farm, why don’t you spend your holidays in Abeokuta, the state capital, or other cities like Lagos, or abroad?
It is a forgone conclusion. When I was working in Lagos, as a young man many years ago, I used to go to work from Sagamu everyday. When Shagamu was becoming too cosmopolitan for my comfort, I relocated to Ijebu-Igbo with my family 20 years ago. My belief is that human needs are so minimal except you want to over-stretch yourselves. I am more comfortable here at Ijebu-Igbo because it is so easy for me to wake up by 7a.m. and go to my farm and do whatever I want to do. Ijebu-Igbo is the second largest city in Ogun State. However, I have to dig my own well when government could not provide water for us. I am connected to the rural people so I know what they feel. That is why I have to provide a mobile clinic when the people are challenged. Sometimes, I even decide to stay put in my farm for three or four weeks without having anything to do with the town when I have no business there. That is why I will continue to agitate for a better life for the rural dwellers. I don’t believe that by concentrating development at the urban areas, we will make headway, as a nation. The farmers will increase productivity if life is more comfortable for them. Development should be evenly spread. I am not too comfortable but I don’t need all those excesses in the cities to live a normal life.