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Ogunlewe: Nigeria won’t have proper democracy until 1966’s set of Generals passes away

He could be regarded as a political war horse. A former senator, Minister of Works and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ikorodu, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe is a man who speaks real politics. He hides nothing when convinced about a journey. In this interview with GEOFFREY EKENNA, Ogunlewe said that unless the All Progressives Congress (APC) decides not to hold a convention, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would emerge the candidate of the party for the 2023 election. He spoke on other issues

 

It  appears the PDP and APC are playing mind games. Nobody wants to put his card on the table. Is APC scared of what PDP is coming out with?

 

It is strategy. In politics, at that level, one has to be a strategist; one needs to have an insider to what the opposition is doing. One cannot think of his party alone. One needs to know what your contender is doing; what is their thinking; where they are going; what they want to do, so that one can perfect his strategy. So, it is a mind game-it is part of politics- there is no problem at all.

 

Are you envisaging a situation where the PDP will throw up a northern candidate?

 

If PDP throws up a northern candidate, will the APC still be to go a Southern candidate? The southern and northern candidacy is dependent on the earlier election; who is contesting first? If it is the president and National Assembly election that come first, and the governor comes later, there can be problem.

But if we have the governor and the House of Assembly first, if the governors belonging to APC have the majority, the presidency is won already. It depends! If I should have my way, they should conduct the governorship and House of Assembly elections first. That is how we are going to know the strength of each political party and their respective constituencies without the influence of the presidential candidate.

 

That is the only way we can have a balance but if the presidential election is conducted first, there will be a bandwagon effect. What is going to reflect at the state and federal levels will be dependent on who the president-elect is.

 

Once there is a president-elect, nobody will want to be in the opposition and it is always affecting the quality of representation at the lower level. When the most important election is done first, that means democracy is destroyed.

Of recent in the APC, the national chairman said there is no zoning in the party, thereby opening the door for others to come in. Now, there are about 25 aspirants vying to be candidates. How do you see that panning out?

There has never been 100 per cent zoning in any election in Nigeria. In 1999 and 2003, Alex Ekwueme contested against former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

 

In 2011, Abubakar Atiku contested against President Jonathan. The issue of zoning doesn’t matter at all for anybody who is serious contender… you can still contest. The party can never and the Constitution does not allow discrimination to that level. You cannot say we have zoned and only that area would bring candidate.

 

It is not like that. Everybody who believed there was decision to zone to the South West in 1999 is not correct because the original structure of G37 was led by Ekwueme and no Yoruba man was at the forefront of that struggle at that time. Although, Bola Ige also joined them later, but the main actors that fought against national structure, apart from NADECO, was the G37 and it was coordinated and managed by Ekwueme.

 

When it came to decision-making, Ekwueme and Shagari were President and Vice-President foisted by the military. When the military wanted to give back, they would give it to people they drove away from government? They believed it would be dangerous. That is why they decided to give it to someone, who was part of them. That was why they gave it to Obasanjo, who can protect them.

 

There is underlying decision-making process in Nigeria that is not known to all of us- everybody wants to protect himself. How do you allow someone that is perceived as your enemy to take over the government of the country and the power of the presidency is too enormous to be toyed with. Everybody is being careful.

 

Probably, in the next 10 years, most of the generals who participated in the coup would have gone. Maybe, Nigeria would have been more stable. They are still very predominant in the government of Nigeria.

 

You mean the Generals are responsible for the production of the president of Nigeria…

They cannot excuse themselves. They cannot pretend that they don’t care. They must care. They must anticipate probable prob  lems and that is what is playing out in Nigeria, which people are not seeing.

 

But it will take time for them to exit and there will be fresh set of people who did not participate in all the atrocities the military had committed since 1965. Until all of them leave the stage, Nigeria cannot have proper democracy because of their fear. I really appreciate all their fears.

That includes the current president…

I don’t know but all the Generals, because it happened in Argentina and they are so scared of who is going to be the president of Nigeria and I don’t blame them.

Why don’t you blame them?

