Interview Sunday Magazine

Buhari must implement El-Rufai’s report to save Nigeria –Ogunlewe

Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe is a former Minister of Works and Housing and a one time Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District. He was for long a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But recently, Ogunlewe, who was a member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with GEOFFREY EKENNA, Ogunlewe takes a look at some issues affecting his party and the country generally

 

 

I met you first in 2003 when you were a minister. You were also a Senator. For those who have been following you, it’s curious why you quit PDP for APC…

 

I appreciate whatever I was able to get from the PDP but my background is Progressives. I was the foundation member of Alliance for Democracy. I seem to prefer their type of politicking. It is straight forward. It is more forward looking in Lagos State than PDP. PDP in Lagos State has very little focus because of the leadership.

 

For me, the leadership of PDP in Lagos State is very quarrelsome even within the party more than fighting the APC. Any politician who wants to progress in life will not sit down with that kind of situation and it continues still today.

 

They would never harmonise. Their voices would never be the same, unlike the APC. In the APC, they can quarrel, there can be division and argue, but at the end of the day, everybody will vote for the party, no matter the circumstances, no matter the level of quarreling.

 

Once a candidate emerges, they believe so much in the party and they follow it totally. Unlike the PDP, it is once it is not my person, the party must be destroyed, you must not win and it is not a good political strategy.

 

Does this only happen in Lagos PDP or generally?

 

It happens in PDP in Lagos; it also happened in the entire South-West. How did they lose in Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states? If you follow the pattern, it is a division on the choice of candidate and some people would refuse to tow party lines. All they would do is to make sure the party loses once it is not their candidate that is chosen.

 

Unlike the APC, they would quarrel and argue but once a candidate emerged, they would not depart, they would stay with the party and win the election. That is the basic difference between the two parties in Lagos. You would also notice that the number of members who had defected from PDP is over 100,000.

 

In 2007, we had over 35,000 PDP members in Ikorodu, but today, we can hardly talk about 2,000 members. The 2000 is even exaggerated. If you look at those that have contested for the House of Assembly and won, they have left.

 

Even those who have won the House of Representatives, they are not friendly with the leadership not to talk about gubernatorial candidates, once they are disenfranchised, they would rather sit down in their homes or leave the party. Something basic must be wrong with that kind of party.

 

What do you think could be wrong with the party?

 

It is the tendency to divide the party into two. If it is not my people, then we can lose. If I don’t choose certain key leaders of the party, I am not comfortable with those that have been chosen, nobody else can do it unless the people I choose.

 

Once I am not the one that chose them, I will never support them and it will linger for next four years when another election will be conducted. It is very frustrating and if you are a progressive and you want to win an election, that type of party is not for you. Fighting is too much.

 

Since 1999, are you saying PDP in Lagos State has been fighting against   itself with no improvement?

 

Yes, fighting for no just cause. You will not see any reason for the fighting. Are you in a political party to win elections or to fight? The confusion is too deep and it is not pleasant at all.

 

Some people wondered why you chose the APC because having served as a senator, minister and a frontline party leader; you now joined the APC when they are at their lowest point at the national level judging from their performance and insecurity everywhere. Would the PDP have performed this poorly like APC at the federal level?

 

If you ask the APC members, they will not agree with you. They would balance it. They would tell you both the negative side which is insecurity and kidnappings and positive side which is national development, and they would tell you the projects they are into.

 

When they balance it, they would tell you the score is not zero, it can be 70-30 or 60- 40 but the commitment to develop the country is more in APC than the PDP government. But the APC is deficient in how to manage crises or problems because of personal interests.

 

What is the personal interest there?

 

The personal interest in it is that it cannot distinguish between national interest and ethnic interest and it is a problem. That is not what was available in PDP at that time.

 

Many people believe that the insecurity in the country has to do with the personality of the president, the ethnic group of the president, and not caring about the collective national interest

 

That is why I am saying that their performance is not zero. We have to score it on a scale. The issue of security is of concern to even APC members

 

And that is the major…

 

Yes, because it is happening more in APC-controlled states than the PDPcontrolled states. It is only recently that it is being extended to PDP-controlled states. So, Mr. President should sit down critically and save the situation which he can do.

