Why Okun wants to pull out of the North - Olusule Tunde Olusule is a chieftain of the PDP from Kogi State. He speaks on the national conference, politics of Kogi State and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Some are saying the national confab is not necessary. What is your opinion?
I think it is already serving some purpose, the expression of pent-up anger by Nigerians over a host of things which people are generally disaffected with. The 492 delegates there are speaking the minds of many Nigerians. In Theater Arts, there is what we call purgation of catharsis, whereby somebody who is aggrieved is encouraged to weep so as to get it out of the system. So even if that is what the conference achieves, it is serving the purposes and I think it is desirable. I also hope with the seriousness attached to it and the caliber of people representing us, it will serve the purpose, especially if it addresses problems of imbalance in the federation, and issues that have bothered the people that they want to break away.
Some are of the view that most of the delegates at the conference are the same people that caused the nation’s problem. What is your take on this?
I don’t think the delegates are the ones that caused the problem because Nigeria celebrated centenary this year and historians would say the problem of Nigeria has been with Nigeria since inception and there is nobody in that confab that is 100 years. So it will not be right for us to say that those at the confab are the people that caused the problem of Nigeria. If you talk about representation yes, may be the parameter for representation was not properly defined before the conference and that is another matter. I believe there will be another conference. When President Obasanjo held a national conference in 2005, nobody knew we were going to have another one. There is a study that was commissioned by an agency of government, The People of Nigeria’, I have a friend who is the editor of the series and in the cost of research they discovered that we have 428 ethnicities in Nigeria, and it comes back to what I have said that we did not probably define our parameter to take representative along ethnic lines. By taking one from each ethnic group, we would have 428 delegates but government in its wisdom decided to broaden it.
As an Okun elite what will you define as the real interest of Okun people?
I don’t know whether you were in Kabba in March this year when the joint Okun paper was presented by the Okun Development Association. Tracing the trajectory of Okun man, the oppression and the marginalization the Okun man has suffered over time, and the nomadism that had attended our geo- political life. First, we were in Kwara and now we are in Kogi and unfortunately it does seem that our fortune are worsened in Kogi State, which is what we also captured in our visit to the governor. In a nutshell, principal among the things we are asking for is, we want a situation that the issue of power rotation is entrenched in the Constitution. We are also canvassing a state of our own. We did this earlier and also when the federal government constituted the constitution review committee. We are still under advocacy. We have given about four or five scenarios. The Okun people for instance want to be completely detached from the North because we have no cultural and linguistic affinity with the North. So we are saying in remodeling or redesignating the geopolitical zone which we belong, it is either we are called central or mid west. And our people are also clamouring for a state, we are saying that since Kogi State was created on August 27, 1991, from old Benue and Kwara State, those of us from the old Kwara should stay together, that is Kogi central and the west which is a great possibility. Another alternative we also postulate is that let’s stay on our own as Okun people because in terms of numbers, we are not too small, if you add Oworo component in Lokoja local government, hypothetically, we can be talking about six local governments. When Bayelsa was created in 1996, it has about six or seven local governments, and in terms of number we are equal even if not more. We have a population of over one million and I think that is not too small. Also, If that is not going to work let us have an Okun State with Okun people in Kogi, Kwara, Ekit and Ondo states, we can come together to form a state. We can also have an Okun state by bringing Igbomina of Kwara so that we can form a State. The bottom line is that we want the national conference to redress and address the issue of subjugation, underdevelopment, crass marginalization which we have serially suffered over time.
Where do you think the nation got it wrong politically?
I think it is all wrong perception but it is just unfortunate that at some point in the evolution of politic we allowed our culture, ethics and value eroded and don’t forget that people are in politics to serve. We must begin to play the politics of Benue people. The Tiv nation has been dominant in the politics of Benue State and the way they do it is that they don’t make rich men their governor, they look for people who had achieved in their own right and they would not monetize the position, so that people would be able to hold the person accountable. Former governors like, Late Reverend Moses Adasu became governor 1992 and Senator George Akume, was a director of protocol in the Benue state civil service as well as special assistant to Dr Iyocha Ayu when he was in the Senate. Gabriel Suswam was a former Rep member and he would tell you he was not necessarily the richest person during the 2007 primary election. At the end of the day, the elders would sit down to say ‘who are we go to give the position?’ I am close to Akume and Suswam and I have discovered that when their elders visit the government house, they are kept not waiting in the waiting room as the Governor pleads with whoever he is meeting with at that time to say the people who put me here are here to see me. So we must get to that point when we would hold our representatives accountable.
Where do you stand in 2015?
I am a PDP man, beginning from 2009, I was consulting with my people because I wanted to represent them at the level of the Senate. We have three federal constituencies in Kogi West , one is Lokoja/koto which has produced Senator Tunde Ogbeha from 1999 to 2003, he played by the rules and left even when he could have continued. Senator Smart Adeyemi won in 2007 and we also voted for him in 2011 and the understanding was that the senatorial seat will move to Yagba federal constituency. Now beyond moving to Yagba federal constituency, some people wanted it reduced to local government. People also said the first senator in Kogi West was Chief Olubode Olu from Yagba West, we produced Chief Funsho Obasaju though short-lived, we also produced Senator S.B. Awoniyi under the Babangida political transition, making it three. We also produced Senator Ado Shaibu from Kotonkarfe under the botched UNCP arrangement. It was because of that botched one that we said it was still the turn of Lokoja /Koto, so let us support them in 1999 for Senator Tunde Ogbeha. So Senator Adeyemi from IJumu local government is the sixth senator from the western senatorial district. So people will tell you that it is not only the turn of Yagba federal constituency but that of Yagba East local government which had not produced a senator. I ran to the point of primaries the other day before we were asked to collapse our structure for Senator Adeyemi to come in a second time. So I am in the race for the senate of the federal republic of Nigeria in 2015.
But some say there’s no vacancy in Kogi West senatorial district as the incumbent is being supported to remain there….
Indeed, the name of the President has been mentioned but I think we should advise people not to take the name of the President in vain because it cannot be substantiated that the President would want to focus on one senatorial zone out of 109. I do know the President as a democrat knows the importance of mass participation and the risk of imposition. There is internal convention everywhere. It is not about the Constitution now but about internal convention. You and I know that in our various communities in the process of producing an Oba, the next community takes over from the first one. I think people have to be very careful because our people will vehemently oppose any attempt to impose a candidate on them and they are going to be united on it irrespective of the political party.