The call for restructuring of Nigeria is not new, but the Yoruba summit held last Thursday in Ibadan, Oyo State, perhaps gave a fresh narrative to the clamour. WALE ELEGBEDE reports on how the zone reached a consensus on return to regionalism
If there is any discourse that has permeated the nation’s political system, it is the call for the restructuring of Nigeria’s economic and political system. In the light of this, several individuals, ethnic groups, political parties and organisations, have joined the fray to put pressure on the government of the day to restructure the country and by extension, create a new, acceptable constitution.
It was against this backdrop that the Yoruba people of the South-West extraction gathered last week Thursday in the ancient city of Ibadan, precisely at the main bowl of the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, for what was tagged the ‘Yoruba Summit’ to deliberate on the restructuring agenda and proclaim its unified standpoint on the conversation.
Opening the lid
The journey that heralded the process of the Ibadan Summit started on August 20 in Lagos when the conveners of the parley held a press conference to explain the route the summit will take.
According to the Chairman, Organising Committee for the Grand Rally, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who addressed the pre-summit media parley, the Yoruba nation would take a crucial decision that would affect the future of Nigeria at the Ibadan summit.
Preparing the mind of the nation ahead of the summit, Olajide, a former Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders, said over 100 Yoruba groups have chosen the date to make their position known on the agitation, adding that the summit has the backing of the six governors in the zone.
Notable Yoruba leaders at the press conference include Pa Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Dr. Amos Akingba, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, among others.
The city of Ibadan experienced a heavy downpour on the day of the summit, but that did not deter participants from trooping to the main bowl of the stadium. Expectedly, adequate security was on hand to protect the lives and properties of the participants at the parley. Due to the traffic of people heading to the stadium, there was vehicular gridlock around the Mokola area, thereby giving traffic wardens a hectic time.
A carnival-like atmosphere
Before, during and after the summit, commercial talking drummers were on hand to breathe life to the event. Moving in two’s and three’s, they sang praises of dignitaries to high heavens, while some doled out few Naira’s to them, others chose to ignore their presence. Similarly, the Igbo cultural dancers were also in full force at the gathering and their presence was conspicuous.
Aside the general banners and inscriptions by the organizers, other groups dorning various T-shirts and uniform clothing, brandished their banners within the stadium to express their stance on the restructuring movement. Some of the inscriptions on the banners read: “Say No to Nigeria, Yes to Oduduwa Republic”, “Believe in Oduduwa Republic Now”, “Oduduwa Republic Now”, “Restructuring too late, Oduduwa Republic Now”, Oduduwa Republic Now, we support”, “Yoruba Liberation Command Stands for Oduduwa Republic”, “Oduduwa Republic not negotiable”, “Our Land, Our Blood, Oduduwa Republic Now”, Enough of cheating, enough of being second class citizens in our land, declare Oduduwa Republic”, British Created Nigeria, God creates Oduduwa Republic, Oduduwa Republic Now.” among others.
Regardless of the array of notable Yoruba sons and daughters present at the summit, former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, is the first of the absentees conspicuously noticed at the gathering. Also, National Assembly members and ministers from the zone were not present in sight at the summit. Out of the six governors in the zone, only the Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, was present. The governors of Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Ondo sent representatives who delivered their addresses to the gathering but the Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, wasn’t in attendance and didn’t send any representative.
According to Olajide, the chairman of the summit planning committee, the Oyo State governor, Sen. Abiola Ajimobi, gave permission for the usage of the stadium for the summit at no cost.
The OPC scuffle
Whilst the summit was in session, factions of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), congregated outside to settle some scores. It was gathered that in the fisticuff, one person was alleged to have been killed and many were left seriously injured. Incidentally, the leaders of the two warring factions, Dr Fredrick Fasheun and Otunba Gani Adams, were both present in the main bowl while their supporters were squaring it up. Some vehicles were also destroyed outside the stadium and it took the intervention of policemen to stop a faction of the group from burning a Golf car with the registration number, Lagos JJJ 784 AS.
The roll call
Notable among dignitaries at the summit include the Ooni of Ife, Oba Eniitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi II; President General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose; former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae; Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Chief Albert Horsfall; Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu; former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor and former deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Kaka.
