•Speaks on relationship with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, and his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun
•Why I’m happy about Osi of Egbaland title
Chief Olabode Akeem Mustapha is the new Osi of Egbaland and a member of the Ogun State Governor’s Elders Advisory Council, comprising influential stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress in the state. He has also been the National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party and a member of Second Republic President Shehu Shagari’s campaign council. He speaks on his appointment as the Osi of Egbaland, his mission in politics, why he fell out with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, the 2023 presidential election and his family. He spoke with CHUKWUEMEKA MADUNAGU and CHITOLA ROBERTS
Congratulations on your appointment as the Osi of Egbaland.
Thank you very much.
What are your duties in that office?
Well, the Paramount Ruler of Egbaland is the Alake. And the Osi of Egbaland is from the warrior line. I have two people ahead of me – that is the Balogun Egba and the Otun Egba. Our primary role is to support the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland in the way he administers Egbaland and any other function thsat he gives to us as the Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, covering six local governments.
That has placed you in a very influential position. More influential than you have been Do you think so? Coming back to serve your people.
I’ll agree with you that it is like coming back to serve my people.
It is much more than it has been in the past. Do you agree with that?
It is not impossible because now I have a duty to protect the interest of Egbaland and Egbas in general – whether it is Egba Alake, Egba Oke Ona or Egba Gbagura, where I come from. That gives me additional responsibility, no doubt about that. But in the area of influence, I wouldn’t say I’m influential or not. Only God knows who is influential. Only God is influential.
You said you’re in a line of warriors.
And you have been a warrior. A battle-tested politician. Do you think it’s that quality that the powers-that-be saw and put you in that position?
No. You see, to become the Osi of Egbaland, it is a gazetted title. Since I became the Balogun of my township in the last 26 years, my ambition has been to become the Osi of Egbaland. The ambition of every person who is from the township of Osi Egba is to become the Osi of Egbaland. Nineteen years ago, I bidded for it. I won in court but I was prevailed upon to let go at that time. The Agura of Gbagura did say to me in my house here that he knew I would be Osi of Egbaland one day. Just leave it. I should let it go. He also said he knew I would be on that title for many many years. I let go of it, believing that in God’s own time and if I’m destined to be Osi of Egbaland, I will get there. Of course, nine years ago when it became vacant and I went out for it again, the powers-that-be then said they had somebody else in mind. That left me laughing because I knew it’s not a title that belongs to a governor. No. It is a gazetted title. It has a declaration. There is a process to follow. There is a procedure to follow. There are conditions precedent for you to become Osi of Egbaland. At the risk of being immodest, I was the only one who met the conditions for becoming Osi of Egbaland. The powers-that-be then were in power for eight years and it was hanging. Thank God today that what an Egba man couldn’t do, a Remo man has done it. That’s the way God said it was going to happen.
Was your relationship with (Governor Ibikunle) Amosun the reason for his government’s refusal to accord you your due recognition as Osi of Egbaland?
That’s his own problem. That’s his own problem. One thing I’m proud to say is that he was governor, he is a senator but I am Osi of Egbaland.
Do you play politics of bitterness?
No, I don’t play politics of bitterness but once somebody goes for my jugular…. I was nominated as chairman of NDIC (Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation) to compensate mne for beong the director-general of his campaign, to compensate me for not running for Senate, which he begged me and pleaded with me not to run. He also went to Chief Obasanjo to plead with me not to run after I had spent over N36 million and I gave it up. And if because I didn’t support his own candidate for governor but supported Prince Dapo Abiodun, and he now decided to play funny, I mean, in Yoruba they say: “Aye o le pa kadara eda ko le fa owo ago si eyin ni.”
You can only draw back the hands of the clock, you can’t tamper with my destiny. And I make bold to say today that somebody might be governor, might be senator, I don’t care about that. In Egbaland today, I’m Osi Egba for as long as I’m alive. I will not be a former Osi of Egbaland like someone was a former governor, former senator. I’m the Osi of Egbaland. I’m the ninth Osi of Egbaland.
He has left office as governor. Have you met since he left?
Why? You’re his elder right now and you’re supposed to draw your people closer.
