By Dayo Johnson, Akure
Hon Isaac Kekemeke is a former Minority Leader of Ondo State House of Assembly, the pioneer Chairman of National Examination Council, NECO, Secretary to the State Government and, until recently, the Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo. In this interview, Kekemeke speaks on contemporary issues.
What is your assessment of the just concluded general elections at the federal and state levels?
Well, I believe that Nigerians deserve to be congratulated for this unbroken 20 years of democratic experience. Generally, the elections were fair and the outcomes, in my view, represent the general will of the people. The increase in the violence leading to deaths, ballot snatching, collation centre destruction and the militarization of the exercise are, however, worrisome. Though it does appear that these developments are a reaction to the foreclosure of some other vices like ballot-stuffing, vote-buying that plagued the electoral process, by and large, the important thing is that the outcomes represent the general will of the people.
In Ondo, APC lost the presidential election. What do you think is responsible for this?
If the truth must be said as I think we should, we lost in that election because we were firing the cylinder from too many directions. All of us wanted President Buhari to win but we were disunited. There was no central command and rallying point as was the case in 2015. As for the National Assembly elections, it was clear that some highly placed people in the party engaged in anti-party activities by raising and supporting candidates in another party (AA). So while we were united about President Buhari winning the election, we disagreed and were not united on the various Senate or House of Representative seats in a number of constituencies particularly in about six of the constituencies and we lost.
If you were to be the governor, what would you have done differently?
The biggest challenge was created by the governor himself. I have respect for his person but my view has always been that when you win an election, you don’t begin to revenge. You take no revenge once you have won. What to do is to bring everybody together; you no longer have a team of your own and everybody in the party becomes yours. Even beyond that, everybody in the state should be yours. I believe the governor was not and is still not magnanimous in victory. If I were to be the governor, that’s what I would have done. This is exactly what I did when I became the Chairman of the party. I brought everybody together as it didn’t matter whether you liked me or not. For example, when I won the chairmanship seat in the 2014 state congress, the governor didn’t support me but I went to Ibadan twice to see him and to solicit his support for my administration. That is the way to go.
Let’s talk about the party in Ondo. There seems not to be concord among chieftains and a lot of people have fingered that as one of the reasons the party is not really moving forward in the state.
You are right. There are too many tendencies within the party in the state and it was partly responsible for the reversal of our electoral gains of 2015.
Now that we all have seen what exclusion and disunity can fetch us, we should all put the past behind us and embrace peace. The election is a periodic thing and you will always need a party. The more united a party is, the easier it is for it to win elections. So the ball is still in the governor’s court.
Governorship election is coming up next year, what should the governor do to retain the state? Do you still see the party retaining Ondo with this rancour? I am very optimistic that our party will still win the next gubernatorial election in Ondo but not without hard work. What happened in Oyo, Adamawa and Imo states is instructive. We need to start putting the party together. More so that I foresee an election before the election, there is the need to stabilize the party now to avert disaster. The earlier our party is put together, the better for us.
There are rumours that you want to contest to be governor in the state. Is it true?
Of course, in advanced democracies, this is the time a lot of things happen. Every citizen of this state who has the requisite qualifications stipulated in our constitution has a right to aspire and I think I am qualified. I am looking at the availability of the opportunity and also looking at whether it is explorable and then take a decision after due consultations.
If eventually, you decide to run, what are some of the things you plan to do?
Looking at my involvement in the politics of this state in the last 27years and having moved through the legislature, the executive and with some insight into the judiciary; and having worked in the PDP as pioneer Secretary and APC as pioneer Chairman, I will ensure that our party is one irrespective of individuals inclination in the primary election. I will primarily focus on education, access to health, employment generation, agriculture and industries.
What about the health sector where nothing seems to be happening now?
The present government is doing its best but much more can still be done. We ought to focus more attention on primary health care and make sure that the programme that the Agagu administration instituted is reinvigorated by ensuring that all the political wards have functional basic health centres and also that the 26 hospitals across the state function properly with qualified medical personnel.
Of course, there is a need for active and sustained partnership and collaboration with all governmental and non- governmental actors in the health sector.
Take a peep into the next four years of President Buhari and tell us what you think Nigerians should expect?
President Muhammadu Buhari is very easy to read. He is not a man of too many words. During the 2015 and 2019 elections, he didn’t speak too elaborately, so it is easy to read him and know what he is going to do. He will reinvigorate the fight against corruption. In the next four years, the defeat of Boko Haram will be a priority and not just technical. I mean Boko Haram will be physically defeated. I join other Nigerians to wish for a better standard of living. I foresee a consolidation of the efforts in agriculture so that, in a short while, Nigeria will be able to feed herself. On the fight against corruption, some people have labelled it as selective but for me, a selective fight against corruption is still better than no fight at all. The President should, however, make sure that members of his administration who have committed breaches to be prosecuted without delay. Luckily, the President has indicated his resolve to do so. I will also want the President to conclude the reformation of the electoral system before the next round of elections. As much as possible, our elections process should employ more technology. Between now and 2023, everything should be done to allow for electronic voting and electronic computation of result.
Q-What do you think of the suspension of Governor Akeredolu from APC? Do you think the party has handled it well?
A- Everyone in Ondo APC believes the governor has issues with the national leadership of our party on allegation of anti-party activities. Even though the state is rife with rumours of the governor’s suspension from the party, there is neither confirmation nor rebuttal from the party national leadership. It is only a matter of time before we know the truth.
Q-There is a clamour for the dissolution of the Ondo executive of the party. Do you share the view?
A- I do not want to sound vindictive but the bitter truth known to many a party man is that Ondo APC deserves better leadership than it currently has.
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