Also at the summit were the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC),
National Coordinator, Otunba Gani Adams; chairman of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Chief Idowu Sofola; Senator Iyiola Omisore; Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, Senator Mojisola Akinfenwa; Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan; Col. Tony Nyiam ( rtd ); Chief Supo Shonibare, Mr. Wale Oshun; Senator Ike Nwachukwu; Professor Tunde Adeniran, and Orangun of Ila, Oba Wahab Oyedokun.
Others at the event were Oba Lekan Balogun, Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland; Oba Latifu Adebimpe, Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi who was represented by Bashorun of Oyo, High Chief Yusuf Ayoola, Mr. Babatunde Oduyoye; Dr. Yemi Farohunmbi; Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, daughter of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), among others.
The organising team
Among the organising committee were: Chairman, Kunle Olajide, Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, Oba Adedapo Popoola, Mrs. Abimbola Oguntunde, Adeniji Sheriff, Aluko Alafe, Ayo Afolabi, Bolaji Ogunseye, David Atteh, Mrs. Doherty, Dominic Adegbola, Dotun Hassan, Mrs. Dupe Adelaja, Femi Adefila, Folu Olamiti, Kunle Famoriyo, Muyiwa Olaipo, Oladipo Olaitan, Olayemi Omisore, Olufemi Adegoke, Otunba Ayodeji Oshinbogun, Samuel Oloyede, Segun Balogun, Sesan Ekisola, Simon Daramola, Sola Lawal, Supo Shonibare, Tanimowo Babajide,Tokunbo Ajasin, Mrs. Tokunbo Sholu-Ekukinam, Tunde Amusat, Tunji Bello, Willy Thomas, and Wole Agboluaje.
With opening prayers from the retired Archbishop of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Ayo Ladigbolu and former deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Kaka, the ball was set rolling for the summit. Opening the floor for views and addresses, the organizing committee chairman of the summit, Olajide, said in his welcome address that the summit was out, “to do an honest review of our past, frank appraisal of the present and a telescopic view of our future.”
While stating that the gathering has no political leaning or influence, Olajide noted that the summit was a coalition of Yoruba interest groups who are committed to championing the birth of a new Nigeria.
He stressed about the gathering that, “It’s a summit of the brightest and best in Yorubaland, political leaders of all ideological persuasion, academia, labour leaders, students, artisans, market women, and essentially, the proletarians. We are determined to move Nigeria from this consumption mode to a productive mode. We are here gathered to begin the process that will put a halt to this drifting”.
Nigeria won’t break up- Afe Babalola
For legal luminary, Aare Babalola, the summit is not aimed at decapitating the country, but a move to ensure that the country is restructured so that over-concentration of power in the centre , corruption and marginalization would be addressed.
Babalola , who is the chairman of the summit, said, “the agitation for secession is an ill-wind that does no good. No matter the motive of the conveners of the Berlin Conference, we have lived together for over 100 years, having been married by fiat of the Europeans. It is better to dialogue and restructure the country. No woman wants a dissolution of a marriage if the parties live in comfort and are prosperous. It is incumbent on the leaders to make the country so prosperous that nobody would agitate for recession.
“It is restructuring that would curb over concentration of power in the centre and reduce corruption, promote harmony and unity and make the country metamorphose into a nation”, he said.
My father stood for true federalism- Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu
For the daughter of the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the summit is in sync with the stance of his father, stating that the sage believed that only a federal constitution can foster unity with concord among the diverse national groups in the country, adding that, “Chief Awolowo had been an avowed federalist from 1933 (when he was just 24 years old), and until he drew his last breath in 1987, he never recanted,”
She noted further that said: “There is absolutely nothing in the campaign for restructuring or federalism or devolution of powers that portend any form of negative outcomes for our other compatriots or, indeed, for Nigeria.”
We are in sync with Yoruba on restructuring- Nwodo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo President
Speaking at the summit, the President-General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nwodo who led a high powered delegation of South East which include a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, and former Minister of Information, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, among others, to the summit, said Nigerians, especially, people in the Southern part, was being ruled by a set of document they were not party to.
“I am here with a large delegation to emphasise the Igbo solidarity with this occasion. What is happening today shows that democracy has begun to grow in Nigeria. Since 1963, the people of Nigeria have never been allowed to write a constitution that will determine the way they are ruled.
“Is it wrong to have a say in your country? Is it right to be ruled by a document that you are not party to? What we are saying today is that the people of Nigeria must have a say in the way they are governed. It is not only the Yoruba that are saying it, we the Igbo are saying it loud and clear. Many people have tried to destroy restructuring by saying that it is a ploy by Southern Nigeria to monopolise the God-given mineral resources in the area. Those who are doing this do not love Nigeria.
