A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Lanre Rasaq is of the view that the clamour for a third force is not in the interest of the country, but aimed at achieving a selfish agenda by some politicians. He also speaks on the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the 2019 general elections. ADEWALE AJAYI reports
The All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government was initially not disposed to restructuring of the country, why the sudden change if mind given the recommendations of the party’s committee on restructuring headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai?
First and foremost, I am a member of APC, and I am very committed senior member of the party. If my party set up a committee at the national level and the committee came up with their findings and recommendations, it will amount to anti-party on my part to express a different opinion without discussing it with my party. What the party recommended is its wish on the way it wants Nigeria to be restructured and there are mechanisms within the party through which to communicate with the government to get the issue resolved. So, the party has taken a position on what it wants government to do.
Let the report be passed on to the government and let it come up with what it accepted among the recommendations, then one can comment on that as an individual. As far as I am concerned, if the party is not disposed to restructuring, it wouldn’t have set up a committee to look at it .Once a committee was set up and the committee has come up with a report, let’s wait and see government’s reaction, or what line of action the government will take on the matter.
Successive governments did set up committees to restructure the country towards the end of their administrations. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo did so, ditto Goodluck Jonathan, and President Muhaammadu Buhari is doing the same thing. Are we really serious about restructuring?
I want to make it clear, very, very clear that there is a gulf of difference between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government and that of the APC. In the APC, we have a committed, disciplined and patriotic Nigerian as president of this country now and I can assure you that Muhhammadu Buhari will not say something he knows he cannot do. He is God fearing and committed, let us wait till he gets the report. Don’t let us start counting the chicken when the eggs have not been hatched, let us wait and see what the government will do with the report.
There are divergent opinions about the desire of President Buhari to go for a second term. Some prominent Nigerians who have advised him to jettison the idea are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Military Presindent, General Ibrahim Babangida. What is position on this?
Nigeria has a constitution, and we are being governed by that constitution and the constitution permits the President to go for a second term. It will therefore amount to infringement on the fundamental human right of Buhari for anybody to tell him not to run for a second term. That is violation of his right. Those who say the President should not run, they have a reason for saying that, but I wonder if whoever they have in mind to replace Buhari is coming from the blues. They went ahead to condemn PDP and APC and they talked about a third force, that is not politics, and it cannot work. I know what it takes to set up a political party, there must be ideology, there must be commitment, there must be people of like minds, there must also be a set goal and agenda.
Already, the timetable for the election is out and the dates for the 2019 elections is out, I cannot imagine the magic that would be done between now and the election date. They may have their grievances that the party in power has failed to improve the situation of things in the country; yes, I agree, after all government is so dynamic that, you tell the president this is what you have done, these are the things you have not done. You can also impress it on him areas he need to devote more attention, and he is working hard to get those things done. I believe it is a means of diverting the attention of the President on whether he should run or not.
Those asking the President not to seek re-election are of the view that he has been unable to tackle the myriads of problem facing the country. How do you react to that?
When people say he is unable to tackle the problems facing the country, I believe that is not right. We know the situation when the President took over in 2015. We know the situation of things then, the position of things and the economic situation then, the mess the economy was in then, and the man has performed wonderfully well. You will recall vividly that when he came on board, the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents was on the increase, and you know it is when one is alive that he can think of other things. It is because this administration has been able to curtail the activities of the insurgents that we have peace in the country.
You said the president has tried in the area of security, but how about the killings being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, which the president has been unable deal with…
There is no need to read tribal sentiment to it as the President is not president of the Fulani. He is the president of Nigeria; he is the president of the 350 ethnic groups that make up the country, so we don’t need to trivialize the matter.
Dealing with the issue involves a lot of things. It is not good to punish one innocent person; it is even better to allow 20 offenders to go scot free rather than punish one innocent person. There are security agencies in this country, they will investigate and arrest those involved. Though, the President is yet to make a pronouncement on the development, but no responsible leader will descend so low and allow people of his ethnic background to kill others. President Buhari will not and cannot do that. I am sure Nigerians at the end of the day Nigerians will see that they have a fair and just president with the way he will handle this matter.
Those clamouring for a third force say they will adopt a political party through which those in support of their agenda will contest the 2019 elections. Do you think this will bring the desired change?
