The Ekiti State APC stakeholders last week held a reconciliatory meeting at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja. After the meeting, Hon Opeyemi Bamidele granted an interview to the press on the thrust of the meeting, as he stated that the Ekiti State progressives have learnt their lessons from the 2014 governorship election in the state. ANDREW ESSIEN was there and reports. Excerpts.
You just finished a stakeholders meeting of Ekiti State, can we know the thrust of the meeting?
Well, gentlemen of the press, I want to start by first thanking you for being there at all times. I also want to thank you for the way you assisted in managing what looks like a family crisis in Ekiti and I do not doubt the fact that, members of the progressive family will always be bound together by the same philosophy that they carry in their heads. Philosophy of change, philosophy of emancipation of our people, philosophy of social and infrastructural development.
For me, it is not about any individual, it’s about our people; it’s about our country; and it is about the kind of politics that we need to play to be able to achieve the goals and the vision that we carry in our heads. But again, there is no doubting the fact that there are moments of disagreement; it is not a conglomeration of robots; we are not bound together by conspiracy and we had issues, issues that bothered on our own perspectives on what should be the way forward; issues that bothered on our own perspective as to how the candidate of the party should emerge – which people would call internal party democracy – issues that bothered on our own individual goals and how we chose to relate and at some points, it was obvious that these issues led to the emergence of different caucuses within the party and it was not the APC and one thing that is constant with us in Ekiti is that the progressives, I mean members of the progressives family would always move together.
That is why from the days of our fathers in the Action Group (AG) to the days of our uncles and senior brothers and some of us as youth activists within the Unity Party of Nigeria through our days in the Alliance For Democracy, the Action Congress and the Action Congress of Nigeria, it was different parties, but the same people, different structure, but the same philosophy you know. I mean that was uniting everybody and that is why we always call ourselves members of the progressives family.
And so, there were issues that couldn’t be resolved and it all happened on the platform, again not of the APC, but of the Action Congress of Nigeria and at some point, some of us had reasons to think that we needed to form our constituents into pressure groups within the party and one thing led to another which led to some of us having to join another platform to aspire. But all of that is history and today we all have come together on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
To us, it was a journey that started since January of 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was in Ekiti as a candidate of APC and the leaders of APC; the leaders of the progressives family felt all of us must come back together to work, you know, towards the success of President Muhammadu Buhari at the polls and beyond that to also allow for a meaningful reconciliation of our differences.
So what were the actual differences that the Ekiti State progressives had before the 2014 governorship election?
Again, I will say that our differences were not about sharing bounties; our differences were not about sharing the paraphernalia of office; our differences were not about sharing money; our differences were purely on the way we individually digested our common political philosophy, what we thought should be the way forward.
And today, leaders of the party on the platform of the APC have done so much and they have done so well in trying to ensure meaningful reconciliation of all the various shades of opinion and the meeting today wasn’t about who was wrong and who was right. It was a meeting that was devoid of any manner of ego manifestation. It allows for a genuine and very sober reflection on how we got to where we are. It was a meeting where all of us concluded that our past was only but a story told, but our future could also be written in gold, you know. So we were all united on that and it was one meeting that admitted that no one needed or ought to be exonerated but everyone was committed to what should be our future.
We also agreed that it was not about an individual or group of people, but about our people, about our state, about our party and of course I just want to say to you gentlemen of the press, that I am happy for this meeting. It was like a part of me was missing, which I have found all together again and by the grace of God, I believe that is also the feeling of many people.
The way you are talking about the reconciliation meeting, are you sure other members in that meeting are seeing it that way?
All the leaders of the stakeholders in that hall agreed with the idea of genuine reconciliation, and all we needed to tell ourselves was to emphasise the need for sincerity in moving forward. So, with what happened today I have no doubt that Ekiti is back on the path of progress; Ekiti is back on path of unity, we have no doubt that our strength is in our unity and by the grace of God, we will do everything possible to re-energise the party in Ekiti State and strengthen ourselves and restore the hope of our own people as much as possible and give the people the kind of future that we can all look forward to. I have no doubt that you people as development partners and members of the fourth estate of the realm, will continue to be there for us and we look forward more than ever before to working with you and be rest assured that by God’s grace, I am excited like many of our leaders and other stakeholders about this development and it is something that we would cherish.
It was alleged that the APC lost in the last governorship election in Ekiti State because the party was tagged an elitist party, at this meeting were there discussions on how your party would find a way of interacting with the grassroots to improve your party’s chances of winning future elections?
Well, I would put it this way, it wasn’t about being elitist, but we didn’t go to that election as a party; we didn’t go to that election united and the only election in which we were all united was the election of General Muhammadu Buhari, as he then was, our presidential candidate and beyond that, everybody went his way. It was not about you know group interest, it was more about everybody wanting to make a statement in his own way. But the meeting today was very frank you know, as to what should be the way forward, we are going to chart a common goal, we are going to chart a common course and we are going to move together. We have no doubt the kind of terrain we are going to be walking on in Ekiti but they say when you walk in mud, even in the mud as long as all of you can hold yourselves together, you can stumble through that mud and get to the other side of the mud all safe and all surviving.
I think that is the kind of mission we have ahead of us right now. Like I said, it is no longer about any individual or group, it is about the Ekiti people, it’s about restoring the glory of Ekiti that appears to have gone on sabbatical, the journey to me has begun and it is a matter of time .
How did you receive the revelation of the alleged electoral fraud that transpired during the last Ekiti State Governorship election?
Well, I would put it this way, there was nothing that has been revealed now, that we didn’t know. To a lot of people and to the unsuspecting majority members of the public, yes, they are revelations, you know. To some of us, if there is anything we are noting, it is the detail of how things were done, you know – the venues, how much exchanged hands; which people were there in attendance; who did what, etc. These are the little details that could even make some of us even listen. As to whether those things happened, we have concluded. A day after the election, I granted an interview to the Sun Newspaper and said that was the first and the last time I am going to speak on that election and I said there is more to that election than meets the eye and as far as I am concerned, I think what was really unfortunate about that election; what was tragic was the fact that our walls of unity cracked open and we provided a place for lizards to rest. And I think the lesson had been learnt. (Leadershipng)
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