“Education knows no boundaries, I was taught by Yoruba professors and today, I can mimic the Yoruba intellectual powers. I drank from the water and if that is so, every area in Nigeria that has relative advantage will export its advantage to the rest of Nigeria. I want to tell you that we support your motion for restructuring of Nigeria,” said Nwodo.
Ooni’s royal appeal
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, who led other traditional rulers to the summit, sued for peace amid agitation for restructuring, warning against selfish motives.
He urged the elders of the Yoruba race to be honest and place the future of the youths ahead of every consideration. He said it was the only way to preserve and strengthen the Yoruba race.
The revered monarch said: “The Yoruba leaders are here today and I thank them for this. My appeal is that we should all approach restructuring with honesty. We should separate politics from it because of the future of our youths. Out of ten people in Nigeria, seven are in the youth brackets. We should be firm in our pursuit and let peace reign in our agitation.
Resource Control, way to go- Horsfall
Speaking on behalf of the South-South zone, a former State Security Service chief, Chief Albert Horsfall, said the region, he represents, believes in restructuring which must first take effect on the control of resources by states that own the resources.
His words: “We of the SouthSouth have for several years run the economy of this country; we provided the engine room that runs Nigeria yet we are still expecting to have a a priviledge to run our own affairs. We do not want federation based on unitary system. We are not mad; we are agitating for our rights.”
“We believe in Nigeria but we do not want a federation in unitary system; somebody produces something, somebody, because of a population that is claimed and not proven, tells you what to do with your resources. During the civil war, we produced the man power, the leg work, the fighting force that kept the country together, therefore, I plead with you, restructuring should start with the South-South. Civilization came to this country from the shores of South South. Restructuring must start from the South South. What we understand by restructuring is that you provide your resources and control it.”
Fayose hits Yoruba elders
Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose accused Yoruba elders of being the major problem of the Yoruba nation, stating that there was no unity of purpose among the Yoruba elders.
He said, “He said, “I can only tell the truth in a forum like this. People can only discard my voice, but they cannot throw me away. Our forefathers in Yoruba land tried their best, but the present Yoruba elders are our problem. This is our fathers’ land and they must defend it.
“We have had great meetings like this that was held in the past and which were attended by Yoruba elder, but after the meetings, the so-called elders would approach the media and said we do not need restructuring. This does not make any sense. The war against Yoruba land is from within. We have selfish elders of the land. Through the period when one of our elders ruled Nigeria, he never deemed it fit to honour Chief MKO Abiola, who died fighting the cause of the Yoruba people.
“We are fighting for a just cause, but this man will appear on the television and say restructuring is not the way. He put us in the position we are today. In the Bible, Jonah was thrown into the sea because he was perceived as the problem of the ship he was travelling in. By His grace, all Yoruba enemies will be thrown into the sea. Many do not understand restructuring. We are already in slavery. Awolowo was put in jail because he told the truth, but anyone that is against me will not have peace.”
After an exhaustive deliberation, the Summit, which is by far the largest gathering of Yoruba people from the six south-west states, Kogi and Kwara states, noted in a communiqué, which is now tagged, the ‘Ibadan Declaration’, outlined 16 points as the outcome of the one-day summit. The motion for the adoption of the Communique was moved Chief Niyi Akintola and jointly signed by Chief Babalola, who was the chairman of the occasion, and Dr. Olajide .
The Yoruba leaders unanimously agreed that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, noting that this has been the position of the race since 1950 Ibadan conference and developments in Nigeria over the last fifty years.
They also called for the restructuring of the country in line with regionalism, saying that Nigeria shall be a federation comprising six regions and the federal capital Territory, Abuja.
Clearly, the Yoruba people through the consensus reached at the one-day summit has been able to raise the bar of the restructuring challenge, it is only left to be seen what becomes of their stand point
June 12: Reps’ verdict on Abiola’s recognition
The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to honour the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, Chief MK.O Abiola as well as declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day precipitated a rancorous plenary in the House of Representatives, PHILIP NYAM reports.
On June 6, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari in a surprised move declared June 12 as a national holiday and authentic Democracy Day as from next year.
The President also announced his decision to confer a posthumous honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Bashorun MKO Abiola.
