Saturday, 25 February 2017 16:58

Why I fell out with Tinubu - Kofo Bucknor-Akerele

State governors in the South Western part of the country have been advised to take measures to protect lives and properties in the geo-political zone against the menace of kidnappers and Fulani herdsmen.

Making the appeal in an interview with ’TUNDE THOMAS, former deputy governor in Lagos State, Senator (Mrs) Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele enjoined the governors as chief security officers of their respective states to take urgent measures to stop the menace of kidnappers and herdsmen who have been wreaking havoc in some parts of the Southwest.

She also spoke on other national issues including her relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as deputy governor, insecurity, and why she quit Afenifere, PDP crisis and a host of others.

You started with the ruling party in Lagos State then known as Alliance for Democracy, AD, but later decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Why has it become impossible for PDP to gain control of Lagos State since 1999 despite the presence of bigwigs like you, Chief Bode George, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, and Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and a host of others ?

Well, Lagos State has not become invincible to the PDP. What is responsible is very simple, APC or ACN or whatever name the ruling party has been calling itself has been rigging elections in Lagos State.

APC is a party of perfect riggers. The party used money to buy and confuse the electorate in Lagos State. But the results from election in recent times in Lagos State have shown that PDP is making giant strides. You know PDP in Lagos State now has elected members in the state House  of Assembly and the Federal House of Representatives.

But having been a member of the defunct AD and the ruling party in Lagos State, won’t people misinterpret what you are saying to mean that you were also part of that rigging machinery?

No. AD then when I was part of the government in Lagos State was a party not only loved in Lagos State but throughout the entire Southwest geo-political zone and the party was then winning elections 100 percent across the South-west.

Then people loved AD. They believed in AD. And AD was the party that fought for the restoration of democracy before the party later became polluted in Lagos State as a result of the personal ambition of some people who pretended to be democrats but were the real autocrats. That was the reason some principled individuals like me had to leave the party.

What is your take on recent criticism of Lagos State government over its failure to conduct local government elections in the state in the last few years?

Of course, the reason is simple, Lagos State government and APC are afraid of defeat. I dare Lagos State government to conduct council elections today, PDP will not only defeat APC, it will inflict crushing defeat on APC, and that will be the end of APC in Lagos State. People are already fed up with APC-led government in Lagos State.

Like I said, you were part of AD and Lagos State government family …

Cuts in … I was not only once a part of the AD family, but I like to get the record straight, I was one of the founders of AD, and the impression being given by those that have hijacked the party was they were the owners of the party.

But this is wrong, these people claiming to be the owners of the party are liars. They were not the owners of the party, they were not even around when AD was formed. They came later to join the party. They also later hijacked the party, and that’s why most of us left the party to join PDP.

Are you saying, even as some people have claimed that your former boss, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu frustrated some of you and you left AD in anger?

I wouldn’t say we left the party in anger, but we decided to leave AD for Tinubu because he hijacked AD in the most unconventional way.

Not only that, we also felt that we could no longer stay in a party where the principles on which AD was founded were no longer being respected.

How true is the fact that there was a recent attempt to reconcile you and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, just like former deputy governor, Mr Femi Pedro was reconciled with him?

Well, I don’t know of any reconciliation. But as far as I’m concerned, I never had anything against Tinubu. Rather, he was the one who had things against me.

But others have also claimed that Tinubu had nothing against you but that you were too tough, and later became a thorn in the flesh of an administration of which you were an integral part?

If they said that I was too tough, why won’t I be tough? But I will only be tough on matters of principles, I will be tough when it comes to integrity, I will be tough when it is something that has to do with honesty.

I can’t compromise honesty, integrity and principle and my family name.

But some people were saying that you and Asiwaju Tinubu should have managed the crisis without allowing things to fall apart between you, especially with the intervention of some notable elders and some Afenifere chieftains. So, what happened?

I think some of the elders in AD at that time also became compromised. But later, these elders that took sides with Tinubu realised that the party had been hijacked by Tinubu.

Although I warned them at the time but of course, the elders then were happy to go along with Tinubu until when their eyes were opened later.

With the way and manner you claimed you were treated that time, would you say you have forgiven Tinubu today?

I’m a Christian. I don’t bear grudges. I leave everything to God. Although after that time, we have met once or twice at social gatherings but he never discussed the issue. But it is left to him and others who treated me that way to know the time to apologise or not. As I said earlier, as a Christian, I bear no grudge, I’ve forgiven Tinubu but let his conscience and those of others who maltreated me while in office as deputy governor of Lagos State continue to prick them.

For those talking about reconciliation, I don’t see any need for that because I have nothing against Tinubu, and I bear no grudge against him.

Still on the issue of AD …

Cuts in … Yes I was one of the founders of AD and when we formed the party, Tinubu was not in town.

Today, there is hardly any original member of AD in APC. Most of them their eyes have become clear, and left the party to Tinubu.

Unlike what you are saying Ma, Asiwaju is widely regarded as a democrat 

Cuts in … Hmm (laughs), Tinubu a democrat? Well, go and ask those who left AD. Anyway, Tinubu is now in my past, and I have moved on with my life, I’ve forgotten about him and others who conspired against me.

But talking about your travails that time, some people claimed that you were being taught a lesson because some people, especially those in Asiwaju Tinubu’s camp believe that you were behind the series of problems confronting Asiwaju that time like the Chicago certificate scandal and others …

Cuts in … I’m a Christian. I will never run others down. What do I stand to gain by giving the governor problems or creating crisis for Tinubu? Those saying that are my political enemies. Those who know me very well know that I will never be a part to any evil plot to run others down. Those saying that are only trying to malign me.

