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Ogunlewe: Nigerians won’t repeat Buhari mistake in 2023

I see prospects in Tinubu becoming president

 

A former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, believes that Nigerians were deceived by some All Progressives Congress(APC) stalwarts in 2015 to elect President Mohammadu Buhari. The former Senator who represented Lagos East, said that while APC was speaking and making promises in 2015, the president only made a few promises to Nigerians, which is why he has not fulfilled most of the promises made by the party then. In an interview with GEOFFREY EKENNA, Ogunlewe speaks on the 2023 presidential election, the pending APC convention, zoning and other issues

 

It is about one year to the next presidential election. Some people are still hesitant to join the race while some are doing underground work. This is 2022, which is definitely a year of politics. What do you think?

 

The managers of the political parties should be up and doing now because politics has already started. My concern is the capacity of Extraordinary Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Party (APC) to double as the proper Convention Committee.

 

They are the executives, Central Working Committee, secretary, principal officers and the chairman now. They should not regard themselves as the Convention Planning Committee with governors and senators as members.

 

Over 10 committees should be set up to prepare for the convention. Committees like planning, finance, publicity, welfare, e.t.c for proper convention to happen. It is not enough they are going to conduct elections without proper planning. It is not right at all. They have to be very careful.

 

What is wrong with that?

 

They are the executives and they are supposed not to be Convention Committee. They cannot duplicate that the position. This is a normal Working Committee, and can they be Convention Committee again? Convention Committee is more of governors because they have to bring the money and delegates. How can they be exempted from that?

 

The delegates that are coming to the national convention must be taken care of by the governors, who are going to pay for their transportation and accommodation. It is not the function of the existing caretaker committee to prepare for the national convention. It  is not right at all.

 

This issue has to be looked into, form the committee and they must be independent and they should be allowed to do their work and conduct proper convention. But if they want to micromanage it, there might be problem.

 

 

The Convention is supposed to hold in February. This is January. Is there still latitude to conduct this within a month?

 

Of course! They should just set up the committees. It is left for the committees to do the work.

 

There is no way that function can be duplicated. It is going to be very difficult and contentious. It might lead to litigation because two jobs will be involved, being the convention planning committee and executive of the party.

 

The two have to be differentiated and it is not so difficult to do; just call a meeting of all the party governors and the positions be distributed accordingly. The Senate President and Speaker should also be involved because they are not part of the existing executive.

 

No member of the National Assembly is part the existing executive. The governors should not just sit down and allow the convention to be micromanaged. They should not allow them to put anybody there that would not be able to fund the convention. It is going to a big burden on them which they must appreciate.

 

It appears the convention may not hold next month… How can it hold? When one group is holding the two?

 

They are just looking at them to provide the fund. They want the governors to give them the money for the convention in which they are not participating. How many people from our states are members of your subcommittees?

 

There should over 20 subcommittees. That is the way to do it. They cannot micromanage it and say they are doing national convention. It is going to be very unwieldy.

 

In other words, the national convention of the APC may not hold next month with the way things are….

 

Unless they show us how they are going to do it. There appears to be a lot of confusion in the system because they want to do the two-the boss, the exco- the Central Working Committee, the committee of the party and also the Convention Committee. How many members of National Assembly are members of the committee? Are they not interested parties?

 

 

Are they not stakeholders? How many governors are part of it too? How many members of the House of Assembly in all states are there?

 

Are they not statutory delegates? Who is going to bring them on board? All the speakers at the state level must be members of the Convention Committee. Those are the ones that will mobilise people to the convention venue.

 

Who is going to mobilise them to the venue now? It is a complex issue. You cannot do it as executive. It is not going to work. You can’t expect people to bring their money into a system they are not going to participate in. It is going to be very difficult.

 

It appears that APC is in trouble already….

 

It is lack of exposure and experience. They want to do what they ought not to do. The APC constitution does not    allow it. As an executive, you cannot be the convention planning committee in which you are also a member. You are automatic members of the convention. It is not possible to be the two at the same time. It is going to bring a lot of litigation.

 

The issue of a governor being the chairman of Caretaker Committee, who was initially given six months but almost going to two years now. It doesn’t look as if they are willing to go. That is why I asked if the APC is in trouble?

 

As far as I am concerned, they have the majority. It is for them to let the system work. They should involve those that matter like the Senate President, Speaker and governors. Without these people, I don’t think it is going be easy for a national convention to hold.

 

Up till now, there is no clear path for zoning…

 

As far as I am concerned, they don’t need to zone the presidency. The presidency should be considered on merit.

 

Should it be open?

 

No! It should just be done as if it is open. Intuitively, the competence of the participants and the mood of nation should be assessed. As far as I am concerned, 2023 election is not going be a usual election.

