By Willy Eya
Mr Eyitayo Jegede is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) and the immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State. He is the candidate of the Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State. Recently, he had an interactive session with a select group of journalists in Lagos. Excerpts:
Do you agree that there is crisis in the PDP presently?
I agree that there are challenges in PDP leadership now especially at the centre, and it is a contention for power. It has always been there. I hold the view that it is still a dispute within the party.
First as a legal practitioner, I can confidently say that this won’t be the first time that there would be disputes or crisis within a political party. It’s not going to be the last but then I also believe that each of the political parties has a means of resolving its disputes and that is the legitimate way to resolve political disputes.
Now speaking as a professional, as a senior lawyer, I hold the view that intra-party disputes are best left for the leadership to resolve. I also hold the view that in intra-party contentions, the courts generally have no jurisdiction. In other words, the court ordinarily should not interfere except of course where you have specific provisions in the law that gives an inroad to courts to resolve the disputes and that is where you have election petition cases; the election matters that are specifically provided for in the Electoral Act. Even when you do primaries, it is only those who participated in the primaries that under the law have the right of access to court. Now the principal observation that I made, the courts have no business interfering with politics and that is what is happening now. The courts are interfering in politics. So, I believe that the matter will be resolved within. If it cannot be resolved within, it would be resolved somewhere and I concede that because of the timing, only because of that, there is need to accelerate the resolutions. I am confident that the law is not likely to change now ultimately and I also do not see it as dangerously affecting my chance running on that PDP ticket because it would be resolved at the end of the day.
Do you want to be the governor of the state or you are joining the race because of pressure on you to do so?
All along as we progressed in governance since 2009, I made up my mind that if I am going to contest at all, it will be for the governorship seat or nothing. And when I was Attorney-General, it was not as if there were no suggestions that yes, you can contest for Senate or shift to another Ministry but I was never excited with it because I know exactly what I want and that will answer your question; yes I want to be governor.
And since when did you start nursing the ambition?
Specifically, since about a year and a half into the Mimiko administration. I said yes, if I have something to offer, perhaps I can give it a shot if the atmosphere is okay, if the whistle is blown. Some people have seen my trying to operate within the rules as an indication of reluctance and I said I am not prepared to do it the way everybody does it. Before I resigned my appointment even though a lot of people knew that I was a major contender for the post of the governorship seat, you were not likely to hear me talk about governorship seat and secondly, you were not likely to see my poster anywhere in the state but yet, you will hear, you will perceive that he is positioning himself to run for the governorship. You are not likely to see my billboard even when you see billboards everywhere except now where you have one or two emerging. It is because I believe that I cannot be Attorney-General of a state and also be peeping to get into the political waters to start agitating to become a governor. I believe strongly that if I want to be a governor and I want to go out for it, I should leave the job and when I knew that I was ready, I left the job and when I left the job, I left in grand style. I left with a lot of noise like they say in political circle. And since then, I’ve been up and doing. So, I prepared to do this for service and I am not prepared to do this because I want to make some gains out of it.
So I’m in this race because I want to be governor, because I want to serve, because I want to bring some little bit of difference into the way it is done, I want to do more of governance and less of politics and if I can’t do it I don’t think anybody can do it. And I am not saying this to scale up myself; I’m saying this because I know my nature, I also know that some of these things you talk about that are very important are not important to me. I can tell you if God says it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And I have few ideas about what I think I should do and I know that if you take the politics out of it and do it the way it should be done, our society would be better for it. And like I said before, it’s going to be triumph of integrity over partisan politics, it’s going to be triumph of merit over partisan politics. We must learn to understand this, the fact that you don’t make so much noise or the fact that you say look, you want to do things your own way, because of your nature does not make you a weakling. I cannot be Mimiko, Mimiko cannot be Jegede; he is a doctor, I’m a lawyer. He is from Ondo, I’m from Akure. He is a politician, I am a technocrat in politics. So, we have quite a lot of differences. But at the same time, we have the same visions; just a matter of style. So if I don’t do it your own way, if I don’t escalate, if I don’t dramatise it, it does not mean I’m not interested. It only means I have a different approach to it. And if my approach is effective, then by all means let it be.
What is your take on the impression in some quarters that you are going to be Mimiko’s lackey if you are elected?
The notion of somebody saying somebody is a lackey, you know it is also contrived by those who believe that Mimiko has no right to support a person to be governor. First, Mimiko is a delegate in the PDP primaries, so he has in mind the person that he will likely vote for. Now for God’s sake, why should Mr. A who is a delegate say I prefer Kayode and don’t want Mr. B who is the governor to say I prefer Tayo. For God’s sake, Mimiko is the governor; he has the right to express himself.
And at my level, at my age, I’m not a young man, I think it will also be insulting to say that you are somebody who is a lackey or you are somebody who is hushed. I’ve seen that written about me on a number of occasions in the new media and I said that well, each person is entitled to his own opinion.
Mimiko has a right to want good governance for his people. He has a right to say look, I will support someone I know will sustain the vision of the Mother and Child Hospital, someone who will preserve those globally compliant Mega schools that dot the landscape of Ondo State. About two years ago, I, on my own, was trying to look for a site where we would build shopping malls and I was talking to some people who are developers about Shoprite and I drove round and I did this for about three months until I met the governor who said he has also been thinking about it. Today, the Mall is a reality and apart from the revenue it gives to government, it also opens a vista of employment and later on, it will revert and become Ondo State property. The story of the Mall is just by the way but I raised that because my concern is for us to have an improvement in the way we design and implement our policies. I am saying this so that people will know that I am not anybody’s lackey; I have added value to this administration.