The former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State, Olatunji Morohunfoye, speaks to TUNDE OYEKOLA on his resignation from his position and why he will not join the governing All Progressives Congress
When did you join politics and what was the motivation?
I have been in politics since when I was a student. I did a lot of Student Union politics when I was in the university, and I even contested the position of the president of the Students Union Government at the University of Ilorin, but I lost. I participated in politics because I believed if you don’t participate, less qualified people, individuals you don’t have much respect for and people you least expect will govern you. Then, my father, late Chief Israel Morohunfoye, who was a prominent politician and the first deputy Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly between 1979 and 1983 also influenced me. However, I do have a mind of my own to participate in politics.
Is the PDP the first political party you would join?
Yes, I joined the PDP in 2003. By then, Dr Bukola Saraki was contesting the governorship election in Kwara State. Though I was resident in the United Kingdom then, I felt Dr Saraki was a young man like me and as a young man, he would change the state for the better even though he trained and qualified as a medical doctor in the United Kingdom. I thought then that since he trained in a developed country, he should be able to translate what he had seen in the UK to develop Kwara State. Also, I know his background; he was appointed the Special Assistant on Budget matters during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I didn’t come back to the country until 2006 but I supported his campaign financially and otherwise to make sure that he won the election and by the grace of God the rest is history.
You said you were an Athlete, what game were you into?
I was in Athletics and I hold the NUGA record in 100 and 200 metres race. A lot of people called me ‘Ben Johnson’. I came to Nigeria and Dr Saraki appointed me as Special Assistant on Women Development. I also served as the Commissioner for Information and later Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy till 2019. After the election in 2019, I stepped aside from politics because I was running a non-governmental organisation, ‘Defender of the Masses Initiative’ and I felt you cannot combine running an NGO with politics.
I had wanted to contest election into the Kwara State House of Assembly since 2011 but I was prevailed upon by the leadership of the party and that also happened till 2023. The leadership of the party told me to put aside my personal ambition of contesting the election. But in 2022 unfortunately, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Tunde Ashaolu, died. So the leadership of the party asked me to assume the position. I had no choice but to take up the position. Though it was painful, I had to obey.
You resigned as the party’s publicity secretary in the state on Monday, what led to your resignation?
I stated in the letter submitted to the chairman of the party, Alhaji Babatunde Mohammed, that I’m resigning for personal reasons, which I don’t want to reveal now.
Are you also resigning from politics or you just want to leave the PDP?
No, I’m not quitting politics now and I have not resigned my membership of the PDP.
Your resignation came after that of the state secretary of the party, who resigned and dumped the party recently?
I didn’t resign because the secretary left the party. I would still have resigned as the publicity secretary if the secretary was still there. My resignation was not related to that of the secretary in any way.
What is your next line of action; are you going back to your NGO?
I have not yet decided on what to do; whether to go back to the NGO, which was formed by two of my friends who at present are based outside the country. Although they have contacted me to come back and run the NGO, I told them to give me some time. It is under serious consideration.
Did your resignation have to do with the present crisis in the state chapter of the PDP?
I didn’t resign because of the allegations made by some officials of the party, especially the youth leader who was suspended by the State Working Committee of the party as regards the funds released for the last general elections. I’m one of the people who believed that every kobo released for the election was judiciously spent. If you check the press release I issued at that time, I said, can you ask how the money that was spent from someone who has been financing the party in the last four years, without getting anything from anywhere? He has been solving people’s personal problems, such as naming ceremonies, hospital bills and school fees. Though I agree that the person has the right to ask that the party should be accountable for everything that came in for the election, but unknown to such a person, the money for the last general elections were accounted for. However, the bitter truth is that there were different campaign committees for the presidential election and the governorship election. Each of the committees has its members. For example, the presidential election committee had its director-general, secretary and publicity secretary, which were different from that of the party. You don’t need to know what they are doing in their respective committees.
Probably, the youth leader was angry because he was not a member of the youth council. He felt that some money was spent and he was not part of it. The money that came in was to the knowledge of the party leader in the state, Dr Bukola Saraki, and he explained how the money was distributed. If the PDP had won the election, I’m sure such issues would not have come out. What would follow the victory would have been the struggle for positions within the government. That was why I was disturbed that after the struggle for the election, should a crisis follow? All the figures were provided but the youth leader would not agree because he was not part of it.
Are you likely to defect to another party, especially the All Progressives Congress?
It’s a definite no. I’m not leaving the PDP and I cannot and will not join the APC, the governing party in the state. The reasons are not far-fetched. The performance of APC in the state, as I can see, is not impressive. The performance is not commensurate with the funds that had been received by the state government. Till date, the governor has been in power for over four years and he has not commissioned a single project, even the distribution of palliatives has not got to many people. Are PDP members and members of other political parties not the people of Kwara State or they are not part of the state’s population? In the good old days, after the election, there would no longer be any form of discrimination. See the situation we have found ourselves now, if you drive round town, many shops are under lock and are no longer open for business. This was not so in the past. Right now, workers choose when they would go to their offices or schools for work. What kind of country are we running? Even transport business is no longer thriving.
What of the party’s performance at the national level?
At the national level, the present government is blaming former President Muhammadu Buhari for the predicament in the country, when they are members of the same party, APC. All of them are members of the same party. What did they do then when things were going down and the economy nosedived?
What could they have done?
Why couldn’t they go to him (Buhari) then that this step or policy was bad for the people. All of them saw how things were going. We protested but they kept silent. In Kwara State, they said PDP ran a bad government for 16 years, but what has the present government done to improve the state. Their own administration is even worse. The governor, Mallam AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, has since his assumption of office been using the banquet hall and other facilities built by his predecessors, yet, he has not commissioned a single project. He has been building an overhead bridge in the last three years and was changing contractors. I want to tell you that Kwarans are tired.
If you allege that the present administration has not performed well, are you saying the PDP government was better?
Yes, the past administration did better. Look at the achievements of Dr Bukola Saraki and that of Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed; they established some projects such as Kwara State University, Aviation College, International Vocational College, Diagnostic Centre, Shonga Farm, etc. What can you say that the present APC government achieved in the last four years? The state infrastructure has been mismanaged, equipment are no longer functioning and the experts employed to manage them have left. This regime borrowed money for projects but didn’t execute it. He got a loan of N27bn, what has he spent the money on? He also got N14bn from the Universal Basic Education Commission and the government claimed to have renovated 600 schools, the question is where are the schools? Give us the bill of quantity and the drawings for the projects, the government has not been able to do that. At the national level, the APC has spent over eight years in government but things are getting worse; like forex, banditry and kidnapping. Insecurity is still high in most parts of the country and you say that is a good party?
If you are offered another post in the PDP, will you accept it?
I may consider it and accept it.
The PDP is no longer in power at the state level and some people have argued that the party is dying, what do you think should be done to revive the party?
That is what we are doing right now. A lot of things are going on underground and we have made some changes which we are not ready to reveal our strategies. The youth are going to be at the centre of the party in the state now. The youth are going to drive the party, I won’t say more than that.
What advice do you have for the politicians in the state?
The advice I have for them and those at the national level is that they should make the country, Nigeria, their focus because you cannot have a king without a town.
There cannot be leaders without the people, and that is what I want politicians to note. They should take very good care of the people. What we are experiencing in some countries in Africa in form of Coup d’etat is disgraceful. They should make the people their focus and take very good care of them. The era of sit tight leaders is gone. When you lose an election, they should not think of destroying the country, they should go back home and restrategise for the next election and plan on how the life of the people would be improved. I want to suggest that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission should not be appointed by the Federal Government. If possible, retired judges should be considered for the position.