On the issue of the challenges facing deputy governors, some people have described them as spare tyres, that their offices are redundant, and that state governors deal with them any how…

Cuts in … I know that some deputy governors are made redundant by their governors, others have running battles with their bosses, but I believe everything boils down to the attitude of the governors.

I think where crises happen are situations where deputy governors are even more qualified than governors, and this, in a way, creates inferiority complex for the governors. As a result, they also would begin to create problems for their deputies, and they now see their deputies as threats.

Will you support the clamour for constitutional amendments to give some bite to the office of deputy governors, so that they can be assigned specific constitutional roles?

Yes, I support such a move. Doing so will help to define the relationship between the office of the governor and his deputy. It will also help to dignify the office of the deputy governor, and save the occupant of that office the embarrassment some of them are subjected to by some state governors.

As a member of Afenifere, what is your reaction to the menace of Fulani herdsmen and Ijaw militants who have been accused of carrying out series of kidnappings and other criminal activities in Yoruba land?

I’m no longer a member of Afenifere. I now belong to the Yoruba Unity Forum, YUF.

Why did you part ways with Afenifere?

I resigned from Afenifere but don’t forget again that Afenifere also belongs to Yoruba Unity Forum. YUF is an umbrella body for all other socio-cultural groups in Yoruba land.

I left Afenifere when the group was hijacked like AD by some powerful individuals. Afenifere later split into two, and you have Afenifere Renewal. I left because I couldn’t tolerate the hijacking of Afenifere. The eventual polarization of Afenifere hastened my departure from the organization.

Talking about the menace of Fulani herdsmen, and Ijaw militants in the Southwest, how do you feel about it?

It is very sad, and something has to be done about it. It is very unfortunate that innocent people’s lives are being endangered. It is high time security agents show more determination and commitment to apprehend the criminals.

I will say that enough is enough. We will not fold our arms and allow Southwest to be turned into an enclave of kidnappers and abductors. State governors in the Southwest should also rise to the occasion. They should emulate Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who has devised constitutional ways to tame the herdsmen – we can’t sit down, fold our arms and continue to lament. Concrete actions need to be taken against anybody involved in crime.

I don’t think government is doing enough to protect lives and property of citizens.

It is sad that all kinds of crimes are being committed, and people are not being apprehended and brought to book. Something needs to be done urgently to reverse this ugly trend.

What those in authorities failed to realize is that when people commit crimes, and they are left unpunished, it leads to impunity, which at the end of the day will lead to escalation of crime.

Will the recent death sentence legislation for kidnappers passed into law by Lagos State government help to stem the tide of the crime?

I’m against death penalty since it has not succeeded in curbing the menace of armed robbery, I’m not sure whether it will also help to curb kidnapping, I believe in life imprisonment with hard labour for kidnappers.

One of the best ways to address this kidnap issue is to have state police. A state police will have in its formation, people that not only speak the language of the local people, but will also be very close to the grassroots, and this will make it easier to tackle crime. Local policing is good for us.

There has been spates of crises all over the country, militancy in the Niger Delta, Biafra agitations, herdsmen menace all over the country, insurgence in the North-east, some people are saying that the only way out of all these crises is for us to restructure. Others are aying that President Muhammadu Buhari should have another look at the 2014 Confab Report and recommendations, what do you think is the way out for us?

I was a member of the Confab set up by the Jonathan-led administration, and we gave four months of our lives to work at that confab. We also gave recommendations which would have resolved some of the crises confronting us today, but it is sad that the federal government has not deemed it fit to implement some of the recommendations of the confab.

I strongly believe that confab recommendations should be brought out from where it is dumped with the aim of implementing some of the recommendations. If we fail to do that, the crises we are having all over the place will continue.

It is almost two years since APC has been in control of the federal government, how would you assess the journey so far?

I’m sorry to say that Nigerians have got the kind of change they deserved. Today, you see a lot of Nigerians complaining of hunger, poverty, unemployment, but who do they have to blame? They have to blame themselves. We warned them against voting for Buhari. We reminded Nigerians that during Buhari’s first coming as Head of State, that Nigerians didn’t have cause to rejoice as many suffered that time, but in spite of our warning they still voted Buhari into office claiming that they wanted a change.

Now that the change they wanted is here with them, why are they complaining? Nigerians have got what they asked for. I don’t think people should complain. It is what they have asked for that they got. Nigerians should stop complaining, they asked for change, and change is now here, they should learn to live with that change until next election.

On the issue of the health challenges of the President which has led to controversies …

It is a very unfortunate situation, but the controversies would have been avoided if the president had spoken to Nigerians. He should speak out to Nigerians, assuring us that all is well.

The president should not be speaking to us through third parties because right now, everybody is worried. The entire nation would like to hear Buhari’s voice, if he can do that, Nigerians will be assured that all is well.

On the lingering PDP crisis, what is the way out?

Sheriff is destabilizing PDP. He has no moral right to be parading himself as chairman of the PDP. He was invited to come and complete somebody’s tenure, and having done that he is expected to step down, but unfortunately he has refused to do so.

I believe the crisis will soon be resolved. PDP is still very strong. If I were Sheriff, I would quietly step down and move on with my life.

On the issue of your pension and entitlements, what is the latest because at a time, it was reported that Lagos State government has refused to pay your dues?

Well, I have been paid my pension, but my other dues have not been paid. Although, the current governor Mr Akinwumi Ambode has promised to do something on it. I believe that he will fulfill his promise.

To be honest with you, Tinubu didn’t do anything about my pension and other dues when he was there. When I took it up with Babatunde Fashola, Tinubu’s successor, he didn’t even acknowledge any of the letters I wrote to him. He completely ignored me. But Ambode has promised to do something and I believe him.



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