Also on the honours list was Amb. Babagana Kingibe, the running mate to Chief Abiola, who was conferred with the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON). Similarly, the late revered lawyer and human rights crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was honoured for his contribution to the growth of democracy in the country.
This decision by the President resonated in the House of Representatives as lawmakers engaged one another in a heated debate supporting or kicking against the idea.
Being an issue that has refused to disappear from the nation’s political scene, every lawmaker had a position on it. Hence for almost an hour, the lower chamber was thrown into rowdiness as each legislator struggled to pass his message across.
Perhaps, due to the unexpected manner the presidential declaration on the issue came, some of the lawmakers could not articulate their views coherently.
Not a few Nigerians expected that President Buhari, having come from the military constituency, which annulled the election, would reverse a decision that was taken under a military regime, which previous administrations never thought of tinkering with.
So, the arguments by most of the lawmakers were dictated by sentiments, particularly the same primordial sentiments that were erased with the outcome of the June 12 presidential election.
Although some of the lawmakers decided to hide under the canopy of constitutionality to oppose the President’s decision to honour Abiola and Kingibe, thereby placing legality ahead of the wounds that this singular act is intended to heal.
The reaction of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, labeling the posthumous award as illegal may have also fuelled the disorderliness that erupted in the House.
But the immediate cause of the commotion was consequent upon a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Raji Olawale (APC, Lagos), calling for the recognition of the Presidential declaration of June 12 as democracy day.
While presenting the motion, Hon. Olawale submitted that June 12 remains a memorable day in the history of Nigeria. He extolled President Buhari for “finally listening to the voice of the people.”
He argued that “June 12 was the very first time Nigerians, regardless of tribe or religion, voted massively for the duo of Abiola and Kingibe. If June 12 had been allowed to stand, Nigeria would not have been where it is today.
That is why President Buhari finally listened to the voice of the people,”
Supporting the motion, Hon. Chris Azubogu (PDP, Anambra) agreed with Olawale that the declaration marked a watershed in the history of Nigeria and vindicated those involved in June 12. He, however, observed that the declaration was incomplete because Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, who was the chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that conducted that historic election, was left out of the recognition.
He noted that “but one thing is missing, the umpire who conducted that historic election was not recognised.”
Similarly, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu). shared the same view, reiterating that those who midwifed the election should also have been recognised.
According to him, “June 12 is one of the things that symbolise this country, but some people conducted the election and are supposed to be recognised.”
But Hon. Rotimi Agunsoyo (APC, Ondo), in his contribution expressed concerns with the implication of declaring Abiola as the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election would be.
Trouble, however, started when the chairman, House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) described the President’s action as an “act of desperation” and drew the attention of the lawmakers to item 51 of the Exclusive Legislative List, which subjects the declaration of public holidays to legislative ratification.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, quickly punctured Ossai’s position citing section 2 of the Constitution that empowers the President to declare any day as public holiday without legislative ratification. Dogara, also a lawyer made his intervention from the point of knowledge and not from a political perspective.
But Hon. Aliyu Pategi (APC, Kwara) read out from a subsisting Act of the National Assembly that actually declared May 29 as a nationally recognised “Democracy Day.”
“We must make sure that whatever we do is recognised by our laws,” Pategi advised other lawmakers.
The House became divided as those in support and against the motion started shouting at one another and the shouts of “sit down,” “we stand with Abiola” rented the air.
The rowdiness continued for more than half an hour before normalcy was returned to the chambers. Addressing the plenary after the reign of noise, Speaker Dogara declared: “Honourable colleagues, we have had the opportunity of exercising ourselves today. But this the beauty of democracy.”
Continuing, Dogara noted that “this shows that democracy is alive,” while admitting that certain corrective measures have to be taken to bring the declaration in tandem with existing laws.
While referring the matter to House joint Committee on Justice and Rules and Business, Dogara declared that “there is no winner in this matter. Unfortunately, I am going to discontinue this debate and refer it to committees on justice and rules and business to look at it and give a report to enable us take a decision.”
He said the committees would “look at the whether Section 2 of the law will override the provision of No.5 of the Schedule, which proclaimed May 29 as Democracy Day.”
The House proceeded on a recess to mark the end of the third session of the current Assembly, but the President has performed the first part of the declaration.
While the two committees of the House are yet to sit and look at the assignment given to them, which its report may have to wait until the lawmakers reconvene from the short break on July 3, the President last Tuesday, conferred the honour on late Abiola, Kingibe and late Fawehinmi.
