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.
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