 

Why do you say so?

Nigerians have grown from being mediocre to being enlightened and we have experienced a President, who does not talk. We have experienced a President like Olusegun Obasanjo, who was always talking.

 

What is the nature of the person we want now? What has been his pedigree? What type person is he? Those are going to be factors. We want a communicator, somebody who is going to be talking to Nigerians on daily basis. That is my own view. Some people may have contrary opinion to what I have just said now. In this age of technology, communication is key.

 

The more one talks, the more the person is being understood. If one doesn’t talk, there is no way one will be able to the know where the person is going, the person’s policy, difficulties and hope the person is bringing. This is just like a preacher in church that is not talking. How can the congregation understands the word of God.

 

The electorate have to be preached to, talked to and given reasons, not passing messages through some people that were not voted for. They voted for a President. The next President must be able to talk and communicate with the people. This is going to be a factor.

 

After experiencing Buhari’ the divisions that have come into the country, the problem of carrying the people along, the problem of people feeling isolated in their own country, what kind of President as we looking at?

 

A super communicator!

 

People are saying the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may zone to the North, APC may put it to the South, whether to the North or South, does it solve the problem of general distrust in the country?

 

That is why I am talking about the capacity of the next president to communicate, to let people believe in you, to let people trust you. It is a trust issue; that whatever the person says, people will be able to believe and trust the person will deliver on his words.

 

There was no opportunity of asking questions during campaigns before because of time constraints. Now that campaign period has been extended to six months, there will be a lot of time to come out and talk to people.

 

People will not vote for you if your talk is through proxy, unlike in the past, when the manifestoes were prepared by some people without the president’s involvement.

 

Those that were talking then, are no more talking now. They said they were talking on behalf of the APC in which nobody sent them to do. At the end of the day, the president would not listen and address to whatever they have said. Now, people will listen more and ask more question, or they will not vote.

 

If they think they can waylay them and do it whatever the way the like, people will not come out to vote.

 

But in the run up to 2015, people talked, people listened. President Buhari and APC made a lot of promises which made them to successfully run out the presidency of the PDP, Jonathan. Now, seven years after, we are still saying that people will talk more…

 

The difference between that time and now is that it was not Buhari that was talking but those people who are in government were talking on his behalf. He never mentioned anything other than his interest in oil subsidy, which he called a scam but at the end day, what are we seeing? There was no deep thought on the situation of the country. All they wanted was the

power and God gave it to them. How to now manifest the programmes you have told the people and even included in the manifestoe, Buhari said he was not aware of restructuring, devolution of powers.

All the things that were written in the manifestoe were not his views but another person’s view. That is the difference. How do we bridge that gap? Let the aspirant or candidate talk to us. Don’t talk on his behalf. Nobody should listen to a proxy that is talking. If you are not the candidate, don’t talk. Talk to the candidate privately and let him tell us what he wants to do by himself. That was the mistake we made at that time.

 

It appears the election of Buhari, his presidency in the past six years has taught some of you old politicians a lesson…

 

There is no doubt at all that a presidential system is not a parliamentary system. People should not be allowed to talk on behalf of a candidate. Let the candidate tell us what he wants to do.

 

It appears that the party has a very little role to play in a presidential system in terms of policy and policy execution because the party has any form of policy or programme but if the president does not key into such programme in the manifestoe, the party is just wasting their time.

 

That is the problem. Fortunately, most of them who did the talking at that time are part of this cabinet and they cannot talk anymore. When they are being asked about what they said, they would say that was our view at that time. It is not the view of the president. It is going to be a different ballgame entirely.

 

What’s going to change?

 

Every political party must be careful, present your best candidate.

 

From where?

 

As far as I am concerned, it is the personality that will determine my view because I have experienced a northerner and a southerner. Communication is so important. Don’t keep us in the dark.

 

In other words, you don’t believe that the presidency should be zoned?

 

I believe so as a concept but where the candidate from that zone does not    measure up to standard, as it happens now, Nigerians should not vote. If you zone, pick the best from that zone, meet the aspirations of Nigerians.

That must be a person who can communicate, who can listen, who is credible. We don’t want someone that will say something, is not able to do it and thinks he doesn’t owe us any explanation or apology without deeply studying the situation before making pronouncement.

This is going to be totally different. The zone should bring out the best.

 

Judging from what we have been saying, in 2015, APC came with all such of stories. During their tenure, they didn’t fulfill them.  What gives you the confidence that Nigerians will still trust that party again in 2023?

 

The situation between 2015 and 2023 is different. We have a presidency that does not communicate, that didn’t tell us his programme because people were talking on his behalf. So, we cannot hold him to what those people have said.