I’ve just written him a letter inviting him to my Osi of Egbaland installation. That’s a take-off point. Let’s see what happens. I’m older. I’m his egbon (senior). I can’t push him away because he is my aburo (younger one). If an aburo behaves as aburo, egbon will behave as egbon and that’s why I have invited him to my chieftaincy installation.
But what really caused the quarrel?
I don’t know. I say to people that there are three offices I will never run for in my life. I will never run to be a local government chairman, governor or president becuase the power that they get goes into their heads. They believe they are infallible. They forget that these things have their tenure. And you see, that is why when it is about to finish, they go gaga. If they can have an extension, they want one. I tell you why. A man is the president or governor, he doesn’t know how the generator in his house is fuelled. Before he goes out, one hour or two hours ahead, they must put on the airconditioning in the car.
With a stroke of the pen, he can commute murder sentences to life imprisonment or release people from jail. It’s awesome power. But only God has awesome power. Forget it. When a man leaves office, you’re like chicken that has just been thrown into water. They call the shots. They think they can do and undo. They toy even with people’s lives. On many occasions, they forget people who worked for them to get there. They play God. And God will never allow any human being to chaallenge His power. It’s only God that is immortal. We are all mere mortals. My advice to anybody who holds an executive office is to be careful, be humble. When you leave office, you will meet with those of us who have no office. We no pass, we no fail, we no commot class. We full ground. You will meet us here.
Yeah, very interesting perspectives. Why did you leave PDP? Can you be honest with us on that? You rose to become its national auditor. You were very influential in the party. Why did you leave a party you helped to build?
You see, it’s about principle. To start off with, I’m a progressive. I joined PDP to make certain statements. My egbon who was governor then, Chief Segun Osoba, he is my leader. At a point, we had to face each other. He didn’t get a second term as governor and I didn’t become senator. This shouldn’t have happened. That was what made me join PDP. But then, when you are a progressive, you are a progressive. I noticed that it is in PDP that you come today and say that you want to be governor and you end up becoming governor. There are steps to follow. You have to progress. I used to be the publicity coordinator of Shagari’s campaign in 1983. So, I’ve paid my dues. But today, you see them. They say they want to be senator or governor and they get it. And that was happening in PDP. Certainly, I wasn’t comfortable anymore with the way President Jonathan was running the country. Since I wasn’t comfortable anymore, I had to leave PDP. I resigned as chairman of Agric Research Council of Nigeria. Former Senate President and ex-SGF, Chief Pius Anyim, is alive. Ask him. When I resigned, he called me and said: “Bode, don’t do this.” I said: “I’m alright.” He said Mr. President would not accept it and I said he should give my courtesies and due respect to Mr. President. I’m no longer interested. I’m not somebody who is just interested in an office. There must be value that I can add to it. And if I don’t believe that I can add that value anymore, I should take a glorious back step. If I leave APC today, I can only always be a progressive.
So, you won’t go back to PDP?
It’s not possible.
But when politicians say that something is not possible, we have learnt to take it with a pinch of salt.
Bode Mustapha is saying to you that it is not possible.
Why? Politics is about interest.
You see, I’ll be a part of any party that is progressive. I’ll not belong to any party that is conservative. It is just what it is.
There is a belief that APC is disintegrating. Do you agree with that?
I don’t know. It’s not impossible. To be honest with you, there is no clear identification of intentions by any of the political parties. Today, somebody is PDP and tomorrow he is APC. I say to people that I’m a professional in politics. I’m not a professional politician.
What’s the difference?
When a professional politician wakes up in the morning and you ask him what he does, he says he is a politician. What is he doing? Nothing. I’m a professional in politics.
You’ve not told us the difference.
I am a professional who is playing politics. I am not a politician whose only job is politics. Whatever happens, I’m a progressive and I will always remain a progressive. My participation in politics will become limited now because I’m the Osi of Egbaland. Osi of Egbaland is for everybody. For PDP, for APC, for ANN. For everybody that is Egba. So, I have to be very careful how I play politics now.
You are not the Alake. You are not the Agura of Gbagura….
I’m a member of the Egba Traditional Council.