Look at the history. They foisted some people; they removed them from power. They gained grounds; they established, they have oil blocs and they are now wealthy to determine who is going to succeed them or who is going to be president of Nigeria and you want them to give it to somebody they don’t trust? It is difficult.

Is that responsible for why they want to deny the South East the presidency even as it is glaring?

I don’t want to speculate. I am just researching into what would be in the minds of the Generals. I have not discussed with them.

 

…but you have been a player in the political area in this country for a long time. For instance, Mallam Sule Lamido once told me that to choose the president of Nigeria is a consensus that must be reached by certain power blocs in Nigeria, who determine the person who will be fit to manage the country in that particular period of time?

 

That cannot be removed from the system. That is exactly what is happening. There are certain people who will prefer to protect their interests than to throw it open to everyone and it has happened in so many other countries. The power of the president of Nigeria under this constitution is too enormous to be ignored.

 

Those people cannot take chances and they are being careful. Until they whittle down the power of the president of Nigeria through constitutional review or we wait for another 15 years when most of this people would have gone.

 

That is the class of people Pat Utomi classified as the Class of ’66… I

don’t know what to call them but they are there; they meet and discuss. They have military intelligence. They can read the minds of certain people, who they don’t want to be president.

 

They know if a particular person becomes president, they know what the person can do that will affect them, affect their economic interest, that can take their oil blocs from them. There is nothing a president cannot do. The power of the president of Nigeria is just too much to be toyed with. They would want to manage it and allow a coolheaded person like Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

But Tinubu has only visited IBB among the Generals…

He will do so at the appropriate time. He is a statistician and strategist. He is extremely strategic and he knows what to do at the appropriate time.

 

Why do you believe strongly in Tinubu’s presidency ambition?

 

From my own experience, politics is like investment. Politics is like establishing a company, so that it can be for your benefits and other people. You don’t just go into politics and say I want to serve alone. One must have something to be able to serve; the person must have a very large war chest, which you can deploy to attract membership or followership.

 

Who among all of the aspirants has strategically planned to have APC which defeated PDP; what must we do as APC body to weaken the PDP at the top? The first thing he did was to encourage Jonathan to go for second term, believing he would support him as he supported him in 2011.

 

After he has committed that blunder, he encouraged most of his governors to be annoyed and they left him and he still encouraged him that he would still win, knowing fully well that the six governors that left PDP weakened the

 

Nobody in PDP saw it. That was in 2014…. Yes!

 

He was the mastermind of all those tactics, because all these people are his friends and he could do it easily. Where were those people that are now contesting with him then when he was doing the planning? None of them has the conception of APC coming up like this. He is the only one that has the skill to make PDP look foolish. He played a major role in bringing back Buhari after he has contested three times….

 

Buhari had decided then that he was not going to contest again but they needed a person that could carry out his plan. They did the planning, calculations and they won. Nobody in PDP could sit down and see the way the election was going that they would lose. All what they were saying about Nigerians being displeased with Jonathan were excuses. To my mind, it is not accurate. It is the scheming by Tinubu.

 

In politics, you have to know how to scheme. He is a master. There is nobody that can defeat him if he goes for that convention. No matter what anybody thinks, he will win landslide because he is a thinker. Whether anybody believes it or not, he is going to perform. Many people don’t believe he would perform. He plays so much politics…

 

He is a trained accountant. His background in politics will never affect his economic policies because he has the tentacles and network all over the world. People who can help Nigeria are unimaginable. He is the master of networking all over the world.

 

They know him. As a president, the quality of your personality is 10 per cent of your performance. It is how one can network, one can tap into some people, how one can prepare an intellectually- capable cabinet, people that can deliver. The work of the president would just be to moderate. What they do but the quality of the membership of the cabinet is so important to the president. The president will only give them his blueprints which they would execute. Where do you place the people like the Vice- President, Yemi Osinbajo? For me, he is starting a little bit late.