 

Is the President capable of saving what is happening now?

 

Yes, he is a human being. He would have to change his style of leadership and listen more to criticism from opposition. I don’t know who is influencing him. Ordinarily, I don’t think he is a person like that; that would not see deeply why this problem is persisting. Even his APC members are not happy about all that is happening and it is at the base of the northern heritage which is Kaduna. How can anybody imagine that where some people call home in the North is Kaduna; every northerner regards Kaduna as his home and that is where we have the highest level of insecurity? I can assure you it is of concern to them too.

 

 

What’s the implication of that?

 

It is not giving the government a good name. It is not giving the government the credit it should have taken for infrastructural development. All the programmes they have for women development, economic development, which are very good but this insecurity is really challenging. It has affected the economic programmes too.

 

Once we are able to attack this basis of insecurity which the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, has addressed extensively through the Constitutional Reform Report, which is enough to stabilise everything in Nigeria because all the APC governors participated. It is a classic example of how to govern a nation through the APC government and if any day,

 

Mr. President decides to make use of the report, it will be better. Some people are even arguing the report is not for him, it is for him and his party. How can you differentiate a concept of presidential system from the incumbent president? It doesn’t make sense.

 

The President also rejected the 2014 confab report…

 

And he now established his own which was headed by el-Rufai and the APC governors were there. They worked very tediously. That report is the salvation of this country. Some are even saying he shouldn’t be the one to take it to the National Assembly. He has the majority there. If he can call a meeting of the caucus to adopt that report, but I suspect some people are not interested in that report. That is why they are leaving it out since 2018. It is very strange.

 

Nigeria is almost grounded…

 

They are going about now saying they want Constitutional Review and zonal meetings. Let them go and adopt that report first and whatever is there, put it in the Constitution and there will be total peace in Nigeria.

 

That report is a classical report, a report that everybody would be proud of if it is thoroughly implemented. The president can implement it. All these they are saying that he is not the one to implement; that is his job; he is the head of the party. He is the leader and symbol of the party.

 

So, he cannot excuse himself from it. He is the one that will call a caucus meeting of the APC, hand it over to the leadership of the party at the national assembly and tell them I want this amended.

 

He should send it as an executive bill. He shouldn’t wash his hands out of it. In my view, it is not correct.

 

In 2015, there was so much jubilation, that we are electing a retired army general to take over and deal with Boko Haram, fix the economy, all of a sudden that euphoria is dead. Nigeria is now tethering on the brink of collapse. What went wrong with your party at the presidential level?

 

Honestly, nobody can pinpoint the     reason as to why it is like that, but I don’t believe it is worse now. There are certain corrections that must be done and there are certain programmes that have been beneficial to the entire country. Like I have said, it is not zero.

 

70-30, 70 pass, 30 failure, but the 30 failure is so crucial to eradicate entirely the 70 per cent. Once there is no peace all those 70 per cent will be irrelevant. It is just a plea to Buhari to have a look at this el-Rufai Report and let Nigeria move forward because it would be part of research that will be done in future.

 

Mr. President doesn’t look at today. Look at what researchers, academia would talk about your government in future, particularly when your party established that committee of el-Rufai and the report was submitted to you and you didn’t do enough to actualize it. It is not going to give the President any positive outlook in the future. So, he has to look at it whether he likes it or not and act on it because that was the recommendation of the party.

 

Talking about less than two years to the end of his tenure, what is he going do to?

 

It is up to him. If he starts today, before the end of this year, there would have been state police and ranching. They would allocate money to the states that are ready to do ranching and they would start it immediately because there are over 400 ranches already. All he needs to do is the commitment to direct CBN to lend them money.

 

As you are doing for crop production, why can’t you do the same for animal husbandry? CBN can fund it and pick probably 15 states. I can assure you in less than one month or two, the ranches will be ready. What is the big deal in drilling bore whole, providing dam, cultivate the place and put water, making sure feed mills are imported, just like chicken and fish rearing? There are special feeds they give to animals all over the world which are prepared in Ahmadu Bello University (Zaria).

