Kehinde Adewole and Priscilla Ofunre, Ado Ekiti
Olanbiwoninu Joseph Rotimi, popularly known as Mentilo, is the chairman, Ekiti State chapter of the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria, RTEAN. He is also Senior Special Adviser, SSA, Technical, to Governor Kayode Fayemi on Transportation. In this interview with The Nigerian Express, he disclosed that immediate past governor, Ayodele Fayose, victimised him politically for not betraying Fayemi. He also speaks on reclaiming the leadership of the union, his imprisonment under Fayose and other issues.
You have just been given the certificate of leadership to steer the wheel of the union for another term; what do you think earned you that preference to the other contestant in the race?
I thank God for everything. If one is contesting with anybody, one can’t get what God hasn’t given him. It is God and the loyalty and steadfastness of all my members that brought about my emergence. I thank them all because during the struggle, a lot happened. However, no life was lost. I also want to thank the national president, who believes in me. He is a friend, a leader and God-fearing man, who, after weighing the two contestants, picked the one that is better and more qualified. I am also thankful to the Government of Ekiti State, which I am part and parcel of. When two people are with you, you will know the better. It also depends on one’s loyalty to the government. I am a friend to the governor. We have been in the struggle together; we have been friends since 2003 when he came to the state. I was the party chairman then, during the AD (Alliance for Democracy) before it was renamed APC.
When the crisis of the 2014 came up, I lost everything, including my five vehicles. My wife used to travel to Dubai; she was into selling of fabrics, kitchen utensils, garments, wines and some other household items. Her shop was looted and destroyed in the crisis and to make everything worse, former Governor Ayodele Fayose roped me in a case I knew nothing about, saying I was one of those who killed my friend, Omolafe Aderiye, and I spent three years in detention. To God be the glory, justice prevailed. That year’s election was lost to Fayose, not that we lost woefully, but because the state was militarised. After the election, the governor (Fayemi) and I were still communicating before I was arrested and I, being one of the governor’s good disciples, and he, being a good leader and father, took it upon himself and paid me a visit while I was in the prison.
Would you say your closeness to the governor got you the position in the state?
No, the governor did not interfere at all. It was because all the union members wanted me. They said they felt my impact when I was with them, felt my absence after my exit and lamented all that had happened to them when I left. So, it was their decision that was the driving force. When America was in problem, they called on their general; when Britain was in problem, they called on their general, and, when Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, Ekiti State, was in problem too, they called on their general. My union members facilitated my emergence.
Why do you always have crises in your midst whenever a new government is in place?
Fayose introduced that. I was the chairman when former governor Segun Oni was there. I was also the chairman when a state of emergency was declared in the state, during Olurin’s tenure. I was also the chairman during Governor Fayemi’s first term. It was when Fayose came in that everything changed. He perceived me as his enemy. Why? Fayose called me to support him and I told him Fayemi is like a brother to me and he had done a lot for the association. He did not offend us and that we were solidly behind him. This was the genesis of the whole problem. Finally, when Fayose came on board as the governor, we were sent out because he didn’t want to see me. Now, our progressive government is back and whenever the progressive mind like Governor Fayemi is there, no crisis.
Have you been able to resolve your crisis with members, c who supported Fayose?
We don’t have factions. When I was imprisoned, majority of those who worked with the then imposed chairman would sneak in to visit me in prison because if their boss should know of their visits, they would be dealt with severely and might even be sacked. Now, when I wanted to take over, no life was lost. But, when they wanted to take over from me, they killed and macheted some of our supporters. I can call our own kind of taking over as “bloodless”, because we did not beat or kill anybody and the police were not called to settle crisis. Also, immediately I assumed office, I called on both sides, my supporters and supporters of the former chairman. Five of those who worked with the former chairman, Agbede, are also working with me in my administration.
In the last elections, what role did you and your members play in the state?
As good citizens of Ekiti State and Nigeria, the constitution says if you are above 18 years of age, you are eligible to vote. We all went out en masse and voted the persons of our choice and thankfully there was no crisis in the state.
During the general elections, some of your members were reportedly seen, parading the polling units and telling voters, union members especially, that if they did not vote for a particular party, they would be disengaged from the union, what is your reaction?
There was no such case and there was no invitation from the police as to that. The Department of State Security, DSS, did not challenge me. There was no such case at all.
What is your take on the view that politicians often use your members to rig elections?
If they say, we often rig elections, did we rig ourselves out in 2014? My members in the state are serious minded people and we do not participate in electoral fraud or violence.
In what ways is your association planning to support the government of the day?
As road workers, the government of the day is our government and whichever way the government wants our support, we will support them. We are contemplating on issuing of tickets so as to boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. The towns are congested and plans are underway and soon we will start having designated motor parks.
Do you have any challenge you would want the government to intervene?
The governor knows our challenges. When he came on board in 2010, he gave us vehicle. Now, we are also expecting same and other things from him to boost our work and the association. He has done it before; we are sure he will do it again and better this time.