(CONTINUATION OF DR MIKE OMOTOSHO’S INTERVIEW)
I just want to take you back on what you said about the minimum wage, some people will not agree with you that government cannot afford it. Political office holders receive millions of naira every month while civil servants go home with a pea nut. Recently, Senator Sani Shehu said each senator goes home with at least N14million per month. Are you saying that government cannot afford to pay at least N50, 000 as minimum wage to workers?
Please do not mis-quote me. I need to correct it now. I am not saying so. What I am saying is that I don’t think that that is where the problem lies. I have always advocated that when I get into elective position that my salaries will go to the elderly. I believe there is too much power concentrated at the centre. When we decentralise this power, there will be less interest in what is in the centre. I believe that politicians are grossly over-paid. They are supposed to serve.
We should begin to elect people who have means of livelihood. It is not probably people who do not have certificates or people who do not have means of livelihood. Are they truly serving? Who are they truly serving? You cannot give what you don’t have. They are serving themselves. I blame the electorate. Power actually belongs to the people. The people handed it over to the politicians. Sometimes they are given N4000 to buy their votes, which is N1000 per year in the next four years. Unfortunately, the price for voting buying is increasing. May be someday, it will get to N4million per vote. So, I believe that members of the executive and legislature are grossly over-paid. I am also advocating that a minimum wage of N18, 000 is totally unacceptable. Let it be clear. I am only saying that even it is N100, 000 that an average civil servant may not survive with it. Beyond the payment, if you empower people to do business by themselves, it will be a lot better. For instance, the woman who is making N2000 every day, in 30 days, that is N60, 000. People truly can do a lot. They need to be empowered. The platform needs to be there. People do not need to spend N1, 500 before getting to work as transport fare. When they need to buy probably N2, 000 pass and it will take them for the whole month. In this situation, payment of N100, 000 to somebody will be reasonable. I think, we should begin to look for permanent solutions, not palliatives. In healthcare, where I belong as a pharmacist, we do not just treat the ailment that we see, but we try to find out the root cause of the ailment and then treat it. Perhaps, if the person is in pains, we find out why the person is in pains immediately and handle that. If there is no need for you to provide your own security, no need for you to tare the road to your office, no need for you to sink your own borehole or buy generator, the cost of living becomes a lot reasonable.
Let’s look at the just concluded Osun State gubernatorial election. How would you assess the conduct of the election? As a politician, you know what transpired during the main election and the supplementary election. How would you rate it?
The reality of the matter is that when you are in the game, you must learn how to play the game. I was not in Osun State but from what the information that I gathered, there was an election. The election appeared okay to everybody. We saw six governors of one party going to woo the politician who they believed, controls the area. It is acceptable and done anywhere in the world. Another party just sent a party leader to the said politician. No state governor deemed it to visit him. They forgot the fact that he was part of the same political party initially. What do you expect to be the outcome?
Let’s look at it from the perspective where it was alleged that security operatives connived with the ruling party to prevent the electorate from voting. Even journalists at some point were barred from covering the election and also the election observers were chased out by party thugs and security operatives. Does this attitude not portend a great danger to our democracy?
If it had happened that way, it signaled a danger to our democracy. The problem that we have is that there is a lot of news flying around. We are not too sure of what is happening. This moment, a party is winning and they are not complaining. Another moment, they are complaining when they are not winning. The painful part for me, is not who won the election. It is whoever is in charge, how do we hold him accountable to deliver the dividends of democracy to the masses. It is ironic that when it comes to elections, the ballot paperswill get to the rural areas. These are the areas that lack basic amenities. It shows where their priorities are. I think that their priority should not be to win elections. No, no, no. It should be to ensure that whoever is on the driver’s seat delivers the needs of the people. We had had worst elections in Nigeria. I think, we should be getting better. Things should be improving. I am sure we will get there.
In view of all these, how do you envisage the conduct of elections in 2019 general elections? Voting-buying, intimidations of opposition political parties, electoral irregularities, among others, seem to become part and parcel of our electoral process. What is your take?
The truth of the matter is that I believe that we are going to have, free, fair and credible elections in 2019 general elections.
What gives you this impression?
Good. What is your assessment of the previous election; forget about the supplementary election in Osun State?
Sir, what played out in Osun State recently also happened in Ekiti State. It was the same scenario in Edo State. The issue of vote buying was rampant and pervasive. It was reported that one of the political parties brought in bullion vans where electorate after casting their votes, with proof of evidence, would go and receive money.
I try as much as possible not get involved in hear-say. If it had happened, of course, it portends great danger for our democracy we are trying to nurture. To a large extent, I think the populace must be very careful. It takes two to tango. If a politician is buying votes, who is he buying it from? I am not saying that vote-buying is correct. One party can actually break it. Voters can refuse to sell their votes. Even if the security operatives are there and the people say no, there is no way vote buyers will have their way. It is because the people are not united. They are short-sighted. They want immediate gratification that is why, they sell their votes. And we may not blame them entirely due to the economic situation in the country. This is not an excuse. One time EFCC chairman would say, if you as a law enforcement agent, you are chasing a criminal and he runs into on-going traffic, will you break the law and follow one way because you want to catch a criminal or you let him go?
Let’s look at your political ambition. Sometime ago, you declared your intention to be the governor of Kwara State. What is still the situation? Are you still jostling for the position?
For now, I am still the National Chairman of Labour Party. My aspiration is to provide veritable platform for credible people to run. This is truly to show the world that there is a party that cares for the masses and families. Our party hinges its ideology on providing equal opportunities and justice for everybody. That is Labour Party. I take the ideology of the party to wherever I go. However, there has been a lot of clamour from my people to come back home and run, if the consultations go on well, I will run in 2019. But for now, I have a national assignment.
Sir, your Party has been embroiled in leadership crises. What is the situation now? I know that one Abubakar Abdusallam, also claims to be the National chairman of Labour Party. Have the issues been resolved.
Well, let me take you down the memory lane. On the 3rd of October 2017, the Party had special National Convention where the former chairman who was accused of embezzling N1.3billion was sacked. I was elected as the new chairman. It was in the presence of INEC officials and the media. We have the certified copy of the INEC report. We started running. We didn’t have a problem. Then, all of a sudden, the former chairman woke up and said he is still the national chairman. We have got an interim injunction last week from the court, restraining INEC from recognising him as the chairman of Labour Party. All these periods, INEC has left his name on their website. This is sending wrong signal to the public. That was why we went to Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain INEC from recognising him, pending when the matter will be heard in court, probably next week.
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