Politics

Adefuye: Any zone in the South can produce president in 2023

Senator Anthony Adefuye is a member of the Third Republic Senate and member of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the apex leadership body in the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, the Secretary of the Yoruba Unity Forum, who clocked 77 on August 14, speaks on the Muhammadu Buhari administration, developments in his party, the 2023 presidency and the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, among others. WALE ELEGBEDE reports

 

You have spent most part of your life in politics, why did you decide to be in politics?

 

I came into politics not because I wanted to be a politician but because people wanted me to come in and help them out when they had problem in Somolu. When people came to me to persuade me to join politics, I did everything to send them away including telling them that if I come to join them, I am going to be senatorial candidate for the party.

They initially ran away but came back about four weeks later to say that they have accept and I should just come. That was how I was dragged into politics.

And having been there, I have worked very hard to protect all those who invited me to come and make them achieve what they couldn’t achieve and change the face of Lagos State at that time. And I have actually changed the face of politics in Lagos.

 

How do you see development in your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) at both the state and national levels?

 

APC was a party formed by three political parties that came together to fight the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government at that time.

Some part of PDP also broke away to join APC. After APC has taken over government, you don’t expect the parties that formed APC to fold their arms, each subordinate members of the formation party will struggle to get power.

That is expected when you have a party that is made up of people from different political platforms. You will notice the first to pull out from APC was the PDP faction that joined the party.

 

Even when they pulled out, they couldn’t save the PDP anymore. If you find one party that produces the president trying to dominate others, it is a normal thing. In politics, we struggle for power. The fact is that journalism in Nigeria is so bad. The media is the cause of the major problem we have in Nigeria today.

 

They will publish anything paid for. Most of the time, the media will publish something that will make people pay attention to them. You cannot find the media in Britain or America supporting agitators. If you want to agitate, there is a place you can go and it is not covered by journalists. You can say anything you like to the people and nobody will cover it.

 

 

But in Nigeria, we can publish anything. We must begin to regulate the media and make sure that journalists must be paid adequately for the work they are doing. We must ensure that whoever engages a journalist must pay adequate salary, so that he can be with his conscience.

If you don’t pay journalists adequate salaries, of course, they will obey the command of whoever is paying them. In recent times, there have been issues around the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the apex leadership body in Lagos APC taking critical decisions on behalf of the party like the recent instruction that the party should adopt consensus candidates for the ward congresses in Lagos…

 

Are members of the GAC not party leaders? Must someone hold a position before becoming a party leader?

 

But some factions and groups in Lagos APC led by Foud Oki and others said there was nothing like GAC in the APC constitution…

 

Is Foud Oki’s group in the party’s constitution? Is he holding any position in the party? What gives him the right to challenge the party? The party at the national level has what is called the Board of Trustees (BoT) but we still have leaders that are above BoT and they can decide for the party.

 

It is called party leaders caucus; they may not be more than three or four, but it is what they decide that will be taken to BoT for discussion. If you look at the members of the GAC, some of them are former governors, former National Assembly members and former party chairmen even before those complaining were born.

 

The GAC appointed the state executives; so how can somebody say that the GAC is not in the constitution?

 

What is the Lagos APC leaders doing to bring some of the aggrieved members of the party back ahead of 2023 general election?

 

We are doing everything to ensure that people come back but there are some people, who, no matter what you do, they just want to take position even when they are idle.

 

They want to take the position they are not fit to occupy. You cannot compensate rascality at the expense of loyal members of the party, who are working hard to gather supporters for the party.

We cannot begin to compensate those who are always fighting and disgracing the party. If they say let us have a peaceful congress, those people will not win a single delegate. It is a not a sin to fight for a position but it is a sin when you think the position must be yours by all means.

If we have decided that we want consensus, we have reasons for taking such decision. Some of those against the party’s decision don’t have any worth in the party, even at the ward level.

During the last ward congresses, I went back to my ward to choose ward executives positions with other leaders in the ward. The party is not something that you do on the pages of newspapers; it is something you do from the ward level.

Once there is no position at the ward level, there is nothing you can do. It is not about gathering people and carrying placards around. Being disgruntled members does not mean they are leaders of the party. In

 

the last few weeks, we have seen a lot of attention being focused on the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and there have been negative reports over his health. Why are they after Tinubu and why has he became a topical issue?

 

If you are a leader and you are not topical, you are not a good leader. Any good leader should be topical. If you want to abuse anybody to get recognition, it is either you abuse Bola Tinubu or President Muhammadu Buhari for people to listen to you.

We are not saying that people are not hungry; we are not saying that people are not suffering but it is not just one or two persons, all of us are feeling the heat. We all go to the same market.

 

Ask those people about their profession, they have none. I work for myself, I am an engineer and I have been working as an engineer since 1972. Ask them what they do apart from politics. Once it is not favouring them, they will go out and start saying things that attract attention to them.