But Chief Obasanjo is a traditional title holder……
But he is not a member of Egba Traditional Council. No.
But he is the Balogun of Owu.
That does not make him a member of Egba Traditional Council. If he is a member of the Egba Traditional Council today, he will be Ekerin Egba. He will file behind me.
But he plays politics. That’s what I’m talking about.
Different strokes for different folks. I haven’t said I will not play politics. I said I will be careful the way I play politics.
I was about to ask you if you are about to retire from politics.
(General laughter) Well, let’s see what happens. As I said, there are no clear-cut ideologies anymore. A governor in the South-East joining APC from PDP, all for power. It is ridiculous. Everybody is running for president in 2023 when only one person will emerge president. That person has been ordained by God. None of us knows whom that will be. So, It beats me hollow that there are no clear-cut ideologies. Now, when everybody wants to be in APC, how do you build a constructive opposition? I’m sorry, in the days of Action Group, NCNC, NPC, there was strong opposition. In the days of NPN or UPN, there was opposition. People had clear-cut ideas of what they wanted to do. Today, nothing. It’s all chitty chitty bambam. It’s very sad. It’s not good for this country. We are heading down the cliff. Politics and governance are about checks and balances. You must be able to look at what the ruling party is doing and is not doing right. And you say it is not doing it right. But when today somebody crosses here, tomorrow, he is doing this or doing that, everybody is looking for a sanctuary, everybody is looking for power, then we have a problem in this country.
APC has started a membership revalidation. Would you agree with those who say it is meant to whittle down the influence of APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
I wouldn’t say so.
But some people believe so.
They may believe so. I don’t blame them if they say so. The Yoruba say: “Ti oju tie la agba ofin ri ron.” They may use it against you if that is their intention. So, it is better to cry out, cry blue murder. I don’t think so. We have people coming from different parties to APC, like I said earlier on, and trying to turn Nigeria into a one-party state. Maybe the leadership of the National Executive Committee of the party doesn’t want anybody to say “we are founders, they are joiners.” If you start a fresh registration, everybody will have equal rights within the party.
There will always be the godfathers or the owners of the party.
I’d rather believe in what is called godfathers. That happens everywhere. In America, the Democrats have their own godfathers. Donald Trump has just now upturned all the godfathers in the GOP. He is now the godfather. It happens everywhere. There was a time in the UK when Tony Blair was the godfather while Gordon Brown was another godfather. They pitched themselves against each other and put up two brothers, same father and same mother, against each other. They didn’t want the younger one who was more intelligent and would have made a good prime minister because he was a Blairite. He wasn’t allowed to get there. Today, President Muhammadu Buhari is the overall leader of APC. He is flying the flag of APC. So, godfathers will still be there.
Let me ask you a question and I want a sincere answer. Do you believe the Yorubas should run for president in 2023?
I think I should first of all say that the presidency should come to the South. Once we all agree that the presidency should come to the South, I will also advise or suggest that like we had in 1999, where the key political parties fielded Yoruba candidates, that the key parties should also present candidates from the South. The Presidency is nobody’s birthright, whether Igbo, Hausa, minority. Nine will never become 10 without a single one. When you’re canvassing for votes, you look for the votes of Yorubas, Hausas, minorities. At that point, everyone is relevant and that means that everyone has a right to become president of this country.
If you had to pick between Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu flying the presidential flag of APC, who would you pick?
I will pass.
No, because it’s like creating more problems within the party. Each of them has his own qualities of how he can be president. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo used to serve under Bola Ahemd Tinubu when the latter was governor. Tinubu is national leader of the party. But Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has one thing. He has been a part of governance at the national level. By the time they leave office, it would have been eight years. I can tell you something. It’s no tea party. Running a local government is not like running a state. Running a state is not like running 36 states plus the FCT. It’s like running a government in which there are 240 tribes in this country. And if Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has been learning the ropes, he may have an edge. In terms of political spread, of course, Asiwaju Tinubu has it. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is not a politician. He is a professional in politics. He is a learned silk. He worked in cabinet as a lawyer. He was the chief law officer of Lagos State. By sheer providence, he became the vice-president. Of course, I will expect that if Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is prevailed upon to concede, he will concede to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. But it’s all politics. Nobody knows which way the pendulum will swing.