Who are the brains behind the third force that will attract people to team up with them? This is not the first time somebody who has name would be clamouring for a better society, they will accuse politicians as not being good and that if they are given opportunity, they will get this and that done. Those who are not in government are quick at running down the government in power, let them join a political party or raise their third force and see what will happen. I am a member of the APC and I believe the party will do better things for Nigeria. They are saying these things because of their personal economic reasons; their personal agenda which they have tried and couldn’t realize in any party. APC still remains the best option Nigerians can bank on and it will deliver under the Buhari administration.
You said APC is the credible alternative, but most Nigerians do not see the party that way because most of the promises made by your party are yet to be fulfilled. Do you think Nigerians will still be interested in returning your party to power?
I want to tell you that under Buhari, we have created a lot of job opportunities; we have come up with a lot of innovations; we have done a lot in agriculture; we have done a lot in infrastructure. So, there is no way I will agree with anyone that we have not done much in creating employment; that is not a fair comment. The APC government has brought discipline to budgeting, we have been able to ensure that when you award a contract, there is money to match it up, and all the projects awarded under this administration are matched with money and the public is happy about it.
As the clock ticks to the 2019 elections, do you think your party can repeat its feat in the 2015 general election?
When the time comes, you will see the true situation of things, those who have access to the media have been saying whatever they like about the party in power, let them go to the grassroots and campaign to the people. I can tell you Buhari is even more acceptable to the public than he was in 2015, and if the election should hold today, the number of votes he will get would be more than what he got in 2015. The only way of appreciating him for doing well is to vote him for a second term in office.
My plans for Oyo State, by Obisesan
A former commissioner in Oyo State, Chief Lowo Obisesan, is a lawyer who is aspiring to govern the state on the platform of the Labour Party. In this interview with SUNDAY ADEBAYO, he speaks on why he is in the governorship race
As a successful business man and a barrister, what informed your interest in politics?
Actually, I am a lawyer like I earlier said, and the way things are going in Nigeria politically am not really happy about it and have not been so happy to attach myself. Some good friends and I weighed the options of joining politics then and felt it was better to wait and join at a later time. If you believe that politics is what everybody should get involved in why don’t we join the rest? And that is the reason why we find ourselves in the mist of politicians.
Why your choice of Labour Party instead of the major ruling party?
You know for the mere fact that some people are doing certain things in a particular way and that thing is not right does not mean we should join them. I was once in ACN that eventually fused into APC, but when I discovered that things were not done in the right way in my state I decided to let go of the party. Also when you consider other parties particularly PDP you can see that PDP is the type of the party where grabbers are many and people like that don’t have the interest of the people they want to govern at heart, but how to enrich themselves at the detriment of the innocent people of the country and particularly my state and you can see the way things are now. PDP brought us into this problem. We thought APC would bring us out of the problem, but look at what we are suffering today. The fear of God is not in the mind of these people that we can refer to as the leaders of the society.
What are the things you are going to do differently from what others have done to make Oyo State a better place?
I am going to do so many thing that will be quite different from what others have done and part of those thing is what I have said that you should have fear of God.
Without god fatherism it is usually difficult to win election. What’s your own view on this?
I don’t believe in that. I don’t share the idea and the principle because the issue of god-fatherism led us into this problem. A god father will push you and support you. When you win he wants to control you and will never let you deliver. But I have a lot of political leaders and mentors who are principled.
How would you analyze the Senator Abiola Ajimobi government?
Senator Ajimobi is my leader, my brother. He was my Oga and I can’t say anything about his government for now.I am grateful to him. People know me as a lawyer and but for Ajumobi I won’t be known in politics. When I was first made the Commissioner of Establishment and Habitat, I will never forget what he said about me. He said ‘you are honest and straightforward and to cap it all you have the means but you didn’t steal money in government. I will never run him down because God has used him for me sometime and if anything is wrong with the way he is running his government our people will decide whatever they deem fit when the next election comes.
What will be your main agenda if you eventually become the next governor of Oyo State?
Our economy needs to be improved considerably. If I tell you what I have found in line with what my leaders have been discussing ahead of 2019 people might steal it. So I won’t say it. If God says I will be there I will make sure that I work properly on the economy.
