Chief Olabisi Ilaka, prominent Oyo High Chief and technocrat, is the PDP senatorial candidate for Oyo Central District. In this interview with integrityreporters, he expresses his passion for national reforms, especially on the need for the Nigerian state to be restructured.Excerpts:
Q: How did you emerge unopposed as PDP senatorial flagbearer for Oyo Central District?
A: This time round, it’s been a little bit of a journey, our leaders called us and said why not come together and decide on a candidate. So, the party came together. At that point in time, I had gone around the 11 local governments that make up the senatorial district. Some people left in the process to other parties but those of us that resolved to remain in the PDP promised to unite. We talked to each other, that in order to avoid all forms of acrimony, we had to observe the principle of true internal democracy. Coming up to the primaries-because this is a normal game as everybody knows it, the other aspirants reached an understanding with me and that was it. So, I became the party’s candidate.
Q: What are your programmes for Oyo Central District, if elected senator?
A: We want to give people more money for their sweat, in their rural and urban areas. Creating wealth for these people would be something that I will pursue with all passion. We will also promote technological knowhow to the advantage of our teeming young population. People will vote on the basis of who is presenting the best candidate and they know me very well, and have confidence in me. Besides, I will go the senate to legislate on things that will attract development to our teeming youth population, especially as we have in Oyo Central District. I will also push for the restructuring of the Nigerian state, in concert with people of like minds.
Q: How do you intend to push for the restructuring of the country?
A: This presidential system in my own view, is too expensive. The money we spend on both the executive arm and the National Assembly can actually create a lot of schools, hospitals and the stuff. I won’t say I have a solution to the restructuring thing really but I will propose we go back to the regional system whereby we will have regional parliament and a national parliament. Those regions would have their own independent strategies for development, and grow at their own pace. A region can emerge as the food basket of the nation while another as the nation’s technological giant; it’s nobler than this idea of going cap-in-hand to the central to collect monthly handouts.
Q: What gives you the confidence that you can defeat Senator Teslim Folarin of the APC, who is a tested politician?
A: You need to bear in mind that, the last two elections, I scored double the votes the PDP candidate had scored on each outing. Teslim Folarin, when he even contested for governor on the platform of PDP in 2015, and I contested on the platform of Accord Party, I scored more votes than him. So, these are facts that are available generally. The records of those two-time senator in the Oyo Central district and his predecessor are abysmal. And that will be put to scrutiny by the people of Oyo Central Senatorial district. So, I think I have come to the poll with precisions and projections. And I am connected with our people over a long period of time. I am well known to my people. My brand is stronger because I am with the people and it is what they want that they get. These put me in good stead to win at the polls
Q: So how about the general perception that people are unwilling to vote PDP again over accusations that the party largely performed woefully for its 15 years of rule?
A: Well, post-2015, a lot of people felt the party (PDP) which had challenges had been retooled. The problem we had, had to do with that of internal democracy. But from the various primary elections we have had across the country, with little or no acrimony, you’ll be convinced that the party is back and stronger. The challenge we had was the issue of internal democracy, and that has been resolved. What do they mean by saying that for 15 years PDP didn’t do anything? Everybody knows that it is patent falsehood. One of the achievements of the PDP is that we brought up strong institutions. EFCC, ICPC came through PDP, and it goes on like that. The PDP brought to the fore, different mechanisms of running our economy. It is unlike APC that does not believe in the rule of law.
Q: The 2019 election is a straight fight between President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is your party’s presidential flagbearer. What advantage does Atiku have over Buhari?
A: As an advantage, one, in my own view, this government has a lot to answer for, as a result of the parlous state of the economy. Also, the man (President Buhari) talks about corruption, corruption but the basis on which any country should dwell is the rule of law. This government has flouted numerous court orders. In fact, they proposed to use security issues to oust the rule of law.
Remember that it was Atiku who put together an array of talents for the Obasanjo administration. The Okonjo-Iwealas of this world, the Oby Ezekwsilis, the Professor Adesinas, the Nuhu Ribadus. I think many of them are out there, both in this country and in the Diaspora. He has been a private business man and also possesses the discipline of the private sector.
This is because we all know that if Nigeria is not in business, it would simply go bankrupt, because we spend more than we earn. Atiku has the requisite experience to take us out of the wood, having been a successful business man himself.
Q: How will you rationalise the frequent crises between the Presidency and the legislative arm?
A: You see, the legislative arm definitely has a role to play. When you talk about separation of powers, there ought to be checks and balances, working in a manner that is complimentary to one another. I think what has been the challenge is basically the style of leadership. One wants to ride roughshod over the other, and the other wants to resist.
But this is not new. President Obasanjo had a pretty turbulent time with the National Assembly as well. I think it just makes our democracy a lot more reformed. In my own view, I think it is interesting because whenever there is this fallout, the public at large scrutinizes issues that brought about the fallout. To a large degree, I think it is just a stylistic issue with the leadership of both arms of government