Has this been discussed at certain levels in the party?
I’ve been very busy as the Osi-elect of Egbaland. I’m preparing for my installation. It took me months to make sure I got my nomination through. I can’t put two irons in the fire at the same time.
But they will come to you.
Nobody has come to me.
You mean politicians don’t come to you? You were there in NPN, PDP and now APC.
I’ve been a professional in politics for so long.
Who else would people want to go to?
People consult me once in a while and I give them my honest opinion.
What’s your honest opinion about the 2023 presidency? You said it should come to the South. To where?
Look, do you want to get my honest opinion? If I’m to choose, I’ll give it to South-East. You see, it’s about equity, fairness and justice. If a Yorubaman has been president, a South-South man has been president, a Hausa-Fulani man has been president, why can’t a South-East person be president? I’m not a bastard. I’m not selling out on the Yorubas. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has what it takes to be president of this country. One thing I believe in life is that God has destined how far anybody will go. No matter what happens, even if Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu does not get the presidency, you cannot take it away from him that he is a national leader and a person of reckoning in Nigerian politics.
How much impact do you think professionals in politics have made in Nigeria?
You can be a professional and you can advise. Okay, you are the governor of the state and I’m an engineer. They say this road is bad and we go to inspect it. I get people from the ministry, technocrats to do drawings. And they bring it to you as governor but you say ‘no, I don’t want it this way. I want this, this and this.” When you listen to professional advice, you succeed. But once they (politicians) get there, professionals don’t have a say anymore. It’s the cabals. Whether at federal or state level, there are cabals. They make sure they clamp that person. Even when things are sent to him, he will call members of the cabal and say: “What do you think?” And if they don’t like your face, they will say all kinds of things. It’s like a lawyer going to court. He can argue for this side in this case and for the other in another case. In 1983, we saw it happen. So, they will kill it. And when a professional has given his advice once, twice, thrice, he gets tired and says let them go and do it their way.
So, you are saying that cabals are ruling Nigeria?
They are everywhere. In everywhere. In the UK until they fell out, Cummins was a one-man cabal working with Boris Johnson. He was a one-man cabal until he fell out with Boris Johnson’s wife and Boris Johnson had to choose between him and her. So, it’s everywhere. But the point I’m trying to make is that monkey will work, baboon will chop. People who put their lives on the line for these things, stake everything hardly ever get it. I make bold to say that when we were working for President Muhammadu Buhari in the South-West, then Chief Obasanjo was backing him, he set up a committee of 12 of us, two from each state. There was a lady among us because she was a top person from a state. We used to meet in a place in Ibadan every 10 days. We would get in there between 5pm and 7pm and go to our respective rooms. At quarter to midnight, I would call everybody in their rooms and tell them where we were to meet. Myself and Dr. Gbolade Oshinowo represented Ogun State. Prince Oyinlola and his former SSG represented Osun. Engr. Segun Oni and Hon. Bunmi Oriolowo, who used to be minority leader in Ekiti State House of Assembly,, represented Ekiti. We would brainstorm and work. We worked tirelessly. By the time we won the election, there was nothing for us. Nothing. Even the person who put us together said he was not ready to go and ask Buhari for anything. He said he would not want to be insulted. And that’s what happens. I now said to myself that I would never go to that man’s house again. Never. Yorubas say: Eni ti o ba rin ti o ba yo, ti o ba ba rin mo ebi oni pa e.” If I’m moving with you and you can’t feed me, if I’m not moving with you anymore, I will not die. And I moved on. I’m not living or wanting to be associated with one big man’s name because my name already, Bode Mustapha, is a big man’s name. What if when we were going for those meetings and we were leaving at 4.30 in the morning and anybody died, that would have been it. We met with you and you told us that you didn’t want to ask Buhari for anything. That you don’t want insult. You are now father of all, father of APC, father of PDP. And I said I was never going to go to his house anymore. And that was over five years ago. As long as I’m alive, I will not. What is the whole essence? What if I had died while travelling to Ibadan? What if armed robbers had attacked me? What if any of us had died? People coming from Ondo, coming from Ekiti. So, once it happens, the cabal will take over. Again, I’ve discovered that in politics, people use you and dump you. When they need you they can come to your house everyday. I know somebody who wanted a position and came to my house in Ibadan about six times. Five times, I refused to see him. He came the sixth time, and I decided that okay I would support him. Politics is not meant for someone like me because, one, I’m too blunt. I believe that you just have to be honest with people. You don’t use them and dump them. I can tell you, politicians are just hard. For anybody who has no other means of survival except politics, they would like to go and sit in the ante office of a local government council chairman or governor for six hours everyday. They say maybe one day the man will have mercy on them and give them something. That’s why you hear, “oh we have done this. What else can we do? It is better to stoop to conquer otherwise for four years, you will not eat.”
