Ondo State Deputy Governor, Ali Olanusi, explains the issues he has with Governor Olusegun Mimiko and why he had to defect to APC few days before the last governorship election in this interview with Oluwole Josiah
How have you fared so far in politics?
I never imagined I would be deputy governor. When I was the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, I hated cheating. I believed then that (Olusegun) Agagu, who was the governor was mistreating Olusegun Mimiko. At that time, if he (Agagu) called me to say that I should do something to Mimiko, I would tell him no. Since he had joined PDP and Agagu had made him Secretary to the Government, I felt he should be allowed to perform. I did not know that Dr. Agagu knew him well. I never worked with Mimiko before then politically. When I was in the UPN, he was not ripe enough to play politics. I was the chairman of a constituency at that time and I had grown politically. I bought vehicles for UPN and for late Papa Awolowo’s campaigns in 1979. In the Social Democratic Party, we were both in the same party but we supported different people. He supported Evangelist Olumilua while I was working with Dr. Olajide. Olumilua became the governor and when he appointed the members of his cabinet, he left out all those who did not back him during primaries. Most of his appointees were from Ekiti, so our people in Akoko South were not happy. Olumilua also sponsored a man I sponsored to become the Chairman of the Local Government to contest for the House of Representatives in the SDP, one Funso Babadele from Oka. At that time, I was not interested. I had even gone back to my business.
But didn’t you think you were too old for the position of a deputy governor?
I insisted that I was too old for the position. But Mimiko promised (which he kept to some extent, before he showed his true colour) that I would not be put under immense pressure. But I told my wife that the humiliation and insults that came with that position was much. I told her she shouldn’t complain whenever such arose. And she agreed. That was why she had to bear all we went through and that was why we were able to tolerate him and his wife up till this time before we decided to leave them.
Would you mention some of the maltreatments you suffered, specifically as deputy governor?
Immediately we were sworn in, Mimiko had his own plan from day one which was unknown to me. This was why many members of the party left after forming the government. What he introduced was very alien to the practice we met in the Western Region and in Ondo State. He was not the first governor anyway. He took over everything. He single-handedly selected the 22 commissioners. When I saw this, I was annoyed. But he pleaded with me and promised he would create the Local Government and Chieftaincy Ministry. He decided to create it in conjunction with the former chairman of LP, Olaiya Oni. I pleaded to be excused. I said I wouldn’t want to leave office and be going to Abuja to be reporting in the office of EFCC and ICPC. Eighty per cent of the accusations levelled against the last administration were about the money diverted from the local governments. He promised that he would put me in charge of a very powerful agency where a lot of money would be spent on power generation and that was better than the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. But I told him he should do what he wanted because I was not in the job for money. The prestige in that office was alright. I had a means of living. Within six months, all the responsibilities I had, as the chairman of State Tender’s Board and Joint Allocation Committee, where I presided over the monies coming from the federation account to the local governments, he went to the House of Assembly and got a bill to revoke the order where the deputy governor was chairman of JAC. I did not bother. He decided to select occasional members of the cabinet or chose any person he wanted to take over the job. There was no official pronouncement on that. This he did to render me completely non-functional. So, I came to the office, I read papers and so on.
Was that what led you to part ways with the governor?
Yes. After enduring the maltreatment, I had to leave. He had been unfair to me. I had endured hardship, but I did not count it as hardship. I am satisfied with my salary. It was clear that Mimiko did not value me. So for him to value me, I decided to leave 48 hours to the election. There were many things he did against me. It came to a point that even when I phoned him, he would not pick my call. When I complained, he said I should not call him directly, that I had to call his ADC, since he was permanently in Aso Rock Villa. It was only when he came back that he would be approving files. I actually asked him if he really said I should be calling his ADC when I needed his attention and he said yes. I just felt this was too much for me to bear.
We learnt you were also not happy with him because of the appointments he made…
Yes. I was not happy with the way he distributed his appointments. In my local government, he appointed just four commissioners in the last six years, whereas other local governments still have the ones he appointed in 2009. He has changed four commissioners, appointing them without my knowledge. He never consults me in any decision he makes. He said since they are going to be working with him directly, he has the right to pick them. What annoyed me was during this election, while we were preparing for it, he decided to pick the person who would represent my constituency. I considered that to be too much. If you say you can nominate candidates from other constituencies, it is wrong of him to go ahead to nominate a candidate in my own constituency; a candidate who has spent eight years in the House of Reps, to return for the third term to represent a constituency of four towns.
Since you said you started having issues with the governor right from the first day, why did it take you this long to defect and why did you even wait till the eve of the election to defect?
I am not in the office because of money. I am from a family background that respects constituted authority. My father was a traditional chief. With my age, I am not in a rush for money. With my age, I am contented with what I have. I have every cause to thank God. God gave me three children. They are doing fine. Even as deputy governor, my daughter still sends me money for cow and ram for Sallah. I told her not to bother, that I have enough, but she said she knew I was doing same for my father and that she would be doing it for me too. So I said alright. So, it is not money. I enjoy the love the Ondo State people have for me. I also respect eminent persons in the state.
But you haven’t told us why you chose to defect few hours to election day…
When Mimiko wanted to defect to PDP, I was here in Akure. He had been in Abuja for two weeks at the time. Early in the morning around 4am, the governor called me and asked where I was, I told him I was on my bed, he said alright and that he just wanted to hear from me. About three hours later, that should be around 7 or 8am, the Chief of Staff called me. I asked where he was calling from and he said he was in Lokoja. I asked what was happening, he said he thought the governor had sent for me, that he was on his way to Abuja to go and defect to PDP. Defect? That was what I wanted to do since last year. February last year, I wanted to return to the PDP, Mimiko pleaded with me that I should not. I stayed back. He went there, he defected with his commissioners. I only heard of it in the news. When he came back, I thought he would give reasons why he did not consult me but he did not say anything or mention it at all. I called him and complained to him. I told him what he did wasn’t right. I asked him why he would go to Abuja to defect to PDP without letting me know. One of the party officials even said I was not a member of PDP because when Mimiko defected with his commissioners, I was not there. It dawned on me that this action was not by mistake; it was deliberate. He said I was no more useful or relevant. I gave him 48 hours. After all the maltreatment he had given me, I said alright, I defected to APC since he did not even want me in PDP. He defected from LP to PDP while I defected to the APC. I don’t know why he is annoyed.