Osun State deserves better deal –Ogunbiyi
Dr. Akinade Ogunbiyi is the Group Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance and a well-grounded innovative scholar, In this interview, he speaks about his blueprint for the rescue mission in Osun State
What is your view of the security situation in the country vis-à-vis the herdsmen and other crimes?
It is really sad and inexplicable at this modern age that this is happening in Nigeria. I am sorry to say. I am gunning for a political position, because I am convinced that leadership can make the difference in everything. They will tell you that people are the most important when it comes to factors of production. But, I tell you, it is having the right people, not just people, but the right people. I don’t know how a country so blessed when you see the biblical country flowing with milk and honey, I have not seen any country in the world that fits into that description but God just decided that we won’t have the right leadership.
Fulani herdsmen (or killer herdsmen as they are called), communal clashes here and there, religious war, for crying out loud, we have to talk about what people need. I will be 56 in the next couple of weeks. We grew up in this country. I am a village boy to the core.
My primary, secondary, modern school, my university, everything was in the village. My father’s best friends, especially in my town, Ile-Ogbo, were from the Hausa community. My father was a herdsman. They thrived and they lived in harmony. You find Igbo community; you find in virtually every locality within the South-West.
You say Kano is a no man’s land just as they say Lagos is a no man’s land and you get to Kano in those days and you find every ethnic group represented and they lived as if they were in Umahia or Ile-Igbo. You get to Kaduna, it is the same thing. Is it not the same country? It is all about leadership.
You have leaders who have the capacity to lead well but they choose to do other things. This leadership issue we are talking about, they have the capacity to do the right thing, but they’ve decided to do otherwise.
You said your father was a herdsman…
Yes! My father was a herdsman. I grew up to know him as a herdsman. He would go with his friend from Ijebu to Kano and buy herds of cattle, 400 to 600, 1000; the two of them would trek, 90 days, 100 days to lead the cattle down to Oyo. There was no harassment in my locality; they were herdsmen. The three localities that make up Iwo land, Aiyedire, Iwo , and Olaoluwa local governments, we had herdsmen. We never had these issues.
If you come to my farm, about 25 kilometers from my village, you will see serve or eight year-old boys, two of them controlling about 400 herds of cattle. They pass through farms, they know when to stop them; they know when they see virgin land, they know when they see free grazing land.
So, what’s the way forward?
This is just political. The day our leaders will come together and say: ‘heck, we are one and let us line up as one these things will end.’ What else do we talk about? We are using ethnicity to divide ourselves. What do you say of India, a country of 1.3billion population; over 300,000 ethnic groups and their ethnic groups are as much as their religious beliefs. It is unfortunate. I can only appeal to our leaders. When people fail to give the deliverables that are needed for the common man to live a decent, peaceful life, they will look for alternative to engage us. This is exactly what is happening.
You are contesting on the platform of PDP. Looking at the state of the party as of today in Osun State, how confident are you that is the right platform? Looking at the economy of Osun today because it is heavily indebted, will you still be able to work within that kind of environment?
I will start from the second question. One of the things that spurred me into taking this decision is because of the common man of Osun State. For the past eight years, it has not been what it ought to be. They always say: ‘If it is not broken, don’t try to fix it.’ But as you just said Osun is indebted. We don’t even know how much the debt is. Some say it is N400billion; some say its N200billion.
The government itself said it is N143billion. But for eight years, this is the best that government can give. There is nothing bad in borrowing, the question is, what did you use the fund for? We know that Osun State is heavily indebted and luckily for all of us, there is no hidden place any longer. the Debt Management Office, every month, publishes the statistics.
So, there is nothing that is hidden. Not everybody would ride a car in his life time. Not everybody would build a house in his lifetime. Not everybody would buy bicycle or wear rubber slippers in his life time. But good leadership dictates that everybody must have access to the basic needs of life in order to live a decent life.
Coming back to the platform, I am not just new in politics. I may not have been out there in the open but I have been in PDP from God knows when. I have impacted the party. There are so many reasons why the country is going through what it is going through now. We thank God for the crisis in PDP.
Now, we have the benefit of a standard and which is the standard of APC coming into government. Failure isn’t a bad thing. But for the discerning eye, failure is an opportunity to start all over more intelligently. This is what PDP is presently is.