 

It is not a big deal at all to constitute ranches. In another six months, there would be no problem. Every animal will go to the ranch and it is more progressive and beneficial. The young herders, who are going to the forest in the night with all the dangers, would settle down and get education. When all these animals are in a place, they can be vaccinated and fed. It is a lot more productive. It is not for us to teach Mr. President because he is also a herder. No matter what we want to say about the advantages of ranches, he has a ranch too. So, there is nothing special in it.

 

Honestly, I don’t understand if our country is unfortunate. Then, that’s what we are seeing. If we want to be fortunate, Mr. President will listen and adopt this report. All the money the National Assembly is wasting in going round is not necessary. They should go and read the report. It is on the internet

 

But this is not the first time the National Assembly is going round for Constitution Review?

 

If the President doesn’t key into it, there is nothing they can do because everybody will just pretend. It is Mr. President’s countenance the National Assembly will be reading, no matter what they do. It is the countenance of the executive that 90 per cent of the National Assembly will read and act on. No matter what you say, if it doesn’t get the blessing of the president, it is a waste of time.

 

They would sit you down because this is not by vote. They have the majority- the northerners have the majority. It is not a competition of how you can talk or sizing up the opinions of people through public hearing. It has no meaning. As far as I am concerned, public hearing has no meaning. I have written some things that I wanted to submit but I am not encouraged at all. I just felt it is a waste of time.

 

Talking of going into 2023, the arguments have started about whether it will come to the South or the North. What exactly are your thoughts talking about 2023 presidency?

 

In my view, we shouldn’t bother too much about where the presidency is going to. We should be particular about the personality who is interested. In the South -West, Bola Tinubu has showed interest. He should be able to campaign based on his interest.

 

It is not by saying we are giving it to you. If someone from the South-East is interested, the person should come out and tell us why it must be him. It is not by hiding and saying zone to us. That is the area I don’t like.

 

Are you opposed to zoning?

 

I am not opposed to zoning; come out now, don’t come out when the zoning favours you. Look at Buhari. He didn’t wait for zoning. On his own, he was convinced he wanted to be president. He contested three times and lost without anybody prompting him.

 

That is the type of thing I am talking about. Anybody in Nigeria who is interested should come out and start to campaign. Tell us what you want to do, go round the country and tell them your manifestos.

 

It is not enough to say we have zoned it. Then, somebody who is not prepared, willing and enthusiastic comes out. How can that kind of person be a better president? You must be convinced now that I want to be the president and I am capable of being president. I can campaign for it. That is what attracted me to Bola Tinubu. He has shown the willingness to contest.

 

But he has not said he is contesting…

You can see his body language that he is planning, he is crossing the bridges, he is spreading his tentacles all over the country and there are indications that he would be interested. Let us see something similar from the South-East.

 

There are people in the South East, who are far richer than Tinubu. Why are they not coming out and say I want to be president. It has to be competitive. There should be no donation of power. There is nobody that will donate power to anybody. One has to work for it. One has to cultivate it, look for it and wish it. Don’t allow them donate to you. When it is donated to you, you will not appreciate it. Let us not say zone it to us.

 

Buhari ran for president three times and won it in the fourth attempt. Has he justified the hunger he had?

 

We are not talking about consequences. We are talking about believing in oneself to compete. He wanted to compete. He competed three times, lost, and wept. On the fourth occasion, he got it. Is that an encouragement for someone else that Buhari ran four times and won, I want to try…

 

All over the world, in the presidential system, it is your capacity to compete that determines whether you are competent to be president or not. America doesn’t zone, but they compete.

 

You will see three or more aspirants competing within the same party. That’s the sort of thing we should encourage, not the consequences but your belief that you want to compete, this is what we are used to in NPC, UPN, NRC, Action Group, NNPP, ANPP, UNPP. At that time, you could see the charisma of the people who were interested in contesting for the presidency and they didn’t hide from inception.

 

None is coming out now…

 

They are waiting for someone to donate it to them; then, they will pick somebody. That is not the presidential system of government. Somebody must come out to show interest. As far as Nigerians are concerned, it is only Tinubu that has exhibited the traits of that competitive prowess, the capacity to say ‘I want to compete.’