But most analysts are of the view that even if this action by the President is illegal, it is political expedient and tolerable because of the heightened political situation in the nation.
Although, some analysts have contended that it may be just a campaign gimmick being employed by Buhari to curry favour and sway votes from the South-West geopolitical zone, there is no doubt that the gesture will definitely defray some frayed nerves.
It is also a pointer to the fact that in the days ahead, the Buhari administration may strive to take some populists decisions to once again warm itself into the hearts of Nigerians.
Atiku visits Fayose, canvasses support for PDP candidate
Former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) frontline presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, visited Ekiti State for a strategic review meeting with Governor Ayodele Fayose, where he also rallied support for Prof. Kolapo Olusola, the PDP governorship candidate in the state for the July 14 election.
A statement from the office of the Director General, Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO), Otunba Gbenga Daniel, also disclosed that the campaign team will be in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State capital today in continuation of Atiku’s nationwide consideration with Governor Seriake Dickson and other chieftains of the party in the state.
Later, Atiku Abubakar will be in Rivers State on a two-day visit between Wednesday and Thursday, where he is expected to commission some projects executed by Governor Nyesom Wike. The team will also pay courtesy calls on some major stakeholders in the PDP in Rivers State.
It will be recalled that Atiku had earlier visited Ekiti, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States meeting with the respective governors of the states before taking a break to observe the Ramadan fast that took him to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj.
Oshiomhole: My supporters know what I stand for
Ahead of the national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the immediate past Governor of Edo State and aspirant for the seat of national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, speaks on some knotty issues in the party, those supporting him and the challenges, among other issues. CAJETAN MMUTA reports
What makes you think that you are the best man for the job of national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at this point that the party seems to be in crisis?
I am very familiar with the dreams, missions and visions of the founders of this party because I was one of them. Four years down the road, in line with the provisions of our constitution, the APC and the constitution of Nigeria, we are obliged to have an elective convention and one of the positions that is being contested for is that of the national chairman. And I am convinced that I have what it takes to provide leadership and build on the foundation laid by the first chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, who did a marvelous job. So, I think for a political party that is determined to be in power, you need a solid structure to achieve it and God used Bisi Akande and other leaders such as President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others to achieve that. After which Chief John Oyegun came in to contribute his own quota to build on that foundation and four years after, we have the opportunity to contest for that office believing that we can help to reinvent and refocus the party in a way that it will be a strong pillar to support governments elected on its platform at both the local, state and federal levels. And also help to ensuring that the definition and essence of progressive politics is one that is clear to all members and leaders of the party to form the basis of the contract to our people as entrenched in our party’s constitution.
To subscribe to the values of progressive politics is to commit yourself to a party that is people driven, mass oriented and committed to public welfare. My hope then is that my task will be to try to begin to help everyone not only to understand the essence of progressive politics and the ideology that it represents, but start the process of building the party, so that in the very nearest future Nigerians should be able to stop the debate about whether or not there is a difference between one party and the other. And to be honest, it is a huge challenge to try to make the distinction, which is why people say they don’t know the difference between one party and the other. And of course, the ease with which people cross-carpet also raises the issue of whether really there are fundamental ideological differences. But, why we need to deepen this and make it an issue is that if we do not do it, then Nigerian people really do not have a sustainable basis to align with one political party or the other as we found elsewhere.
I think the danger of not having ideological based political parties is that party contestation is then driven by religion and ethnicity, which is very dysfunctional as long as managing the affairs of a state is concerned. Religion is important in our lives to guide our values and create a sense of fairness, justice and above all, the fear of God without which we can’t make progress. But, it can become dysfunctional if conversation and friendship is driven exclusively by these ethnic and religious sentiments. Like I said, elsewhere recently, unless we act proactively, that is members of the political elite to really get serious and organize parties based on ideology, these other forces will crowd out the political class and politics will be very injurious and national unity will be weakened and that will be a danger to our future. So, I am clear as to what my task will be, it is not to reinvent the foundation, it is now to look at the finishing to strengthen the house. And two, to evolve a leadership style such that every member of the house can find reasonable comfort to remain in the house and any one expressing discomfort will be assisted to see how we can work together to have comfort in that house rather than a situation in which if you are not comfortable, you open the door and if it does not open, you jump through the window and look for another house.