I was part and parcel of resolving the crisis of PDP in Osun State. Without a peaceful platform, no matter how well meaning, there is nothing you can do. PDP has got its act right especially in Osun. And Osun is like the new foundation the PDP at the national level is going to ride on.
We have learnt our lesson from our mistake. There is nothing bad in failure. It is a man who fails and still fails to rise above his failure that is a failure.
Oshiomhole and his new dawn message
Following his strong desire to inject new blood into the leadership and membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) the immediate past Governor of Edo State and aspirant for the National Chairmanship position of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has taken far reaching steps to galvanize, mobilize and sensitize all segments of people across the six geo political zones of the country.
This meeting with the elders, leaders and members who form the bulk of what today constitutes the mirror through which citizens of the nation and the world see how the party has fared in managing the collective patrimony and welfare of the people, is not only arduous but also interesting.
Indeed, the challenges facing the APC came to the fore last Tuesday when Comrade Oshiomhole visited the party caucus in the Senate to solicit their support ahead the National Convention of the party. It was an opportunity for the senators to bare their minds about the happenings in the party. It was so touching as the senators lamented how rotten the party has become under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The presence of the entire leadership of the Senate at the meeting showed how important it was to them. And some who are sympathetic to the APC were happy because from the close door meeting, which lasted for over one hour, it was learnt that the senators were not keen on leaving the party but all the want is to be given that sense of belonging. That has given a lot of hope to majority of members of the party who equally see the coming of Oshiomhole as the solution that the APC needs.
And to show the acceptability of Oshiomhole by the APC senators, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who warmly welcomed Oshiomhole to the House, noted that majority of senators have this optimism that Oshiomhole has the capacity to lead the party at this point in time.
“I know Comrade has been working hard to talk to people about his ambition and I want to thank him for finding time to come personally to meet the APC caucus in the senate. I have known Comrade for many many years. We have worked together at various levels. So I know him very well and his ability to do all he said he wants to do in our party. I know he has the capacity to take up the challenges before us as a party and I have no doubt that he will do well and make APC a formidable party once more.”
Addressing the senators, Oshiomhole was able to touch on the burning issues in the party to the admiration of the senators. He stressed that the current disagreement in the party can be resolved when all parties sincerely come to the table with open minds for discussions. He said: “Today, I have come not only to solicit for your support but to also say that I dream of a political party where everybody will have that sense of pride and even the sense of ownership. I believe Sir, that the very part of our being a democratic voluntary organisation which a political party represents, means that the basis for coexistence has to be mutual respect.
“I believe that part of the challenges we had which are no secret is that the various organs of the party have not functioned in a manner that was anticipated. And I believe that without those organs functioning, we are just a collection of individuals, who can speak to a party when party members at various levels meet, debate and agree on a particular direction and that agreement becomes the party’s position. And when we now speak on issue of party supremacy, it is in the context of a decision that we democratically arrived at in which members of the party, from the “President to the senate, Reps, to governors and everyone is expected to abide by that decision because they are our own decisions. So I am convinced Mr. President, by my background, as someone who has been victim of power, both economic power and political power which pushed me into unionism and someone who has grown to become a governor, I never oppressed any one, I think I have passed through all the stages and I am fairly informed about the challenges of governors and the challenges of a political party.
“I believe Sir, and I want to assure our senators, that given the opportunity to chair our party, there are couples of things we must do differently. We cannot dream of a party in which there are no disagreements. If we have one like that it means the party is not democratic. Even in the military there are some disagreements and agreements.
“So in a genuine democracy, nobody is seen to get everything that he wants but everybody can get everything that we are able to negotiate. And the driver of this process has to be compromise. Nobody has all the monopoly and nobody is bereft of ideas. And I believe that if we approach issues with open mind with open mind we can do business
“I believe that getting support from all of you and all our leaders, that together we can strengthen our party, giving it more positive image, given our members that sense of participation and together we will confront the forthcoming election and remind Nigerians that even if we have not fix all the problems there is genuine commitment to fix them. And again cannot fix in three years what was destroyed in 16 years. This party is capable of delivering and sustaining the change that we have promised.”
Watching Oshiomhole say all these gave a number of Nigerians hope that the APC is back after the problems that plagued the party in the just concluded congresses in some states. And like Oshiomhole said, many believe that with sincerity of purpose and the spirit of sportsmanship, the crisis rocking the ruling party will be over soon.
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