He was seen as the anointed candidate of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, but the crown Prince of Oke Ona Egba and a former Commissioner in the State, Prince (Dr.) Lanre Tejuoso, who was picked as the candidate to represent Ogun Central Senatorial District under the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC, opens up on the matter. In this no holds barred interview with ABIODUN ONAFUYE in Abeokuta, he spoke on his foray into politics, the assassination attempt on his life and his Senatorial ambition among other sundry issues
Is it true that you are an anointed candidate of Governor Ibikunle Amosun?
Is the governor a Pastor or what kind of an anointing are you talking about? (Laughter)The rumour in town is that the governor influenced your emergence as the APC Senatorial candidate for Ogun Central. How far is that true?
If that is what they meant, then it means that I had been anointed over 10 years ago when the governor and I had been weathering the storm. We have been contesting together. I have been with him for the past 10 years, through thick and thin, so what is the meaning of being an anointed candidate?
A lot of people are of the opinion that you just came to snatch the ticket from politicians who are older than you are in the party. What is your response to that?
I have been on this project for ten years. I was with Senator Amosun in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, in 2006, that was when I contested for the Senate under the ANPP. Then, nobody believed in ANPP, not only in Ogun State, but throughout the Southern part of Nigeria. Majority of the politicians believed we were on a suicide mission, saying ‘how can you bring a political party that belonged to a Hausa man from the North to us here in Yoruba land?’ It was only in his house that we were making some little noise and I was a senatorial hopeful.
We did what we could, but the rest like they say is history. Around that same period, some hoodlums came to attack me in the hotel where I lodged. It was some minutes after 2am, when five people invaded my room with guns and other dangerous weapons,. I remember the question they posed at me then. They asked, how I had the effrontery to run for Senate. They started slapping me; they said they were asked to come and assassinate me. They ordered me to lie down on my bed; that they were going to kill me. It was a horrible experience.
You see my forehead? (pointing at a scar on his forehead). Honestly, I don’t know how I survived. Blood was everywhere. God just gave me that power to live and saved me. I then said to myself, that if I didn’t die then, God must have spared me for a purpose; I shall serve Him and serve my people. Hence, my resolve to pursue this ambition and that is why I am here for the Ogun Central Senatorial contest. There have been so many gladiators along the line, but people do not know how far I have come. But thank God, my aspiration has come to reality again and this time around, victory is ours by God’s grace.
What are your plans for the people of Ogun Central Senatorial district which you are to represent, if you eventually win the election in February?
I am confident of victory, by his grace. First of all, I think one needs to ask oneself about what the work of a Senator in this dispensation actually entails. To me, a Senator is to be a participant in developing policies that should benefit the people of Nigeria. After thinking about Nigeria, then you talk about your own constituency. How can I benefit my people in Ogun Central? What are their problems? How can we make national policies that will benefit them directly? Ideally, that is what we should be doing. Then, you now talk about the constituency projects. Maybe, they give you money to execute projects that will benefit the people of the constituency where you come from. Of course, that money they give you must be judiciously spent in that area where you represent.
But these days, many Senators receive such money and they don’t even care about the people and the authority does not even see what they are doing. God forbid that kind of a Senator in my own situation. Again, there are so many employment opportunities for our people at the federal level, in addition to drawing federal presence to our State. Without being immodest, a lot of the people at the top are mostly one’s friends or business associates. All of these contacts would be used to better the lot of our people. Take for instance, the recruitment for the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, which they had last time.
A Senator must be able to establish good rapport with those that matter, particularly, with members of the cabinet; the Ministers, the Permanent Secretaries and so on, to enable him fix unemployed members of his constituency at such vacant positions and others that may open up. For the past four years, such opportunities have eluded us in this State, because all our Senators were busy fighting the governor. How many federal projects can you point at here, that are facilitated by our Senators?
Some people are of the opinion that you are not too close to your people and not accessible to them. How would you react to this notion?