Do you recall when Tinubu and others visited ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo at his house in Abeokuta to seek his support for Buhari.
I was in Obasanjo’s house on that day.
Now, that brings me to the question of after all that camaraderie, why did Buhari and Obasanjo fall out?
I can’t say I know why but you see what I can say is that in Yoruba, they say: afobaje ni oba ma n ko ko be lori.”If you help a man to get to power, just move on. Move on. Don’t try to stay and say you want to advise him. Once he is sworn in, he becomes his own man. He has his inner circle of friends who were close to him. He will be telling them, while people are looking for votes and all, that they should just stay put. Once we win, you take charge. Number two, Buhari won election and became his own man. It means that you cannot instruct him. or advise him. It is well within his rights to take the advice or leave it. End of story. Probably that was what happened. He may decide to make himself inaccessible to you or accessible only as he wishes. It’s not impossible that was what happened. I wouldn’t know the details.
Recently Fashola said that it was agreed in APC that after President Buhari, Yourbas would present the next president. Is it true?
I don’t know about that. But if they have it in writing let them show it to the whole world; if they know that there was a bargain and a bargain is a bargain.
But you were at that meeting at President Obasanjo’s house….
I was in President Obasanjo’s house when they came but I was not at that meeting.
Was anything like that mooted throughout the campaign?
I don’t know because there were some things that happened that people like us did not know about. I would not claim knowledge of what I don’t know about. But people are saying that written understandings are in existence. And I believe it’s high time they brought those understandings out for the world to see.
You are so happy and relaxed in your surroundings. What is responsible for that?
Peace of mind. I don’t stress myself. I said to myself that I cannot sleep in two beds talkless of two rooms at the same time. What I’m putting on now, if I wear a pair of trousers on, you won’t see it. If I wear a pair of trousers and danshiki and buba and shokoto, as well as a jacket, they say that man has gone crazy. How much food will I eat? When I see people who amass wealth, I say they are mad. If God blesses me, I plan to set up a foundation to give out scholarships. And I plan to fund it very heavily. I was not born rich, I was born poor. If I didn’t have the privilege of an education, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Whehn I see people who amass wealth, they stress themselves. People say that if you drink coffee you won’t sleep. When I want to sleep heavily, I drink cofee. I eat what I want to eat. There are days that all I want to eat is boli and epa (roasted plaintain and groundnuts) for lunch. And I drink Coke with it. I lead a very simple and easy life. No airs around me, no stress. I don’t stress myself. I thank God. I bless God I don’t have any problems with my children. My children don’t give me any stress.
How is the family life like?
Wonderful. I’ll be out of the country to go and see my family. My children are looking forward to my coming. Fortunately because of the lockdown in the UK, two of my daughters are at home with my wife. I have another daughtr who is married. She is with her family. I have a son who is also out there. And what do I do in the UK? I watch television from morning till night. I drink tea, coffee and I relax. I watch television. If the weather were to be good, I play golf.
What’s the best score you’ve had in golf?
Well, I can tell you that my lowest handicap in golf was five. I was a semi-professional.
So, why did you stop?
Well, I’m growing older. I still enjoy it. Golf is the only game that you can play till you’re 85. When I play in Abeokuta, I use my own cart. I have my own golf buggy. On Tuesday, I played in Sagamu. I walked the 18 holes although it was tiring. I’m not a social person. I don’t finish playing golf and sit in a clubhouse.
Don’t you go to parties?