 

Those are the things that won him the election…

 

But we believed he was the one saying so. But it is clear now that he didn’t say so. Now, we want a person that we can all listen to. That is going to be the difference when the campaign starts. The capacity of that person to be trusted, to say he wants to do, how he wants to govern the country not too many people talking. That has more idea on how to run the country.

 

…and people basically didn’t have the idea of the man they were talking for

 

Yes!

But it is now time to fulfill their promises. The man said you can’t even see me; see my Chief of Staff. So, they were shut out. If they cannot go and meet the Chief of Staff, it is a very difficult situation.

 

Let’s look at the zoning and the presidential aspirants. We have Bola Tinubu from South-West, Anyim from South-East, among others. Why do you think they should zone to the South?

 

They cannot zone to the South. It should be zoned to the zone South -West or South-East. If we say zone to the South, it is neither here or there

because the South has three zones. So, we have to say which zone is going to present the best candidate for us to win this election. It is an election matter.

 

Can a political party say we are zoning to South-West? Why not?

 

That is what they did in the case of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. They zoned it to the South-West

 

. …because of a particular circumstance at that time…

 

The circumstance is still existing still today. If you want it to go round, who is next? The candidate they are presenting is going to be very critical.

 

If they are going to give it a particular zone and it is being micromanaged and give it to somebody they don’t believe in, that zone will not vote for the person I can assure you.

 

Like South-West didn’t vote for Obasanjo in 1999?

 

Yes.

 

But he won….

The circumstances have changed. We have experienced that kind of situation where the zone disowns its own person. Is he going to owe allegiance to that zone or to Nigeria? If he owes the allegiance to Nigeria, the better for us while the person is representing the zone.

 

The character of Obasanjo is very few in Nigeria. He doesn’t care about tribes. He doesn’t believe he is a Yoruba man. He didn’t believe he was carrying the mandate of the Yoruba race. He so much believes in Nigeria.

 

No matter where a person comes from, once the person can perform, the person is his friend. If not, how can Andy Uba be his domestic servant all through the eight years?

 

By contrast to what is happening now…

 

The man didn’t believe in tribalism. The more one showed him that he is from a particular tribe, the angrier he would be. He doesn’t like to hear that. It would infuriate and he would insult the person.

 

What he cared about was competence, honesty, and trust. Obasanjo is not tribalistic at all. He didn’t care about where any person comes from as long as the person can do the job. It is people from that zone that will be quarreling with one another. Somebody from a zone will not quarrel with somebody from another zone.

 

…if it is zoned to a particular zone?

 

It is those people from that zone that will hate that person because their expectations will be too high. They will want him to do everything for them and it will not be possible. The configuration of Nigeria is very complex.

 

I’m still having a little difficulty in understanding how PDP will zone to the North West and APC to the South West. What are other zones going to do?

 

Let them bring up their own candidates. Zone it, bring your best. If you don’t bring your best, you lose the election. A communicator must be brought out; somebody who will tell us what he wants to do and he wants to do it. So, it is not going to be by proxy. Don’t campaign for the president. Let the president campaign for himself. Whoever that will be presented, let us know the quality of the  person and what he has done before, what can he do now. I believe in zoning as much as quality. I have watched the performances of some governors and they are so incredible; how they govern their states with the little fund and what they have been able to achieve.

 

One doesn’t need to be a magician to know who is serious and who can perform. The facilities he has been able to provide in eight years will speak for him whether you like him or not.

 

Let them write down what they have done in eight years for us and when we see what they have done, we will know these are serious-minded people. Government is a serious business- a real commercial business. It is not a joke that any person in it must know what they are there for. It is not propaganda and some governors are excellent in that area.

 

You believe a governor can succeed the president…

 

It depends on the performance of the governor. What the governor has been able to do. We don’t want to experiment again. Let us see your scorecard. What the governor has been able to achieve all these years to see if he can do it properly. That is my view.

 

Let’s look at the country generally and 2022 is last full year of Buhari’s presidency. By December 2022, the president will have just four months to go. There are insecurity, economy, and other sundry issues which APC and presidency are expected to settle before handing over to the next government. What do you think about insecurity in 2022?

 

As far as I am concerned, if you don’t have state and local government police, security is a pipedream. We can never overcome it because it is community-based. It is not a federated crime. It is not a crime committed against a federation. It is a crime committed in a community. If there are no security personnel to curb the criminal activities in that community, it will be very impossible. Nigeria is a very large country.

 

The landmass of Borno alone is a vast area. There are too many open spaces that could be occupied by bandits and criminals because nobody is in control. The local government chairman and governors do not have control over security apparatus. Federated administration would never work in this country where the control is central.

 

That is why there is so much insecurity that the national level, so much corruption of Federal Government agencies, ministries, MDAs because they believe that the money belongs to nobody. Once they have access to it, they share it. We cannot run a government with one single control, be it economy, security, human resource and infrastructure development. It is not going to work properly.

