OrderPaperToday– Mr Johnson Oni is a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, whose recent switch in political parties has caused a stiri. OrderPaperNG spoke to the member representing Ijero/Ekiti West/Efon Federal Constituency of Ekiti State to discuss his move from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), his relationship with the governor of his state and his future political ambitions. Excerpts by Lizzy Chirkpi and Bakare Majeed:
What necessitated your decamping from PDP to SDP?
The constitution made it clear that you can belong to any association and when the agenda of a political party is not in line with the political beliefs that you believe in [or] the kind of principle you feel should be exhibited. When there is a drift from your beliefs, then you can opt out and join an association of like minds, where you feel the dividend of democracy would be realized, where you feel that the principle of partisanship and procedure of democracy would prevail. That is all [there is to] democracy and politics, but unfortunately some stakeholders in Nigeria, the kind of democracy they believe in, is democracy of a government of themselves, by themselves and for themselves, whereas the principle of democracy is on the contrary, it is about the people.
Does your decamping have anything to do with Gov. Fayose’s endorsement of his deputy, Professor Dolapo, for governorship position?
Is it Fayose that voted me in? Is it the deputy governor that voted me in? The masses voted for me, my constituents voted for me and they still believe in me, and you will see a massive turn out when we hold our rally, first in my constituency and subsequently the entire Ekiti State.
What are you bringing to the table that is different from what other governors in Ekiti have offered?
I salute past leaders who have governed the State. They have tried their best with available resources, but their best may not be enough. I want to say there is room for improvements, room for rapid improvements; rapid and aggressive ones. It is about what you know and what you can do, and being content with what you have. I believe that the State can still be developed if all that is given to the State is [put] towards the emancipation of the people. Right now, teachers’ salaries are not being paid, same as other workers for about 8 months. There is not a single line of industry in my State, no foresight to generate revenue, in my State. [Instead], they are generating revenue from pupils in primary schools, which is another hardship on their parents and don’t forget that education in the Southwest Nigeria has been declared free since 1955 by Chief Awolowo.
Why did you feel you had to leave your former political party to achieve this?
The people in the party do not believe in the principle of making the youth and [people] of Ekiti State (en masse) benefit from dividends of democracy. These people are selfish and I do not believe in that. In PDP, impunity is the order of the day, imposition is the order of the day [and] to crown it all, Fayose and his team beat me up [and] assaulted me during the last PDP convention in full glare of security personnel. If I had not taken to reason, there would have been no convention. They would have probably killed somebody.
Were they able to prevent you from accessing the convention?
They could not stop me; they knew I was a bonafide member of the party, and also in the National Executive Council, which made me an automatic delegate. I was entitled to vote. The convention was shambolic. They brought in an unknown system and circulated a unity list. Who is the unity group? The outcome of the vote was already written [and it was] different from the vote we cast physically. That is what we call impunity.
Are there other aggrieved members from the PDP willing to join you and is there a plan for a coalition to challenge the PDP and the APC?
For the aggrieved members in the PDP, they have a personal decision to make. I was aggrieved and I have decamped. In fact, I have removed their flag from my office and for my new party, I will continue to rapport with them and obey the party constitution. If peradventure, the people (aggrieved PDP members) want to join another party they are at liberty to do so. On the floor of the House, some PDP members are already decamping to APC; you have your choice.
Understanding that internal democracy is elusive in many Nigerian parties, what happens if you experience impunity in SDP?
When you are talking of impunity, it is common in association without internal democracy, where there is no equality. An association that denies you the chance to air your grievances, or the opportunity to talk about your concerns, the current governor, Fayose is Mr. Know it all, he is the only person with political knowledge and the masses are looking at him, he is the only person that will go from his office to the State House of Assembly and pass law, can Buhari do that here (National Assembly)?