Recently, there have been reports about some ministers aspiring to be president. We formed a committee to actually find out the true position to see how we can all work together but we were shocked by what we discovered. A lot of them have no intention to contest against Bola Tinubu.

In fact, they were angry that people are imagining that sort of thing. If Tinubu tells them what to do today, that is what they will do because he made it possible for them to be where they are today.

We were so happy with what we discovered from the South- West ministers. Tinubu has also told us that the presidency is not a do-ordie affair; that it is not by force and because he has worked so hard for the Yoruba, he wouldn’t want his ambition to scatter the Yoruba race. That is Tinubu for you.

 

Are you saying that the 2023 presidency is not a do-or-die affair for Tinubu?

 

According to him, it is not a do-ordie affair.

 

But some people belief that he is hellbent on becoming the next president of Nigeria and he sees 2023 as his last chance

 

That is not true.

 

Some of us are persuading him to contest because he is fit to contest. When Tinubu was governor of Lagos State, the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), seized the allocation of local governments in Lagos State for two years but Tinubu steered the ship of Lagos State successfully and manage the affairs of the local governments without any federal allocations to the councils.

He even provided alternative electricity for the people of Lagos. Sometimes, you don’t get what you want from people you think will deliver it; you get what you want from people you never imagine will do it for you.

That is the twist of life; people you expect to do something for you will disappoint you and those you expect will not do it are those that will rescue you many times.

 

 

How do you feel that opposition against Tinubu’s aspiration is coming from the South-West and even from people within his party?

 

Politics is a struggle for power. Anybody in politics should struggle for power. When you struggle and somebody else grabs it, let it go. In politics, there are procedures. There are going to be primaries; if in the primaries you can defeat him, that is fine but if you cannot, that is your luck.

There are people who have been contesting for the position of presidency in the last 20 years that I know and they have never won, and they have not said because of that heaven must fall.

 

What is your take on the recent statement by former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida that the next president should not be up to 70 years?

 

That is his personal view. President Buhari is 78 and he is the best president Nigeria has ever had. The cost of oil went as low as $32 per barrel and we didn’t feel it so much. When Babangida was military president, crude oil was $130 per barrel; did we see the signs then?

When Obasanjo was president, he only concentrated on Abuja, we didn’t feel anything in the South-West and this man (Buhari) is there, everyone in the country is feeling him.

He is building roads that were abandoned and reviving neglected infrastructures in the country. He is reviving the railway and constructing many highways across the country as well as other infrastructures development.

 

But some people are saying the rate of poverty in Nigeria under Buhari is high as many people are finding it difficult to survive economically…

 

What is the measure? In Nigeria of today, we are producing nothing. The only problem that I see as the problem of Nigeria is that we should not use a banker as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) again. They will continue to devalue our naira.

 

The problem is not from the people but from the people in the banking sector, who are stealing our money. If you put your money in the bank, it is like putting it in a basket. When we have credible Nigerians as governors of the CBN, we never devalued the naira for once but since we started having Charles Soludo and the likes, it has been devaluation galore.

 

So, let us stop having bankers as governors of the Central Bank. Let us have credible people like Adamu Ciroma and the likes. We never devalued for once when those people were governors of the CBN.

 

Since the emergence of Godwin Emefiele, we have devalued the naira more than three times. In fact, if we are not careful, the naira will go to N1,000 to $1. If you put your money in the bank, you are just wasting your time. We have about seven people controlling all the banks in Nigeria.

 

So, we have put Nigerian money into the hands of seven people, how can you balance? If you see these seven people, they are buying houses in America, London and they are not investing the money in Nigeria.

 

It is Buhari who has been spending Nigerian money in Nigeria and that was why you find many estates growing up in different parts of Nigeria, especially in Lagos and Abuja.

It is people who are stealing from Nigerian that are buying some of the estates because an average Nigeria cannot afford the price of the houses, that is why the estates are empty.

 

In fact, many people cannot afford to live in the estates because of the high price placed on them.

 

Talking about the 2023 presidential election; do you think the North is ready to allow power to shift to the South, considering reactions of some northern political leaders to the recent meeting of the Southern Governors’ Forum in Lagos?

 

Like I said earlier, politics is a struggle for power. We have an unwritten agreement on where the next president is going to come from. We can have a lot of disgruntled people saying that they want to be president but they will never be unless it is the turn of their region.

 

But there is also an issue in the South as the South-West, South-South and South-East are clamouring for the 2023 presidency…

 

Any of the zones in the South can produce the president because the zoning arrangement is between the South and North.

 

Do you think the South-West will have an edge over the South-East and South-South?

 

We are democratic; we will all go for the primary election and whoever wins the must be from the South.

 

What is your impression of the present governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who recently celebrated 800 days in office?

 

 

The young man is doing very well. I think he is a coolheaded young man who has taken over even abandoned projects by his predecessors.

