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They Brought Tegbe To Oyo South When Ilaka Threatened To Tear PDP Apart… — Kola Balogun

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Hours after announcing his decision to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Kola Balogun of Oyo South Senatorial District reveals to WALE AKINSELURE the reasons, circumstances behind his decision and plans to pursue his second term senatorial ambition on another party platform.

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On Monday, you released a statement that you have decided to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In that statement, you didn’t give details. What informed your decision to leave the PDP?

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The very reason is the fact that PDP as a party, and especially the Oyo State chapter, is not being run the way a truly democratic party should be run. The PDP Oyo State chapter has more or less become an individual’s personal property. PDP, as a party in Oyo State, has become a platform which people are expected to run on, yet is being controlled from the bedroom or residential guest quarters of an individual, in this case, the governor of Oyo State. I feel that you get to a point in life where there are some things you should not tolerate. If as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I have to go through the informal leaders who reside in the leader’s residential quarters even to be able to have relationship with the leader, something must be wrong with the system. This is why most politicians end up being nomadic politicians. There is the reign of impunity everywhere; people’s opinions, positions are not respected by the party leadership. Basically, this is the reason most Nigerian politicians switch parties as often as you can get. So, I decided to dump the PDP, at this point, when it becomes clear that I should no longer tolerate the reign of impunity, lack of tolerance for democratic norms in PDP, Oyo State chapter.

At what point did you begin to observe this impunity in the Oyo PDP? Was it when it became obvious that you won’t get a return ticket?

The reign of impunity has been on but the ticket thing is the final straw. Ordinarily, the Electoral Act requires that any political party that wants to field candidates for election should go for primaries. It is expected that  a level-playing field be provided for direct, indirect primary or the so-called consensus. But, a situation where the most influential, powerful person in the party, in this case the leader of the party, will call the local government party chairmen to come and endorse aspirants nomination forms in this house yet promise is being made that you are providing a level-playing field, you could see that something is wrong with that system. A lot of people are stomaching these things because they don’t have a choice or they feel they should continue to tag along. Why did we have the kind of mass exodus of members that we had some days ago, a House of Representatives’ member is gone and I know a lot of other members are planning to leave the party. There are a lot of people that are yet to quit the party. Look at the list of those who defected the other day and I am aware that there are more to leave. There is lack of democratic ideals on the part of the leadership. It is not just the formal leadership but the governor and the informal leadership. We have a situation where even the governor’s janitorial staff members have become leaders of the party and they dictate the tune to the detriment of majority of members of the party.

But, there are those who argue that your candidature is not a strong one and that handing you a return ticket will not give PDP the desired victory in Oyo South senatorial district in the 2023 election. 

I will leave you to do your own investigation. If the accusation is about non-performance, it would have been understandable. What else would have been the criteria to pick a candidate to run for election, especially those who are returning? What you will look at is their record of performance. My record of performance is there. You go to all the major markets in Ibadan land; go to Bodija market, Aleshinloye market, my footprints are all over markets and various communities in the district. Why do you think there is this groundswell of goodwill for me from the beginning of this crisis? There is no way anybody can convince anybody that the reason Kola Balogun should not be given the ticket is because he cannot win. What will make you win an election apart from your performance especially if you are a returning candidate? If it is not about non-performance, what else could it have been? I put out a statement about a week ago in which I reeled out my record of performance including my record of achievements and I also told the whole world what has been the real reason for the governor’s decision. The governor was put under pressure, although he was unyielding initially because he didn’t think it made sense. But, some individuals, especially the so-called informal leaders went to him and said, ‘how do you feel about giving the ticket to brother of Olubadan of Ibadan land?’ They said, the Olubadan is a powerful monarch and you want to give return ticket to his brother which will make them to be stronger and more powerful to contain. They asked, ‘do you know the implications?’ I have challenged the governor to contradict that statement. And if possible, to swear by the Holy bible. I don’t think he will do that because it is true. They kept putting pressure until he gave in.

There is the argument that you got the ticket in 2019 on a platter of gold hence you should not be too bewildered that this time, someone else is also getting it on a platter of gold.

