Mr Dipo Olaitan, a lawyer elected on the ticket of Alliance for Democracy (AD) to House of Representatives, served from 1999 to 2003 as AD House Leader. He bares his mind to KUNLE ODEREMI on the antagonism he and other members faced over June 12 in the House.
WHAT do you make of the seeming hullabaloo trailing declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the post-humous award conferred on Late Mr MKO Abiola by the Federal Government?
The government action is a welcome idea. You can’t satisfy human beings. Many people have been longing and asking for something and eventually, they have got it and some people are now picking hole in it. There can never be any right time or wrong time once you get what you want to get. I remember when I was in the House in the National assembly, on several occasions, I led AD members into the House with Black Hand bands. We insisted that the Abiola issue must be discussed and each time we did, we were seated down; we were not allow to do it, with several walkouts, and all sorts of things to frustrate the issue. Nobody listened. But thanks to God it has been done. As far as I am concerned we did what we could and the little we did that time had effects. If everybody had kept quiet, nobody would talk about it again. We kept the flame on. Thanks to President Buhari for taking the action; he deserves our commendation for this. During our time, Obasanjo was the president of the country. He hails from the same place with Abiola. But, he didn’t want the name of Abiola to be mentioned at all. Now, some people are saying Buhari is part of the Abacha regime, and therefore, if he was part of Abacha some are saying his latest action is a masterstroke to hoodwink the South-West people to vote for him. If that is what he wants to do with it, let him do it. We have our own minds. As far as I am concerned, Buhari needs to be commended for the latest effort.
NASS is asking INEC to declare the June 12 election results since Buhari has made June 12 Democracy Day? Do you subscribe to that school of thought?
No, what benefit will you get from that except to complicate matters? It will just create an unnecessary complication in the system, because some people are saying they should declare the results and then pronounce Abiola president. What in effect shall we gain from that except complicate matter? It means you want to lay landmines for Buhari. Get me right, I do not love him, no iota of sympathy for him, but don’t lay landmines for him that he should go ahead and declare the results of june 12 and once the that is done, you declare Abiola president. If he declares Abiola president, and so what/ declare a dead man president? They just want to lay unnecessary landmines for him to fall down and then, they will start pulling him again.
Some say the president, if he is sincere, should go a step further by implementing report of either the 2014 National Conference or that of Mr Nasir el-Rufai Committee on restructuring set by APC, because fundamental lapses in the existing structure of the country created the June 12 debacle?
What has that got to do with the posthumous honour for Abiola and declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day? Abiola didn’t campaign election on restructuring. He didn’t equally win the election based on restructuring. Giving Abiola a posthumous national honour and making June 12 Democracy Day have nothing to do with restructuring. They are two different things; Abiola won an election; his campaign mantra was not restructuring. However, I am not saying we should not go ahead on calls for restructuring; we are on the side of restructuring and we will continue with the clamour for it. This (honouring of Abiola and others) is done, let it stay as it is. We thank God for this and let’s continue with our battle on restructuring; let the president accept the Confab report and execute it. Until he does that, we won’t give him rest.
You said you don’t like Mr President. What exactly do you mean?
I don’t like him because I have talked to the people from the Middle Belt zone. Because of what you see on the social media sometimes you get to a point that this can’t be true. But when you really talk to the people, the actual victims, you would realise that those things are real. You start to ask yourself: how can a whole president wait and allow such things to happen and he keeps quiet? I can’t get over it. Human beings being slaughtered like rams, and you sit down there and say you are president and you are not doing anything about? For that alone, the man shouldn’t be there for a day longer. What is the essence of you being head of state if you can’t guarantee the safety of lives? You are not giving us food to eat, we are not complaining; no electricity, no good roads, and we are not complaining. Can’t we live again? Can’t we have peace in our homes even if we are living in sheds? Only last week, herdsmen killed some people in Efon-Alaye in Ekiti State, and you are just keeping quiet; without doing anything about it. That for me alone, this man should not be there one second longer after his four-year tenure next year. The essence of governance is to save the lives and properties of the citizens. The very moment you cannot guarantee that you have no business being in government. On that score alone, he should not be there.
But where is the alternatives other parties are putting forward; there are reports about mutual suspicion and distrust, coupled with problem of ego among the contenders and party leaders?
Yes, I have my fears. We have less than eight months to the elections, if Nigerians don’t get their acts together, Buhari will come back. I am saying this with all seriousness. From the way things are going, we seem not be putting our acts together. PDP is the only big party. SDP has no money, but we are handicapped. We have people; we have a manifesto, but the system has been so bastardised that if you don’t have money, you can’t go far. And there are existing structures in the country that all you have to do is to oil those structures. But, how do you oil those structures without finance? APC has all the structures; PDP has all the structures. There is no other political party that has the structures again. All this thing Obasanjo or ADC is putting together, is all nonsense; it can’t work. It won’t even take off. Already people know Obasanjo; if you spend, he won’t even acknowledge your effort and contribution. So, nobody will follow him.
Your party, SDP and that of Obasanjo (ADC) were involved in alliance talks. Are you in effect saying you are not compatible politically speaking now?
National chairman of SDP and others went and met Obasanjo. The first thing he asked for was for us to go and bring the certificate of our party. He said he doesn’t want Mr Olu Falae as national chairman. Remember he contested with him in the presidential election in 1999. As far as he is concerned, he doesn’t want to see Falae at all. For that reason, he won’t touch SDP, and we have no problem. The totality of it all is that I don’t see any grand alliance coming up and you know the only thing that can change is if peradventure, if APC cannot manage nPDP, that is the PDP within the APC, and they move out of the APC, then there is problem on the ground.
So, you do not envisage nPDP teaming up with your party (SDP) as well Obasanjo’s ADC forming an alliance and going ahead to create an electoral upset in 2019?
I can say that there are moves but, already you can see the hands of Buhari, going by unfolding political situation in the country. He is going to try to intimidate some people, show them red card. You can see what is happening to Senate president, Mr Bukola Saraki. However strong Saraki may be, he has a baggage to deal with now. And a lot of people around him who have similar problems around them, they will be thinking about what to do for themselves now. I pray that something happens, but if we are not careful, Buhari will come back.