 

Politics is not a one-day wonder. Where is his structure? Who has he assisted to win election, other than Dapo Abiodun? How many House of Assembly members has he assisted to win election? How many people can claim he has helped them to achieve some things politically? If they are limited, you are also limited in your chances. What happens if the president says that is the man he wants? Then, the president should not allow us to go for convention because he cannot change the figure. If he allows everybody to compete, if he allows everybody to compete, he is not the one that will declare the winner because he is not the returning officer.

 

…and you believe the president can’t tell the governors that this is the man I want If they believe he is going to assist them to survive, they will do so. They are also going for election. Is the man ready to fund them? Who is ready to provide funds for their own elections? It is not by authority. It is by assistance and investment. One has to invest in the system and structure for it to be achievable.

 

Nobody believes in theory, brilliancy or being a professor. In Nigerian politics, theory doesn’t count. Less than 10 per cent of Nigerians listen to television. People arguing on the television about what Nigerians need, they are just wasting their time. Nigeria has 120million poor people that are illiterates and they don’t have access to television and they will vote. PhD is not relevant at all. You don’t seem to see somebody like Ahmed Lawan as a wild card…

 

He would play the game. Somebody put him there to be Senate President and that is Tinubu. I don’t think he will forget that. But it is a game plan. At the end of the day, how does APC intend to separate these 25 aspirants? They will all go to the field. 36 ballot boxes will be put down, one per state and each state will vote for whoever they want. They will count and declare the winner. They may not even have agents for the ballot boxes. Where will they get agents for 36 ballot boxes?

 

They don’t have structures; they have not even installed one single councillor nor chairman of ward and they are going to the public to say they would win the election. How many ward chairmen do they have in their states that they have installed? If you don’t install people, there is no way you can harvest where you didn’t sow.

 

You must sow. It is only those who sow in politics that reap the benefits and sowing is expensive. One must be heavily-loaded to be able to sow. Finally, do you see APC winning the 2023 presidential election? Let us see the candidate first. The candidate’s effort will matter; the funds available to the candidate is going to matter because it is not cheap to be president of Nigeria. Even if the person has N100billion, he is just starting.

 

 

It is a heavy investment. So, the candidate will determine whether the party will win or not? Yes! If APC is lucky and they pick Tinubu, they have won the election. There is no doubt at all because he has the structure all over the federation but if APC picks another person, unless the presidential election doesn’t come first, if it holds as before for President and National Assembly first, Tinubu has won. But if they do the governors first, the governors will influence who is going to win.

Are you convinced that a power shift between the North and the South will happen? Don’t you see the North claiming to want to succeed Buhari again? By my own calculation, only two politicians in this country have the foresight to invest in structure of a party. They are Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar. No other person! They are just coming out now to go round in the structure of the party. They have not installed anybody and they have not assisted any governor when they are in trouble. It is only these two people that can claim they have invested enough in politics.

 

All these other people sit and discuss about rotation. They have money but they are not investing in politics and they want to reap. It is not possible! Let them tell us what their contributions have been in politics. How many did Buhari bring in 2015? He relied on Tinubu’s efforts to bring about his emergence, though he has the followership.

 

The perception of the people about him at that time was like that of Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe, but that era is gone. He has been given the opportunity to rule and they have seen that he didn’t invest enough in the structure of the party.

 

When he leaves office, that is the end of Buhari politically but there must be investment before one can reap in politics. They have no investment, they don’t even know the delegates. If you have not funded any delegate to get to the convention ground and you think they will vote for you, even if you give them money, they will spend it and not vote for you. …and you think that is why Tinubu will win…

 

He has the foresight, knowledge. He knows the politics and he has prepared for it.

This is not the first time. Do you know how many governors he has invested in? in the last three to four elections, they are countless. He has assisted many House of Representatives members to collect forms and won their elections and some people want to contest with that kind of person that has done such huge investment?

 

There must be investment, which was the skill used by Late Yar’Adua to defeat even the Southerners in Lagos. He defeated all that competed with him in the South West because he was funding every ward every month. He was sending money for the holding of ward meetings all over the federation. There is no way that kind of person can be defeated in any election. There must be huge investment.

 

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