I think we have taken certain thing for granted since 1999, so we want to be able to provide a leadership style that will challenge other political parties to get serious. At the beginning it was like that, people knew the difference between Aminu Kano’s party and other political parties. We knew the difference between the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). So, it will help the public know which party to belong to. If you look at the June 12 election, people voted based on ideology of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) and that was why you saw that MKO Abiola won in Kano. So, what has changed today, same Nigeria same people. I think what has changed is that there is a huge deficit of the capacity of the political elite to put issues on the table and for ease of defence, people resort to ethnic sentiment when their stewardship comes into evaluation. And when they are seeking support and they do not have a coherent message to persuade the people, they resort to cheaper option of religion. I believe that as a people, we need to deal with this by bringing on board issues to replace these sentiments which can be quite annoying.
Are you not worried you are gunning for the position at a time when people are threatening to leave your party and some have even left?
It is also important to say that we have even expanded the house of APC as many people have decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC after the formation of the party in 2014 and even after the last elections. So, I think we have lost few, but we have gain more and I believe there are many who will come may be after I assume office, God willing, if I win based on my conversation with people because I know people across all the divides. However, that does not mean that we don’t have a problem. But I thank God that He blessed the Nigerian people by directing their thoughts during the last election to vote in President Buhari and excuse former President Goodluck Jonathan because from all the revelations now, those of us and those other Nigerians who believe that the level of corruption and theft of public fund has gotten to a level that is no longer sustainable to a point that President Buhari said if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria cannot be faulted.
Those who thought it was just as simple slogan have seen the extent of abuse, like I was able to say it to President Jonathan and the service chiefs at that time, that by 1999 General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over 774 local governments to President Olusegun Obasanjo to superintend over, but by 2014-2015, PDP was only superintending over about 250 local governments, the rest were under the control of Boko Haram. This is not my opinion, it came from security agencies when they came together in the last National Council of State meeting before the 2015 general elections, around December 2014, in which the then president requested for postponement of the general elections on account of the fact that he could not guarantee security in many of the local government areas in the North-East.
I was reading virtually every other day how soldiers were being accused for running away from battle and they were being arraigned before military tribunals. To the credit of Mr. Femil Falana, he rose to their defence, but in spite of that many of them were condemned to death including senior officers. But we now know that they were not actually running away from battles, they were simply refusing to commit suicide because the funds budgeted for defence was converted to party funds and distributed through a chief security officer to various bank accounts of PDP leaders and activists to share for all kind of purposes including electoral purposes. Generals took queue from what the political commander-in-chief seemed to have endorsed. We saw from findings by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that funds were buried in unlikely places and the result is that s for the first time, the Nigerian armed forces which have played prominent roles abroad suddenly could not secure their territory.
So, I believe that Nigerians will not forget in a hurry that the Nigerian state was almost going down over the twin issue of corruption and the growing influence of Boko Haram before Buhari came. I remember saying at the National Council of State meeting that the Nigerian armed forces by their conduct were demystifying the Nigerian state because the states are held together by the armed forces and when the army announced that a rag tag army has become so strong that they could not provide security for election, Nigeria for me was approaching the beginning of the end. That historic change was to preserve the sanctity of the Nigeria nation. I have not heard since Buhari came in that our soldiers were running from battle, which means they are now better kitted and above all, they are inspired by the character and quality of the commander-in-chief. And whatever is the imperfection noticed in our security system will be nothing when you compare it with what it was before Buhari became president. So, I think what we need to do is to assist Nigerians not to forget some of these things in a hurry.
Like the Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebiri, said, this generation of Nigerians will never forgive PDP for all the evil they committed in this country, even the issue of religion, who elevated it to a state level. We saw a president in the morning, going with a number of bishops with camera men to Israel. So, pilgrimage became a political instrument that has to be published and we watched on our television that the president is in Israel. Then in the evening, he is in the palace of traditional ruler, worshipping idol. For me, whatever you want to say, there are fundamental things that have changed. But whether we still have challenges, yes; we still have security problems, but to say that nothing has changed, a lot has changed and I believe much more will change. At least we now have a president who can even in the presence of everybody say I accept the faults of my predecessors and I apologize. He did it not only to the Abiola family, but to all those who voted in that June 12, 1993 election. That is a statement about the humility of President Buhari.
What is your take on the crisis rocking the APC?