You know I was running for governorship from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to African Democratic Congress (ADC) and I had my structure in place. I had worked so hard in those two party platforms and this is a ticket, at that time, that nobody wanted to touch, if a ticket was so bad, if the party was so weak that they could not win an election, how could you describe that as getting it on a platter of gold? I took the risk; I took the bullet; they were begging me to come and take it. It is not that I got it on a platter of gold. It is a ticket that nobody wanted. I took the risk, took the bullet; and by the grace of God, it happened.

When it became obvious that you will not get the return ticket, did you deem it right to call the governor again to ask what was happening?

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Well, after the open meeting when he was appealing for us to step down and we were asked to go and speak with each other in a room, we came out when nobody was willing to step down for the other. Then, he formed a five-member committee which was chaired by Elder Wole Oyelese. Alhaja Bose Adedibu and Alhaja Mutiat Ladoja were members; I was asked to nominate a member and I nominated the governor’s brother; Nureni Adeniran nominated the father of the Youth and Sports commissioner. We met the next day. When the governor was leaving that day, I asked if I could go back the following day because a plenary was scheduled for the following day. He asked me not to go that if I do, it will seem as if I am not serious. He asked me to wait till after that meeting and he can go by afternoon flight. The next day, we had that meeting. First, the committee led by Elder Wole Oyelese spoke with us together and then they spoke with us separately. I was the first person they spoke to and they said they didn’t have much to say that they can’t ask me to step down for Nureni Adeniran, that he has to step down for me. I was asked to step out. They called in Nureni Adeniran and spent an hour persuading him arguing that they knew the risk of not having a ranking Senator in the district. They asked him to step down but because he had the so-called informal leaders behind him from the guest quarters, he didn’t step down. But, looking at the whole thing in retrospect, the governor was also one of those urging him to go on and not step down. This is because the same Nureni Adeniran that refused to step down for me stepped down for Joseph Tegbe the day after. What has changed? What is Tegbe bringing to the table? Has Tegbe ever won any election? Is he a politician? Is he all that respected and recognized from where he is coming from? Tegbe is just a consultant. What do you make of that? When this whole thing started, people advised me to try and speak with him. If you remember, they turned senatorial ticket to “Baba Ijebu”. They were playing lotto with it. Initially, they took it to Oyo Central, Bisi Ilaka kicked and threatened to tear the party apart, they brought it to Oyo South thinking that it will be easy. You can see they don’t have any genuine reason. When you take this kind of irregular, abnormal, absurd actions in politics, there are consequences.

Going forward, is your senatorial ambition for a second term still alive?

Of course. My people of Oyo South are fully behind me. This crisis is no longer my problem. They have taken it up themselves. They have taken it up as their fight because they see it as injustice. Some have taken their argument further that assuming Kola Balogun has done something wrong, what about consideration for Kabiyesi? I am not even saying that is the way to go, I am saying merit should be considered and in this case, merit is not being considered.

So, on which new platform will you be pursing your second term senatorial ambition?

I will reveal that in the coming days.

There are strong speculations that your new party will be the All Progressives Congress (APC)?

When we get to the bridge, we will cross it.

Among other parties, the closing day to obtain nomination and expression of interest forms for the APC is Friday. Are you disclosing your next party this week?

Yes, this week, by God’s grace.

You were an insider in your former party; you and some other members of the party have left. To what extent do you think the success of the party in 2023 election is threatened by exit of the likes of you?

When you have a party that has four members of the House of Representatives losing one and the one that is gone has two local government areas and Honourable Muraina Ajibola is a veteran in the business of election, you can comfortably assume that out of the nine local government areas in that district, you have already lost two before you start elections. Then, you have some respected party leaders like Yemi Aderibigbe, Demola Omotoso and the rest of them, then, you have the only Senator from the State leaving. If you recall when PDP lost the last time, some governors were going, you said no problem; senators were leaving, no problem. In this case, serving member of House of Representatives, serving Senator is leaving, you say no problem; some dignitaries are leaving, no problem; very soon, you will find out that there is a big problem that you may not be able to solve. The PDP, as it is now, may not be able to withstand the consequences of its action. I sympathise with a lot of leaders, members that are not happy, especially with regards to my situation. I know what they say; they are not happy because they saw it as an unnecessary twist. In politics, one false step can ruin your entire career. I wish them all the best.

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