The Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi, is one of the longest serving speakers in the country today. He has occupied the position for over six years. Many have described the assembly under his leadership as peaceful unlike what obtained in the past. He was first elected speaker in 2011 as a first term legislator. He was re-elected in 2015.
In this interview, he submits that he is not desperate, but determined to succeed Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Excerpts
Y OUR assembly has passed a bill on land grabbing, kidnapping and armed robbery. As the Speaker, why was so much effort put into the making of this law?
Our people are really pleased with the anti-land grabbing law. They are happy and since the bill was presented, I have been receiving so many thank you calls. Our understanding of the needs of our people informed the efforts we put into the making of the new law. Secondly, you just mentioned the fact that Lagos State has earlier made the same move. It is therefore instructive that we should act swiftly to ensure that displaced criminals from Lagos do not regroup here in Ogun State to continue their nefarious activities.
The bill came at the right time and during the gestation period, all stakeholders were invited and they had their input. And it is not surprising that as soon as the bill was passed, His Excellency, the Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, signed it into law. We believe that with this law, we have ended the menace of Ajagungbale, kidnappers and cultists in Ogun State.
What has been the people’s response since the law came into being?
So far so good; following the signing of the bill into law, we have seen a decline in the activities of these criminals in Ogun State. They have withdrawn into their shells. They are conscious of the new law and they know the implication. Land grabbing, armed robbery and kidnapping are gradually being checkmated. Even before the law, Ogun State has never been a comfort zone for criminals.
The PDP says it is repositioning itself to displace the ruling APC from the Government House in 2019. Are you worried about this?
Every marketer will tell you his product is the best. So, I am not surprised about the claim of the PDP. But you must know that this government is a product of contests. We have contested many elections and we are still contesting elections. Why then should we be worried about another political party’s claim to being prepared for an election? We are not worried. Rather, we are equally prepared and ready for the next election.
The APC is all over the place with various activities by various stakeholders in preparation for the election too. So, it is about who reaches out to the people the most. Our people are not daft. They know what they want. They know the people who gave them good governance. We have a lot of things to showcase as far as governance is concerned. So, we are not worried at all.
The opposition party has also been condemning the creation of Local Council Development Areas in the state. What is your take?
I ask people to always consider the reasons for the creation of the LCDAs first before anything. Those condemning it should also tell us if the reason is good or bad. The reason why we supported the creation of new LCDAs is to make government closer to the people at the grassroots. For many years, our people asked for this to be done.
The LCDAs are just taking off after their creation and election of chairmen and councillors. We need to allow them to carry out some processes that will lead to stability, and I believe that by the time that is done, the inactivity of the local government will be addressed. That will be the time to appraise the new LCDAs and give verdicts.
I firmly believe that with the creation of the new LCDAs, things will get better at the grassroots level. What is left now is for the people to give maximum support to the new administrations at the council level. Same thing was done in Lagos State many years ago. Now, they are up and doing. I strongly believe that our state would get to that level soon.
There are also talks about division within the ruling party.
I wouldn’t know what people mean by division. The term division is relative, especially in politics. When we are approaching election like this, there will be clashes of interest, even within the same political party. That, to me is not division or crisis. It is politics. What is important is the ability of the leadership and chieftains to manage the situation in such a way that at the end of it all, we will continue to see ourselves as one big happy family.
And you think these clashes of interests will not create crisis?
I don’t see any division happening. Towards the 2015 election, the situation was the same as this and we were able to surmount it. So, this is not a big issue for us in APC. With the understanding of all the stakeholders and the maturity of the governor, who is the leader of the party, I want to believe the situation will not get out of hand. Governor Amosun is a father to all and he knows how best to ensure that all ends well.
Some say there are too many aspirants in Ogun APC. Do you think so?
I don’t think so. If you ask me, I will say it is wrong to say there is crisis because there are too many aspirants in our party. Election is an exercise of ones right. We all have right to vote and be voted for. In APC today, we have aspirants who are willing to serve their people. We are still electing many more people to join the race.
You are an aspirant too. Why do you think you should be the next governor?
To God be the glory for keeping me alive till today. I want to appreciate Governor Ibikunle Amosun for his support for me as a politician and Speaker. I thank all the stakeholders for being with me this far in the service of Ogun State. And having come this far with the support of the people, and having done so much as the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the best thing to do is to offer oneself for service at the next level.
So, my governorship ambition is in continuation of service to the good people of Ogun State. And I always say this that amongst all aspirants in the APC, none of them can boast of the working experience I have, especially in governance and in terms of working with the executive arm of government. This is a huge advantage for me and for the people of Ogun State. I have the highest longevity in service. None of them can match me in many of these things.
I am grateful that I worked with Governor Amosun, who is someone who gives a lot of opportunities to those working with him to excel. Coupled with the fact that we share the same ideas about how best Ogun State should be administered. I want to tell you that I am not desperate, but I am determined to be the next governor of Ogun State.
What is your take on Ogun West’s agitation for the governorship?
I will only enjoin our people to first and foremost do everything within our capacity to support the current administration wholeheartedly. That is the first thing to do if we are sincere about the Yewa agenda. This administration is committed to the cause of Ogun West. Secondly, we need to be more matured about how we go about the whole agitation.
It is a position for just one person. We can have numerous aspirants, but it is only one person that will emerge as governor. So, as a people, we must go about our aspirations and agitations maturely. We must avoid rancor within us. If we are divided, there is no way we will achieve our desire. Unity and maturity are key factors too.
We should see the race as a collective one even when we know that only one person will emerge as winner. We must therefore shun the politics of hatred. We must open the door for all aspirants to participate and see all of them as our sons and daughters. We must put behind us the things that divide us and embrace the things that unite us together.
We must also reach out to the two other zones for support. We must appeal to our people in Ogun East and in Ogun Central for support and understanding. We must jettison this idea that we must produce the governor in 2019 simply because it is the turn of Ogun West. Not at all! Anybody can seek to be governor. But we must crave the understanding of the people of the other two zones to allow us produce the governor.
We should see the aspiration of all aspirants as a collective pursuit. No aspirant can go it alone. We need ourselves and Ogun West needs all of us. If I am chosen as the party’s flag-bearer today, I cannot do it alone. I will need all the other aspirants. So, we must be conscious of what we are doing and how we are doing it if we want to succeed in 2019.
What efforts have you made to reach out to the other zones you mentioned?
The truth of the matter is that since I declared my intention to seek the governorship ticket of my party, the AP[C, I have been going round meeting people within and outside Ogun West, to intimate them of my desire. And as I am doing this, I am reminding them of their promises to support Ogun West for governorship in 2019.
There is no way we will not reach out to them. Even if one becomes the candidate of one’s party, they have vital roles to play. It is on the strength of this that I have been moving round, talking to people ahead of the election. In Ogun East and Ogun West, I have met the leaders and the stakeholders to intimate them of my ambition.
I don’t want to wait until I become candidate before reaching out to these people and zones because the success of both the Ogun West agenda and my personal governorship ambition rely on these people. A lot depends on how best we can convince the other zones to support us. Politics is a game of numbers, so we need the other zones to support our agenda.