Nothing wrong with Muslim/Muslim ticket, it should be about capacity – Ex-Edo Speaker

Dr. Justin Okonoboh, is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), former Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly. In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on a number of political issues, the APC Presidential primaries, why Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the APC Presidential nomination ticket, why President Muhammadu Buhari should throw his Weight behind Tinubu’s presidential ambition and other issues. Excerpts…

You were present during the APC Presidential party primaries in Eagle Square that saw the emergence of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as APC candidate. What is your take on the primary?

Yes, it was quite a good and wonderful experience for me, serene environment, calm and well organised. One of the best political party primaries I have witnessed. Again, it shows that APC was really prepared for a free, fair and transparent election. You will find out that a lot of people really came from all over the country. You already call it a unanimous decision by APC delegates to vote Tinubu, that tells you how much people love him. And it is that same way he will get votes from Nigerians come 2023 elections.

Do you agree that Northern governors played a major role in the election of Senator Tinubu?

Absolutely, I agree with you. It is the Northern governors that stood solidly behind him. They were the ones that agreed that power must come to the South. They were the ones that collapsed all their structures for Bola Ahmed Tinubu. You know that governors are very powerful and they worked for the success of Tinubu and that is how they are going to work for him in 2023. Politics is all about interest, there must be reason why Northern APC governors did what they did, and in the general election, they are going to give him the votes also. You know that governors have fair control over their voters so I’m very sure they will do same in the election proper. You will understand that the delegates spoke in one voice, saying this is the man. He got a majority of votes from the North, that is an indication that he is nationally accepted.

With your experience in politics, do you see a core Northern person voting for Tinubu when they have their brother in PDP as presidential standard bearer?

Well it actually depends on his running mate. People have been saying it can not be Muslim/Muslim ticket, who says it can not be. I’m sure APC is running towards that now, and once he picks a Muslim from the North, the game is over. Because that will tame Atiku, his votes from the North will be drastically depleted by Rabiu Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Ganduje in kano, his vote in Kaduna will also be depleted by Nasir el- Rufai

Do you really think PMB is with Tinubu looking at the drama before the primaries?

The issue was that Buhari’s politics wasn’t very clear, people read a lot of meaning to his actions and all that. Most times in politics, it is not what you want that comes to play, there are times things move the other way and you as a politician must play along. So, I do not see any reason why Buhari would not support Tinubu, because in Buhari’s own election from primaries to the election it was Tinubu. Yes he may have had someone in mind, but the way Tinubu came out, PMB has no option than to accept the people’s choice. So I think he would support him. Don’t forget too if he doesn’t support him, APC will be out of power. Once we are out of power, it might affect everybody, even himself. It’s about party not individual, so for APC to win he must as a matter of importance support the candidate of his party.

Few hours before the primaries, National chairman of the party Abdullahi Adamu said it was Ahmad Lawan; wasn’t that the original agenda?

Well, he said it was the President that told him so, but the President said he didn’t tell him so. Even Adamu himself towards the end was almost saying that he didn’t say so. These are political intrigues, very possible that was where the matter was going but something happened that the thing turned and everybody turned too; that is politics.

If you were in the shoes of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would you have contested against your benefactor?

Well he knows how he was feeling; even though there are ethos in politics, is still depends on your character. If you are somebody who betrays, you will betray throughout. And if you are somebody with integrity who loves, you will still find place to love inside politics. I as a human being if you do that for me, make a Vice President and even if is somebody else contesting and you ask me to contest I won’t contest not to talk of you whom God used to give me such a high position. Particularly, when you have told me long ago that you want to contest I won’t do such a thing, that is my personal opinion. It’s all about individuals. Somebody who did knows why he did and he also knows how he is feeling.

Is it possible to have Igbos vote for Tinubu when their own son Peter Obi is in the race?

The Easterners have never voted for APC, that is the truth of the matter. In fact before the primaries, Tinubu could not go round everybody, he asked them to come to Abuja but they vehemently refused; that is to tell you that they are in agreement with us. But also look at those that say they want presidency, the total number of delegates from South is about two hundred plus, in PDP they did not vote for their person. In APC it’s only South East that has zero vote. So, to your question whether they will vote for Tinubu, if they are wise they should. It won’t do much harm even if they don’t vote for him. They did not also voted for PMB.

Should Tinubu eventually emerge as Nigeria’s President in 2023, will he be able to solve the numerous problems facing Nigeria, and will the cabal in Aso Rock not hijack the government from him?

Bola Ahmed Tinubu has capacity, too much capacity to solve our problems. The problem with us in Nigeria when we think of leaders, we think of whether the man is young or old, those are no issues. The first thing we should look for is somebody that has capacity, capacity to do the job. The job that is on ground now requires someone that has capacity. And what Tinubu has done in Lagos when he was governor shows he has what it takes to handle the issue of Nigeria. This issue of security is what can be handled within six months. Once you come down heavily on the key heads, others will run. I know too that Tinubu would want to do state police, the moment that is in place, crime and criminality will be a thing of the past.

The general complain of people about Tinubu is that he has health issues, what is your take on this?

Is there any person that is not sick, I’m a medical doctor, he has issues with his knees. But those are no issues. A one- time American president ruled the country from a wheelchair. Those things were said to bring down the person. When he met with former state speakers, he told us that a cripple can rule a country, that all he needs to do is put the people who know what to do in right positions. And he did that while he was Lagos State governor.

Finally, do you see Tinubu having an upper hand in 2023 election when you have a dogged man like Atiku Abubakar as his opponent?

Tinubu will beat Atiku Abubakar hands down. The moment he picks a running mate from the North that is a Muslim, the game is over for Atiku.

So are in support of Muslim/Muslim ticket in a country like ours?

Categorically yes. I’m in support of Muslim/Muslim ticket. Forget those things, you see that is why we miss good leaders in this country. Now tell me what has religion got to do with governance apart from sentiments. Look, our Vice President is a Christian, abd with all that had happened to Christians in this country, have you heard him say one thing one day, the answer is ‘Capital No’. So what are we talking about, put religion aside pick the right person that can salvage this country. Looking at the present situation in Nigeria now, we need an experienced man that can help us get out of it, and that person is Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

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