 

When they are still federated, we are just wasting time. I have been there and I know the tendency of National Assembly when it comes to budget; they will never allow the person in charge to do the job because they want to satisfy their constituencies too.

 

But for the new innovation of borrowing money and tax relief for some companies which they just adopted, they would not have be able to finish one project in eight years.

 

They would just dismantle your budget. No matter how much complaints one makes, they would not bulge at the expense of their own constituencies. It is not the number of legislation that they do that is relevant; it is the number of projects they bring back to the constituencies that are more important and they are part of the executive.

 

Is it the job of the National Assembly to bring projects to their constituencies?

That is the nature of our country, unless we change our perception. The perception is what you are doing for us; they built hospitals, schools, and roads, whatever the executive can build, National Assembly also do it.

 

The performance of National Assembly members is not determined by a number of resolutions or laws passed in the National Assembly, they have executive responsibility. That is distorting the economy and budget. When you were Minister of Works, I met you in Abuja and I was asking about roads in the South East, you brought out a sheet where the budget provisions were made and you showed me the amount budgeted for some particular roads.

 

For each N19bn road, it would take 19 years for that particular road to be completed. The question is how do we arrest this kind of a drift in the National Assembly? The danger in the type of country we are running is that every first-class construction has left the country remaining only Julius Berger because of the support of the German government.

 

No contractor will want to work in Nigeria because your company will be destroyed. Contracts would be awarded to the companies with no provision of funds. There are over 17,000 abandoned projects at the federal level because the budgeting process is scandalous. I pity the ministers because they cannot do anything.

 

They can do a little as a result of borrowing as to fund some projects. This is also illegal! How can one explain that tax payable by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) belongs to the Federal Government alone? How can one say tax payable by Dangote belongs to the Federal Government alone?

 

How can one say every company that is doing Federal Highways that their taxes are for Federal Highways? It is an illegal thing that could be contested at the Supreme Court level and it would be clear that is a federation account funds; part of the money should go to the states and local governments.

 

That is one of our problems. Money is borrowed by the Federal Government but it is going to be paid back from the allocation of the states. It is a big challenge which we must all address because it is not going to lift our country anywhere.

 

It appears your party will leave a lot of problems for the next government…

 

It depends on the perception of that person. The person must know the danger in being the president of Nigeria. It is not a tea party…

…especially being the president of Nigeria after Buhari’s administration…

Let’s look at two issues. The first one is how to address the problem of petroleum subsidies, and the second is the funding of free tertiary education. There is nowhere that is obtainable anywhere in the world, and it must be done because it is part of the system already.

 

The secondary school must be free. It is part of the system already. The funds have to be provided. Minimum wage, that means workers will have to come to work twice a week because the salary is not enough to allow them to come to work five days not talking of accommodation and feeding.

 

There is over 30 per cent of unemployed youths. How does one address that? Out-of-school children would kill this country in the future if nothing is done. Those are the headaches one has to think about before considering being the president because they will never go away unless we all sit to address them.

 

Putting all these into account, going into 2023, Bola Tinubu hasn’t declared openly…

 

That is the person we are going for if it is being zoned to the South West.

What if it is not zoned to South-West?

 

We cannot do anything other than compete.

 

Has everyone made up his mind of Tinubu for South-West?

Not everybody but I see the prospects in him if he is given the chance.

 

More than Osinbajo who is the sitting vice president?

 

That is a party matter, not mine. The party should assess but the person I have assessed and believed in is Bola Tinubu. Some other people would say no! They have their reasons but as for me, this is a person I can predict will do well.

 

Have you ever thought of Bola Tinubu versus Atiku Abubakar battle?

 

 

It is welcome. They are members of the same family. That is what we are praying for. They are the same people.

 

…and you believe any of them will do well…

 

Yes, they will do very well because they have been tested. They know the problem of the country. If we bring somebody that doesn’t know. He cannot feel and see it the problem is enormous. It is not an easy problem at all. We need somebody who can listen to people; somebody who will seek advice and make use of it. There are solutions to all these problems.

 

For instance, oil subsidy can be determined at the state level. That is what is done anywhere in the world. It is economic not a government matter.

 

Let the states handle it but because we want to run a centralised government, which is now our albatross, we put everything in the Constitution because we want to control everything, saying everything is underground belongs to the Federal Government, then fund it.

 

Are you in support of Obasanjo saying in his recent letter that oil belongs to Nigeria and not Niger Delta?

 

That has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. Anything that is within the continental shelf of Nigeria belongs to that state for control. There is more oil outside the continental shelf that belongs to Nigeria and that was the decision. It is not an issue we should be talking about now…

 

 

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