I go to parties once in a while. I used to be a party freak. I used to be at functions. But as you grow older, you slow down.
What are the things you’v left out as a grand old daddy?
I don’t drink as I used to. In the past, I used to finish a bottle of XO in one and half days. There was a time I used to drink a minimum of a bottle of champagne a day. Now that I’m travelling, maybe this is the last time I’ll drink for another three to four weeks. Do anything you want to do out of moderation as you grow older. You can’t eat as you used to eat anymore. You have to respect yourself and understand that whether you like it or not, age will catch up with you. Just respect yourself and respect your age.
What would be your advice to Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun who made you a member of the elders’ council? Do you think he is performing well? Some people say he is rather slow.
I think what they don’t understand about him is that he is not a publicity freak. His media team is weak. He is doing a lot. He is doing a lot but he is not loud. He is really trying. To start off with, the way he handled the pandemic, we take it for granted but it was a security risk. He handled it well. Look at the #ENDSARS protests that started in Lagos and did not spread to Ogun State, it was management. Think of the colossal loss in terms of properties and people. He is also doing schools, rehabilitating roads but he is not shouting. Maybe he is a publicity-shy person or maybe his media team is weak. Or a combination of both.
But the people of Mowe, Ibafo, Magboro say they are not feeling his impact.
Can I tell you something? The roads they were doing into Mowe, Ofada etc etc, he has re-awarded them. They were abandoned. A lot of the projects that were abandoned, he said he would not leave any project abandoned in this state. If it were another governor, he would have started his own projects and those other ones would have become abandoned projects for life. But to say he will continue where his predecessor left off, all the things he did not finish, he will finish them, not one will he abandoned, I think it is very statesmanly. Nobody is perfect. I’m not saying he is 100 percent. But so far, so good.
So, you rate him highly.
I rate him highly.
Will you endorse him for a second term if he chooses to run?
I will not talk of second term now. To start with, who knows who will wake up tomorrow? When I see people who say, “second term oooo, 2023,” does anybody have control over life? Does anybody know who will be there? Look at how many people COVID-19 has taken off. May God grant Pepper (Senator Bayo ) aljanah fridaus. Let us beg God to just keep us alive.
Why does this herdsmen’s threat persist? It has become a very serious threat to Yorubaland.
It is very very unfortunate. In that area, I have to blame Mr. President. These guys have become very emboldened since he became president. These guys are now so emboldened. For Miyetti Allah to now be saying that they can graze anywhere they want to graze, it is insulting. And they didn’t pick the guy up? I won’t go to Bauchi or Yola and say that this land is my own. Mutual coexistence, yes. But not that you tell me that you can do as you wish. Now, Sunday Igboho has shown them. Sunday Igboho has emboldened other Yorubas. I think it will be in the interest of Mr. President if he can do something about it and leave a good legacy. The colonial masters created those forest reserves because in them were solid minerals. I’m telling you that for free. I used to be in mining. Forest reserves belong to state governments. Every land in Ogun State, the custodian is Prince Dapo Abiodun, Governor of Ogun State. If I buy land and he gives me a Certificate of Occupancy, it gives me 99 years of occupancy. If you wanht to use the land you come and negotiate with me. It has to be corrected. People are not feeling secure anymore. It’s not right for Miyetti Allah to be making the kinds of stupid statements that they are making. They dared not make such statements when Obasanjo was in power. Abacha was there, Abdulsalami Abubakar came, Jonathan was there, was there anything like that? I just hope this crisis will not mess up whatever legacy that President Muhammadu Buhari will leave behind.
Are you saying that President Muhammadu Buhari is the only one who can end the herdsmen’s crisis?
Yes. Capital YES. Don’t forget that in year 2000, he led their team, together with Buba Marwa, to go and meet with then Oyo State Governor Lam Adesina and said they were not happy. These so-called Fulani herdsmen, they are just workers. The cows that they are grazing belong to the big men. Big men who are empowering them, giving them ammunition and saying, “just go and do whatever you like. If anything happens, we will call the CP. We will tell the IGP to call the CP. And that’s what will happen.” President Muhammadu Buhari owes it as a duty because the primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and property.