I think what has happened is that we had expected what one described as chemical reaction, but what we got was a physical reaction. Chemical reaction would have led to bounding of all the various elements into one organic whole. But unfortunately the physical reaction, where the various parts are dangling and trying to hang on, the center is not clear and it is that reaction that you observed and described as a huge challenge. It is real. By holding meetings of organs of a party, the various people that formed APC should have been bounded. People were supposed to form progressive alliances. I think we have not done too well in holding regular meetings of organs of APC across the 774 local governments to meet and know one another. Once we institutionalize regular meetings and encourage debates and contestation, that chemical reaction will take place and the party will bounce back.
Secondly, we must also develop skills to manage conflict. In all of those states, where we have crisis, you will find out that those conflicts were not really inevitable. They were just a reflection of people who think it is normal to have different points of view in a matter. However as they begin to disagree, depending on your temperament or understanding of challenges of democracy, you begin to think that you are fighting and that you don’t agree with yourselves. You then need someone to come in to remind you of what binds you together rather than what divides you. But let me tell you something; in the real world, nobody gets what he wants, you get what you are able to negotiate. As a trade unionist, I know that I was never able to get all that I demanded from my employer. But my employer was never also able to escape with his desire to maximize profit even at the expense of my life; which is why common to the central of my interaction, is always give and take, compromises. Dialogue is central to serving a free society and a free organization. So, we will bring all of these to bear to deal with these issues.
What are your thoughts on the legislative/executive rift, which many people believe is responsible for the inability of the APC administration to function effectively?
The founders of our presidential system rightly settled for separation of powers and the parliament is the symbol of democracy. It is therefore not unexpected that the parliament may have a position on an issue that may be different from that of the executive. That is why in all democracies across the word, lobby comes in. The process of persuading each other is about communication, persuasion, negotiation and that is what we see in America. But, I think again that we have not been too successful as a party in intervening to build viable bridges between the executive and the legislature using the instrument of the party. When there is party decision, everybody abides by it and you need this to happen by holding meetings.
The truth is that even when we resolve matters today, it does not mean that another one will not rear its head tomorrow. Therefore, the capacity to intervene has to be constant. It is not once and for all, it is a process and unless you have the capacity to deal with issues as they arise, you should not be there to lead the party. And I have done all of that when I was president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). We had nationwide support because through dialogue we find solutions at the Labour House and everybody has that sense of ownership. So, we can bridge the gap between the executive and the legislature and bring the full benefit of our majority in the parliament as well as our control in the executive.
I am clear what the tasks are and all of these can be fixed. I don’t need eight months to fix 16 years problem, but what I need is a level of clarity and above all, a sense of fairness that people can see that they should trust me and I will accept the advice they will offer. There will not be a question of one drug curing all ailments; your solution has to be formed by the specifics of each of the problems that you find along the way.
It is a gale of endorsements for your aspiration, why do you think APC stakeholders are supporting you?
If I have prominent people from the North, prominent people from the South, East and West, it means I will be at the center. No one will say if not for my support, you would not have been there. If you are a product of one section, then you might remain detained by that section if you feel that to return that office you must service that section because it is your support base. But, when you have the privilege of a broad support, from many leaders, then no one leader will say I put you there, you must listen to me.
Let me also say that what is also qualitative different about this support is that there is no question about what is influencing this support because conventionally, in our political environment, we hear that who has the deepest pocket tends to buy the support. This support is being offered from people who cannot be procured, which tells you it is flowing from the knowledge of my person because I have been fortunate to work with all the governors, including past governors. Those I did not meet in office, I met them when I was president of the NLC, we had engaged one-on-one and they know what I stand for. So, they offered this support based on their understanding of my person and not inducement and that makes a difference.
But some people nurse the fear that you may not be easily amenable…
You see, one of the things I learnt in the labour union is negotiation and never to be dictatorial because even though I was the president of the NLC, I cannot even control my deputy because he was voted the same manner I was elected. In the NLC, you must listen to everybody unlike in government, where as an executive, you can dictate decisions. So, what my background prepared me for is to be able to listen and that is why in every for a, I kept saying contestation. Disputes are not dysfunctional if you have the skills that I have to manage divergences. I have never exercised dictatorial powers, I have always exercised persuasive powers, negotiating skills, and those are my skills. And when I negotiate with you and persuade and you accept, you will feel obliged to do what you have to do. But if I dictate to you, when I am not watching you, will do your heart. So, I am not capable of being a dictator by the very nature of my background.
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