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Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, spoke with SOLA ADEYEMO on the crisis in Oyo APC, among other issues. Excerpts:

What is your relationship with Governor Abiola Ajimobi?

With all due respect, my relationship with Ajimobi’s family did not start with the governor. It started with his most respectable father who is also my father and with whom I was a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly at the same time.

Because of that history which cannot be excised, one will expect that our relationship could be better than this but when I am through with my explanation, people will know the person that is right or wrong between us. Apart from having been a colleague to Baba Gani Ajimobi, with due respect, I am also the oldest political actor in the state in terms of years of political practice because I started politics in 1977 while I was still a student at the Obafemi Awolowo University.

As at that time, I was in court holding meetings with late Pa Obafemi Awolowo and those meetings included committee of friends which later became Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). As young as I was then, just a little above 20, I participated in the writing and formulation of the policy papers of the UPN which became the four cardinal points of the UPN.

In what way has your political experience affected that of Ajimobi?

You will recall that in 2007 when Chief Rashidi Ladoja was the governor, I was at that time the Attorney General of the state. It was during that time that Ajimobi contested for the governorship.

By the time he was contesting, because my boss then, Chief Ladoja, was not given a ticket to contest under the PDP, he gave Ajimobi all the support of his people because he announced publicly that everybody should vote for Ajimobi, and people massively voted for him. That was his first outing and he was voted for massively by the grace of Ladoja at that time.

When he lost, Ladoja called me and said as an Attorney General, I should go and set up a legal team that would fight for Ajimobi who obviously had been robbed in the election. I set up a legal team, appointing Niyi Akintola (SAN) to handle the case.

We paid N25m to assist Ajimobi in his case despite the fact that he had contested under the platform of ANPP and we were in PDP. For everyday that the case came up in court, I was always personally present to assist Niyi Akintola in the case.

We moved on to Court of Appeal, but again unfortunately we lost that as well. All this made us to become more friendly because of the support and sacrifices I had given him.

Thereafter we remained friends, till 2011 when Buhari established the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC). I became the governorship candidate of the CPC and Ajimobi was the governorship candidate for ACN.

We contested together and so I think that was the point of division, when things started going asunder. He won that election clearly, and I went to his house to congratulate him. The day I went, Governor Rauf Aregbesola was also there.

Then in 2015, we had established APC, and as I was coming from CPC, Ajimobi was coming from ACN, so we met in APC. The agreement pact that we had at the meeting then was that all parties were to contribute membership into the exco of APC in all the wards of the state but he used some kind of machinery to shut us out. The CPC didn’t have any input in the formations of the executive.

Was that where the strained relationship got worsened?

You see, a few people who joined his team or group were given very juicy positions, but I as a leader of CPC was not given anything. This triggered my going to court to challenge the formation.

I was still in court when my nomination was announced on the television as a minister. Ordinarily, you would have expected him to be happy because that would have saved him from the headache of court cases, but unfortunately, instead of being happy about it, he launched an attack against me that he would make sure I was not confirmed by the Senate.

He also went to Mr. President to persuade him not to use me as his minister, alleging that I, Bayo Shittu, did not work for APC in the last election, despite that I was the Chief Collating Officer of the APC in my local government area.

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I eventually got appointed as a minister and since that time as the only minister from Oyo State, I automatically became a senior person in the party. But as a senior party officer, I have never for once been invited for any political meeting in the state. I have always been excluded from all the party meetings.

Hasn’t there been any attempt at reconciling the two of you by the party leaders?

About six months ago, we held a meeting of the South West APC at the Agodi Government House. The meeting had Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Olusegun Osoba in attendance.

Ajimobi who said the reconciliation committee had not done their job well, disclosed that he and I are fighting. They asked him what caused the fight and he said whenever I saw him, I would be greeting him saying egbon, but in his absence, I would be saying that I would deal with him.

The reconciliation dragged too long. When I met him later, he said there was no more fight, that I should tell my people that we had reconciled. We left in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere, and three days later, I called to thank him for that meeting.

If that was the case, how come both of you are still at ‘war’?

It was when the issue of a parcel of land that was given to me by the Saki Parapo came up. I wanted to use it for the ICT project that came up. I approached the governor to intervene in the matter and he told me that he would wade in to see how it would be settled. I was happy that on his own accord, he initiated that.

But few days after the discussion, the government through their caretaker chairman, took a bulldozer to the place, bulldozed and levelled the whole place including all the over 2,000 blocks there.

I was also told that they went with 10 Tipper lorries with which they parked the rubble and used it to level the potholes in the town of Saki to Ogboroo Road. When I saw that, I phoned the governor immediately, but he didn’t pick the calls. Then I sent a text message to him.

Till now despite that the subject matter is still in court, he has not called me on the matter. Some people around him said when my message got to him, he said ‘that bush boy is the one calling and sending me messages’.

What of the issue of local government election which you and members of the Unity Forum boycotted?

We have been having disagreement over the issue of local government because the constitution says we must have three tiers of government, and it gives guidelines for the framework of each.

If we now have a state governor that for eight years refused to organise local government elections, and at the dusk of his leaving office, is now desperate to organise local government elections and even against all democratic principles, then it becomes an issue.

I have always criticised him. A date was fixed for primaries, but he insisted that there cannot be primaries, that he will have to choose who will represent the party.

I insisted that such process was not proper and not democratic. Before the election, Ajimobi had in mind that his people would not obtain forms. He just prepared a list of party nominees, which he presented to the congress committee from Abuja, telling them that we do not need to have a congress, but the committee declined and said they were not sent to Oyo State to collect names but to conduct a peaceful congress.

They thereafter left his office. And mind it, we had collected 9,000 forms and got our bank tellers. They called us for the stakeholders’ meeting on Saturday at the party secretariat, but thugs were sent to attack us.

Two of the committee members sent from Abuja were even injured in the attack where the thugs fired shots. The leader of the committee, Musa Halilu, even confirmed the attack when he said that their lives were threatened. They used the thugs on us so that the forms we obtained would not be used eventually. We have our forms as evidence, and the courts would soon decide.

Source: New Telegraph

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