You have said it that it is a perception and perception is nothing but perception. The people know that I am close to them and that I am very accessible. Ogun Central Senatorial district has a very large population and it all depends on whom you are talking to. Presently, we are on a “meet-the-people” drive. Every day, we keep on consulting with the people, because we want to hit the ground running. We must bring smiles to their faces. What is important is for one to nurture and maintain the good relationship which has already been established with the people. Recently, in partnership with a Lagos based microfinance bank, FinaTrust Micro Finance bank, I facilitated loans for the funding of small and medium scale businesses in my constituency.
There are however, some people who have made up their minds even before you meet them and their perception about you is negative. Many would say “oh, he is a prince, all princes put their shoulders high”! They therefore expect you to be very proud. Even before they meet you, that is the impression which they had already formed. But by the time you move close and talk with them, they now calm down and express surprise. I have gone through all that many times. Take for instance, some people whom I have never met before would tell me that they are afraid of shaking hands with me because they see me as Kabiyesi.
But I often tell them that my father is the Kabiyesi and not me. I am just like you too. If I hold their hands, they would then exclaim “ah, see him, holding my hand”. In summary, those who hold that perception are the ones who feel that as a Prince with all the royalty, one should be arrogant, whereas it is not so and I am not.
One of your blood brothers is also contesting for the Senate under another political party, Social Democratic Party, SDP. How would you react to this and don’t you see this as a royal battle between two Princes?
That is the beauty of democracy. It is not a problem, but first of all, I want you to know that what every contestant needs to do is to perfect his or her homework very well. All I have to say about that for now is that when we get to the bridge, we will look at how to cross it, but I don’t see that as a problem for now.
Other aspirants for the ticket on APC platform are aggrieved over the conduct of the Senatorial primary election that produced you as the standard bearer of your party. How do you intend to placate those that contested and lost the ticket to you?
Of course, I am going to reach out to them so that all of us would have to work together as a team and win this election for our party. At the appropriate time, we will definitely do the needful, now that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has released the final list of contestants.
All of us have to work together because it is such that only one person would emerge as the winner. And if indeed all of us have the spirit of fair play and the overall interest of our party at heart, then, I believe we will all resolve our differences and work for the success of our great party. It is just like the way you saw General Buhari being supported by other contestants who lost the ticket after the presidential primaries. That is the spirit I believe all of us must have, because that is exactly what I would have displayed if I had lost the ticket. It is not a do-or-die affair. If it were to be a do-or-die matter, by now, I would not have remained steadfast, even, after the attempt on my life. I forgave the assailants and their sponsors and I have decided to run again. And this time, by His grace, because He spared my life then, I shall be victorious.
You are a successful businessman and a Prince from the Tejuoso royalty of Oke–Ona Egba in Abeokuta. Why are you seeking an elective position at this time?
God bless you for that question. Do you realise that Nigerian democracy would have grown and be more matured than what we have now, if people from the private sector as well as sons and daughters of traditional rulers, like you put it, had been occupying elective positions in this country? The reason is that such elected persons would not want to bring disgrace to the royal family or whichever establishment such people came from. They would be conscious of the fact that if they fail to perform or embezzle funds meant for developmental projects in their constituency, the electorate would cry out and before you know it, such traditional ruler would have called him or her to accountability and order. But look at what we have today.
We have situations where some politicians would misappropriate funds meant for their constituency projects and they get away with impunity. My vying for the Ogun Central Senatorial seat is to bring about a remarkable difference in my constituency and therefore will not be ‘business as usual,’ I can assure you of that. Many of you, my friends in the pen profession, were quick to refer to Abeokuta as a glorified village, in your past write ups, but look at what Amosun has turned everywhere to now. We are now very proud indigenes of Ogun State, happy to show off the various developmental projects to our friends and prospective investors, when they come calling.
Back to your question, in my own case, let me quickly tell you that the main issue is that this is the first time the Egba Traditional Council will be represented in politics, at least in Ogun State. This is the first time the Egba Traditional Council will be having a candidate from the royalty coming out to say that he wants to represent them. And that is why I have been consulting and seeking our royal fathers’ blessings on this journey to the hallowed chamber. If there is no success in this journey, it will be a failure for the council in its entirety, God forbid.