 

What of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar?

 

They say he is in Dubai. How can you compete from Dubai? Members of his party are complaining. This is the area Atiku must look at. If he wants to compete, he should come out and tell us, so that we can have the opportunity of assessing his competence and capability among all aspirants. But if you say unless you donate it to us, we are not going to compete, that is not a presidential system of government.

 

Why do you think Bola Tinubu would make a good president?

 

He has shown it. Unless you have somebody else, that is the person we have seen now. That is the person that is showing semblance of leadership throughout the federation. He has been going around from the South to East and North. He seems to be the only one that I have seen.

 

I am a member of the group SWAGA which is asking him to contest, and I joined the group because he indicated his interest to compete where others are saying unless it is donated to us, we will not show interest to compete.

 

They are just wasting their time. It is better you come out now and compete with him, show that you are better than him. If not, the way he is going, the man would just get it on a platter because there will be no competitor.

 

Where do you think the presidency should go to between the North and South?

 

I think it should go to the South. That is not debatable anymore. What is debatable now, is where in the South. As far as anybody can see, it is only Bola Tinubu from the South that has shown semblance of interest.

 

So, anybody else who is interested should come out, should not wait until it is donated. If it is going to be donated, you have to persuade the people of the North that you are going to take their interest on board.

 

That is when they can give it to you. It is not for you to hide somewhere and say donate it first; then, you sponsor somebody. It is not an ethnic and zonal matter. It is a personality matter.

 

A presidential system is not a matter of whether I am representing my zone. It is about I am interested in being the President of Nigeria. So, if you are interested, come out now.

 

Let us see you. Start to persuade us that we should vote for you because of the following reasons. That is the basis of the presidential system. It is not a donation. Nobody is going to say we are donating it to the South-East or South-West. They are wasting time.

 

It is somebody who is from there that would indicate his interest and galvanise the people, cross bridges. Let the North know you are interested. Let the North-East know you are interested, so that they can cultivate you and ask questions. Is that by bringing it to you that it has been donated to you unprepared?

 

Whoever is interested should come out and tell us why you are interested. No donation will happen. Nobody donates power. As powerful as the president of Nigeria, you expect it to be donated to someone. It is not acceptable. You have to fight for it. You have to cultivate it; you have to show that you are competent; you have to be prepared for it.

 

Finally, what are your thoughts pointedly on the insecurity in Nigeria? With the way it is going on all over the country, do you think the 2023 election will hold?

 

It depends on us. The easiest way we see is that insecurity is communitybased. It is not a national issue. Insecurity and kidnapping happen in communities. It doesn’t happen in the air.

 

So, how do we tackle it? There is no other way than State Police and Local Government Police, so that people in local government will have police that are known to the local government. We are running a feudalist system, neo-colonialism, and it doesn’t work. Neo-colonialism is when you impose authority on a locality to extort them, to exploit them.

 

That’s what we are running now. When you post somebody from another state, a South-West person, let’s say he is the Commissioner of Police in Imo State, the man doesn’t understand Igbo. He doesn’t know Igbo culture. He didn’t grow up in that community.

 

There are even divisional police officers that are not indigenous to the community they are. What kind of policing is that? It is called neo-colonialism, feudalism. That is one of the reasons we must remove from our system, neo-colonialism and feudalism because they will never work.

 

It has worked in the past but it is very injurious to us and that is the basis of this insecurity where a person who is not familiar with culture, language and ethnic group is posted to such a community.

 

Is that policing? How does that even make sense? Even when they are having community policing meetings and they are speaking their local dialect, how can the DPO understand? How can he participate? It has happened to me several times where the DPO in Ikorodu was an Igbo man or Hausa man.

 

Once, there was a problem, we would go to the palace to talk about the issue but they would not be able to participate. They don’t understand. It is not their fault because they were posted there and they will be interpreting to them.

 

So, what is their usefulness and it is the basis for the security problems we are facing now. It must be removed. Let policing be localized. Remove neocolonialism or feudalism. So that everybody can now police their community from external aggressor.

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