 

My advice to him is that he should do more enforcement; traffic enforcement, market enforcement. People who go on the road to sell shouldn’t be allowed.

 

He should revoke the licenses given to people selling on the roads by the local governments; nobody must sell on the road side. Let LASTMA do its jobs; don’t wait until there is congestion.

They must make sure there is no congestion; make sure that traffic is flowing. Sanwo-Olu is one of the best governors in the country. Do

 

you think that Governor Sanwo-Olu has actually delivered on his THEMES agenda for Lagos State, looking at his performance in the areas of transportation, healthcare and housing, among others?

 

When you are coming from point zero, anything you do is great. Look at the buses running in different parts of Lagos today; it takes time to get there but we have started. He needs to take commercial yellow buses off the roads because they are too old to convey human beings.

 

He also needs to make sure the motorcycles off the roads because they cause a lot of nuisance on the roads. Apart from that, I think the governor is fantastically doing well.

 

Considering his performance, do you think Governor Sanwo-Olu really deserves a second term?

 

Yes, he deserves a second term because so far, it has been so good but I don’t know about tomorrow.

 

That means you believe that the governor should be endorsed and allowed to go for a second term…

 

It is too early to start saying that but he is good enough for a second term.

 

There is an issue of religion based on the insinuation in some quarters that a Muslim should be governor in 2023 on account that Christians have been governors for two terms between 2015 and 2023. What is your take on that?

 

It is the media that is speculating that. As far as we are concerned, we don’t care about who is a Christian or Muslim; we just want good people to rule Nigeria. The issue of religion is inconsequential. In Britain, there are majorly 95 per cent Christians, but Muslim became chairman of councils in London,

 

Why are you bothering yourself about Muslim, Christian issue. In Lagos State, we celebrate all festivals together either Muslim or Christian. It is the media that is sowing such seed of discord; it is not part of politics.

 

Recently, there were local government elections that the election of new chairmen in Lagos State. What is your advice to the new council chairmen, considering the fact that the local governments seem not to be what they used to be as the people at the grassroots hardly feel their impact?

 

They should know that as chairmen of councils, it is a stepping stone for the future.

 

They should ensure that they perform by concentrating on developing different areas of needs in their local governments. The governor, during a recent retreat for the new chairmen of the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) told them to concentrate on important projects in their councils. If there are bad roads, they should fix the roads;.

 

This is how they can get close to the people at the grassroots. But you will see some of them, who don’t even have as bicycle, as soon as they become chairmen, they will start buying houses everywhere.

 

That will not happen again. This time, we are going to ensure that those chairmen are under the control of the party and they will do what the party wants them to do.

 

Given the controversy trailing the Governor Mai Buni-led leadership of the APC as the Chairman of the APC as a result of the ruling of the Supreme Court in respect to the Ondo State government election, do you see the party remaining a formidable front ahead of the 2023 general election?

 

Unless you are not seeing it the way I am seeing it, we don’t have an opposition party in Nigeria. There is only APC and by the grace of God in the next 20 years, we shall be in power.

 

When there is a Supreme Court judgement, do you discuss the minority judgement? You only discuss the majority judgement. That is what we will look into, not the minority judgement. You cannot cite a minority judgement even when you are a lawyer; the majority judgement is the judgement of the people of Nigeria as represented by the Supreme Court that its judgement is final.

 

The party can use anybody. Look at the constitution of APC; the governor is the leader of the party at the state level, while the president is the leader of the party in the country. They can use anybody to represent them as the chairman of the party.

 

Before a national chairman can emerge, you must first of all discuss with the president. The party decides who will be who, before we present them to the people. The party must take the initial decision to ensure that people it wants to present are good enough for the people.

 

But some people are trying to hijack the party’s structure ahead of 2023…

 

Whether they like or not, the party has said it will use consensus. When it uses consensus, they cannot hijack it and even when elections are conducted, they cannot hijack it.

 

It is the majority that wins. We are just trying to avoid people coming to cause chaos and fighting because the only thing those people know how to do is fight. They don’t even know their wards; we don’t even know some of them in the party.

 

You said APC has no opposition, don’t you see PDP as a threat to your party?

 

No! PDP members are just trying to pull themselves together. Corruption always destroys and I think that has destroyed PDP. I just pray that such woukld not be allowed in APC. They (PDP) can never find their feet again unless they form a new party.

Are you saying a new party might come up ahead of the 2023 general election?

 

New parties can come up at any time.

 

Good people can come together to form a good party not people fighting for selfish reasons or people who just think it must belong to them or those who think that it must be them or nothing.

 

If you want something, you must sit down with the people and iron it out. It may not be your turn today but it might be tomorrow. You shouldn’t say Lagos for Lagos because it is not only about indigenes. If the indigenes should form a party in Lagos, will they win?

 

Are the indigenes in Lagos up to 20 per cent of the population? People can come together for talks and they will be considered, not at the expense of people who are Adefuye law-abiding and loyal to the people.

 

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